If you’ve just been told your cat needs to lose weight, you are probably wondering how to share the traumatic news with your feline friend.
When it comes to eating, cats often fall into two different categories, those who simply graze on their food but never really overeat, and those who can’t get enough and always seem hungry. Even 0.5 to 1 kilogram of extra weight can cause significant health problems (like diabetes) and shorten the lifespan of your beloved pet. A useful way to think about it is that the average cat carrying an extra 1kg is the same as a human carrying an extra 15kg.
So we know it’s important, but how do we do it? Sometimes we have to sneak a bit to avoid the trauma associated with dieting: from a constantly hungry cat bothering you for food at 3 a.m. to a cat who just doesn’t understand why suddenly no food more is available upon request.
We have compiled a list of simple ideas. Hopefully they will help shed those pounds with minimal stress.
- To find out how many calories your cat needs, simply multiply their weight in kg by 30 and then add 70, e.g. 6kg x 30 + 70 = 250 then multiply that by 0.8 = 200 calories per day. If your cat eats less than this amount, he will lose weight. If he eats more, he will gain weight. The caloric value of the food can be found on the packaging or on the manufacturer’s website. Just reduce the amount of calories you give your pet by 15% for slow, steady weight loss.
- Put all or part of your cat’s dry food in a treat ball or dispenser like the Kong wobbler. It will slow down his eating and increase his movement. You can easily make it at home using an old toilet roll holder partially taped on both ends.
- Let your cat “chase” its food by hiding it around the house or by spreading dry food on the floor.
- Add more water to your cat’s food. This will help keep him hydrated and fill him up. You can do this with wet or dry food.
- Feed your cat small meals frequently. Most cats prefer to eat at least seven times a day. So if you split the meals you can increase the feeling of satiety.
- Cut down on the dry food, here are usually the calories. Canned foods are usually around 80% water, while dry food is less than 5% water and is essentially a high-calorie, dehydrated food. Just a few extra cookies add extra calories. For example, many dry foods contain 400 calories per cup, while the average cat needs fewer than 200 calories per day.
- Play with your cat for at least 10 minutes a day. Use a laser pointer or fishing line toy that encourages your cat to jump, tumble, and jump around. Exercise this predatory instinct.
- Consider an automatic feeder if your cat is constantly asking for food. That way, you can show him affection when he asks, rather than just food. Plus, you have the added benefit of being able to measure out 6 small meals spread out over the day and save you from being woken up by a paw on your face at 3 a.m.
- Think of high protein foods like meat to feed your cat. Aim for human-quality lean meat like kangaroo and avoid ground beef or pet meat (which contains dangerous sulfur preservatives). A meat-only diet is not balanced on its own, but it makes a great addition to your pet’s diet and is good for their teeth. It’s also metabolically better for your cat than high-carb, fatty dry food. A raw chicken neck is also good for your cat’s teeth and will last much longer than the equivalent amount of dry food.
- If your cat is a dry food fiend, consider one of the weight loss or diet pet foods available. They’re usually higher in fiber and protein. Ideally, buy the best food you can afford (e.g. from a veterinarian or pet store instead of the grocery store), and also add fresh meat or canned moisture to increase protein and water intake.