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6 Reasons Your Cat is Overweight (And How to Shed Those Pounds)

Although chubby cats are adorable, those extra pounds can have terrible consequences for kitty’s joints, heart and pancreas. Feline obesity lowers your cat’s life expectancy and increases your cat’s risk for diabetes and cancer. If your cat is overweight, you CAN help your cat achieve a healthy weight before it’s too late. Here are 6 reasons why your cat could have a big belly, and ways to get around them:

Reason #1: Too many carbohydrates in your cat’s food

Your cat is a natural born predator. Mr. Kitty’s digestive tract is designed to digest meat. He wants PROTEIN, with an extra serving of protein. High in fats? Not a problem – his gut can handle it. However, it’s those carbohydrates that just provide empty calories without any nutritional benefit.

Suggestion: High-protein, Low-carb - If you are selecting a diet food for your overweight kitty, look for one with a protein content of 45% or higher. ALSO, “grain-free" is not the same as “low-carb." Beware that many grain-free kibbles will just sneak a different carbohydrate into Kitty’s food, like potato.

Also try: Wet food - Although wet food may seem more indulgent than dry food, it usually has a higher protein content ideal for kitties on diets. Dry kibble is often packed with carbohydrates to help create those little crunchy pellets. Added bonus to canned food? Wet food has a higher water content, which helps your cat get full faster. Some people even add a little extra water to their cat’s wet food. Many cats DON’T drink enough WATER – so this can be a win from both sides.


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Reason #2: TOO MUCH FOOD!

We’ve all been there… You would think the house was on fire, that’s how urgently your cat wants to get your attention. “FEED ME NOW!" Many cat owners just leave a dish of food out all day long to keep Ms. Kitty happy. However, cats are hunters (not grazing cows), and their natural feeding habit is to eat small meals. Left alone with a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet, many cats tend to OVEREAT.

Suggestion: Small, measured meals – Space out your cat’s meals a few times a day, and never feed her more than the suggested serving. Consult with your veterinarian about the appropriate amount of food that will help your cat lose pounds at a healthy speed.

Alternative: Automatic feeders - Does your cat meow at you for food – every hour on the hour? If you look at her cute furry face and have no choice but to get out the food, then you might want to take yourself out of the equation. A wide variety of automated feeders are available to suit Kitty’s needs. She can’t manipulate an automatic feeder into giving her extra food.


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Reason #3: Your cat needs to move that butt

So many cozy surfaces to sit on, so few hours of the day… Your cat might be the very definition of a couch potato. If your cat isn’t moving around much, he isn’t burning very many calories, either. Find ways to get Kitty off the couch and running around.

Suggestion: Play-time! Toys! – It’s recommended that you play with your cat 10 to 15 minutes every day. Find out what gets Kitty moving. Is it a laser pointer, feather toy or a catnip mouse? Whatever it is, make sure he has it.

Alternative: Food-dispensing toys – Maybe your cat has lost interest in play-time. What’s the point in getting exhausted chasing a fake mouse when his salmon dinner is waiting? Well, there’s one thing I can guarantee your overweight cat hasn’t lost interest in: Food. You can place one of Kitty’s meals in a treat-dispensing toy or food maze to force him to work for his calories.


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Reason #4: Life is DULL

Keeping your cat indoors will increase her lifespan, but boredom might ensue. Her natural environment is a nonstop parade of colors, sensations and living critters. If Kitty doesn’t have a stimulating environment, her natural calorie-burning instincts to stalk, chase and play might disappear.

Suggestion: Give your cat a more interactive environment – Maybe your cat needs to experience something NEW. Give her new nooks to hide in or explore like a cat house, boxes, paper bags, etc. If your home is small, she might enjoy a vertical cat tree or access to the high surfaces in the house. Always give her plenty of toys.

Alternative: Provide kitty with visual stimulation - Does your cat have access to windows and/or television? Could you place a bird feeder near her favorite window? If Kitty is focused on the critters outside the window, she might forget about her food dish for a few minutes.


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Reason #5: Kitty is a stress-eater

Stress eating is a real problem for cats and their humans. The baseline reason for your cat’s insatiable hunger could be anxiety or a similar emotional issue.

Suggestion: Eliminate stresses – Figure out what stresses your cat the most and try to reduce or eliminate it. If another cat in the home is stressing her out, you might want to give her time alone. Add another litter box and increase the number of water dishes in the house. There are also pheromone sprays and supplements designed to calm anxious cats.

Alternative: Cat grass – If Kitty really wants to stress-snack on something, cat grass might satisfy her craving. In addition to giving her something to snack on, cat grass can help with digestion and decrease hairballs. The added fiber can also help shed pounds!


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Reason #6: Big bones run in the family

No matter what you do for your cat, you can’t change Kitty’s DNA. Cat obesity can run in the family, and you might be able to blame your cat’s tummy on his genes. In fact, your cat’s weight is 60% determined by his environment (reasons #1 through #5) and 40% by his genes. This is called the heritability of obesity. Some cat breeds, like Burmese, are especially prone to being overweight.

Suggestion: Work with it – You can’t change his genetics, but you can work with it. If Kitty is prone to being overweight, that means you’ll just have to work harder to ensure he gets the right food and proper exercise. Maybe your cat will never be a swimsuit model, but with the right care, you can prevent him from developing diabetes and other weight-related health complications.

Also try: DNA test - Is your cat a toothpick no matter how much you feed her, or a bowling ball no matter what diet you put him on? Then you should consider having your cat’s DNA tested. If you sequence your cat’s DNA with Basepaws, then our scientists can find out what genes are responsible for your cat’s weight. Not only will you learn a lot, but the information we learn could help us create treatments for overweight cats in the future.


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If it’s time to put Kitty on a diet, please consult with your veterinarian first. Remember, gradual is the way to go. If your cat sheds too many pounds at once, it will stress out your cat’s body and mind. And a stressed cat creates a stressed human. We want the best for you and your cat!

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