Did you know that over half of the cat population is overweight or obese? Although cats like Garfield, the lasagna-loving cartoon kitty, are so adored for their big bellies and love for food, being overweight or obese can leave our furry friends at risk for secondary problems including diabetes, and joint issues, ultimately lowering their quality and longevity of life. Many factors cause pets to become overweight or obese, the most common being having a sedentary lifestyle and overfeeding food and treats.
If you think your cat maybe overweight, keep reading to learn some tips on how to feed them to achieve their ideal weight and keep them fel-ine great!
Is your cat overweight?
Although the prevalence of overweight cats is so high, pet owners are often unable to recognize when their own pet is overweight. So, how can you determine if your pet needs to shed a few pounds? You can use the Look & Feel method:
Look: A slight indent should be visible in front of the hind legs when looking at your pet from above, creating an hourglass shape. A sausage-shape suggests that a weight loss plan is needed.
Feel: You should be able to run your hands along your pets body and feel the ribs and hips without pressing hard.
If you are wondering what your pets ideal body weight looks like, check out our body score chart. A body condition score can give an idea of how much body fat your cat may be carrying around and can help you determine whether your pet is underweight, overweight, obese, or just right!
The Food Factor
We all have trouble ignoring our pets’ begging eyes and those insistent meows, however, it is important to note when your pet needs food vs. when they want food to avoid overfeeding and contributing to weight gain. Besides a shortened lifespan, overweight pets are also at higher risk for secondary problems including diabetes and joint issues. These problems can be expensive for pet owners and may impact your pet’s overall quality of life.
Cats are naturally grazers, meaning their wild ancestors would typically consume multiple small prey throughout the day. Sometimes it can be helpful to mimic this feeding regime by breaking up your pet’s total food intake for the day into multiple small meals.
Other cats may prefer being fed once a day. If your cat is quite talkative throughout the day, you may consider the multiple-meal approach.
The amount of food your cat should consume will vary depending on activity level, age, and climate. While the feeding guides on the back of the bag are a great starting spot, they are based on the average cat and so it should be used as a guide only. You will likely need to adjust the quantity of food you are feeding your cat per day to achieve or maintain your cat’s ideal weight, rather than simply following the bag. All animals are unique, and their diet routines are too!
The type of food you feed may also be important to consider. Low fat, high protein, and moderate fiber diets can be beneficial for promoting a feeling of fullness (minimizing the amount of begging) without providing too many calories. L-carnitine is a nutrient that is well known for its potential benefit of promoting fat as an energy source, rather than adding to your cat’s fat storage!
Our GO! SOLUTIONS WEIGHT MANAGEMENT + JOINT CARE Grain-Free Chicken Recipe is a great option for cats needing a bit of help maintaining their purr-fect bod! This recipe is specifically formulated by our pet nutrition experts and includes L-carnitine to help burn fat into energy and fiber-rich psyllium husk to help keep cats feeling full. Additionally, this formula is up to 50% less fat than other GO! SOLUTIONS recipes for cats.
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Weight Loss & Control
If you do have an overweight pet, there’s no need to fret! There are many available strategies to help your cat lose those extra pounds safely. The first step is usually a slight reduction in food. However, restricting food for your pet should always be done in consultation with a veterinarian.
In cases where owner compliance is an issue, or a significant amount of weight loss is required, a veterinary therapeutic weight loss recipe may be beneficial. These diets are fortified with micronutrients which allows you to restrict your pet’s food allotments more safely, without causing a subsequent nutrient deficiency.
Other strategies to help with weight loss and weight management include weighing your pet’s food using a kitchen scale instead of using a scoop. This will help you carefully control how much you feed.
Aim for weight loss of 1-2% per week as a good and safe target; too fast can be unhealthy and can cause other health issues.
To check your progress, weigh your pet weekly using a bathroom scale. Simply weigh yourself, then pick up your pet and weigh both of you on the scale. Subtract your weight from the total to figure out your pet’s body weight.
Helping your cat get to their ideal weight may be a challenge, as feeding contributes to the human-animal bond, and will take a lot of work. Consider rewarding yourself and your pet with other activities such as play, going for a walk, and training to exercise your pet’s mind and body – all of which can also safely aid in your pet’s weight loss routine!