Tips For Starting A Weight Management Program
- Always check with your veterinarian first.
- Eliminate all food treats.
- Divide the daily portion into several smaller meals.
- Feed a diet formulated specifically for weight loss.
- Weigh your cat every two weeks.
- Cats should not lose more than 1% to 1.5% of initial weight per week.
- Be patient and consistent!
Weigh Your Cat To Ensure A Healthy Rate Of Weight
Regardless of diet, limiting access is the key. And a scale to accurately weigh the cat on is handy. Peoples digital scales can be used by weighing the person with and without holding the kitty. Monthly weights at the same time of day are sufficient.
We want about a pound a month of weight loss, not more. Sudden weight loss in a cat can result in serious health issues. Weight loss is hard to accomplish in a cat, no short cuts exist, and it takes an active process to achieve.
Just like people, it is an individualized program for each kitty and dealing with the behavioral consequences of a hungry cat can be one of the largest challenges. The hardest thing for people to accept is that a hungry cat is okay and healthy, it does not require fixing despite what the kitty may think.
Dr. Matt McCormick, DVM
Companion Animal Clinic has been serving Blacksburg, Virginia and surrounding Montgomery and Christiansburg communities since 1974. We are an AAHA accredited veterinary hospital and provide quality, professional care for dogs, cats, exotics, and small mammals. Learn more about our amazing team.
How Should I Begin A Weight Loss Program For My Cat
Theoretically, weight loss seems simple enough: fewer calories in plus more calories out equals weight loss. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. You should never put an obese cat on a diet without veterinary supervision.
“If cats do not eat for as little as two consecutive days, they can develop a life-threatening form of liver disease known as hepatic lipidosis.”
The cat’s physiology is different than humans or dogs and if they do not eat for as little as two consecutive days, they can develop a life-threatening form of liver disease known as hepatic lipidosis . Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your cat, and will likely recommend some diagnostic testing to ensure that there are no underlying diseases or obstacles to weight loss for your cat.
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Why Are There So Many Fat Cats
Type of diet dry kibble
Obligate carnivores are designed to meet their energy needs with calories supplied by protein and fat not by carbohydrates. The average prey of a wild cat is made up of only 3 5% of calories from carbohydrates. Now consider that dry kibble diets generally range from 35% 50% carbohydrate calories and you will see a serious disconnect between what the cat is designed to eat and what Man insists on feeding to them. Dry foods flood the cats system with 5-10 times more calories from carbohydrates than what would be found in a wild cats prey.
According to Dr. Zorans paper The Carnivore Connection to Nutrition in Cats, carbohydrates are minimally used for energy by the cat and those that are not used are converted to, and stored as, fat. The so-called light diets that are on the market have targeted the fat content as the nutrient to be decreased but, in doing so, the pet food manufacturers have increased the grain fraction , leading to a higher level of carbohydrates.
Hence, many overweight cats eating these diets are still obese. These light products are among the most species-inappropriate, unhealthy diets available to cat caretakers. Many caretakers feed very small amounts of these diets hoping that their cat will lose weight but feeding a small amount of a diet that is inappropriate for the species is not the answer! The caretaker usually just ends up with a crabby cat that is often still overweight.
Method of feeding
What Causes A Cat To Stop Eating And Losing Weight
Other symptoms tend to include loss of appetite, lethargy, and hiding. On the other end of the scary spectrum, sore teeth may cause a cat to stop eating, resulting in weight loss. Other signs of tooth problems include drooling and pawing at the mouth. A tooth extraction may be all thats needed to get your kitty back to their old self.
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Mistake Made With Bennie
As mentioned above, Bennie was living in my foster room with other adults and kittens. All were being free-fed canned Wellness . This feeding protocol left me unable to monitor Bennies calorie intake so I had to be extra vigilant in monitoring his weight.
For the first few weeks, Bennie lost just a bit over 2% of his body weight per week. He was bright, alert, and playful. He continued along at this rate but 2 months into his program, he was approaching a 3% loss per week and I noticed a loss of muscle mass along his top line.
The problem was two-fold: Bennie clearly was not consuming enough calories but the other issue was that Wellness is low in protein when compared to a cats normal prey of mice and birds and that, coupled with his low food intake, combined to cause overall protein malnutrition which resulted in the loss of muscle mass.
This is a very important point! The goal of weight loss for any living being is loss of fat while maintaining, or even building, muscle mass. However, since our cats are not going to the gym, we aim for simply a maintenance of muscle mass.
