Best way for cats to lose weight? Morbidly obese cat at the shelter... help!

This forum is for cat lovers seeking everyday advice and suggestions on health-related issues. Remember, however, that advice on a public forum simply can't be a substitute for proper medical attention. Only your vet can say assuredly what is best for your cat.

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Member Since
Purred: Wed Feb 9, '11 11:47am PST 
Hi Catsters!

This is my first post on this site! I am currently a Dogster member. I do not own a cat, but I work at my local humane society, so I have a question about one of our cats.

Mo is a sweet, neutered male 3-year-old tuxedo domestic long hair. He is around 22 pounds. I'm not kidding. He came to us because his twentysomething owner was too busy/lazy with work and school to take care of him.

My question is, what is the best way to us to get him to lose some weight while he's at the shelter?

First, food. We started him on Prescription Diet W/d formula since it's fewer calories, but I saw on another forum that diet foods aren't good for them? We don't have many options for quality food, because we feed what is donated to us by the general public. Our normal food is Purina Cat Chow (either Original or Indoor Cat Formula), and we have a multitude of canned food that we sometimes give them for a treat. Which should I be feeding him?

Second, exercise! I do have time throughout the day that I could spend with him for some exercise out of his cage, so what should I be doing with him? Since he's still pretty young, he does want to get up and move and explore, and amazingly he can still jump up on top of things. He is declawed in front, I don't know if that will effect any type of play exercise. What do you guys suggest?

Any help that you can give would be awesome! I just want to get him on the right track for weight loss so he's more adoptable, and so I can help his new owners eventually continue the process.


No Not-Moms!!!!
Purred: Wed Feb 9, '11 12:04pm PST 
Well, first off, God bless you for working there and for being so concerned about the cat. Coincidentally, I've had a discussion going in the Food & Nutrition forum about my Mordred - also a hefty tuxedo guy. smile It gets so confusing, and I'm afraid I can't be much help. I'm friends with a shelter manager, so I know that feeding high-priced food is definitely out. That being said, give him canned only; it tends to have fewer calories. *Some* of the Fancy Feast flavors don't have wheat gluten, so those would be best. The more you can exercise him, the better,too. (Mordred doesn't like to play, so exercise is pretty much out for him.) Don't try to make him lose too much weight too quickly; the weight loss must be slow, or he could get sick. Speak with the shelter vet and see what s/he recommends. All the very best of luck to you, and again - God bless!

Member Since
Purred: Wed Feb 9, '11 12:27pm PST 
Unfortunately, we do not staff a vet at the shelter. We have a great facility, but we do not have enough money to keep a vet on the payroll. Thankfully, we have a vet that comes in and neuters some of our male animals pro-bono and answers any medical questions we might have, but other than that we're on our own. We only staff 4 animal care specialists (including me), a shelter manager, and a receptionist. And, of course, we have lots of amazing volunteers.

We do have a TON of canned cat food, everything from Fancy Feast, 9 Lives, and Friskies, to some Natural Balance, Special Kitty, and other brands. Every once in awhile we get lucky with some Before Grain or Wellness. So, if it's a good idea to feed canned, we can certainly do that no problem. I always worry about their teeth when I feed just canned, though. I know it's an issue with dogs, is it with cats, too?

Edited by author Wed Feb 9, '11 12:34pm PST



let no food bowl- be empty
Purred: Wed Feb 9, '11 2:38pm PST 

Now is not the time for this kitty to lose weight. I am sorry but there is enough stress going on in his life right now and the last thing you want to do is restrict his food consumption. Yes it is not healthy for him to be that fat but if he winds up with a food aversion or stops eating for even as little as one day he can get feline hepatic lipidosis a deadly disease for a shelter cat. So the best action would be that after he has a home and he has stabilized in that home like for 3 to 4 months then those people should talk to their vet about a diet plan that will work for him. I don't mean to be negative but really you will get into allot of trouble with this kitty if he gets any added stress on his already stessed out situation. Just let him be for now. The kind of weight he will need to lose could take over a year to do safely and trying to excersize him is good but only if he wants to play and no jumping as it can hurt his bones with that much weight. If he ever pants when playing stop immediately as this is a life threateining situation in a cat.

