Over 55 percent of American cats are either overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Overweight cats are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and high blood pressure. If Kitty needs help fighting the chub, there's hope for him.
Switch to a Better Food
Vets sell dry and wet foods specially designed for cats who need to lose weight. Some are sold under "fit and trim" labels, while others -- for cats who are severely overweight -- come with an "obesity" or "weight loss" label. If these premium foods are a bit too expensive, look at cheaper foods -- but read the ingredients list first. You want a food that contains some sort of meat listed as one of the first two to three ingredients. Don't pick something that lists cereals or grains in the first few ingredients.
Feed Only Enough
There's no doubt that many cats are overweight because they simply eat more than they should. According to All Feline Hospital, a cat who needs to maintain weight should be eating about 20 calories per pound of body weight. That means a 12-pound cat should eat about 240 calories per day. If your cat needs to lose weight, All Feline Hospital recommends basing the calorie count on a weight 2 pounds lower than the real weight. For example, if your cat weighs 12 pounds, pretend he weighs around 10 pounds -- so about 200 calories a day. Always check the label on the food you buy to see how much food 200 calories is -- depending on the food, it could be half a cup or more.
Fiber is a great weight-loss aid because it will keep Kitty full without adding a lot of calories. Since most cat foods don't contain a lot of fiber, this is where you can get your creativity going. If your cat will eat canned pumpkin, you could add a bit to his daily food bowl. Chopped broccoli or other veggies could also work. Or simply buy powdered fiber -- the kind sold for humans -- and add some to Kitty's wet food. Just make sure you read the label or talk to your vet first to find out how much to give him.
Since you can't exactly take Kitty for walks around the neighborhood, incorporating exercise into his routine might seem tough at first. Your goal should be to get him moving. Some cats might love the idea of chasing a laser light around the room, while others might be more inclined to go crazy over some catnip toy. If you can get Kitty to run, chase you around or simply jump up and down from the furniture, he'll be burning calories without even realizing it.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.