Overweight and obese cats are at increased risk for certain diseases and have a poorer quality of life than cats at a healthy weight; that’s why it’s important to help your cat lose weight if she is overweight or obese. How do you know if your cat is overweight? And if she is, what can you do about it? If your cat is overweight, she may not be very inclined to get as much physical activity as she needs. So, how do you motivate your cat to get moving? Continue reading to find out the answers!
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Does My Cat Need to Lose Weight?
It’s estimated that approximately 50% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese, but how do you know if your cat falls into one of these categories? There are a couple of ways to tell if your cat is overweight.
First, run the palms of your hands over your cat’s rib cage. Can you feel her ribs? If you cannot feel her ribs or cannot feel them without applying pressure, it’s likely that your cat is overweight.
Second, you can use visual clues to help you determine if your cat is overweight. You should view your cat from above as well as from the side when assessing her body condition. To assess your cat’s body condition from above, look down at her from above when she’s in a standing position. Can you see a slight indentation right above her hips? If this area bulges out, it’s a good indication that your cat is overweight. Note, though, that it may be difficult to assess your cat’s body condition from this angle if she has long fur.
If your cat is overweight, you will see very little or no abdominal tuck when looking at her from the side. You may also notice fat deposits on your cat’s legs, face, and lumbar area if she is overweight. Very obese cats will have a distended abdomen.
Weighing your cat will help you determine if your cat is overweight as well. Talk to your vet about your cat’s ideal weight. This will vary from one cat to another. My cat, Carmine’s ideal weight is 10 pounds. However, I have a friend whose cat’s ideal weight is 16 pounds. In general, though, the average domestic cat should weigh between 8 and 10 pounds. Knowing your cat’s ideal weight will help you determine when she is gaining too much weight.
You can use a baby scale to weigh your cat. Weighing your cat each month will help you notice and get ahead of any problems early. By signing up for our Pet Health 5 Movement, you’ll get a monthly reminder and checklist of five health signs to check on your cat. It only takes a few minutes to complete each month and provides you and your vet with invaluable information about how your cat is doing.
If you think your cat is overweight, please consult with your veterinarian. She can help you formulate a weight-loss plan that is specific to your cat’s needs. Diet and exercise are both important factors in helping your cat lose weight. In general, feeding your cat several canned food meals a day is better than free-feeding her kibble. Canned food contains more protein and fewer carbohydrates than dry food does. Canned food also contains a lot of water which helps keep your cat hydrated.
It may be difficult to get your cat moving initially, but exercise is an integral part of a healthy weight-loss program. Try some of the cat exercises to lose weight in the next section to get your cat to start moving more. Note that even if your cat doesn’t need to lose weight, games, and exercises for cats are essential to your cat’s physical and mental health. Try to work these activities into your cat’s daily routine to provide her with the physical and mental stimulation she needs for a good quality of life.
10 Games & Cat Exercises to Lose Weight
It can be difficult to get your cat moving initially, especially if she is obese, but there are many ways you can make exercise fun for your cat.
Create Feeding Stations
This is a simple way to get your cat to start moving around. When my cat, Lita, was struggling with her weight, our vet suggested I divide her daily allotment of kibble into a few bowls and place them around the apartment. This way, she had to move from one feeding station to another to eat all of her food.
Place each bowl in a place where your cat can access it easily. You might place one bowl in the kitchen, one bowl on your cat’s tree, and one in the dining room. If your cat is able to jump up onto things, putting the bowls on top of things like a kitchen table, the cat tree, the counter, or on an end table will help your cat move a little more while she eats.
Cat trees and towers encourage your cat to climb. A good cat tree will be sturdy and contain surfaces for scratching and climbing. You can encourage your cat to use her cat tree by placing it near a window. Hanging a bird feeder outside the window will give your cat opportunities to watch birds from the safety of your home.
Follow the Leader
This is another easy activity you can do with your cat, especially if she is food-motivated. Fill your cat’s bowl or plate with her canned food, but before you give it to her, have her follow you around for a couple of minutes. Start small. Pick up her dish and have her follow you around the kitchen once before you put her dish down and let her eat her meal. Over time, you may be able to increase your “walk” through the house.
Puzzle toys are great because not only do they make your cat work for her food, but they provide mental stimulation as well. You can put kibble or treats into puzzle toys for your cat. Just be sure to subtract the calories of the food or treats you use from your cat’s daily allotted amount.