As soon as I switched Bennie to a higher protein, lower fat diet, the change in his body was incredible. The high protein diet provided Bennie with the needed protein to quickly regained much of his lost muscle mass along his head and backbone .
Chicken gizzards are also good for promoting dental health because they are more tough/fibrous than muscle meat in the form of thigh or breast meat.
How To Get My Cat To Eat Homemade Cat Food
It will be easier to switch a cat from canned food to raw or cooked. Typically, the transition takes about a week. You start serving food in 20/80 ratio, then 40/60, 50/50, and replace the old food gradually. However, the process of transition may take months dont give up. Some pet owners suggest starting with raw/cooked food treats, such as chicken wings.
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Think About Your Cats Age
Additionally, when determining how much food to care for your overweight cat. You need to think about the age of your feline companion. The types of supplements your cat will need will vary whether it is a small cat, adult, or senior. Pregnant and nursing overweight cats also have different health needs. When everything is done, here are some rules to remember:
- Kittens are cats that are eight to nine months old
- Adults are cats nine months to nine years old
- Elderly cats are those who are at least nine years old
Typically, when purchasing cat food in-store, use that age while choosing food that is specifically designed for that age. You can buy food meant for senior cats and plan to feed your kitten
For obvious reasons, the best possible care for your cat is crucial. Overfeeding puts your pet at risk for obesity and real medical problems. Starvation and you create a problem with cats biting on toys, books, etc. and taking food off the counter or table and constantly ending up in the trash.
Benefits Of A Canned Diet
In addition to being the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, canned foods benefit cats in other ways. Cats on dry food often do not drink enough to prevent urinary tract disease.
The increased moisture in canned food helps reduce the risk of cystitis, bladder crystals, and bladder stones. Cats on low carb canned food are less hungry. Although many people think that dry cat food prevents dental disease in cats, most dry cat foods crumble so they do not offer any cleaning action.
There is a prescription dry diet that does help keep the teeth clean due a unique matrix that prevents crumbling, but if your cat has a tendency to be overweight, the fact that T/D is not low carbohydrate makes it poor choice for your cat.
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Monitoring Your Cat’s Weight
If finances allow it, a pediatric scale will be easier and more accurate. But if not, your own scale will do fine as long as it is digital.
Every week, do exactly the same thing. Always re-weigh yourself first, then hold your kitty to get the combined weight, and then subtract. Write it down!!!
If your cat’s weight stays the same, then the amount you are feeding is roughly maintenance for your cat at his present size. If he is losing weight and you don’t want him to, then you need to feed more. If he is gaining weight, then you need to feed less.
You need to repeat this cycle over and over before you can find out what amount of food it takes for your cat to be a certain weight.
No, I’m not kidding. It takes discipline and organization and restraint, sort of like when we try to lose weight ourselves. But it’s the only way.
Oh, and PLEASE follow this rule. Do not let your cat lose more than 1/2 pound per month. If a cat loses weight too quickly, he is in danger of developing hepatic lipidosis and trust me, you absolutely don’t want that to happen!
Hepatic lipidosis is a dreadful disease and primarily affects overweight cats that lose weight too quickly for whatever reason. It can be treated successfully, but treatment often takes a long time and a lot of money and heartache, so make sure your kitty doesn’t lose weight too quickly.
Vegetarian Diets For Cats
It can be difficult if you are vegetarian or vegan to feed your cat something with meat in. However, its important to always put your cats welfare first. Cats need meat for certain nutrients they cant get anywhere else. We would always recommend feeding your cat a complete, commercial diet. Speak to your vet if you are unsure of what to feed them.
While there are some vegetarian and vegan cat food available, always do your research and speak to your vet to make sure your cat is getting all the nutrients they need from their diet to make sure they stay healthy.
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Free Feeding Vs Measured Meals For Cats
If you feel like once a day is too seldom but cant afford to be home to feed your cat more often, you can consider free feeding. It works best with dry food, of course, because it doesnt get spoiled too soon. Still, that does not mean that you can just pour a pile of it and come back in a week. No, even dry food has to be renewed on a daily basis so that it doesnt go stale.
So, you can see if your cat can do the further division of food, eating in convenient portions and letting it last through the day. If it likes to come and get an occasional snack, that should not exceed the cat food per day that you have calculated with calories in mind.
If that practice turns out to be unsuccessful, for example, if the kitty consistently gulps everything there is and comes back screaming for more later, you will have to switch to measured meals. That way, you can help it to have better distributed and timely meals that will provide it with just enough energy until the next feeding occasion.
