Obesity in cats: how to help your cat lose weight
Read time: 4 min
If your cat has more cushioning than you’d like, they’re not alone. 50% of cats are overweight. And the pet food industry is partly to blame. Being overweight can cause a lot of other health issues, including heart conditions and joint problems. So it’s important to get on top of it.
If your cat needs to shed a few pounds, you’ve come to the right place. Learn how to tell if your cat is overweight. And how to help cats lose weight for a healthier and happier life.
How much should my cat weigh?
The amount your cat should weigh will depend on certain factors including their age, sex, and their breed. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach, so speak to your vet to work out your cat’s ideal weight.
Kittens will vary depending on their breed. But will continue to gain weight healthily until they’re fully grown.
Adult cats will usually weigh between 3.6 and 4.5 kg unless they are a large breed, such as Maine Coons, which can be perfectly healthy between 8 to 15 kg.
Male cats will most likely weigh more than female cats.
Whether your cat is neutered or spayed can also affect their weight.
Is my cat fat?
As cute as fat cats are, it’s important to keep an eye on their weight. You can do this by regularly weighing them and looking at their body.
Keep an eye on:
Their ribs. You shouldn't be able to see your cat’s ribs. You should be able to feel them easily with only a small amount of fat. If you can’t feel them at all your cat is probably a bit fat.
Their belly. An overweight cat might have a big rounded belly from the side. While a healthy cat’s tummy will scoop back up just after their ribs. If your cat has a primordial pouch (the flap of fur and skin on their belly that swings back and forth when they run) this doesn’t always mean your cat is obese – some cats have big ones and others don’t.
Their waist. Looking at your cat from above, can you see a defined waist or are they totally round in the middle? A cat at a healthy weight will have a defined dip at their waist.
Their back: You shouldn’t ever be able to see your cat’s spine but in a healthy cat, you should be able to feel it under a thin layer of fat. If you can’t feel their backbone at all, they might be overweight.
If you're not sure, check out our Body Condition Score to help you tell. Or contact your vet who can weigh your cat and tell you whether they’re at a healthy weight.
Health risks: overweight cats
Just like humans, being overweight can cause health problems in cats. Some of these conditions can affect your cat long-term and require long-term medication or care.
These can include (but aren’t limited to:
Arthritis. (Being overweight puts extra pressure on their joints).
How to get a cat to lose weight?
There are two ways (and only two ways) that your cat can lose weight. First: increase how much exercise they do to burn more calories. Time to break out the feather wand. Second: Reduce their daily calories. That means no more midnight treats. They’ll protest. But it’s for the best.
Changing their diet is one of the best ways to help your cat lose weight. Cats who are fed kibble are much more likely to be overweight than cats fed a more naturally appropriate diet (like KatKin). KatKin is perfectly portioned for your cat. No guessing games or ambiguous measurements.
If you are going to put your cat on a diet, be sure to discuss this with your vet. They can offer some fantastic advice. Some vets even run specific weight loss clinics. Cat aerobics anyone?
How to put a cat on a diet
The best way to start a diet is by feeding fewer calories than what is needed to maintain their current weight. (What’s known as a calorie deficit). For example, if you have an overweight cat that is 7 kg, you feed the amount of food they’d receive if they were 6 kg.
It’s important not to do this too quickly. ‘Crash diets’ can be overwhelming for your cat's body. And can even do more harm than good. So if you are unsure, chat with your vet.
Here at KatKin we do all the hard work for you. When you become a member, you enter all of your cat's details including their weight, body condition and activity level. We take all of this info and calculate your cat's ideal weight. And use that to figure out the calories your cat needs to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
If you find that your cat is wolfing down their food and then crying for more, you can use things like slow bowls. These bowls are designed to force your cat to eat much slower. And give time for them to feel full.
Bye bye treats ... well, just about.
The odd treat makes our cats happy and can help to build a bond between you two. Instead of the super-processed and additive-packed treats, opt for more natural treats like our Nibbles. They’re made from 100% freeze-dried meat. The perfect treats without the nasties.
How can I exercise my cat?
Exercise can be fun for both you and your cat. And it will really help burn those calories. Getting enough exercise will help to maintain lean body mass too.
There are a couple of ways to encourage your cat to get their body moving. The first is through play. Cats have instinctual hunting behaviour. Which lends itself to short, intense bursts. Play with them between meetings, just before you feed them, and any other time you have 10 minutes spare. Make sure you don't just play in one spot, get them to run around. And burn those calories.
Toys, toys and a few more toys
No two cats and their humans are the same. And there’s no one right way to play with your cat. Some enjoy ‘hunting’ moving toys while others jump to catch the toy flying through the air. Others prefer to chase balls. And some need a little encouragement with some catnip. However your cat likes to play, there’s a toy to get them moving.
Dangler pole toys:
These are fantastic toys to get your cat playing chase. Wave them through the air or run them across furniture and along the floor. Let your cat give chase. Make sure they’re allowed to catch the feather or ball at the end of the string so they don’t end up frustrated or unsatisfied.
Some cats will play with balls if you just leave them around the house. But others need a little encouragement. Try throwing a ball for your cat as much as you would a dog. They’ll love chasing it around the house. Don’t count on them bringing it back, though.
If your cat just loooooves catnip, this can be a great way to encourage them to play. Not all cats are affected. But catnip can be an excellent stimulant. It will only affect them for a few minutes at a time. But those few minutes are enough to burn a few extra calories.
There are lots of interactive toys available to get them playing. These cleverly designed toys encourage play. And provide mental stimulation.
Puzzle toys get their brains working and can slow down eating. Automatic toys are usually battery-powered and include some kind of moving element to tease your cat. They’re an easy way to get your cat moving when you’re too busy to play with them yourself – just make sure you supervise them and give them your attention when you get a chance.
Why is my cat not losing weight?
Sometimes, you can be doing everything right, but the weight just isn’t shifting. And it may take some investigation to find out why.
Start with everyone in the house. (Remember: this is a family effort.) Everyone needs to be on the same page for your cat’s diet to be successful. If you’re cutting back on their daily intake, but someone else is giving them lots of treats, the job is ten times harder. If you’ve spoken to everyone in the house and you’re satisfied that the culprit is not there, move on to the neighbours.
It’s common for an outdoor cat to have a second home where they get a sneaky second dinner. If you’re suspicious your cat is enjoying a late-night snack, chat with your neighbours and explain they’re on a diet. Alternatively, you can get a tag for their collar that explains this.
If you’re still concerned about your cat’s weight, speak to your vet. They can help investigate.
After you’ve both put in all that hard work and your cat has finally reached their ideal weight, it’s not over. Remember to keep treats to a minimum. And keep the exercise up. Feeding them a more suitable diet, such as KatKin’s fresh cat food, will also ensure they maintain a healthy weight. Which is important for all those late-night zoomie sessions.