Overweight Cat: How To Put Cat On Diet & Top Cat Weight Loss Tips

an overweight grey and white cat in a field
An overweight cat needs to be put on a safe and effective diet.

If you have an overweight cat, you're probably wondering how to put your cat on a diet. Unfortunately, cat weight loss isn't as simple as it sounds.

Aside from the nutritional concerns, one needs to consider your cat's activity level, along with a multitude of behavioral considerations.

So let's take a comprehensive look at cat diet tips and why weight is important.

What are the health risks of an overweight cat?

Just like with any animal, being overweight or obese has severe health implications for cats. Some of the biggest health risks facing an overweight cat include:

1. Diabetes

Overweight cats are most at risk of diabetes. However, a couple of factors come together to make overweight cats more predisposed to developing diabetes.

Feline diabetes is diabetes mellitus, which also affects humans. A healthy pancreas produces insulin which signals cells to absorb glucose.

Feline diabetes can cause weight loss, vomiting, dehydration, severe depression, impaired motor function, and diabetic comas if left untreated. The consequences can be fatal.

2. Inflammation in the overweight cat

For an overweight cat, scientists and medical professionals continuously stress the seriousness of inflammatory responses. Acute inflammation, or a response to an injury or an infection, is necessary. But chronic inflammation in the body can contribute to other illnesses and conditions.

For instance, long-term inflammation in the gums can cause problems for the heart or respiratory system. The extra mass on an overweight cat also puts more wear and tear on the joints and bones. This causes inflammation that can lead to early arthritis. Chronic inflammation can also lead to autoimmune problems, skin disorders, and more.

Fat, once thought an inactive tissue, is surprisingly bioactive. It even releases hormones that trigger the inflammatory response. That is why weight is so closely connected to diabetes and inflammation

3. Cancer in the overweight cat

Obesity can cause or contribute to several cancers that can affect cats. Not only do these cancers show up significantly more often in obese cats, but they are also more severe.

Up to 25 to 30 percent of cancer is associated with obesity.

While similar statistical data for obesity-related cancer in cats is not available, the correlation seems similar in domestic cats.

10 Tips to improve your overweight cat's diet

1. Quality animal proteins

The majority of a cat's diet should consist of meat. They are carnivores and can't survive on a meat-free or a low-meat diet. Furthermore, the carbohydrates in non-meat-based foods can directly contribute to obesity in cats.

The best diet for your cat is wet food, although not necessarily a traditional 'raw' diet. Cats are more than capable of safely eating various meats that pose a health risk to humans.

However, that does not mean that it is safe to feed your cat meat nearing its sell-by date. Many butchers offer 'matured meat' pet food packages. While dogs can eat certain aged meats and meat by-products, such products are a no-go for cats.

The best meat for cats is meat fit for human consumption, although cats can consume most meat raw.

There is no such thing as pet food and human food, there is only food, and your cat's digestive system does not include a garbage filter.

2.Talk to your vet about your overweight cat

Every cat owner will tell you that cats are individuals with unique wants and needs. However, it is not only their personalities that can vary. Every cat can have unique dietary needs depending on its age, breed, and unique genetics.

That is why you must consult your vet before making any changes to your cat's diet. What works for one cat could be bad for the next. Your vet can assess your cat's current condition and make recommendations to address any underlying health issues.

3. Count calories

Different meats contain different amounts of calories. For example, beef contains around 250 calories per 100 grams, while salmon contains only 140 calories. So, how do you choose the best animal protein for your cat?

Well, the emphasis is on proteins. Beef contains slightly more protein than salmon, so the answer is simple, beef wins, right? But, unfortunately, there is more to it. Salmon contains more amino acids and essential fatty acids, making it more beneficial to your cat.

You will generally find that meat with fewer calories is usually a better protein source, so the choice is simple.

But look for a trusted company. Cats on fish-based protein diets have shown signs of early mercury poisoning, specifically canned tuna diets. So for an overweight cat, look for fish with lower quantities of mercury such as:

  • Wild caught, Alaska Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Rainbow trout
  • Menhaden
  • Cod
  • Flounder

Focus on finding low-calorie, high amino acid sources of animal protein. Lean sources of poultry like chicken, turkey, or duck are also great choices.

According to one study, a 'healthy source of protein promotes fat loss and reduces loss of lean body mass during weight loss in cats.'

4. Boost the fiber intake for your overweight cat

When we think of weight loss and digestive health, fiber is one of the first things that comes to mind. Overweight cats can benefit from a diet that contains up to 10% fiber, although no more than this. A good fiber balance of soluble and insoluble sources can lower calories in the diet and promote gut health.

Cats do need fiber in their diet. It helps them process their food and absorbs unwanted toxins and excess bile.

Naturally, fiber also helps with a healthy gut and aids the body in increasing the metabolic rate. Put plainly, it makes your cat's metabolism faster too, which is good for weight loss.

5. Avoid Free feeding or “grazing” for your overweight cat


and overweight Maine Coon cat
Overweight cats generally become that way because of access to free food and low activity

Free feeding was once a popular way to feed one's pets. You put out a big bowl of food, and your cat eats as much as they like when they like.

