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Feline weight loss tips

A new year, a new you - that’s the mantra we often try to live by when another New Year comes around. How often have we set ourselves a weight loss themed New Year’s resolution only to forget about it and give up by February? If only you’d had someone there to help you along the way - perhaps you would’ve been more successful.

The good news for your cat is that if they’re overweight, you’ll be there to choose what and how much they eat, as well as to encourage them to exercise more via play! New Year’s weight loss resolutions for your cat are therefore much more likely to be successful than the weight loss goals we set ourselves.

Is my cat overweight?

How can you be sure your cat is overweight and not just fluffy? The key is a combination of weighing your cat and undertaking a ‘Body Condition Score’ to assess their body shape. This is a ‘1 to 9’ score that helps you gauge whether your cat is underweight (1 - 3), ideal body weight (4 or 5) or overweight/obese (6 -9). Take time to assess your cat and utilise this great, free online tool. To get the best assessment, you should see your veterinary team for a full weight check-up, as they are experienced in assessing body condition scores in cats.

So, what can you do if your cat is overweight?  We know that overweight cats are more likely to develop secondary health issues like arthritis, diabetes, skin issues and even heart disease. So, what do you do now? Here are the top 8 weight loss tips for your cat:

1. See the vet

If you think your cat is overweight or obese, the best place to start is with a trip to your vet. Here, the veterinary team can check your cat’s weight and confirm their body condition score. If they discover your cat is overweight or obese, they will set a target weight and start them on a weight loss program. Having the veterinary team rule out secondary issues like feline diabetes or arthritis is also very important.

Once your cat is on a veterinary weight loss program, they have a much greater chance of losing weight, and keeping it off. The team will be able to recommend everything from the rate of weight loss, an appropriate diet and exercise plan, and the frequency of follow-up visits to check on your cat’s progress.

2. Weight loss diets

If your cat has been placed on a weight loss program, there is a high chance that they have also been started on an appropriate feline weight loss prescription diet. Weight management diets are specifically designed to control your cat’s weight loss, but they also minimise a cat’s compulsion to beg for food.

These diets are usually high in fibre to help your cat feel full, and typically contain fish oil to improve their coat. They will also get joint support from glucosamine and chondroitin. Speak to your vet about an appropriate weight loss diet for your cat. They will also be able to tell you the exact amount to feed your cat in order to achieve their weight loss goal. Where possible, always be sure to weigh your cat’s daily ration using kitchen scales, rather than using a cup or scoop to measure it.

3. Wet food over dry food

For many cats on a weight loss plan who aren’t on a special weight loss diet, the decrease in quantity of their food can often make them beg and meow frequently. A simple fix is to change their dry kibble based diet to a wet one (pouches or canned food). The other option is to consider ‘mixed feeding’ both wet and dry food together, as this has the benefit of more volume per day, while also allowing your cat to crunch to help their dental health.

Keeping wet food fresh is often a big issue in feline households, so it is important to use a bowl such as a SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder, a SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect or a SureFeed Sealed Pet Bowl, that helps lock in moisture and freshness in a cat’s wet food throughout the entire day (as well as to keep flies and bugs out of the food).

4. Avoid treats and tidbits

Focusing on food intake is very important when considering your cat’s weight loss, however we need to consider more than just their main diet. Cats sometimes receive extra treats either in the form of specific cat rewards (from the supermarket or pet store), or in the form of human food (cheese, ham and milk are common examples of human treats many owners feed their cats).

All of these extras quickly add up and ruin a weight loss plan. Keep in mind that a small piece of cheese from our perspective is often a HUGE piece of cheese for a cat relative to their size. During a weight loss program, it is easiest to avoid all treats and snacks for your cat, and to focus more on rewarding them with play.

5. Encourage exercise and play

While taking care with your cat’s diet is the key to a successful weight loss plan, the other very important initiative is to encourage exercise via play and games. Weight loss comes down to a combination of decreased calories going in, and increased calories going out. Take 10 - 15 minutes once or twice every day to play with your cat. Encourage them to chase and hunt using feathers on a string, play ‘chase the biscuit’ with kibble from their daily ration, or try making your own interactive toy for them.

6. Discourage stealing

Another common cause of excess calories is via one cat stealing another pet’s food. This becomes even more likely when a cat who is motivated by food is placed on a calorie restricted diet, at which point they try even harder to get the food from a fellow pet’s food bowl. The best way to discourage food stealing is to give each of your cats a SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder or a SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder Connect.

7. Get the entire family on board

The combination of feeding the appropriate weight loss diet in the right amount, avoiding treats and snacks and ensuring there is enough play and interaction with your cat will require the entire family to be involved. If everyone is doing their best to help your cat’s weight loss but one family member continues to treat your cat with human food under the table, then your hard work will be in vain.

As such, have a meeting with the entire family at the very start of your cat’s weight loss regime, and ensure that everyone understands the importance of the process. Once everyone is on board, the weight loss program is much more likely to be successful.

8. Regular follow ups

Ensure your cat has regular check-up appointments and weight checks. It’s likely your vet team will want to see you and your cat every two weeks during their weight loss plan to ensure they are heading in the right direction and to tweak the plan as necessary. Do what you can to get to these appointments as they will really help to ensure the weight loss goal is achieved and at the right pace.

There are many health benefits to getting your cat to a normal, ideal weight and body condition score. Working with your veterinary team and focusing on the tips above will certainly hold your cat in good stead, but do remember that it will take time and effort from the entire family to get to that end-goal.

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