When Skinny the cat wound up at a Dallas animal shelter in 2012, the cheekily named critter weighed a whopping 41 pounds. He was adopted by a veterinarian who engineered a careful diet and exercise program for him, and by 2015, he was down to a svelte 19 pounds. While Skinny’s extreme obesity required some special techniques, most fat cats can slim down much more easily.
Diet is one of the most important factors in weight loss. If your cat tends to be fat, stop free-feeding. Instead, feed measured meals two to three times a day. Your vet can help you determine appropriate portion sizes and possibly select a low-calorie food. Meat-based diets can be a good choice for overweight cats because they contain fewer carbohydrates, which often cause weight gain in cats. If dry food is a better choice for your situation, select a high-quality variety without added dyes or fillers.
Talk to your vet about testing for diabetes and other illnesses, as prescription diets can help manage these conditions. Testing can also catch thyroid problems or other underlying issues that may be contributing to your cat’s weight gain.
If your cat is used to having food freely available, be prepared for plenty of complaints. Many cats are very vocal about asking for food, or they may seem annoyed or upset. Don’t give in, though. If you do feel the need to give your cat a bit of a treat, be sure to subtract that amount from his next meal.
While calorie restriction is important, exercise is also key. Motivate your cat to move by scheduling daily play time. Some cats enjoy going for walks on a harness or even walking on a treadmill or exercise wheel.
Make sure to keep your vet involved in the entire process, and be patient with your cat’s progress. Rapid weight loss is dangerous, so take it slow, and don’t expect sudden results. Getting your cat to lose weight can take a bit of work, but it pays off by giving your feline friend a longer, healthier life. For more inspiration, watch the incredible weight loss journey of a beagle named Kale Chips.
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