Does your four-legged feline friend spend the whole day lying on the couch and scratching the litter box? If so, you may want to think about changing his or her lifestyle with a cat weight loss plan — inactivity in indoor cats can lead to a serious of chronic illnesses starting with obesity.

Over 50 percent of cats in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the fourth annual Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study. Although obesity is not as common in cats as it is in dogs, it is important to regulate calories in and calories out in felines.

A cat's limited ability to taste sugars directly can put them at higher risk of developing diabetes mellitus, also known as sugar diabetes, which occurs when a cat's body is not able to produce or properly use insulin.

According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, this disease commonly occurs in older, male, obese felines — and excessive weight is almost always the underling condition. Insulin in the body uses sugar, fat, and protein from a cat's diet to generate energy which affects the sensor in the brain that controls appetite.

What is Obesity in Cats?

Do you know when your fat cat should slim down? Felines with more than 20 percent body fat are classified as overweight by most veterinarians, says Animal Planet.

A fast and simple profile view of your feline can easily determine whether they are overweight or not. A waist line should be noticeable between the back of the ribs and the hips; if there is no waistline or abdominal tuck, chances are you have a fat cat. Their tummy should go up from the bottom of the ribcage to inside their thighs where you can feel their ribs but not see then suggests the Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (VPI).

The average adult cat weighs in at seven to 11 pounds, with the consideration that females typically weigh less than males. In order to understand kitty weight gain, it may help to understand comparable weight gain in humans: two to three extra pounds a cat weighs equals 40 pounds gained in the human body.

Remember, regardless of your cat's weight, they require a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates to be happy and healthy furry friends.

Keeping Your Cat Thin

Here are 5 ways you can combat or prevent obesity in your cat's weight loss plan:

1. Feed Him or Her a Proper Diet


First of all, avoid feeding your feline high-carbohydrate foods that are rich in calories.The ingredient list in cat food can help cat owners determine if the food contains high carbohydrate ingredients such as grains, potatoes or peas. If the mentioned items are not listed, it means that the cat food is low in carbohydrates.

For example, Wellness canned cat food contains high carbohydrate ingredients in the form of fruits and vegetables, such as potatoes says Losa A. Pierson, DVM on CATINFO. However, the amount of fruits and vegetables that the canned food contains is very low because it has a low carbohydrate level of approximately three to five percent.

A tip for cat owners is although canned cat food may contain a low carbohydrate level, it is important to look out for high carbohydrate ingredients like grains and potatoes that are often in commercial cat foods.


Cats are obligate carnivores — mammals that have lost the ability to make amino acids and vitamins in their bodies. This type of carnivore needs to feed on prey that whose meat meets all the necessary nutrients.

Many pet food manufacturers use meat byproduct ingredients that do not include muscle meat, but instead contain organs such as lungs, spleen or kidneys as a form of protein, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

The issue of whether to purchase commercial cat food with meat byproducts or to opt for higher end premium brands is a personal decision every cat owner must make. Premium brands of cat food do not contain byproduct ingredients which can give a peace of mind to owners who worry if the byproducts contain the reccomended amount of vitamin A for their feline's health.


In a study published in the Journal of Animal Science, researchers measured the effects of high-fiber diets on overweight cats to see if they were able to digest and adapt to the nutrition these diets provide.

The results of the study showed that a high-fiber diet had a negative effect on the 24 fat cats used as the sample size. The high fiber content in the cat's diet made them feel temporarily full but blocked out the absorption of necessary nutrients in their small intense, preventing the cats from getting enough minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. As a result, the felines became hungrier, the pet owners fed them more, and the cats just gained more weight.

A healthy feline diet consists of plenty of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids to transport substances in the body, supply energy and provide palatability, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

When selecting nutritious cat food, it is important to remember that the items are listed in order of decreasing proportional weight approved by AAFCO.

