Among our three cats, Slinky is prone to being overweight because she is very greedy, and very sedentary, being already at least 4 years old. Sayang is prone to being underweight because she is so picky she hardly eats, plus she is very active and burns a lot of energy. Scooter is picky when it comes to food too, although he has a better appetite than Sayang; he also needs a lot of food because he is extremely active as a male kitten.
To manage the weight of our cats, we have some measures in place so that all our cats can be healthy. First off, you know a cat is too skinny if you can see the ribs on her body, and can feel only very little fats. Cats have a lot of loose skin around their tummy and sides of their face, skinny cats will not have this. Cats that are too fat will look round in their profile when they are standing on four legs; their sides should look straight, not oval, conforming to the width of their shoulders and hips. Your vet will be able to advise you on how healthy your cat’s weight is.
To fatten a cat, here are some tips:
- Add more protein to your cat’s food. This can be done by serving higher protein dry diets – we used Taste of the Wild to fatten Sayang up – as well as serving canned food which is mainly protein. You can also cook meat and eggs to add to their diet, and serve them cat milk (our favourite is Cosi) which is mostly protein and fats.
- If your cat is fussy, try out different types of food to increase her appetite. Canned food is usually extremely palatable for cats. Try different brands till you find out which ones she likes. For dry food, ask your pet shop for samples to try out as treats for your cat to see if she enjoys eating it. Consider alternatives from chicken and fish such as turkey, venison, lamb, beef.
- Vary your cat’s diet to increase her appetite. Cats that are fussy may be easily bored with the same old food. Consider alternating between serving canned food and homecooked food with her dry diet. Serve cat milk alongside some meals. Add some cat treats to her dry diet to make her food interesting. Bear in mind that any changes should be gradual to avoid your cat getting diarrhoea.
- If your cat does not enjoy eating dry food, evenly mix up one or two spoonfuls of canned food into her dry food to coat the kibbles so that she will eat more.
- Play with your cat. Exercise increases appetite as cats burn up energy. She will also gain muscle weight through exercise.
Remember to check your cat’s collar for fit as she puts on weight. You should be able to comfortably place two fingers under the collar, otherwise it is too tight for her and will cause chafing.
For cats like Slinky who are prone to becoming overweight, watching her diet is key.
- Neutered adult cats that are around 4kg need only 185gm of food per day. This includes treats.
- Break up your cat’s daily ration into one or two meals a day instead of allowing her free choice. This way you can monitor how much she eats daily.
- Check your cat food ingredients and nutritional levels to make sure your cat is not eating too much carbohydrates. Carbohydrates serve very little nutritional benefit for your cat as they get most of their energy from protein. Excessive carbohydrates are converted to fats on your cat; protein converts to muscle weight. For fibre needs, fruit and vegetable ingredients are just as ideal as grains, so there should be a balance between the food groups. Look at the first five ingredients on your cat’s food ingredient list. (For more reading on protein, carbo and fibre in your cat’s diet, read here.)
- There are cat diets available that are meant to slim your cat down using more non-meat ingredients such as apples and sweet potatoes.
- Play with your cat more. Encourage your cat to exercise by finding toys for her that she will enjoy playing with. Toys include wand toys (Slinky’s favourite), toy mice and birds, toys with catnip, toys which treats can be inserted within, hanging toys and cat towers.
- Some owners like to hide their cat’s daily food around the house to encourage their cat to exercise through ‘hunting’ for their food. I personally don’t like this idea as I like my house to be clean, but you can give it a try if you have areas in the house you don’t mind your cat eating off from.
- Get your cat a companion – a kitten in the household adds activity and interest to your cat’s life; this way your cat’s life will be less sedentary.