My cat Beamer has a food obsession, and that’s putting it lightly. He will eat everything.

I’ve found “the real-life Garfield” with his head in the butter container (that he opened). He has stolen frozen steaks off our counter, and we have to keep child locks on our food cupboard. All garbage containers must remain behind closed doors or else!

We can’t store any fruits or vegetables on the counters like normal people. Beamer (he’s the cream-colored cat) has eaten entire avocados, tomatoes, raw potatoes and apples.

We used to try leaving things out, thinking, He won’t really eat a banana, will he? Now we know the answer is always, always yes. And if you forget to put your plate away while you head out of the room, just assume your sandwich will be gone.

Beamer even ate an entire cob of corn, including the cob. Ace got blamed for that one (“There’s no way a cat …”) until Beamer puked up the cob a few hours later.

Obviously Beamer has a few issues.

Cat health

Beamer has always been on a restricted diet, but this week we decided to really crack down on not leaving dirty dishes in the sink or any crumbs on the counters at all. Every scrap really does add up over the course of the day, and trust me, this cat is always on kitchen duty. He even licks the floor. Because of it, he’s a good pound overweight, which is a lot when you’re 14 pounds.

Ace the black lab mix and Beamer the cat sleeping in the bed together cuddlingI’ve noticed that house cats in general are very likely to be overweight. For one thing, cats are lazy – my two sleep a good 16 to 18 hours a day. Second, cat owners don’t require their cats to do anything active.

Sure, an indoor cat is likely to live longer because he’s less likely to get impounded or run over, but we are literally killing our indoor cats by allowing them to become obese.

Exercise is just as important for cats as it is for people and dogs. Cats are cheaper and easier to obtain, care for and get rid of than dogs, so it’s also easier to forget about their health. We invest less money, time and emotions into our cats than we do our dogs, and that’s a shame.

I love my cats, and I want them to be around for a long time. Their health is very important to me. Below are some tips to help your indoor cat lose weight and live a more active lifestyle.

How to help my cat lose weight

1. Interact with your cat every day.

Play with your cat! Get him to chase a laser pointer or string. Encourage him to play fetch of stalking games. I get my cats to chase me by copying the way they act with each other. I peek around a corner and then quickly dart away. Pretty soon they start to sneak up on me, and when I run they are ready to chase! Seriously, we play this game every day.

2. Take your cat on “walks.”

Buy a harness and leash and let your cat explore the yard with you. I hate retractable leashes, but they work really well for cats. Just make sure your cat wears a collar with ID tags because cats are really good at slipping out of their harnesses.

3. Make your cat work for his food.

Dogs are expected to work for their food, and cats should as well! In the wild, a cat would have to hunt for his food. I like to make my cats search for their food by putting their meals in a different place each time. Sometimes I hide pieces of kibble in different spots so they have to climb over or under different obstacles to get it. At the very least, you should play with your cat before you feed him so he gets some exercise.

4. Set up obstacle courses for your cat.

Cats love to climb, walk across platforms and crawl into hiding places. You can buy cat “jungle gyms” and crazy scratching posts with multiple levels, or you can make your own “cat fort” out of boxes. I usually just arrange a few boxes in a corner and then walk away, completely ignoring my cats. They are more interested in something if they think it’s not for them. 🙂

5. Rotate which toys your cat has access to.

Just like kids and dogs, cats get bored with their toys almost instantly. Instead of leaving dozens of toys out at all times, I bring out one or two toys at a time for my cats. This keeps them interested. Of course, crumbled up pieces of paper, bottle caps and candy bar wrappers are their favorite toys.

6. Wrestle with your cat.

Encouraging dogs and cats to play fight with people can be a bad idea because it rewards aggression. That being said, I “wrestle” with my dog and my cats all the time because it’s how dogs and cats naturally play. My cats “fight” one another every day, but they also enjoy “attacking” me. One way to teach them not to scratch or bite to hard is to say “ouch!” and immediately end the game if they get too rough.

7. Get another cat.

I’m not telling you to become the crazy cat lady and adopt five or six cats, but two cats is a good idea because they will entertain one another. My younger cat Scout (the gray tabby) is very active for a cat and initiates games with Beamer every day. He knows how to irritate Beamer just enough to get him to run around the house for a good game of tag.

8. Give your cat some catnip.

If your cat doesn’t seem interested in toys, it’s probably because you are not very fun. Cat nip is a good way to get him more interested.

9. Do not leave your cat’s food out at all times.

Most people free feed their cats, meaning a big bowl of food is always available. This is the main reason why so many cats are overweight. Owners are too lazy to put a specific amount of food in the cat’s bowl once or twice a day.

Measuring your cat’s food is the easiest way to know exactly how much food he is getting. If your cat is overweight, then cut back on the amount of food he’s getting. My cats each eat less than a one-half cup of food per day. If you are not sure how much food your cat needs, then ask your vet.

10. Buy a high-quality, natural cat food.

Look for natural cat foods with real protein. My cats eat a natural cat food called Felidae, and they love it. Avoid foods that contain animal by-products because by-products are any part of an animal other than meat, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials. For more info on selecting a quality pet food, check out my post on dog food ingredients.

Do you have an overweight cat? What are you doing to help your cat lose weight?

Beamer the orange tabby cat next to roses
Scout the gray tabby cat sleeping on the couch