Animal Family’s Guide to Cat Weight loss

Weight Loss for Cats

How did my cat get so fat?

In theory, if an animal burns more calories than it takes in, weight loss should be the result.  After all, your cat can’t exactly raid the refrigerator at midnight.  Weight loss should be simple, right?  Perhaps but that doesn’t make it easy.

Problem #1: Cats are very thrifty when it comes to calories.  Their slow metabolic rate means that some cats can eat a relatively small amount and still get fat.

Did you know that 1 cup of maintenance is too much for the majority of cats?   Yet when we speak to many owners in our clinic we frequently hear that is what they are feeding. The truth is, many cats can actually get by on a 1/3 cup or less of food per day.

Problem #2: Most domesticated cats don’t do much. We keep them indoors and lazy.  They may move from room to room but any hunting they do consists of finding their food bowl  Even worse, if they eat a dry kibble, that food may contain 40% or more carbohydrates.  No wonder our cats are fat.

Conversely, a typical outdoor feral cat covers thousands of square feet of territory daily to find, capture and kill its own food.  Outdoor cats may eat up to 6 – 9 mice per day (about 180 -200 calories).  Even more important, a mouse diet is comprised mainly of water, protein and fat with very few carbohydrates.

So how much should I feed my cat?

Solution #1: Most of us have no idea how much our cat eats.  We just refill the bowl when it’s empty.  Try using a ¼ cup scoop to measure how much you’re currently feeding. This will give you a base to work from.

Dry Food Suggestions

  • If you are going to continue using the same diet try reducing the amount by 10 -15% to start with.
  • If you are changing to a dry weight loss diet, figure out how many calories your cat is receiving and decrease that amount by 10%.  You should be able to do this with the information on the bag but if you have trouble we can help out.
  • If you can’t figure out how much your pet is eating now, then make your diet change, measure accurately and move on from there.
  • DO NOT decrease calorie intake too fast on cats. They can develop fatty liver disease if weight loss occurs too quickly, which can be deadly.  1 % per week is a good goal for a cat. That is about 0.2 pounds per week on a 20 pound cat.  A dog can lose up to 2% per week.
  • Feed your cats separately if you have more than one.
  • Please work closely with your veterinarian to keep your cat safe and healthy while losing weight.

Canned Food Suggestions

  • One school of thought is that because canned food is high in protein and low in carbohydrates when compared to dry, it is also much closer to the birds and mice that cats were designed to eat. Furthermore, because cats are not really made to consume a high carbohydrate diet, dry foods can predispose them to develop diabetes. This is a valid theory but it is important to note that not all nutritionists agree with it.
  • If you would like to feed canned food, the average 6 ounce can contains 180-200 calories.  So one can per day would be a good starting point.
  • Research tells us that we can actually cut calories faster on a canned diet because of the higher protein level.  A good goal should be about 20 -25% in the beginning.  That amount can be adjusted if the cat does not lose weight.
  • In general, canned diets with gravy have higher carbohydrates and should be avoided.
  • If your cat won’t eat canned food then try a dry prescription diet which will generally be lower in carbohydrates than over the counter diets.

We like to start a discussion on behavior enrichment/calorie burning ideas for cats. Please join us on our Facebook and share your thoughts

Real Suggestions For Pet Weight Loss


Yeah we’re talking about you!

Well OK, we’re actually talking about your cat or maybe your dog.  The fact is we seem to have a problem in this country.  We don’t seem to be satisfied with just making ourselves fat and unhealthy so now we’ve gone and done it to our pets as well.

So just who are these fatties? Well, they account for 57% of the cats and 45% of the dogs in the US.  At Animal Family, we even battle the bulge with our very own clinic cats Puck and Prince.

The problem is you’ve heard this all before haven’t you? Yet even more stale statistics: hit the snooze button and tune out.   Well this time we aren’t just lecturing at you.  Our very own Doctor Rob has come up with a plan to help you manage your pet’s weight.

What is the first key to weight loss? Yep, it’s the SCALE!! Is it our enemy?  Is it our friend?  The truth is if you are going to manage your pet’s weight loss, you have to get them on the scale.  It is the most sensitive tool you have to measure success and it’s FREE.

  • Weigh your pet weekly
  • Yes, they need to lose weight but not too much too fast.  This is especially true with cats.
  • Use a digital scale that measures in 0.1 to 0.2 pound increments. This will work best with the small dogs and cats.
  • For big dogs you can either bring them into the clinic or weigh yourself and then the two of you.  Subtract you and what you have left  should be your pet’s  weight.
  • If you own a Wii Fit Plus, it comes with a scale function and method to track weight in people and pets.
  • Write down your pet’s weight. You need to chart your progress.
  • If you have questions, call us. Nobody gets kicked off of this island.

Tune in next week when we will get down to the nitty gritty of what to feed, how much to feed and suggestions for increasing your pet’s activity level.