Help Your Chonky Cat Shed the Weight

  • 6 Min Read

Despite the internet’s affection for chunky animals, there’s a serious (and big) underbelly to the cute pictures of overweight cats circulating the web. More than half of domestic cats in the U.S. are overweight, and this excess weight can have serious consequences. Obese and overweight cats have a lower life expectancy (5 to 10 years compared to a healthy 10-15 year lifespan). They’re also at an increased risk of other conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Pet obesity is a real threat to an animal’s quality of life. 

Indoor cats are especially prone to obesity. They need fewer calories to get through the day, so it’s important to have ways to keep your cat active. These tips for cat obesity will get your cat on the right path to a healthier lifestyle.

A body condition score measures the amount of body fat on an animal. The ideal score for a cat is in the range of 4-6, while scores under 3 indicate an underweight cat. A cat scoring above 6 is overweight or obese. 

Consider a Raw Food Diet

Domesticated cats often pack on extra pounds because they do not have to expend large amounts of energy in order to feed themselves. Whereas in the wild, cats have to chase down their prey. ‘Chase’ is a keyword here – and a powerful indicator of a cat’s intended primary source of sustenance – meat. (A cat chasing down an ear of corn may be funny, but it is pure fantasy!)

It’s no coincidence that cats who are free-fed a standard kibble-type diet tend to overeat and put on weight. Cats will overeat when fed an improper food, trying to make up for the nutritional deficiencies in the food. This truth applies to cats of all shapes and sizes – cats should get their proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals from meat and organs. And the best way to preserve all of the vital nutrients of meat and organs is to feed it raw. 

One of the greatest benefits of switching your cat over to a raw food diet is there’s no reason to feel like you are withholding. In fact, you are doing quite the opposite. Cats who are fed a species-appropriate diet do not suffer from consistent hunger. Instead, they feel an increase in healthy energy which they can funnel into play and activities! 

Now, there are instances where cats become “addicted” to their kibble crunchies, making it more difficult to transition them over to raw. Don’t get discouraged! Many local pet health food stores offer small, or even sample packages of raw food to try. If your cat just won’t do raw, try a high-quality canned or gently cooked diet. Take it from someone who knows, you’ll find their new favorite food eventually. 

Indoor Cat Activities

It’s often difficult to encourage weight loss in indoor cats. Unlike outdoor cats, they don’t have open space to run around and hunt prey. Plus, cats often prefer lounging around. In fact, they spend 70% of their day sleeping! However, there are still ways to engage your cat’s hunter instinct. Frequent activity through these methods burns calories the right way.

If you’re familiar with climbing, you’ve heard the terms “dynamic” vs “static.” Cats who are given a more dynamic style climbing experience via cat trees or wall-mounted shelves and ledges will at least burn some calories on the way to their lounge spot. If you’re craving a DIY project and some Pinterest cred, consider a catio to bring the inside – outside. There are also simple ways to keep their habitats engaging – change things up a bit by moving their cat tree from one side of the room to another. Your cat will investigate.

Outdoor Walks

Giving your cat a chance to explore the outdoors is a fun way to keep them active. You will need a fitted harness, a lightweight leash, and up-to-date vaccine information. Before you two hit the great outdoors, get your cat used to the harness and leash by using it indoors first. Then, you can venture out into the backyard and around the neighborhood. Start by opening the door and encouraging your cat to walk outside with you. At first, keep your walks short. If your cat is spooked by the outdoors, it’s better to end on a positive note, even if the walk is only a minute or two long. As long as the cat is enjoying himself, you can gradually increase the time walked up to 20 minutes. 

Not every cat is suited to being around outside. Many indoor cats are scared of the outdoors to the point where they avoid being by the door at all costs. If your cat is a homebody, don’t force them to venture outside. There are plenty of other ways for them to get exercise! 