However, in the last couple of decades, we have learned a lot about pet nutrition and dietary health and we know that free feeding is an unnatural and even dangerous way to feed a cat. As domestic cats are still almost identical to their wild cousins, naturally, they will have periods of starvation between meals. In captive large cats, like lions, being fed regularly actually leads to health issues like fatty livers.

Not only does free feeding demand dry food (as wet food goes rancid quickly if left in the open), it also means that your cat can pick up bad eating habits. For example, cats eat when they are bored. This means a constant release of glucose, which is unhealthy for felines.

Keeping the glucose levels consistently high throughout may be a contributing factor to diabetes.

With that in mind, it is clear that free-feeding is simply asking for dietary and nutritional problems like obesity.

6. Canned food versus kibble versus low-processed or fresh diet

At face value, there is a simple reason that wet, canned food is better for overweight cats than dry cat food like kibble. Dry foods like kibble have three to four times the caloric content of regular animal protein-based wet food.

Another problem for cats is that dry food has too little moisture compared to what they would eat naturally, and this puts extra strain on your cat’s renal system and other vital organs.

There are many reasons that dry food is associated with obesity. These concerns range from the nutritional value of dry pet food to the methods by which it gets produced.

The problem of heat-processed food

Both dry and canned pet food has undergone processes that make it bad for cats. For example, most dry pet food products are produced in a process called extrusion.

Extrusion is when manufacturers mix the ingredients and force it through a die under high heat and high pressures. There are numerous nutritional pitfalls related to extrusion, as it relies on a large amount of carbohydrates to “bind” the food and create a biscuit-like texture.

These include several chemical reactions, such as the Maillard reactions, a reaction that causes proteins to bind with each other, lipids, and carbohydrates.

While nutrients are lost, carbohydrates remain largely intact in the extrusion process. Because of this, your cat has to eat more kibble to get the nutrients they need. In the process, they consume more carbohydrates than they need, leading to weight gain. It can also contribute to cancers if the starches and oils are processed at high heats.

But canned food is not exempt from this issue, as the extreme heat that the cans are usually cooked in leads to even more of these reactions. The main problem is that the end product includes a larger number of glycotoxins that contribute to long-term inflammation and disease.

In contrast to kibble, a properly formulated, fresh meat-based diet allows cats to produce energy naturally. It has a naturally high moisture content and does not pose the same health risks as overly-processed foods. Meat also contains a lot of natural carnitine that helps overweight cats lose weight and build lean muscle mass.

A cat eating raw meat. A well-formulated fresh diet may be healthier for an overweight cat
A fresh diet that is properly formulated is a healthy way for your overweight cat to lose weight

7. Avoid a homemade diet

Although fresh, meat-based food is healthier for your cat, be careful of homemade diets. It is very difficult to make sure that your overweight cat is eating the correct blend of nutrients in a healthy ratio.

Pet nutrition is complicated. Too much and too little of any particular mineral, amino acid, or vitamin is extremely dangerous. An overweight cat is usually on a calorie restricted diets. So, it’s even more vital that pet parents make sure they are getting a professional formula to prevent dangerous deficiencies and imbalances.

8. Avoid table scraps

There are many reasons that you should not feed your cat table scraps.

We've said there is no such thing as pet food and human food, which is true. However, humans are omnivores, and even the healthiest human diet won't do a cat any good. Human health foods like spinach are not exactly designed for a cat’s digestive tract, and can even be dangerous because of the high amount of oxalates. At the same time, typical table scraps are high in carbohydrates and fats, and those extra calories add up fast.

At worst, a cat that eats too many table scraps might develop nutritional imbalances. However, it is more likely that human food will contribute to weight gain in cats. We eat foods higher in calories than plain lean meat could be.

Studies suggest that humans associate 'flavor' with high-calorie foods. Regardless, human food is unsuitable for a carnivore's specialized digestive system. The fat, starch, and even vegetables we eat can contribute to obesity in cats.

9. Keep your cat hydrated

Water is essential for an overweight cat is essential to metabolize stored fat. The process is called lipolysis. It refers to a reaction known as hydrolysis breaking fat deposits into their constituent molecules.

These molecules are readily available for heat, energy, and insulation.

Furthermore, water helps remove waste from your cat's body. Water is critical for kidney function. Kidney function is critical in expelling toxins that interrupt natural weight loss.

10. Stop the treats

It is difficult to imagine cutting your cat's favorite treats from their diet. But, unfortunately, it is also necessary. Unfortunately, just like table scraps, treats add unnecessary calories to your cat’s diet.

How long will it take my overweight cat to reach their ideal body weight?

How long it takes for your cat to lose weight will depend on factors like how well you monitor their diet, their age, comorbidities, and activity levels. You also need to ensure that they do not lose weight too fast. A general rule of thumb is to aim to lose one pound per month. This means that the vast majority of overweight cats should be their ideal weight within 7 or 8 months.

Summary

There are several reasons that your cat might be overweight, but fortunately, most are easy to address. If you plan a well-balanced, biologically appropriate diet for your cat’s needs, you can achieve their weight-loss goals within a few months. Eliminate free feeding, treats, and table scraps. Be sure to monitor their portions and calories, and keep weight loss down to no more than a pound per month.

A quality high protein an high fiber diet is key, and it is important that a professional helps you select balanced and complete food based on age and other factors. If possible, looking for a fresh and minimally processed will benefit your feline friend in the long term.