Excess body weight isn’t just a problem that plagues humans. Cats can pack on the pounds, too, often leading to health problems and a general decline in their quality of life.
According to the annual survey from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than 50 million cats in the US were either overweight or obese. Nearly 60 percent of cats in the US are classified as either overweight or obese, compared to around 37 percent who are “normal weight” and approximately 3 percent who are thin and healthy or too thin.
While a chubby cat can look cuddly and cute, carrying around that extra weight usually isn’t good news. Vets are becoming ever more aware of the problem of obesity in cats and are recommending that owners of plump cats help those pets lose the extra weight.
In This Article...
- What is the Best Weight Loss Cat Food?
- What is Cat Obesity?
- What Causes Cat Obesity?
- What’s Wrong with Being a Fat Cat?
- How to Help Your Cat Lose Weight
- Best Diet Cat Food Reviewed
What is the Best Weight Loss Cat Food?
- Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Healthy Weight Recipe Dry Cat Food
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness Indoor Hairball & Weight Control Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Dry Cat Food
- Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic Weight Management Chicken Flavor Dry Cat Food
What is Cat Obesity?
You can’t say for sure whether your cat is overweight or not unless you know what a “healthy” or “normal” body weight for a cat is.
The thing is, a “normal” weight can vary based on cat breed. For example, a typical domestic cat breed should weigh between eight and 10 pounds. For Siamese cats, which are slimmer and more petite than other kinds, between five and 10 pounds is considered a healthy weight. Meanwhile, Maine Coon cats can weigh up to 25 pounds and still be regarded as an average, healthy weight.
Knowing the recommended weight for your cat’s breed will help you determine if he’s overweight or not. According to Cornell Feline Health Center, an obese cat is one who weighs at least 20 percent more than the recommended weight. So a domestic cat who comes in at 14 pounds is obese.
If you don’t have a scale handy or if your cat likes to run off of the scale before you can get a weight reading, you can examine his body to get an idea of whether or not he’s overweight.
If you stand over your cat and look down at him (while he’s standing on all fours), you should be able to see a slight waist and figure (here’s an image of a healthy weight, as well as overweight cats).
A cat who’s at a healthy weight won’t have much of a belly hanging down. You should also be able to feel his ribs through his fur when you hug him.
When a cat’s carrying too much weight, he’ll have much less definition in his waist. In fact, he might look round, like an inflated balloon, when you stand above him and look down. His tummy might hang low or even drag on the floor. It will be difficult to feel his ribs through his fat and fur.
Another way to figure out if your cat is overweight or obese is to ask his vet. Some vets are more upfront about reducing pet weight problems than others. Your vet might want to avoid the topic unless you bring it up.
What Causes Cat Obesity?
For some cats, weight gain is a simple matter of taking in more calories than he burns. A cat who eats a lot but spends much of his day lazing about is more likely to pack on the pounds than a cat who’s out and about or a cat who is always running around.
For that reason, middle-aged cats are much more likely to be overweight than kittens. Kittens are known for their boundless energy. They’re too busy running around and playing to put on weight.
Eating too much and moving too little isn’t the only cause of cat weight gain, though. As with people, some cats put on weight because of an underlying condition.
For example, some cats have hormonal issues that cause them to put on pounds. A cat with hypothyroidism can gain weight, as can a cat with Cushing’s disease, which causes an overproduction of the hormone cortisol.
Spaying or neutering a cat can also increase his risks for becoming obese. One reason for that is that spayed/neutered cats typically need to consume fewer calories than cats who are left intact, according to PetMD. If your cat is spayed/neutered, you might need to adjust how much you feed him so that he doesn’t put on weight.
What’s Wrong with Being a Fat Cat?
Obesity in cats can cause many of the health problems related to obesity in humans. While it can seem like more trouble than its worth to have your cat drop a few pounds, finding the best cat food for weight loss/overweight cats can help improve your feline friend’s quality of life considerably.
Cats who are obese or overweight might experience one or a combination of the following:
- Reduced lifespan. A cat who’s on the heavy side might live a few years less than a similar cat who’s at a healthy weight.
- Increased risk for diabetes. Diabetes is on the rise in cats, and it’s thought that an increase in obesity is to blame. Obese cats are three times more likely to be diabetic compared to normal weight cats.
- Higher blood pressure and heart disease. The more a cat weighs, the harder his heart has to work to pump blood throughout the body. That can lead to an increase in blood pressure. Overweight cats are also at an increased risk for heart disease.
- Joint damage. Extra weight puts more pressure on a cat’s joints, which can make him more susceptible to osteoarthritis.
- Liver problems. Cats who are obese are at an increased risk for potentially deadly liver problems.
- Decreased immune function. Too much weight can interfere with a cat’s immune system functioning, making him more likely to become ill or making it more difficult for him to fight off infection.
- Trouble breathing. Extra fat around the chest and abdominal area can put extra pressure on a cat’s lungs, making breathing more difficult.
- Increased cancer risk. Obesity in cats can increase their risk of developing certain cancers, in particular cancers in the abdominal area.
How to Help Your Cat Lose Weight
If your cat is overweight or obese, it’s likely that he’ll need to lose just a few pounds to get back on track. But losing a “few pounds” is a lot different for a cat than it is for a person. You might be able to cut out dessert or beer for a couple of weeks and see five pounds fall off.
It’s not so simple for a cat. In part, that’s because every extra pound a cat carries is about the same as a person carrying 15 extra pounds. So, if your cat needs to lose five pounds, that would be about the same as you needing to drop 75 pounds.
