All under control - How to keep your pet at a healthy weight

Did you know that between 44-60% of all domestic cats are overweight? Although this number varies depending on country and survey, it's clear to see a growing trend in the number of overweight cats from year to year.

Why is that? In some cases, our cats are simply being fed too much food and too many scrumptious snacks. There are are also certain health conditions that can have an impact. 

So what can be done about it? Read on to find lots of information about obesity and weight gain in cats, as well as show you what you can do to help your overfed feline slim down!

Diet FoodDiet Food
Light FoodLight Food

Is my cat overweight?

If you suspect that your cat might be overweight or even obese, you should always consult your vet. However, there are also a few simple steps you can carry out yourself to make an initial assessment of the problem.

How to recognise if your cat is overweight

Place your hands loosely on your cat's chest, then move them slowly up and down. If you can easily feel your cat's ribs, then everything is fine weight-wise. However, if you have to press to feel the ribs, your cat is probably overweight.

Your cat's silhouette can also give you a good idea of whether it is overweight. If there is no longer a clearly defined waist or your cat is looking in any way 'round', then it is highly likely your cat has a weight problem that needs addressing.

What causes cats to become overweight?

The most common causes of weight gain in cats are simple - too little exercise or too much high-energy food! However, advanced age, certain illnesses, sterilisation or neutering, genetic factors and psychological stress are just some of the other reasons that can all also lead to weight gain in cats. Therefore, it is important that you consult your vet about any weight-related issues, in order to rule out any possible illnesses.

What are the possible consequences of your cat being overweight?

The long-term effects of weight gain in cats vary hugely. The more severe the problem, the greater number of health concerns you would expect to find. That is why it is so important to confront the issue as soon as you notice it and before your cat becomes obese.

As well as offering a lower quality of life and reducing mobility, being overweight or obese can also put your cat at risk of joint damage, cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, diabetes and even a reduced life expectancy of up to 2 years less than a cat that is a healthy weight.

The right food for overweight cats

What's the difference between dietary and light food?
What is the difference between a diet and a light cat food?

Dietary foods have been specially formulated to support cats with specific health conditions, such as a tailored diet for cats with diabetes or renal failure. These should only be fed after consulting with your vet and are not always a suitable choice for healthy weight loss.

A light cat food, however, is often the perfect dish to choose, as it offers a reduced calorie recipe. This is the best way to get your cat started on a healthier track in life.

All under control with the zooplus Food Advisor

The zooplus Food Advisor

With our zooplus food advisor, we'll help guide you to a suitable product for your cat, whether they need to lose a bit of weight or not. Try now!

What to consider when changing your cat's diet

  1. The most important thing to remember is that a feed change must always be done gradually. A slow, careful approach helps to ensure your cat accepts its new food and is a great way to check it will not suffer any adverse reactions from the change in diet.
  2. Always follow the feeding guidelines or the recommendation given by your vet. Every pack of cat food will come with recommended daily servings depending on your cat's target weight - even a few grams more than your cat needs per day can prevent successful weight loss.
  3. Make sure no-one is feeding your cat titbits or leftovers - this includes checking no neighbours are being conned by your cat into handing out extra dinners! Of course you can factor treats into your cat's diet, but they should be in moderation and you should be sure to reduce main meal quantities to allow for it. You can also look into choosing healthier treat options.

A really important point to note is that you should never put your cat on a 'half-rations' diet if it is overweight. Rather than supporting healthy weight loss, this could simply mean that your cat is missing out on vital nutrients. If you reduce your cat's fat intake too drastically it can also be dangerous, with the worst-case-scenario outcome seeing your cat suffering from acute fatty liver disease.

For tips on how to change your cat's food properly or work out exactly how much food your cat should be eating, have a look at the zooplus Magazine!

What should you look for in cat food composition?

As well as having a reduced calorie content, a good light cat food should offer three key features: 

Firstly, it should have a consistently high crude protein content to ensure your cat's muscles are supplied with the nutrients they need. This can help to ensure your cat is losing excess fat rather than essential muscle. A light food should also have a lower crude fat content and a higher crude fibre (dietary fibre) content than a standard cat food.

Find out more about nutrition for overweight cats in the zooplus Magazine.

  • Dry Food
  • Wet Food
  • Low-calorie snacks

Exercise is key in fighting obesity in cats

Make sure your cat gets plenty of exercise
Increase exercise slowly and steadily

The basic rule for overweight cats and exercise is not to overdo it - for you or for your cat. Losing weight is a gradual process that will not offer overnight results.

It is important that you and your cat enjoy the exercise you are doing, as it needs to become a part of daily life. A great option is to encourage your cat to play chase and catch, using a laser toy, a feather dangler or an enticing catnip toy. Start with just a few minutes to begin with, as this will be enough for an overweight cat. Over time, gradually increase the amount of time and the intensity.

If your cat is reluctant to get involved or is not a naturally playful cat, you can try hiding some of its dry food or treats around the house or in special toys. This means your cat will have to work for its food, as well as keeping it entertained.

Exercises to help combat weight gain in cats

Unfortunately, unlike dogs, cats are slightly more difficult to take outside on long walks to help shift those pounds! This is especially true if you have an indoor cat, with a limited 'territory' in which it can roam.

You can still increase your cat's activity levels with the following handy tips:

  • Take a few minutes every day to play with your cat in an active way.
  • Get some helpful accessories! Catnip cushions, balls, toy mice, dangler toys and intelligence toys are all great options, but you can also use everyday options such as rustling paper, cardboard boxes or a bottle cork to arouse your cat's curiosity.
  • Small torches or laser pointers can also encourage your cat to run around and hunt!
  • Create climbing opportunities for your cat and offer rewards as an incentive to climb.
  • Hide food or treats in other places around the house or, if possible, build obstacles that your cat has to get around or over to get to its food bowl.
  • You can also use food toys to make your cat work for its food, whether that be a treat ball or an intelligence feeder.

Find out more about exercise for cats in the zooplus Magazine!

Is agility training suitable for overweight cats?

For healthy cats, agility can be a great idea! By training different obstacles and courses, you are providing your cat with variety and excitement as well as plenty of exercise. However, this sort of training is much more difficult if your cat is overweight.

Certain exercises can put too much pressure on your cat's joints, especially if your cat is obese. There is also the risk of quickly overtaxing your cat, particularly if you are aiming for speed over the obstacles. Overweight cats can also be prone to lethargy and may need more encouragement to be animated and active!

This means that agility is less suitable for overweight cats. This sort of training also requires a lot of time and patience, but it is not completely out of the question! You should introduce your cat slowly to the individual exercises, paying attention to the correct form rather than the time.

You can find out more about whether agility training is something that you and your cat would enjoy with a few simple exercises and some clicker training. Read all about it in the zooplus Magazine!

How to keep your cat in great shape

Correct Diet

Choose the right food for your cat based on its nutritional needs

Weigh your cat's daily ration

Weigh out your cat's daily rations and include any treats in the calculation

Encourage your cat to be active

Encourage your cat to be more active by providing interactive toys or cat furniture for them to climb

Play with your cat every day

Schedule a few minutes of playtime with your cat every day

Check to see if you can feel your cat's ribs easily, and keep an eye on their silhouette

Check to see if you can feel your cat's ribs easily, and keep an eye on their silhouette

Weigh your cat often and visit the vet on a regular basis

Weigh your cat often and visit the vet on a regular basis