Among the top ingredients that should be listed in non-premium cat food are meat, meat byproducts or seafood. The order of these ingredients determines if the cat food contains sufficient animal-source ingredients to provide your cat with the necessary amount of amino acids and fatty acids. These nutrients can outweigh the high fiber content contained in other foods and regulate your furry friend's consumption.

Dry Food

Dry food feeders are strongly discouraged for all cat owners. It may be convenient to use this method to feed the cat during the day when no one's home but the food feeders can cause a cat to eat too much, as they replace consumed food immediately.

According to Francis Kallfelz, DVM, PHD, professor of nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, "if a cat can maintain his weight, free choice feeding is okay." Cats who exercise minimally and like to snack should not be fed dry food because it can add on to an already existing weight issue.

2. Increase Your Cat's Exercise

Physical activity burns calories, reduces a pet's appetite, and changes the structure of its body. A pet's metabolic rate can increase with an uptick in exercise says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Cats, unlike dogs, are less likely to engage in long periods of play with their human owners.

However, cats tend to play and exercise if they see another feline they are well acquainted with. The benefits of having two cats is that they will get plenty of physical activity wrestling or chasing each other around. The ASPCA believes that cats who cohabit together will have greater opportunity to act like cats through means of socialization and mental stimulation.

If you have a cat and are contemplating on getting a second cat, a purrfect match would be a kitten with an adult female, or a spoiled kitten with an older, more experienced cat. The contrasts in these pairings will balance the relationship and create roles for the felines to assume.

An innovative and inexpensive indoor solution is to "create a hockey rink" says Susan Nelson, DVM, an assistant professor of clinical sciences at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine to Everyday Health. The cat owner can put a ball in a large cardboard box or bathtub to create the illusion of a hockey rink. As the ball flies off the walls, your cat will chase after it providing plenty of physical activity.

If the idea of a second cat might break the bank, a more cost effective solution would be to allow your cat to play outdoors, safely. Walking your cat on a leash can help expose your furry friend to the outdoors while reducing the chances of obesity in inactive indoor felines. Surprisingly, a majority of cats can be trained to walk on a leash, the ASPCA says. An outdoor cat fenced area is another alternative that can allow the cat to roam around within safe limits of the home.

3. Schedule Regular Weigh-Ins

The best way to see if your cat has gained weight is to monitor it regularly. To accurately check your furry friend's weight using a bathroom scale, weigh yourself first, write down your weight, and then pick up your cat and stand on the scale. Then, subtract the weight from the weight of yourself and the cat combined. It is important to conduct and record monthly weigh-ins, so your veterinarian knows the health of your cat.

Spotting weight gain in pets can prove to be a difficult task. If you are highly concerned that your cat could be gaining excessive weight, frequent weigh-ins scheduled at the same time of the day using the same scale should be implemented.

4. Buy Your Cat Toys

This simple and inexpensive option can ensure Fluffy gets an adequate amount of physical activity she deserves. A scratch post or a climbing tower are preferred for cats because it meets their incessant need to scratch and provides full body stretches and muscle flexing.

The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital & Hotel recommends that cat owners offer a variety of scratches options such as horizontal and vertical scratching toys and sisal ripe, carpet, cardboard, and wood. Be mindful that cats can easily get bored with toys so it is important to rotate the toys every one to two weeks to increase their activity level and stimulate the mind.

5. Get Your Cat Spayed or Neutered

Spaying and neutering your cat ensures that she or he will live a longer and healthier life. Aside from the inability to reproduce, female cats are not at risk for mammary or uterine cancer and male cats are not at risk for testicular or prostate cancer, says the American Humane Association (AHA). Despite contrary belief, spayed and neutered cats require fewer calories to maintain their body weight and therefore are known to be healthier than their counterparts, says the ASPCA.

Read more:

Pet Obesity Rising In The US: Over Half Of All Cats And Dogs Are Now Overweight

Weight Loss For Dogs: 5 Ways To Help Your Canine Go From Fat To Fit