Fat cats: how to get a lazy, obese feline into perfect shape

When the morbidly obese cat Cinderblock embarked on a weightloss journey two weeks ago, her one-paw-on-the-treadmill efforts to get trim went viral. Since the launch of her Cinder Gets Fit YouTube channel, she has gained 16,000 subscribers and dropped 0.2lb, thanks to her strict diet and exercise regimen. Pet obesity is a growing concern among vets in the UK and is linked to health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. A survey of 2,100 pet owners by Direct Line pet insurance found that, in the past year, more than a million cat owners have been told by vets that their pets are overweight. Now, I have tried to get my cat to exercise more, but if I leave him outside for the day, he does much the same as he would do indoors – sleeps. Cats are notoriously lazy, so what can we do to help them effectively lose weight?

Recognise the signs

A PFMDSA 2018 report last year from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals found that 68% of cat owners were unaware that their pet was overweight or obese, so developing an eye for the signs is a good habit to get into. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association scores body condition in cats from 1-9. Ideally, their fat coverage should allow you to feel their ribs with a gentle touch and you should be able to visibly see their waist from above and a slight abdominal tuck from the side. A vet can show you in how to do this.

Get a specialist diet

Getting the diet right early on is key to preventing obesity, according to Daniella Dos Santos, president of the British Veterinary Association. Depending on the breed, size, age and lifestyle of the cat, they will have particular needs. A fully formulated diet accredited by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association is best because it has gone through all the nutritional tests needed for a balanced diet. Dietary control is key, says Dos Santos, as it is easy to end up overfeeding them. “When they’re sleeping they’re not using many calories, so we need to adjust for that in terms of the type and volume of food we’re feeding them.” Regular weight clinics are also an effective way to track progress with your vet and change their diet accordingly.

Don’t cheap out on training time. Make training fun and frequent. Keep training light and fun. Don’t get demanding with your dog. Instead, go with the flow. See what develops. Trust that if you do this long enough, you’re going to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Limit the treats

“People tend to forget that treats aren’t the best thing for them and they have a calorie count of their own, so they need to be factored in with the rest of their food,” says Dos Santos. As for the infamous table scraps and leftovers? “The calorie requirements for a cat are much lower than for a human,” she adds. “So even foods you would think are very healthy for humans, such as chicken breast, is a huge amount of calories for a cat.”

Make them work for their food

Making your cat work to find their food, using scatter feeding and puzzle feeding is also a good way to get them to be more active. Cats Protection recommends placing some of their daily rations inside feeding balls and encouraging them to exercise by playing with fishing rod toys and light pointers.

If Cinder can do it, so can your cat!

With a well-formulated diet, portion control to suit their lifestyle and daily exercise, all informed by a vet, it should become more manageable to get your cat back to a healthy weight.