Cats have a perfect life—we can all agree on that. They lay around all day, sleep whenever they want, and don't work. *Except for all the cat bakers out there. Making biscuits is a demanding job.
The indoor cat life sounds like a dream. But, inactivity combined with an improper diet can lead to weight issues for cats.
It's important to make sure that your feline companion maintains a healthy weight. Obesity can lead to several health problems. But most, it shortens their lives.
Let's determine if your cat is overweight and why it matters:
Is my cat overweight?
A good indicator of ideal body weight is a cat's whiskers! Whiskers have many uses, one being spatial determination. Ever wonder how your cat knows they will fit into that tiny box, or not fit? Our feline friends use their facial receptors to indicate if they can wiggle through a space.
Contrary to popular belief, whiskers do not grow with a cat's size. So if their body exceeds the length of their whiskers, they are overweight. The target weight for a cat would not exceed the width of its whiskers. The length of their whiskers should be proportionate to the width of their body.
A bird's eye view will also do the trick. Use this graphic to make a weight observation.
We highly recommend you refer to your veterinary healthcare team to pick a target weight for your cat.
Why is my cat's weight important?
A cat's weight plays an important role in their overall health. Obesity increases the risk of conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, breathing problems, and can shorten their lifespan.
Gender, age, and prior eating habits will be key in a cat's ability to stay on their target weight. This is why it's our responsibility as pet parents to feed them the right diet and encourage activity!
Here are six simple ways to help you manage your cat’s weight:
1) Feeding the Right Diet
Balanced nutrition is essential! If your cat is on the chunky side, feeding a diet formulated for weight management for cats is key to slimming down.
Commercial cat food is class high in carbs, low in animal proteins, and made with by-products, meals, or grains. These ingredients make weight loss difficult for your average indoor cat. Especially since they generally call for larger serving sizes. So, reducing your cat's food intake on this diet will not be a good weight reduction program.
We recommend choosing a high-protein, low-carb diet. Choose one that meets your cat's nutritional requirements, moisture intake, and ancestral needs.
Is wet food or dry food better?
This is a popular question we get. And, our answer is always, "Whatever is best for YOUR cat!"
Because cat's are ancestral desert dwellers, they sometimes skimp out on drinking water. Wet food provides moisture to a cat's diet that otherwise is missed. This also goes for gently cooked and raw food formulas.
You don't have to feed your cat a solely wet food diet! Simply top their high-quality kibble with bone broth, wet food, raw, or gently cooked. These moisture-rich formulas will upgrade their diet and be weight-loss-friendly and cost-effective.
Diets we suggest for our own kitties:
Weight Management Diets for cats
Our favorite formulas include digestive aid ingredients, like pumpkin, quinoa, and pomegranate. Choosing a limited-ingredient diet is even better. Here are a couple of suggestions:
Raw Food for cats
Raw food formulas, generally, have limited ingredients. They are also packed with animal proteins and antioxidants. Another benefit of a raw diet is its high bioavailability. The fresh ingredients in raw food are top-tier and result in high digestibility. It’s simple, more fresh food = more vital nutrients = more energy.
A few of our favorites are:
Instinct Longevity Chicken Bites Raw Cat Food
Savage Cat Duck Frozen Cat Food
Small Batch Chicken Frozen Raw Cat Food
A raw food diet is healthy and recommended for even the average domestic cat! If you're interested in raw food, and the many benefits it has, learn more here.
You can also learn more about picking the perfect cat food here.
2) Avoid Free Feeding
Free feeding is very common for cats that transition from outdoor to indoor. Feed feeding is also a common factor in households with overweight cats. This feeding method is when their food bowl is always full of food.
For better results, avoid leaving their food out all day long or keeping it stocked. Instead, give them small portions 2-3 times a day. This will help regulate their appetite and prevent them from overeating.
Creating a routine for your cat can be helpful. An automatic feeder can make this transition easier. But, because automatic feeders house the dry food, your cat will be able to smell it all day. Thus, it may create some confusion for cats who are used to free feeding and see an empty food bowl. And, perhaps end with some broken automatic feeders. 🥴 Not that we know from experience.
How much food should you feed your cat to promote weight loss? Check the requirements on the back! A good weight loss program and formula will break down a healthy calorie intake.
3) Treats in Moderation
Everyone loves to treat their pets, and this couldn’t be more true with cats. Yet, overindulging them with treats can lead to excess weight gain. A simple fix is to choose single-ingredient treats.
Look for functional treats and toppers! Several of our faves include: Northwest Naturals Minnows Freeze-Dried Treats for Cats, Cat Sushi Classic Bonito Flakes, Winnie Lou Bison Heart Bits Freeze-Dried Cat Treats. Give them in moderation, of course.
4) Encourage Playtime
Cats are very independent. Encouraging playtime is a great way to help them maintain your cat's ideal weight. Invest in interactive toys. Laser pointers, feather toys, and balls can stimulate your cat's hunting instincts. This will not only help your overweight cat to burn calories but also reduce boredom and anxiety.
Try these toys, they are our faves:
Catit Pixi Mouse Treat Dispenser for Cats
Catit Pixi Spinner Grey Electronic Cat Toy
Best Friends by Sheri Ilan Oxford Grey Cat Tunnel
Tall Tails Lickable Suction Cup Reward Dish
Turbo Plastic Ball Bulk Cat Toy
5) Regular Vet Check-Ups
Regular vet check-ups are essential in maintaining a cat's target weight. If your cat is struggling with weight issues, there could be an underlying problem. Your vet can advise on the best approach to help them lose weight.
Managing your cat's weight may seem like a daunting task. But, with proper diet, exercise, and play, it can be a fun activity for both you and your cat. Don't forget to check with your vet if you notice any drastic changes. Your cat's behavior and health are top priorities. They may be effected by a change in diet. With good care and a healthy lifestyle, your cat will thrive both physically and mentally!
Looking for more Pet Parenting tips?
Tomlinson's is your go-to pet supply store for natural, healthy pet products in Austin and the Central Texas region. Come shop in-store and we will help you create the perfect diet specifically for your dog or cat!
Visit our shop full of products sold through team members trained in animal nutrition.