Some cats love food just a bit too much. If your cat falls into this category, they can be at risk for a few different health conditions. Obesity can cause diabetes, osteoarthritis, and heart problems. It is usually caused by overeating and a lack of activity.
Fortunately, there are many ways that you can encourage your cat to shed those extra pounds and stay as lean and healthy as possible. We rounded up our top 10 tips.
The 10 Ways to Have a Lean and Healthy Cat
1. Offer Them the Right Diet
The first thing to consider when trying to keep your cat lean is to re-evaluate their meals. Speak to your vet to see if they can recommend a calorie-controlled diet. All cat food brands will show the recommended daily amount to feed your cat, but you should use this as a general guide rather than a fixed rule. If your cat doesn’t currently exercise much, you may be able to feed them less. But talk with your vet to make sure you get the balance right.
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2. Provide Plenty of Enrichment
Offering plenty of opportunities for your cat to explore their environment can be a good way to help them stay active. Consider adding scratching posts, cat trees, birdwatching stations, and high perches for your cat to watch the world go by. Adding vertical interest will encourage your cat to climb and stretch those muscles by offering low-intensity exercise opportunities.
3. Schedule Regular Play Sessions
One of the best ways to help your cat stay lean and healthy is to make sure you play with them regularly. Cats tend to follow a hunt, eat, groom, and sleep cycle. By encouraging your cat to play often, you’re helping them increase their heart rate and burn calories. Use a variety of toys, like fishing wand toys and catnip-filled soft toys. You can even use hunting toys filled with a small amount of food to encourage your cat to chase and hunt as they would in the wild.
4. Take Your Cat for a Walk
Some cats will love the excitement and interest of going for a walk. Once you’ve trained your cat to accept walking on a harness and leash, the world is their oyster! Start with short walks around a safe area, like your backyard, and see how your cat reacts. If they enjoy themselves, consider taking them farther afield. Some cats even love going on road trips and hikes with their families!
5. Offer Automated Toys
Automated toys are ideal for getting your cat’s heart rate up when you’re away from the house. For example, some cat cameras even have an integrated laser pointer that you can manually control from an app on your phone. Bear in mind that while a laser pointer is fun for cats, it can leave them feeling unsatisfied if it’s the only toy that you use. Since a cat can’t catch the laser, they can feel frustrated. One way around this is to make sure that at the end of the session, you point the laser onto a soft toy so your cat can feel the satisfaction of having caught their prey.
You can also get battery-operated toys that your cat can chase. Don’t always rely on such toys over playing with your cat yourself, but they’re great to add to your cat’s routine in addition to plenty of playtime together.
6. Switch to Lean Treats for Cats
Cats love treats, and they’re ideal for keeping your cat motivated during training sessions. But rather than use treats that are high in calories, switch to low-calorie lean treats instead. You can even break certain types of treats into smaller pieces. Your cat won’t know that they’re only getting half a treat! Always stick to the 10% rule, though: Don’t allow treats to make up more than 10% of your cat’s diet. Remember to account for treats when calculating your cat’s daily calorific intake, and reduce the size of their meals accordingly.
7. Provide Plenty of Water
Some cats will eat when they’re actually more thirsty than hungry. Since cats don’t have a high thirst drive, they don’t always drink as much as they should. Offering a range of different water bowls is a good way to make sure your cat drinks enough. Cats often prefer to drink from a moving water source, so investing in a cat water fountain is a great idea.
8. Switch to Regular Meal Times
Rather than leave out dry food for your cat to graze on throughout the day, consider switching to regular mealtimes. This will help you control how much your cat eats, which means it’s easier to monitor their calorie intake. If you’re away from home during the day, consider investing in an automatic feeder that can dispense small amounts of food at pre-set intervals. This way, your cat won’t go hungry when you’re away from home, but they won’t be tempted to eat a whole bowl of food while you’re gone and then expect more when you get home!
9. Build an Outdoor Cat Enclosure
Indoor cats can be less active than outdoor cats simply because they have less opportunity to walk around their territory. Consider adding an outdoor cat enclosure like a catio to provide them with more opportunities to explore. You can build one that joins onto your house and can be accessed from a window or door or one that is a separate enclosure that you can put your cat into while you’re in the backyard. Building the largest enclosure that you can and adding vertical interest with ramps and perches can be great for encouraging your cat to move around more.
10. Ask Your Vet to Monitor Your Cat’s Weight
A cat is considered overweight if their bodyweight is 10–19% above what’s considered a normal weight for their breed. When their weight reaches 20% over the normal weight, a cat is considered obese. When assessing your cat’s health, your vet will weigh your cat and score their body condition. They’ll be evaluating things like if they can feel your cat’s ribs, if there are any fat pads, and if your cat has a visible waistline.
Asking your vet to check your cat’s weight and body condition at every appointment will give you a better idea of whether they’re losing weight. Your vet can also show you how to assess your cat’s body condition yourself. Keeping your cat at a healthy weight means they’re at lower risk of suffering from obesity-related health conditions. Obesity shortens a cat’s lifespan, so doing whatever you can to help your cat maintain a healthy weight will, in turn, help your cat live a long life.
If your cat seems to be putting on too much weight, consult with your vet. They can determine if your pet has a health issue or is simply eating too much and not getting enough exercise. They can also offer recommendations for food, enrichment activities, automated toys, and lean treats. By following their advice and these tips, your cat will be back on the road to good health in no time!
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