There are various types of puzzle toys for cats. You might have to buy a few different types and see which ones your cat likes. My cat, Carmine, really likes this one.
Hunting games are fun for cats because they allow your cat to use her natural hunting instincts. You can hide a few treats around the house each day for her to find. If you want to step up the game, you can make an Easter egg hunt for your cat. This is one of the most natural ways to help your cat lose weight.
Interactive playtime not only gives your cat the exercise she needs, but it also gives you and your cat a chance to strengthen your bond. Aim for 10 to 15 minutes of interactive playtime each day.
Wand or fishing-pole toys are good choices for interactive playtime. It gives your cat a chance to use her natural hunting instincts. You can purchase wand toys with a mouse, insect, feather, or other toys at the end of it. Neko Flies were Lita’s favorite wand toys.
Laser pointers are also a good choice for interactive play. Many cats love chasing that elusive red dot. You should follow up laser pointer play sessions by giving your cat a red toy to “capture” to reduce frustration at never being able to catch the red dot.
Make a Cat Piñata
Cats like batting at things that hang above them, so a cat piñata could be a great way to give your cat a fun way to exercise. You can use an old yogurt, sour cream, or cottage cheese container with a lid to make a cat piñata. After washing the container out thoroughly, cut a small hole into the bottom of the container. Place a few treats into the container, and use a piece of string to hang the container where your cat can bat at it. When your cat hits the container just right, treats will fall out of it. Be sure to supervise your cat while she plays with this toy and put it up where she cannot get to it when she’s done playing. String is very dangerous to cats if they ingest it.
Exercise Wheel or Treadmill
No, your cat won’t know what to do if you place her on a treadmill or exercise wheel, but you can use treats or a wand toy to train her to walk on them. It will take patience and time. Move at your cat’s pace. There are several great videos on YouTube on how to train your cat to use an exercise wheel or treadmill. Always supervise your cat if she’s on a treadmill, and start the treadmill speed at a very slow pace.
The great outdoors is a fascinating place for indoor cats, but it is also dangerous to allow your cat outdoor unsupervised. If you want to take your cat on walks, leash and harness train her. Don’t take your cat outdoors until she is very comfortable with her leash and harness. Make sure the harness you use with your cat fits her well and is secure.
You can take your cat for a stroll in your own yard. Once your cat becomes comfortable with being outside, you might try taking her on a walk down the street, at a local park, or to the beach. Always supervise your cat when you take her outdoors, and pay attention to her body language. If she seems stressed or scared, the place you’re visiting might not be the best choice for your outings.
Create an Agility Course
This may not be the best activity to begin with to help your cat lose weight, but once she starts to lose weight and get more energy, an agility course is a great form of exercise. You can create your own agility course for your cat at home with hoops, poles, A-frames, stairs, and tunnels.
Start simple. Cut the bottom and handles off a paper bag and set it down on the floor. Put a treat on one side of the bag, and encourage your cat to walk through the bag to get the treat. If your cat isn’t treat-motivated, you can encourage her to walk through the bag by waving a wand toy on the other side of it. Once your cat is comfortable walking through the paper bag, you can graduate to a mesh tunnel.
To get your cat to jump through hoops, begin by teaching her to walk through a hoop. You can use a hula hoop for this. Place the base of the hoop on the floor and have your cat walk through it to get to her treat or toy. Over time, you can begin to raise the hoop a little at a time until your cat has to jump through the hoop to get her reward.
You can put two inclined scratching posts or sets of pet stairs back-to-back to make an A-frame for your cat to walk over. You can teach your cat to weave through plastic cones. Agility courses are great for cats because they challenge your cat physically and mentally.
Overweight and obese cats are at greater risk for health problems and have a poorer quality of life than cats who are at a healthy weight. Try using some of the games and exercises listed here to help your cat lose weight.
What is your cat’s favorite physical activity? How do you encourage your cat to exercise each day?
Your cat’s weight is one of the five health signs we encourage you to monitor in our Pet Health 5 Movement. Please join us in this movement to help keep your cat healthy. When you sign up, we’ll send you a monthly reminder with a checklist of health signs to monitor in your cat. It only takes a few minutes to monitor and log your cat’s health signs. Monitoring your cat’s health is an important part of keeping your cat healthy and happy.
About the Author: Sierra M. Koester has been writing in the pet industry since 2006, and she has written for several online publications. She shares her home in Colorado with her two cats – Carmine and Tylan. In her free time, Sierra enjoys reading, penpalling, and spending time with friends.