Worried about your overweight cat? Some of them may be cute, but concerns about a fat feline are just as common, and the first thing you should do is consult a veterinarian to find out if there's an underlying cause to the weight gain. It may be that she's simply eating too much food and expending too few calories.
If an exam shows no underlying cause, it may be time to consider changing what she feasts on each day. Her food may not feel as filling to her, leaving her begging for those snacks between feedings. But with balanced nutrition that focuses on satiety, you can help her control her weight and still feel satisfied between meals.
Why Weight Matters
Just like people, more and more cats are weighing in over an ideal weight. A study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found nearly 58 percent of felines fell into this category just two years ago. And that extra weight your cat is carrying can create health issues–just like it can with her pet parent. Overweight kitties are specifically more prone to long-term conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis, according to PetMD. So while that pudgy belly may look cute on kitty, it really is in her best interest to maintain a healthy weight.
Protein vs. Carbs
The best cat food for weight loss makes your cat feel full and satisfied between meals. Foods high in protein leave your pet feeling satiated for longer, and satiated cats have more energy to run, play, and shed any excess weight, but this should be kept within reason. Protein is only one of a number of nutrients your cat needs to get a full, nutritious meal to keep her happy and healthy.
Satiety matters because although you're the one most committed to this process, it puts her off from begging between meals. When your cat feels full and satisfied, she's less likely to nag you for food outside of a typical feeding time, making your ability to control her food intake that much easier and your time together that much more enjoyable.
Keep in mind carbohydrates are an important part of her nutrition when managing weight, but the reason they should fall lower on your priority list is because they don't give her this sense of satiety for long enough. Cats' intestines don't allow them to burn carbs the same way they do protein to build lean muscle, according to Texas A&M University, and this lack of lean mass can keep them wanting more.
What to Serve
There are plenty of cat-friendly food choices for pet parents who want to help their cat feel full throughout a weight-loss journey. When in the food aisle, look for food developed by nutritionists and veterinarians to manage a cat's weight–food with fiber blends from fruits and vegetables, as well as antioxidants help protect many types of cells in the body and promote healthier weights. All sorts of options exist to help you control kitty's weight: Some foods cater to more mature felines and are formulated to avoid too many calories while providing the necessary nutrients to support healthy joints and bones and keep her feeling full, too.
So many choices may feel overwhelming, so it's a safe bet to check in with your vet for their opinion on the matter. They understand cats best and can help guide you to the best food for her. You can also use tools, like a 10-week turnaround chart, to keep track of your cat's progress as you go.
Making Time for Exercise
Of course, it's not just food choice that can be an issue when it comes to your cat's weight. Just like with their favorite two-legged friends, cats need exercise. Today's typical house cat simply doesn't spend enough time on the prowl to burn the calories she consumes. Along with feeding your cat the right food that keeps her feeling satisfied, be sure to spend some time each day playing together. You can find inspiration in many easy ideas that get your cat moving.
By serving the right food and finding time each day to get her moving, your overweight cat can soon be the picture of health and vitality. Your feline will look and feel better, and she'll have you to thank. Your cat will look to you to help her maintain her weight, so you need to be consistent in putting a plan together and sticking to it.
Kara Murphy is a freelance writer in Erie, Pa., with a cat named Olive.