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Why Cats Have Trouble Losing Weight

Why do so many cats struggle to lose weight … and keep it off? Let’s take a closer look at five issues your kitty may encounter when she tries to slim down.

A fat white cat with a bowl of half-eaten cat food.
A fat white cat with a bowl of half-eaten cat food. Photography ©Svetlanais | Thinkstock.
Last Updated on November 30, 2023 by Catster Editorial Team

Helping cats lose weight — and keep it off — is challenging. Most pet parents humanize their companions, which also means they mistakenly equate food with love. Don’t replace playtime and quality bonding with food and excess treats, says Ernie Ward, DVM, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Both overfeeding and excess treating are huge contributing factors to the problem of overweight and obese pets, but there are other reasons why owners struggle to help their cats lose pounds.

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Feline weight-loss fails

Cat food arranged in the shape of a cat.
Overfeeding and excess treating play a role in why cats struggle to lose weight. Photography ©A Khamsuwan | Getty Images.

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Possible Causes Why Cats Have Trouble Losing Weight

1. Not accounting for all calories fed each day

If you’re closely sticking to a weight-loss regimen but not counting the myriad treats you feed your cat each day, you’re defeating the purpose.

2. Not curbing free feeding

Free-choice feeding is OK for cats who can maintain their weight, says Francis A. Kallfelz, DVM, PhD, DACVN, James Law emeritus professor of medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. For cats who can’t, or who like to snack, free feeding can rack up extra pounds.

3. Not following appropriate measurement recommendations

Follow the instructions. Know what an appropriate amount of calories looks like in your cat’s bowl. Just don’t guess or, worse, feed a little extra out of guilt or misguided affection.

4. Not considering age

Don’t feed an adult cat like a growing kitten. From age 6 months to maturity, most cats do well when fed two times a day, says Dr. Kallfelz. At about 1 year of age, feeding once or twice a day is appropriate in most cases. As long as senior cats (age 7 and older) are healthy and have no disease issues, once-a-day feeding is fine, he adds.

5. Not accounting for health issues

Cats with diabetes may need to be fed whenever given insulin, depending on the type, and hypothyroid cats may want to eat constantly, explains Dr. Kallfelz. Consult with your cat’s veterinarian, treat the disease, and then feed your cat normally, he says.

Read more about cat health and care:

Thumbnail: Photography ©Svetlanais | Thinkstock.

About the Author

Ellyce Rothrock
Ellyce Rothrock

Ellyce Rothrock spent half her life with Flea, a Maine Coon who lived to be 21 and is missed every single day. She’s currently seeking a feline friend to manage Fritz and Mina, her German Shepherd Dog rescues. She’s lucky enough to live her passion for pets as a 25-year member of the pet media industry.

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