Getting Your Cat To Move
Motivating Nibs to move for reasons other than food is one of a cat caretakers bigger challenges, especially if the cat doesnt venture outdoors. But veterinarians agree that laser pointers, which emit a pinpoint of light that intrigues cats and often gets them off the couch, are good for owners who dont want to move much themselves.
Other interactive toys, like sticks with feathers at the end and balls, are fine, too. Climbing apparatus and scratching posts may also interest your cat, as will empty boxes.
Hoskins says that cat owners should encourage physical activity from the start, when your cat is still a kitten. He tells WebMD, One of the problems in reversing obesity is that you can change their diet, but its hard to do anything with their activity.
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Is It All About The Food
According to Veterinarian Lisa A. Pierson, its all about that dry kibble. She believes three major factors are at play here.
She recommends switching to largely wet food diet for cats, since wet food is 80% water and typically contains meat-based protein. This makes sense in many ways, as cats are true carnivores. In addition, cats in their natural habitat of hunting small animals get most of their fluid from animals as well .
But if you have a cat struggling with weight, you may want to switch to a high quality wet food diet and feed your cat several times a day. Chances are your cat will love it. Youll find more great advice here.
What Makes Veterinary Weight Loss Diets Special
There are a number of weight control diets available at pet stores that work well for a cat who only needs to lose a small amount of weight. However, these diets are often not as effective as veterinary weight loss diets if a cat needs to lose a significant amount of weight or if your cat has other medical conditions. Not all weight loss strategies work for every cat, so there are many different diets to address this. Some weight loss diets, such as Purina Proplan OM® and Royal Canin® Calorie Control, are high protein, low carbohydrate, others such as Royal Canin® Satiety and Hills® Prescription Diet w/d have high fiber content to help the cat feel more full and stop begging for food. Some newer weight loss diets, such as Hills® Prescription Diet Metabolic, use specific nutrients that can promote increased metabolism, helping cats burn calories more quickly. Your veterinarian will be able to advise the best weight loss diet for your cats particular situation.
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Be Careful With Cat Treats
Even though most of them are small, many cat treats can have lots of calories. Remember that, if you are feeding treats on top of the number of calories that your cat should be getting every day to lose weight, he is probably going to maintain or gain.
One thing you can do is reserve a small number of kibbles from your cat’s daily allowance to use as treats throughout the day. Your kitty loves the positive interaction from you during treat time and won’t mind that the type of treat has changed.
How Do You Feed Two Cats When One Is Overweight
Fortunately, if your cats are microchipped, there is a simple solution to this common problem. It is now possible to purchase microchip activated feeding bowls that only open for one particular cat. By using these special feeding bowls you can easily regulate how much food each of your cats has. Alternatively, you could feed your cats in separate rooms to prevent them stealing food from each other. If your smaller cat needs to be fed throughout the day, it may be necessary to feed them separately by hand.
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Why Are My Cats So Hungry All The Time
If cats become used to being fed too much food, it can be difficult for them to get used to a restricted amount of feeding. Cats enjoy the act of eating, just like humans, and so you need to find ways to give them enjoyment in different forms, such as getting new toys to play with, or simply by engaging with them more as their carer. Over time, most cats learn to adapt to the new way of feeding, and they become less hungry. If your cat does continue to seem hungry all the time, you should take them to your DVM veterinarian for a health check in case there is an underlying health reason for this . If it turns out that your cat is in full health, but simply very hungry despite being fed the correct amount of food, your veterinarian may be able to suggest a type of high quality cat food that is more likely to make your cat feed full .
Best Food For Overweight Cats
For overweight cats, low-fat canned cat food has the advantages of being high in protein, as well as containing fewer carbohydrates and calories than typical dry cat food. Studies have proven that cats fed only canned, raw foods have experienced substantial weight loss. When it comes to implementing low-fat food into your cats diet, we recommend an even ratio of dry and wet foods. This should produce results for overweight cats.
For the best possible weight loss, we advise sticking to a meat-based diet of canned cat foods. As carnivores, cats receive their best nutrients from meat. As such, feeding them highly digestible meats as their main source of protein can help prevent future weight gain. Additionally, you might want to try a less is more approach when it comes to feeding time. Spread out your cats meals so that they eat little and often. That way, you can keep track of what they are eating and how much, in order to properly monitor your cats weight loss.
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