Unless your vet has diagnosed your cat with a hormone issue or has pinpointed another medical concern as being behind his weight troubles, the best way to help your cat drop those extra pounds is to encourage him to burn more calories than he takes in.
The first step is to have your cat eat fewer calories. Your vet can be a real help here, as they can give you an idea of how many calories to aim for each day. For example, if a cat who doesn’t need to lose weight usually eats 280 calories a day, your vet might recommend that your cat drops to 175 or 225 calories daily.
While you really should consult with your vet before you put your cat on a weight loss plan, there is a way to get an idea of how many calories to give him based on his current weight and target weight.
Let’s say your cat currently weighs 15 pounds and his goal weight is 10 pounds. You’ll want to find his resting energy requirements, according to Pet Obesity Prevention. To do that, multiply 10 pounds by 2.2 to convert it to kilograms.
Then, multiply 22.2 by 70 and take the product to the 3/4 power (in this case, you’ll end up with 247.5). Next, multiply the resting energy requirements by 0.8 to figure out how many calories to give your cat each day for weight loss. In this case, a 15-pound cat who wants to drop to 10-pounds needs to eat 198 calories a day.
Best Diet Cat Food Reviewed
Some types of cat food are designed to help kitty drop that extra weight. Your vet might recommend that you switch out your cat’s food to better aid with weight loss. If you’re looking for food to help your cat reach his weight loss goals, check out the following.
Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Healthy Weight Recipe Dry Cat Food
As you might know, cats need a lot of protein and a minimal amount of carbs to thrive and to maintain a lean, healthy body mass. Unfortunately, a lot of cat foods contain added fillers in the form of carbs and grains, which just causes cats to bulk up.
That’s not the case with Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Healthy Weight recipe dry cat food. The food contains a min. 36 percent protein, plus min. 9 percent crude fat. It’s got just 26 percent carbs and fiber on an as-fed basis, so your cat will get more of the nutrients he needs and less of the ones that will only make him pack on the pounds.
Compared to other cat foods designed for adult cats, Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Healthy Weight recipe cat food contains about 10 percent fewer calories. It has around 350 calories per cup.
As a bonus, it contains insoluble fiber, which can help your cat feel full more quickly so that he ends up eating less. Plus, the fiber helps minimize hairballs.
- Grain-free formula.
- Reduced calorie formula.
- Lower carbs.
- Chicken is the first ingredient.
- Contains added taurine, omega 3 and 6, and antioxidants.
- Kibble shape is flat and round, might be too small for some cats.
- Some cats just reject the food.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Indoor Hairball & Weight Control Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Indoor Hairball & Weight Control Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is another grain-free dry cat food formula designed to help cats manage their weight.
Like the Merrick weight loss cat food, Blue Buffalo contains min. 36 percent crude protein. It has a bit more fat content, with a min. 12 percent crude fat content. Blue Buffalo has a handful more calories, with 358 calories per cup.
It also has chicken listed as the first ingredient and is free of grains. That said, it does contain some starches, in the form of tapioca starch and potatoes. The food also contains powdered cellulose, which some cat owners might want to avoid.
The cat food contains L-carnitine, an amino acid that can help cats maintain or better control their weight. It also has added taurine and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for overall health.
- Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, and Turkey Meal are the first three ingredients.
- Grain-free formula.
- Lower calories.
- Contains fiber to help with digestion and hairball reduction.
- Contains a relatively high percentage of carbs — 34 percent.
- Contains added starches.
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Dry Cat Food
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Dry Cat Food contains fewer calories than other options — just 300 calories per cup. But it’s not grain-free like other weight loss cat food.
It does, however, have chicken listed as the first ingredient. The food has a min. 36 percent crude protein content and a min. 10.5 percent crude fat content. It also contains a blend of antioxidants that are designed to help improve a cat’s immune health.
Since excess weight can adversely affect a cat’s immune system, a weight loss cat food that helps improve immune function might be particularly helpful.
- Chicken is the first ingredient.
- Very low calorie in comparison to other weight loss cat foods.
- Contains added taurine and antioxidants.
- Contains lots of grains, including brewer’s rice, corn, wheat gluten.
- Total carbs aren’t revealed.
- Pricier than other options.
Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic Weight Management Chicken Flavor Dry Cat Food
Obesity and weight gain is such a problem for some cats that a vet might prescribe a particular food to the cat. While you can purchase many types of weight loss cat food over-the-counter, Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic Weight Management Chicken Flavor Dry Cat Food is only available with your vet’s approval.
So, is a prescription weight loss cat food a better option? It depends. Hill’s Prescription cat food contains the lowest number of calories per cup — just 297 calories.
The brand also claims that the majority of cats fed the cat food — 88 percent– lost some weight at home over the course of two months.
Although the cat food seems to help cats lose weight, its ingredients list leaves much to be desired by cat owners looking to feed their pets whole, natural foods. The first few ingredients are: Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Dried Tomato Pomace.
That said, the product is designed to help improve a cat’s metabolism and to help him keep the pounds off after initial weight loss. If your cat has long been struggling with obesity and over-the-counter cat food for weight loss hasn’t helped, it might be worth talking to your vet about prescription cat food options.
- Has a track record of helping cats lose weight.
- Contains min 33 percent crude protein, min. 10 percent crude fat.
- Low calorie.
- Low phosphorus.
- Contains added taurine and antioxidants.
- You need a prescription.
- It costs a lot more than other options.
- Chicken by-products are the first ingredient.
- Not grain-free.
When choosing the best cat food for weight loss/overweight cats, remember to get your vet’s insight and opinion first. There are plenty of options out there. You want to be sure you choose the food that will help your cat reach his weight loss goals.