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10 Ways to Keep Your Cat Lean and Healthy – Easy & Surprisingly Simple

Emma Stenhouse

June 29, 2021

Some cats love food just a bit too much, and if your cat falls into this category, they can be at risk of 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.

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Steps For a Lean and Healthy Cat

Siamese cat eating dry food from a bowl
Image Credit: catinrocket, Shutterstock

1. Offer the right diet

The first thing to consider when trying to keep your cat lean is to re-evaluate your cat’s diet. 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 hard-and-fast rule. If your cat doesn’t currently do much exercise, you may be able to feed them less. Again, speak to your vet to make sure you get the balance right.


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, stretching those muscles and offering low-intensity exercise opportunities.


3. Schedule regular play sessions

One of the best ways to help your cat stay both 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.

funny cats playing on tree
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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 your 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 a great way to get your cat’s heart rate up when you’re away from home. Some cat cameras have an integrated laser pointer that you can manually control from the app on your home. 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. Because 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 a low-calorie lean treat 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: 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.

Two cats playing with laser pointer
Image Credit: Wanda Lizm, Shutterstock

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 dry food out 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 for walking around their territory. Consider adding an outdoor cat enclosure 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.

Domestic cat drinking water
Image Credit: AleksandarMilutinovic, Shutterstock

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.


Featured Image Credit: islam zarat, Shutterstock

Emma Stenhouse

Emma is a freelance writer, specializing in writing about pets, outdoor pursuits, and the environment. Originally from the UK, she has lived in Costa Rica and New Zealand before moving to a smallholding in Spain with her husband, their 4-year-old daughter, and their dogs, cats, horses, and poultry. When she's not writing, Emma can be found taking her dogs for walks in the rolling fields around their home...and usually, at least some of the cats come along, too! Emma is passionate about rescuing animals and providing them with a new life after being abandoned or abused. As well as their own four rescue dogs, she also fosters dogs for re-homing, providing them with love and training while searching for their forever homes.


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