Canned food is better than dry if he will eat it.


headed for the- light.
Purred: Wed Feb 9, '11 2:54pm PST 
I disagree that it is a bad idea to try to help him lose weight; I think it would make more sense to get his diet figured out while there is someone who cares a lot(you) to work on it. That way, the new family can just be told what you have been doing, and that they really need to continue if they adopt this kitty. Otherwise someone who thinks obese cats are "cute' is more likely to get him, and he will be doomed.But bear in mind that ANY time you put a kitty on a diet, the goal is not to make him lose weight fast, which could cause all kinds of problems. And I think even a year is too short a time for this cat to return to normal; losing maybe 4 pounds a year is safer. Remember, this guy is like a 400 pound person!
If it were me,(and note, this is just what I did to help BooBoo lose, although I did not use canned, she won't eat it, so she got a little more dry--I am not a medical pro or anything yet)I'd try him on a couple of cans of any of the food a day to help fill him up, plus about 1/4 cup of the diet food twice a day. Canned is 70% water so not very high in calories. This should be enough food for about a 15-18 pound kitty, so he should lose weight. Keep up with his weight and if it's coming off more than a couple of ounces per week, add 2 T or so more dry per feeding, or one more can. At this point I would not worry too much that it is 'bad' or 'good' food, just whichever one he is happy eating since he has probably been left with a full bowl all the time.
Being declawed is a big debateable issue here, but I've adopted several declawed kitties and they are plenty capable of running, jumping and playing. I think getting him out to play as often as possible is a good idea; try it before he eats in the am and last thing every day as that is when he would be most active. Don't expect too much at first if he has trouble getting around, and remember even tossing something across the room so he has to move to go check it out is good.I've never heard of a kitty killing himself playing too much, only humans are stupid enough to keep trying to go on past their limits for 'fun'.Also leave a 'premium' catnip toy for him to rassle in the cage, if he will use it.

Edited by author Wed Feb 9, '11 2:59pm PST


Member Since
Purred: Wed Feb 9, '11 3:34pm PST 
Thanks guys!

I never said anything about restricting his food consumption. We free-feed at the shelter; they always have their food and water bowls in their cages. And we do everything we can to make sure the kitties are eating. The shelter is a very stressful situation, for some more than others, and that added with the fact that sometimes cats are downright picky, we have to always check to make sure who's eating what and how we can get them to eat as much as they should. Mo, other than being obese, seems to actually not mind being in his cage at the shelter. He's very friendly and personable, and seems content lounging in his bed until someone comes to take him out to play or interact. Once he's out in a room to play, he purrs like crazy and doesn't pant or seem overwhelmed by any physical activity.

Oh, and I always had it in mind for him not to quickly lose the weight. That was never my goal, I just want to get him on the right track to losing weight, because he's still so young and has many years ahead of him if we, and then his new owners, can get this under control.

I think we'll try more canned food, and see if we find a certain one he likes. Like I said, we have a gazillion cans in the food room, we're bound to find something. kitty

I like the suggestion of the catnip toys in his cage. Any particular game you guys like to play with your cats?

Edited by author Wed Feb 9, '11 3:36pm PST



Ambassador at- the Kitty U.N.
Purred: Wed Feb 9, '11 4:28pm PST 
I agree with Boo Boo. Although you don't want to stress him out, if he'll eat canned easily, that's what you should feed. Not everyone agrees, but in my opinion any canned is better than dry food, and if you can give him some grain free flavors (full list at ibdkitties.net/commercialfood) that would be even better. And to answer your other question, it's a myth that dry food does anything for their teeth. The best analogy is that it's like your dentist telling you to eat Cheetos to clean your own teeth!


headed for the- light.
Purred: Wed Feb 9, '11 4:41pm PST 
Try the laser pointer when you have him out for one on one playtime. You can move the dot as slow/fast/far at the time as he will get after it. Most cats love this one. After that preferences vary, some kitties won't even look at a fishing pole toy dangled overhead but will chase the 'lure' if it's dragged across the floor; other prefer batting around balls, small stuffed toys, etc. and others like bigger stuffed toys they can wrestle. You will have to try several toys to see what he likes best. Oh yeah, don't forget, a (Paper!) shopping bag or a box is many cat's favorite thing.

Orange Ruffy

The Baboo Kitty- has Spoken!
Purred: Wed Feb 9, '11 4:42pm PST 
Would it be possible to play with him with a cat dancer some every day? Also, if he likes to chase things, even to drag a little toy mouse on a string. Natalie likes cord to chase.

Thank you for the good work you do. I worked for many years at a no kill shelter. It got to me after awhile, not the animals, but humans in general.

Does he like other cats? Can he have playtime with other cats? Sometimes they will play together and that can help!

Please let us know how he does! He sounds like a wonderful cat!!!

Merlin - An Angel- Forever

Purred: Wed Feb 9, '11 5:02pm PST 
W/D may be lower in calories but really really high in carbs which is NOT god for a cat's body to handlesilenced

http://catinfo.org/?link=felineobesity has the story of how one obese cat safely lost weight. There are tips there on how to help a cat lose weight, too.

Feeding canned food is best. No food helps clean the teeth. Only regular toothbrushing will remove tartar and bacteria.

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