This is what everyone wants to know. There are a lot of fat cats out there, and I can bet that almost all of them are free- fed dry food. Getting your cat to lose weight is not easy, but it depends on your patience and how finicky and stubborn your cat is. Do not give up!
Your cat will lose weight and transition to a wet food diet eventually with time and patience. There’s no race or medal to be had here, just lot’s of love and a watchful eye on your cat’s weight!
Stop free- feeding
Indoor cats can overeat because they are bored. Sound familiar? Humans tend to do that a lot. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t allow your child to constantly eat a high carb diet at any time of the day, would you?
Set meal times. This is probably the most critical step in getting your cat to lose weight besides getting them on a wet food diet. Feed them only 2 to 3 times a day. You’re going to have to be strong and deal with their cries for food. You and your cat can do it!
One thing to keep in mind is that the caloric needs of an average cat (around 10 pounds) should be around 150 to 250 calories depending on body weight and how active they are. The average indoor cat should have 20 calories per pound to maintain weight.
To lose weight, you want to feed for a cat two pounds less, so about 40 calories less a day and keep readjusting when they lose a pound.
So, how do you find out about calories from your cat’s food? The best way is to go to your cat food can’s website.
For example, a 5.5 oz can of Soulistic Chicken and Turkey dinner pate has 107 kcal a can. So about 2 whole cans or about 1 and a half cans will keep my cat’s weight in check.
This calculator is a good and quick tool to get an idea of what your cat needs to lose weight. Note this calculator does not apply to underweight cats.
Transitioning to wet food
I’ll be honest. I didn’t have a big problem transitioning my cat over to wet food. Here’s what I did. At first, I would dampen the dry food with some water so he could get used to the wetness. I let him get used to that for a few days.
Then I started buying some cheap Fancy Feast canned food (Turkey and turkey and giblets because poultry is best) and started mixing that into the dampened food, but just a little bit. He enthusiastically ate everything, so I gave him more of a portion of wet food compared to his dry food. I noticed that he really liked the canned food anyways so I completely got rid of the dry food in about a week and a half.
He didn’t complain, and he was eating the calories he needed at the time to lose weight. Around this time, Shadow weighed around 16 pounds. I DIDN’T have a great quality scale back then, I just used my mom’s scale and went to the veterinarian more often to get his weight and to check his progress.
I highly recommend purchasing your own scale if you’re serious about keeping track of your cat’s weight loss, specifically a baby and toddler weighing scale.
Most cats will experience softer stools in this transitioning process, as well as smaller stools. That is OK, and considered normal. If your cat experiences diarrhea, give them less wet food and give them wet food at a slower rate.
Now, for more finicky cats, this process is much trickier. You have to absolutely stop free- feeding. You have to use their natural hunger to get them to want to eat what is in front of them. So, feed them 2 to 3 times a day, as mentioned above. DO NOT withhold food for 24 hours to try to get them to eat the wet food. Remember, we are trying to do this safely and your cat still needs to intake calories.
Feed a little less than you normally would for a meal time to get their hunger going. Once they are more adjusted to the new meal time, start introducing the canned food, in small amounts into their dry food. Mix it thoroughly and start with more dry food at first. Work your way patiently throughout the meal times and slowly add more wet food according to what your cat is eating. This can be a slow process but it’s not a race!
Don’t forget to incessantly talk to your cat and beg them to eat their wet food!
It should take your cat realistically several months to a few years to lose weight in a safe way. You don’t want to see them get Hepatic lipidosis, which is when cats become anorexic or intake less than 50 to 75% of their daily calories over a span of several days.
Invest in a good quality scale if you can so you can track your cat’s weight loss. It is crucial they that they lose just a little less than 1 ounce a day. As mentioned above, work with your veterinarian to establish a safe plan, especially if you can’t get a scale. Just don’t buy any of the prescribed “weight loss” dry food they will inevitably try to sell you, as that’s sort of defeating the purpose.
Get them active!
Cats will also lose weight faster if you have them burning more calories than what they intake.
A fun little trick is to throw your cat’s dry food portion across the room and have your cat chase after it. This is especially useful if you’re still trying to get your cat to transition over to wet food. Take that, dry food! You can build your relationship with your buddy like this too. I’m sure your cat will appreciate spending some time with you.
This is more depending on the cat, but you can buy toys or just use bottle caps to help get them active when it’s not mealtime. Every calorie burnt counts, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Maybe have your cat follow you around the house while they meow for food. I did this admittedly a couple of times with Shadow and at least it got him moving.
It will happen
If you use and combine these steps, your cat will lose weight as long as you’re patient. The most stubborn and finicky cat has a carnivore lying around in there somewhere! There’s no magic weight loss pill (for humans as well) or magic cat food that will miraculously get your cat to a healthy weight quickly. The magic will come from your patience and dedication to help your cat out, and they will appreciate it greatly (and your wallet) in the long run.
This is a complicated topic and I’d love to answer some questions about this. I’m not a numbers expert and each cat has their own situation to go through. Like other aspects of cat nutrition, weight loss has a lot of trial and error as well as a lot of safety to pay attention to.
What are your thoughts on this?