Have you ever noticed that Tigger loves to loaf around (in fact, sometimes he even looks like a loaf of bread)? It’s natural for cats to sleep an average of 15 hours a day, a throwback to their wild roots (wild cats spend a lot of time resting up in between hunts, to conserve energy). But since he’s indoors, safe from the perils of outdoor living, he’s probably not expending as much energy as his wild relatives do. And he’s probably eating more than they do, too, which can add up to one “undertall” feline, to paraphrase Garfield. But don’t despair, it’s easy to help your tubby tabby shed excess pounds. Read on to find out how to help your overweight cat.
(My little cat loaf, who is fit again after I reduced his intake of dry food.)
1. Get rid of the endless bowl of dry food.
Having a bottomless bowl of kibble makes it harder to monitor how much Mittens is eating and encourages her to nibble all day long, which contributes to obesity. In addition, dry food has way too many carbohydrates for optimal feline health (cats don’t process carbs as well as humans do). It’s also low in moisture, which cats need to fend off painful and potentially fatal urinary tract infections. And it’s a myth that dry food fights tooth decay: Instead, try brushing her teeth and/or giving her dental treats that contain bacteria-fighting enzymes after meals.
2. Think portion size
How much food should a cat eat, anyway? This should help: A mouse = a meal. That’s not really that much food, so quit yer overfeedin’, will ya? You can also read the recommended serving size, or consult your vet for assistance. Finally, think about the quality of food you’re feeding your dear cat. The lower the quality, the more unhealthy “filler” will be in the ingredients.
Any toy is better filled with catnip. Often cats get very excited “under the influence” and will be more motivated to play.
4. Food Puzzles
Food puzzles allow cats to exercise while eating. Take the Petsafe SlimCat Meal Dispensing Cat Toy, for example. It’s a ball that distributes food in small portions, and while cats are chasing it they’re also burning calories. Purrfect.
5. Make drinking water more fun
Cats tend to drink more water if it’s running and makes a fun gurgling sound. Drinking more water can help Whiskers feel full and therefore eat less food. Invest in a fancy fountain and see the difference in his water consumption.
6. Rotate and hide their toys
My cat gets bored with even the coolest toys, so rotate toys in and out of your cats’ lives to hold their interest. Another tactic is to hide their toys consistently so they spend time running around trying to find them.
Here are some toy ideas:
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7. Do it yourself
Use your imagination! Open up several large paper shopping bags before you go to work. (Be sure to cut one side of each handle off to prevent strangulation. The dangling handle will also provide something for cats to swat at.) To kick it up another notch, wrinkle one bag up in order to make the entryway smaller, cut a peephole or two in another one for hide-and-seek purposes, and hide a toy in a third bag. In effect, you’re creating an exciting game to keep your cats entertained and exercising while you’re away.
8. Cat shelves!
Yup, they’re just shelves for cats, folks, but cats like to hang out in high places, so simply put up a few shelves in a staggered pattern, and your kitties will happily leap from shelf to shelf (and also use them for napping).
9. Take Simba for a walk
Leash-training a cat takes a bit of time and patience, but if yours takes to it, it will be well worth the effort! Here’s a how-to guide.
10. Adopt a friend for Fluffy
Having two cats is similar to having one cat, i.e., it’s really not much more work or expense. In fact, having a second cat can actually save you work by providing your cat with more exercise through play.
11. Build a ‘catio’
Picture a combination of a patio and jungle gym, and what you have is a catio. These screened-in structures provide a safe way for cats to enjoy the great outdoors while giving them access to tunnels, stairs and towers. You can buy a design and build it yourself or have a professional build it, or you can buy them pre-built. Warning: Catios don’t necessarily protect cats from all outdoor dangers, including cruel people, so only allow supervised access.
Check out the Animal Companions section on PETA’s website for more ways to keep your animals safe and happy.