Q: I’ve never been able to get my fat cats to lose weight. My veterinarian insists that they need to slim down and he tells me to feed them less but it doesn’t work! Help!
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A: Getting a fatty back into fighting shape isn’t impossible, despite your past failures. The process is typically slow (and should be!), but it’s always doable.
Trouble is, there’s scant scientific evidence to indicate that any one weight loss method is more successful than another. So it goes with “diet” pet foods. In fact, in practice, many of the so-called weight loss diets prove frustratingly ineffective, or even counterproductive (fat cats get fatter), which makes slimming down seem like an impossibility.
Nonetheless, there are some methods that have shown themselves effective. Here are some tips:
- Feed a moist diet. Improving a cat’s hydration status seems to increase activity slightly. Because cats seem to be better hydrated when they take their fluids with their solids, we recommend either wetting their dry food or feeding a pre-moistened commercial diet.
- Do not allow cats to graze. Cats with constant access to crunchies take in more calories and tend to be more lazy. Feed a consistent amount at regular mealtimes.
- Feed three or more times a day. The newest recommendations for feeding involve increasing the frequency of mealtimes to simulate a cat’s small game hunter’s biology. Add one more meal at bedtime.
- Never put a cat on a crash diet! Calories should be only modestly decreased. If he’s losing more than 5 percent of his body weight every month, it might lead to fatty liver disease.
- Never let a cat get overweight in the first place. When she first starts tipping the scales is the correct time to intervene. Often, that’ll start happening within the first year or two of life.
- Decrease calories when you sterilize. Because sterilization typically happens when they start growing more slowly, this metabolic double-whammy can just start the weight gain process even as early as the first year of life. Cut down their calories by switching to adult food.
- Increase environmental stimulation. Exercise is hard to do with cats. Instead, we focus on improving their environment so they’re enticed to move. Be creative!
- Use a bathroom scale to keep track of your cat’s weight loss. Set a weight goal with the help of your veterinarian and a timeline to keep you on track.