"Oh my gosh, JaneA, your cats are so tiny!"
More than one person has said that to me, despite the fact that Siouxsie, Thomas, and Bella are all within the normal size range for cats, weighing between 7 and 10 pounds each. Maybe they think my cats are so small because they’re so used to seeing fat cats that they’ve come to think of obese as normal size. The trouble is, obesity can cause serious health problems for cats including diabetes, arthritis, and liver disease, and it’s well worth the effort to slim your kitty down. In addition to working with your vet for nutritional advice and tips on how much exercise your cat can tolerate, here are a few things I’d add.
1. Feed your cat an appropriate amount for his stage of life and exercise level
A lot of people either don’t read the feeding instructions on the food they’re giving their cat or they misinterpret it. If your cat’s food says to feed 1/2 cup, say, that means 1/2 cup per day, not 1/2 cup per meal. The feeding guidelines on the label are just that, and they’re very general. Your cat may need less food if he’s not very active, for example. If you feed a combination of canned and dry, don’t feed the day’s allowance of dry and the day’s allowance of canned.
2. Transition from free feeding to portioned feeding
When a cat has a huge bowl of food from which to graze all day, the odds are good that he will. If your kitty could use to shed a few ounces, I’d recommend feeding twice a day, about 12 hours apart. Remember that your cat has a very small stomach — it probably stretches to the size of a chicken egg when it’s full — so he doesn’t need boatloads of food.
3. Use rolling food exercise balls
If you’re having a hard time getting your cat to accept portion feeding, put his daily portion in a rolling food ball so he has to work for his meals. This will give him exercise and mental stimulation. Unfortunately, this only works if you’re feeding kibble. If you’re feeding canned, you might be able to hide small bits of his portions around the house, although you’ll have to make sure he eats everything or discard whatever’s left after 20 minutes or so.
4. Go easy on the treats
It’s easy not to be fully aware of how many treats your cat is eating, especially if there’s more than one family member giving those treats. Set out a daily allotment of treats, and don’t go over that. Be sure everybody in your family understands that kitty gets only X number of treats and no more. You can break treats into smaller pieces to make it seem to him like he’s getting more.
5. Bust your cat’s boredom
Some cats eat because they’re bored. The best way to remedy this situation is to provide your cat with mental stimulation. Clicker training can be a great way to get your cat thinking, and because clicker training involves treats in the early stages, you’ll be making him work for his reward. Other tools include cat entertainment videos, regular interactive play sessions, and even toys that activate by themselves.
What techniques have you used to help a fat kitty lose weight? How did they work? Please share your tips in the comments.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.