My cat, a two-year-old orange tabby named Archie, was always flawless in my eyes. However, in his vet’s eyes, there was one thing that needed an adjustment: His weight. There’s no “perfect,” ideal weight for a cat to be, but coming in at 13 pounds for his age, it was safe to say that Archie needed to lose a few pounds. That’s why I began my quest to help my cat lose weight and compiled a list of strategies to potentially help other troubled cat owners.
In the end, my efforts proved fruitful. Archie stands today at a far healthier ten pounds, but this was something that took several months to achieve. It was only through careful planning (and a lot of trial and error) that I was able to improve his condition!
How I Knew It Was Time To Create A Plan
The first question I had for myself when looking at my chubby little kitty, was that it was normal for him to be slightly overweight. I know that cats that live alone are more prone to gaining weight, and I thought that perhaps he was just having a natural reaction to getting fixed (many cats do gain a bit of weight after this occurs). But, candidly, the pounds kept packing on. When I took him to the vet, she let me know that there are actually a lot of risks that come with letting your cat be overweight. These include:
- Urinary Tract Diseases
- General Lesser Quality of Life
This was very eye-opening for me, and also quite concerning! An estimated 63% of all housecats are overweight, which means that more than half of every cat-containing household has a higher potential to be impacted by these ailments. Not a great sign for those of us who accidentally overfeed!
Information like this is important to share, as it can encourage people to take the next step in helping their cat. That’s why, after much research, I compiled a weight-loss plan for Archie by using several different methodologies.
Throughout the entire process, there were some tactics and tips that worked absolute wonders on Archie’s weight. Before outlining the steps that you can probably cut out and avoid, I think it’s important that I detail the things that were worth the extra bit of effort.
Making The Switch To Wet Food
Very shortly into my journey of discovery I realized that, to help your cat lose weight, dry food is the first thing that should go. One reason for this is the amount of starch and carbohydrates that come in dry food. Since cats are obligate carnivores, they don’t actually need carbs to survive. So, when we give them those carbs, they’re just unnecessary calories that aren’t needed.
Gradual Portion Control and Timed Feedings
Since cats have such sensitive kidneys, I knew it was important to take the transition to less food very slowly. You don’t want to disturb any of those delicate bodily processes, after all. I decided to start him out with a caloric deficit of about 20% and then waited a few weeks before taking him down to 30%. Something else that helped, alongside restrictive dieting, was implementing a steady routine. Cats, at their core, crave structure and appreciate a good schedule.
Toys That Are Mentally And Physically Stimulating
With the diet plan set underway, there was another core element to weight loss that I knew I couldn’t ignore: Exercise! There is a lot of varying advice online regarding how best to increase your cat’s exercise levels, and some of those worked better than others (more on that in the “what didn’t” section). In general, though, I found that buying these were the most effective:
- Toys that I knew he already had a liking for
- Trees and towers that were sturdy and encouraged play
- Interactive toys that took advantage of his hunting instincts
There’s not really a need, in my opinion, to go the extra mile and buy specific “weight loss toys” unless it’s explicitly recommended by your vet. I think that some of them are a bit of a gimmick, and are taking advantage of vulnerable owners willing to empty those pockets for an easy route to a thin kitty. It doesn’t matter what the toy is, it matters whether or not your cat will really use it.
Now that you know what helped Archie lose his weight, it’s time to go through all of the methods that didn’t work out. Unsurprisingly, this entire process was mostly trial and error. When you’re trying to help your cat lose weight, you must retain the mindset that every cat is different on a behavioral level, and will probably react slightly differently to the treatment plan you set into motion. For Archie in particular, this is what he didn’t agree with.
Getting A Leash/Outdoor Harness
The idea of taking Archie out on some refreshing walks to try and lose a few pounds was definitely one that was inviting, and one that I really wanted to try. So, I went ahead and invested in a semi-expensive, quality harness to try and begin training him to go outdoors. Little did I know that doing this was something that required an entire plan and process in and of itself. He refused to wear his harness, and did just about everything possible to get out of it.
Archie has never been one for clothes, so that wasn’t surprising, but he loves to go out and sit on the porch, so I (vainly) figured that he’d enjoy the opportunity to explore more of the great outdoors. He didn’t, so it ended up being a waste of my money and both of our time.
Expecting Instant Results
Like most rewarding things in life, helping your cat lose weight takes an abundant amount of patience. If you expect or desire your cat to lose all of the necessary weight in a few weeks (or even a few months), then you are effectively setting yourself up for disappointment. Not only is it unrealistic to have these kinds of expectations for your cat’s weight loss- but it’s also dangerous. There is only a certain amount of weight that a healthy cat should be losing in a given period, and trying to force extreme weight loss will be unsustainable at best and dangerous at worst.
Instead of getting down about not achieving milestones quickly enough, appreciate the small things. In fact, appreciate yourself for taking the steps required to get your cat back into good shape. Even taking this initiative in the first place shows that you’re serious about their health and that you want what’s best for them. If you keep consistent effort, and support them as best you can, then the results you want will come in their due time.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Myskina6/iStock via Getty Images
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