Dedicated Play Time

Playing with your cats has many benefits for both you and your cat. Aside from being fun to watch, it’s also a way for your cat to stimulate her mind and exercise. Many pet owners see their cat’s disinterest in a toy and give up on finding ways for them to play. In reality, cats are just very picky creatures. 

Just because they don’t like one toy doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy playtime. Try a variety of different toys and see which ones hook your cat. There are many interactive toys even obese cats will play with. Experiment with different sorts of textures, activities, and methods of play to find one your cat will love.

Here are just a few types of interactive toys you can try: 

  • Laser pointers (make sure to let them win!)
  • Chasing toys like crinkle balls, bells, and feather toys 
  • Wands
  • Robotic toys that move on their own
  • Scratchers
  • Catnip toys 
  • Track toys 

If your cat gets bored easily, try rotating the type of toys you use to keep each one new and exciting.  Also, you don’t always need to spend a ton of money on new toys. Sometimes a crinkled-up receipt or shoestring is just as fun as a fancy new toy! Aim to have dedicated play time every day with your cat. Ideally, you should play with puss in segments of 10-20 minutes twice a day. Doing this daily will result in a healthy weight in no time! 

Food Puzzles

Another way to address your cat’s obesity is to use a food puzzle instead of feeding them in a dish. These can be fantastic tools for assisting in weight loss for overweight cats. Food or treat puzzles provide mental stimulation and physical activity while making mealtime more fun. They can help your cat shed extra weight in several ways.

Like any other toy, treat puzzles provide mental stimulation. Treat puzzles engage a cat’s hunting instincts. They give both a physical and mental workout by making your cat use puzzle-solving skills. Hiding food in an interactive puzzle or food keeps them entertained and focused. They also encourage slow eating by dispersing food in small portions. Your cat will gobble up food less quickly this way, allowing them to feel more satisfied.

Feeding Schedule

Feeding schedules are crucial for weight loss and prevention. Feeding your cat at the same times each day will regulate their metabolism. Eventually, your cat will associate food with a person – you. This simple mental adjustment will help with the transition process from dry to raw.

The amount of food may vary depending on the specific type/quality of food you are feeding. Refer to the feeding recommendations on the packaging. Most high-quality foods will recommend smaller portions due to their product being more nutrient-dense. If you are unsure, or you are in the process of converting your cat to a raw diet and are feeding a combination of different types of foods, consult with your local pet health food store on your next visit. 

If you own more than one cat, keep a close eye on them. Part of your cat’s weight gain could be due to them stealing their brother or sister’s food! (I’m looking at you Mr. Bumbles!) To prevent this from happening, supervise your cats as they eat, or better yet, separate them during feeding time so everyone gets their fair share. 

And even if someone (Bumbles) gets a couple of extra bites here and there, trust me, I have yet to come across a chonky raw fed cat. I don’t believe one exists. 

A Healthy Cat is a Happy Cat

Just like any cat mom or dad, you want your pet to live a long, happy life. By tackling weight issues head-on, you can treat and prevent cat obesity. Check out the “The Neighborhood” section of our blog to learn more about how you can improve the quality of life for your cat. Like this article about two special Astro pets who experienced a raw diet miracle

At Astro Loyalty, we care deeply about pet health, especially our feline friends. And we are proud to support neighborhood pet shops across the USA & Canada. We believe the resources they provide to their pet communities are invaluable. So don’t delay; visit your local pet store today! Are you looking to learn more about holistic pet health? Follow your local pet shop on social media- those proud pet health nerds are probably sharing something game-changing right now!

About The Author

Katherine Carbonaro Kat lives in a spooky house surrounded by farmland in Hillsborough, NC, and couldn't be happier! Her two beloved cats, MeNow and Mr. Bumbles were both bottle-fed and raised by her. Huxley, her faithful companion, is estimated to be around 16 years old but still enjoys his daily mile-long walks and occasional hikes, a testament to the power of proper nutrition. Long live Neighborhood Pet!