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Putting Your Cat on a Diet

Casey Murphy, VMD Garden State Veterinary Specialists

If your cat is overweight, a diet is a great place to start helping him or her lose weight. It can be hard, though not impossible, to get cats to exercise, so a diet is usually the best way to help our feline friends cut down a few pounds. Cats who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for developing diabetes mellitus, orthopedic problems such as arthritis, liver disease, skin issues, and lower urinary tract disease. A diet is simply making sure your cat is not receiving more calories per day than he or she expends in energy. This is called the resting energy requirement (RER), which your veterinarian can estimate for you based on your cat’s current weight and his or her ideal weight. Once you have an idea of how many calories your cat will need per day, you can translate that into a daily amount of your cat’s food. The calculated RER is just a starting point and may need to be adjusted based on the progression of your cat’s weight loss.

Every cat food has a certain amount of calories (kcal) per cup or per can, and this information can be found right on the food bag or on the manufacturer’s website. With this information, you can figure out how much your cat should be fed each day. It is important to use a measuring cup when measuring out your cat’s food to make sure you are not overfeeding (or underfeeding) him or her. Sometimes when you calculate the amount of food, it may seem like a small amount because the calorie density of your cat’s current food is high. But don’t worry, there is a way around this! Talk to your veterinarian about finding a food that has a lower calorie density so that your cat will think you’re feeding him or her more food even though the total calorie count is the same. Some owners also worry about making sure they are home for regular feedings due to busy schedules. Automatic feeders are an excellent way to make sure that your cat receives a specific amount of food at a certain time each day. (This also means that your cat is looking to the feeder for food instead of you.)

Putting your cat on a diet may seem scary at first, but with the help of your veterinarian (and maybe an automatic feeder), it can become just another part of your everyday life. Remember to have regular weight checks with your veterinarian every month or two to decide if small adjustments in feeding may be necessary. Also, don’t forget that your cat’s treats count as calories too! Your cat won’t lose weight overnight, but with time, patience, and persistence, you can help your cat to a healthier lifestyle.

The information contained in the article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of the advice of a veterinarian.

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