Three Ways to Help a Cat Lose Weight

It is estimated that as many as 48% of domestic cats are overweight.*
Helping a cat lose weight is the most important thing to do to ensure a cat’s long-term health and well-being.
*Case, Linda. The Cat: Its Behavior, Nutrition & Health. Ames, IA: Iowa State Press, 2003.

1. Control calories and fat

Feed cats highly digestible, meat-based foods. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they are uniquely adapted to get nutrients in forms only found in meat. A highly digestible food with meat as the main protein source can help prevent weight gain.

Increase the proportion of canned and raw foods in the cat’s daily diet. Feeding only canned or raw foods has been shown to help cats lose weight.* A ratio of 50% wet food to 50% dry also works well, but as little as 25% wet food can be beneficial for weight loss.

Feed a dry food properly formulated for weight loss. These foods contain adequate levels of nutrients while limiting calories and fat.

Measure food and feed smaller, more frequent meals. Consider the feeding guidelines on the bag of food to calculate how much the cat needs each day. Use a measuring cup to avoid over-feeding. Divide the amount of food into smaller meals, and feed three to six times a day. Reduce weight slowly. Weight loss should occur at a rate of no more than 1-2% of the cat’s total body weight per week to reduce the risk of hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. This is caused when fat tissue accumulates in the liver. It can usually be reversed when detected early. *Piobot, Biourge, Elliot, Encyclopedia of Feline Clinical Nutrition, Royal Canin, 2008.

2. Play more, treat less

The study, “Human-Animal Relationship of Owners of Normal and Overweight Cats” showed that owners of healthy weight cats played with their cats more often than owners of overweight cats.* Introducing new toys and games into the cat’s daily routine can decrease boredom, reduce tension in multi-cat households, improve coordination and help cats bond with their human family.

Find out if the cat prefers mouse-, bird-, or bug-shaped toys. Cats play with toys that look like prey, and many cats have favorite toy “species.”

Discover the cat’s favorite color. If a cat doesn’t appear interested in playing, try toys of different colors. Cats can easily see blue, green and yellow and might respond better to these colors.

Try catnip or honeysuckle to perk up a cat’s interest in a toy. Catnip and honeysuckle contain aromatic compounds that between 50% and 80% of cats seem to enjoy.

Play games. Cats are natural hunters: try hiding a few healthy treats around the house. Pick up a wand toy and help a cat get exercise. Feathers and toy mice and all kinds of prey critters can be attached to wands with strings.

Get crafty. Try making a fitness trail out of rolled up rugs for tunnels, chairs, tables and wood plank ramps. Place one or two toys along the course to encourage the cat to explore. Or, try building a cat mobile out of string and cut-out cardboard shapes and hang it from a windowsill. *Published by the American Society for Nutrition, in Journal of Nutrition 136: 1947-1950S, 2006.

3. Create an enriched environment

Creating an enriched environment means making our homes more friendly to a cat’s natural behaviors in ways that increase activity and decrease stress.

Add new things to the environment. Empty boxes, an empty paper bag, tubes from paper towel and toilet paper rolls are fun for cats. Bird feeders hung outside the window near a cat tree or post might provide hours of entertainment for an indoor cat. Try adding water bowls, litter boxes, cat trees, scratching posts and even grooming sessions.

Create vertical spaces. Cats tend to feel safe when they can retreat to elevated spaces. Adding a tall, sturdy cat post to a commonly used area of the home is an effective way to add fun, safe vertical spaces for cats

Provide several feeding areas in households with more than one cat. A portly cat, in a multi-cat home, is often the cat dominating the food. If possible, feed each cat in a separate room. Or, try feeding the overweight cat on the floor, and the other cats on top of a cat tree, or other vertical space. For more detailed information and help for your cat, please stop by one of our stores and pick up a free copy of Mud Bay's brochure, Help a Cat Lose Weight.
Please visit any of our stores and we’ll be happy to help you help your dog or cat.

We’re not veterinarians. Mud Bay staff are well educated, and our writing is well-researched, but neither the advice of a Mud Bay staff member nor reading Mud Bay's written materials can substitute for visiting a veterinarian. We offer carefully chosen, natural solutions, but we believe that veterinary conditions should be diagnosed and treated by professionals.