When you lovingly gaze at your cat, you probably see the cutest and most perfect little animal in the world. But the people around you beg to differ, and see only a big clumsy ball of fur with a tiny head and minuscule paws! The vet’s report is alarming: your cat is obese. This could be linked to neutering, a lack of exercise if it’s an indoor cat, but also may be due to your tendency to be too soft, and give him a little morsel of food every time he turns the sad eyes on you!
This is nothing rare, and up to half of all domestic cats are overweight. In such cases, certain measures need to be taken, but nothing too drastic, because it is never good for a cat to lose weight too quickly. Find all our tips for helping your adorable moggie to slim down in this article.
First of all, how do you know if your cat is too fat?
A vet’s opinion is of course a precious aid, as much as for identifying an unsuitable weight as for finding a few solutions (adapted cat foods, portion control, recommendations, etc.), but you can also check for yourself. Your cat is undoubtedly overweight if:
- Its middle is not clearly marked.
- If you touch its ribs (without pressing too much), you feel fat and not the ribs themselves. In a normal weight cat, you should easily feel the ribs, with only a very small bit of fat around them, and you should easily be able to count them.
- You don’t feel the vertebrae when you put your hand on his back.
- When you put your hand on his tummy, there is a large pocket of fat.
- A cat that is overweight will clean himself less, and won’t jump around as much as before.
What to do to help?
1) Manage his eating habits
In nature, a cat is obliged to hunt. They take several small meals throughout the day, eating the prey they catch (in up to 15 to 20 small meals). So when he only gets one or two meals a day, he gorges at high speed and will keep going for more, for fear of not having enough (making you believe along the way that he will die from hunger if you don’t feed him!). A fat cat shouldn’t necessarily eat less, but he should eat the correct type of food in the right way. It is better to give him free access to dry cat food (which is less appetising) or to give it to him in in small quantities throughout the day, to ensure he doesn’t get anxious.
If you have to make dietary changes, go slowly (for example, mixing the new type of food with his usual kind). By contrast, ban snacks and don’t give him your food or the leftovers from your meals (which are generally not good for your cat as they are often too fatty, and not suitable for cats).
2) Smart dishes
Some people believe that hiding an animal’s food is cruel. However, in nature, cats hunt and have to find prey. A teaching bowl, or a smart dish, is like a game, and helps your cat eat more slowly, which gives them the impression of being full faster, while having fun and respecting their hunting instincts.
You can also hide a little food in various parts of the house (up high, behind some furniture, under a rug, in a tight corner, in a sock, etc.). Why not turn a dish upside down to force him to use his paw? Any way of getting him to move and play!
3) The most important: play and exercise
An inactive cat is a cat that runs the risk of becoming anxious. It is important for their health and behaviour that they move around. This can mean playing games to make them run around, chase things, catch things, etc. Make games that get your cat to jump and climb (perhaps with a cat tree) and make sure he has toys for when you are not around. If your cat is an indoor cat, don’t hesitate to bring him out on a cat harness, starting with short walks to get him used to it, and then let him off the leash to climb trees (but not too high, as he may not be able to get back down).