Q: My New Year’s resolution is to slim down my obese Bengal cat. She’s only 3 years old, and her vet says she’s already six pounds overweight! He says just to feed her less and play with her more, but that hasn’t worked. She begs for food all the time and acts so miserable when I don’t feed her!
I know you write a lot about the obesity epidemic in pets so I thought I’d ask for some tips.
A: So glad you asked. Here’s a checklist:
1: Feed a wet diet. There’s evidence that feeding a moistened diet helps cats become more active and lose weight. We’re not sure why, but it may have something to do with the higher protein content of moist commercial diets. But if your Bengal doesn’t like the wet stuff, don’t despair. I’ve found that even feeding the dry stuff pre-moistened with water helps.
2: Do NOT “free feed.”
This means no crunchy kibbles for grazing on throughout the day. Cats are hunters that need to eat several discrete meals a day. This trains their metabolism to speed up and slow down naturally in keeping with their species’ biological needs.
3: Feed at least three meals a day. Research indicates that cats maintain healthier weights when they’re fed several times a day. Unlike dogs, who have no trouble eating once a day, cats thrive on multiple small meals (which makes sense seeing as they’re hunters of small prey). Three is usually easiest for most households: before work, when you get home, and just before bedtime.
4: Keep those meals small.
Speaking of small prey, do you know how many calories are in a mouse? About 50. That’s a typical meal for a cat. And it only amounts to about 10 or twenty kibbles or an ounce or two of wet food. How’s that for some perspective?
5: Get her moving.
Scripted playtime is great, but don’t expect much at first. A cat who’s six pounds overweight is probably obese. She’ll only slowly regain her normal activity level. As a long-term plan, consider building her an outdoor “catio,” adding indoor shelves and ledges for jumping up high, or even getting her a kitten to play with (though this can be risky as personalities can clash).
Good luck and happy new year!
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.