How To Get A Cat To Lose Weight

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The world we’ve built can lead to obesity.  The quality of the food we eat and the conveniences of modern society has led to an epidemic.  These same factors have led to cat obesity as well.

So, how to get a cat to lose weight?  The key is to mimic what they would normally do in the wild.  A feral cat will wake up, hunt, eat, groom itself, then take a nap.  Recreating this Rise – Hunt – Eat – Groom – Sleep cycle will help your cat lose weight.  It will also bring your cat more joy when they can embrace their natural instincts.

These cat weight loss guidelines are the same guidelines we used to get our cat’s weight under control.  They helped Maya.  We know they will help you too.

What Diet Can Help A Cat Lose Weight?

While there is no food that will magically drop those unwanted pounds overnight, there are general guidelines that you can follow.  In addition to the type of food, you must make sure to feed the correct amount.  Finally, a proper weight loss plan also manages how quickly the weight is lost.

Best Type Of Food For Cat Weight Loss

The calories your cat use generally comes from three major energy sources: carbohydrates, protein and fat.  Since cats are carnivores, carbohydrates are not essential in their diet.  Cats’ bodies are designed to digest meat. Their intestines are short and therefore limit your cat’s ability to process the fibers found in many carbohydrates.

When choosing a food, think what your cat would eat if it was in the wild.  Feral cats hunt small rodents, reptiles and the occasional insect.  This means high protein with low carbohydrates.

Additionally, most vets are now recommending wet food for cats.  If this is an option for you, we highly recommend you make the switch.  This one change made a big impact on our cat’s weight.

How Much Food Should A Cat Eat To Lose Weight?

Knowing if your cat has eaten enough can be challenging.  It feels like our cat will beg for food while she is still eating!  The key here is to count calories.

5 lb10 lb15 lb20 lb
Kittens after weaning200 kcal---
Ideal Weight Cat170 kcal280 kcal360 kcal440 kcal
Overweight Cat180 kcal240 kcal280 kcal310 kcal
Pregnant/Nursing Cat336 kcal603 kcal851 kcal1,091 kcal

The amount of calories your cat should be eating depends on three things:

  • their body weight
  • whether you want them to maintain or lose weight
  • special circumstances.

The National Research Council 1 conducted a study to determine how many calories a cat should eat in a day.  Their guidelines are what we use when determining how much to feed our cat.

If your cat is already at a healthy weight you should still be measuring their caloric intake. Maintaining their weight will prevent having to implement a weight loss plan in the future.  If your cat is overweight, a lower calorie diet is required for them to begin shedding those pounds.

Special circumstances require special diets.  Nursing kittens need 20-25 calories for every 100 grams of body weight.  Feedings should start 2 and a half to 4 weeks after birth.  Kittens need additional calories to support their growing bodies.  Pregnant and lactating mothers need extra calories to support their kittens.

How Fast Should A Cat Lose Weight?

Rapid weight loss can be dangerous in cats.  Therefore, a cat should only lose 3% – 4% of their current body weight per month. If a cat loses weight too quickly they can develop fatty liver disease, also called hepatic lipidosis.

How To Manage A Diet In A Multi-Cat Home

If you have a family that has multiple cats, managing a diet can be challenging. It is difficult to prevent cats from eating the food of another cat. In worst case scenarios, the other cat can become malnurished.

You manage the diets of multiple cats by monitoring their feeding. After placing the food, watch them until they finish. Then remove the uneaten food. However, this is not ideal for most people. If you are looking for a different solution, use an RFID Automatic Feeder. This will make sure every cat gets their fair share.

How Can Cats Exercise?

Exercise is an important component of a proper cat weight loss program.  There are many different exercises you can perform.  One of the easiest exercises to do is playing with your cat.  Yes, this counts as exercise!

If your cat does not want to exercise you can incorporate food into the game. This can be as simple as hiding food, or as interactive as you running around your house with a bowl of cat food in your hands.  Who said it’s not polite to play with your food? 

How To Tell If A Cat Is Fat

There are different scales for determining your cat’s current body condition. We are going to simplify these scales into 3 categories:  underweight, ideal, overweight.

Underweight cats appear boney.  You can see their ribs and the body sinks inward just behind the ribs. You can also see the detail of their vertebrae along their backs.  Being underweight poses risks such as fatty liver disease, amongst others.  Diet adjustments should be made to get your cat to an ideal weight.

Ideal weight cats appear well proportioned.  You cannot see, but you can feel their ribs.  The ribs have a slight fat covering.  They have a healthy waist behind the ribs.

Overweight cats begin taking a round appearance.  Ribs will be harder to feel or not felt at all.  Similarly, their waist becomes hard to notice or is no longer present.

Healthy Cat Weight

Your cat’s weight is an important component of their overall health. Improper weight can cause a shortened lifespan, increased risk of health problems, and a loss of mobility.  Fortunately, pet parents have a large amount of control over what they feed their pets.  We owe it to them to provide a healthy, happy life.


1 National Research Council – Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs, 2006

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