My cat is fat

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

37 thoughts on “My cat is fat”

  1. Captain is also a victim of laziness, with his only real hobby being food. I often see him licking the floor, where I’m guessing I maybe dropped a crumb of something.
    I’ve had to restrict him to twice a day controlled feedings. When I adopted him, I found out quickly that unlike most cats, if I left his bowl full all day and trusted him to feed himself, he would not stop. I’d have to fill it many times a day. He had NO self-control. It works pretty well now that I limit how much and how often he eats. And I, too, had to get child locks for the cupboard where the food is kept.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Poor Captain! Haha!

      Before Josh and Beamer moved in (Yes, Beamer is actually JOSH’s cat), Scout got to have unlimited access to food. As soon as Beamer moved in, that ended! Controlled feeding for all animals at our house!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      This cat is nuts.

      My dog will usually try fruits and vegetables, but he’s not crazy about them. He really likes bananas and apples though.

  2. Beamer sounds like a handful! I have to say the post was very entertaining though! 🙂 I can’t imagine a cat eating all of those things, hopefully all of those foods were ok for cats to eat. Millie was quite plump when I found her around the beginning of Aug. She’s slimmed down quite a lot since then, almost 2 lbs! I bought her low fat Innova cat food and a cat tree. She’s also on twice per day feedings, and she lets me know it’s time for a meal by licking the trim in whatever room I’m in or chirping every time I go to the closet where her food is kept. I think she’s much more active here than she was wherever she was before, plus there’s a dog that keeps her on her toes, always. I’m going to have to try setting up boxes to play in, sounds like a good time!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Trust me, he is a handful! He hardly ever gets sick though. He has a strong stomach! I’m glad Millie is doing well in her new home with you guys.

  3. Hi there – My sister’s cat was getting pretty tubby and her vet said to cut out the dry food – “too many carbs!” So as much as her cat likes dry food and snubs wet food (strange I know) they serve only a tiny portion of dry food and by gosh the cat has really slimmed down just from doing that! This also reminds me of an ex-roomie’s big cat Axel – he started acting very hungry for a year or so, we noticed he was packing on weight and had cut him back a bit so expected the “I’m hungry” stuff – but poor Axel was turning diabetic!! He got diabetes really bad, had to have blood drawn all the time (not fun) and insulin shots, etc, cost his owner a fortune. Poor guy died at age 10 of diabetes related issues. I wish we’d thought to check his blood sugar early on when he was just started getting so fat. Not that your guy is diabetic, but? Maybe have the vet do a fasting blood draw and see where he’s at. Rule it out. Just a thought. — Bonnie

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I think we will have Beamer checked just to make sure. I think he has some psychological issues though, not physical issues. He has been this way for 7 years, so I sure hope there hasn’t been a physical problem this whole time. I’ve always worried about him developing diabetes, which is the main reason I want to keep his weight under control. Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. My cat won’t eat anything but her kibbles and tuna. She won’t even eat raw meat. She has killed mice, gophers and birds, but they were just toys to her.

    She’s a big round in the stomach, but the vet said it’s nothing to be concerned about, which is good because if her bowl is empty she meows until I fill it even when she isn’t hungry.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      My cat Scout is just like your cat. He won’t touch anything but kibble, and if I try to switch brands of kibble, he goes on a hunger strike for about six days. He won’t even eat chicken or salmon. He will eat tuna, though!

  5. Wow, that is amazing that your kitty will eat anything. My kitties will do strange things but that really takes the cake – a corn cob! Poor Ace for getting in trouble.

    My 18-year-old kitty now eats more than he ever did but isn’t fat. We let him eat when he wants since the fact he has an appetite at his age is awesome. He’s a small guy though, only about 9 pounds.

  6. Great tips on helping your cat slim down! It’s funny your cat eats all those crazy things. The only weird thing my cat has been known to eat is dog treats. She’ll even try to steal treats right from the dogs. Weird!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh Beamer will definitely eat dog treats. He has destroyed several pockets when I’ve forgotten about the dog treats left in them!

  7. Our boy, Ben, has packed on pounds since we moved. WE’re in a much smaller place, and he used to be outdoors… We do leave bowls down all day, but we only give them the same amount each day (1/2 cup per kitty) – all parcelled out throughout the day. We’ve tried feeding times, but one of our others stages revolts. I don’t know how else to help Mr. Ben though… With three kitties, it does get complicated!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      We have no choice but to do feeding times. My little guy, Scout, will sometimes protest this because he is a grazer and likes to take a few bites here and there. Unfortunately if he doesn’t eat during mealtimes, he goes hungry until the next meal. But that teaches him to eat when the food is there. We give him ten minutes to eat all that he wants and then we put the food away. We usually make Beamer eat in a kennel so he leaves everyone else alone and doesn’t steal their food!

    2. I have exactly the same problem. I moved from a house with a big garden and stairs to a much smaller place with a tiny outside garden and no stairs. My cat Ollie has put on 2lbs in 3 months. I hadn’t even realised he was getting bigger till I took him back to his old home for a few days and my friends pointed out he was getting fat! He weighs 11lbs and needs to lose a couple. I’ve started cutting his food by 25% and forcing him to play more. Trouble is he’s used to a much bigger place to run around in. He can’t even climb a tree in this tiny garden 🙁

      I feel sad because he was a really active cat and loved running up and down the length of the garden chasing leaves, climbing trees and running up and down stairs. Now he just wants to sleep. I’ve just ordered some more toys, things with feathers on a stick to get him jumping more. I also bought him a cat activity centre which is quite tall and he likes to climb it, but only to lie on the top pad and sleep! He has one of those laser mice but will only chase it for a couple of minutes.

      I’m glad I took him back to his old house because I simply didn’t notice the weight gain.

      Hopefully, with the slight reduction in food (he only has wet food now since the vet told me to chuck the dry food out altogether) and the exercise with his new toys, the weight will come off. But I’ll make sure it comes off very slowly to avoid the dreaded ‘fatty liver disease’.

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        I’m glad you are helping your cat become more active. We cut Beamer’s food back by 25 percent this month and he hasn’t been losing anything. And he is being even more annoying with the begging than usual. We still need to do more to keep him active. He will be going to the vet next month to make sure everything is OK.

  8. I had a diabetic cat too. We had to give him insulin shots twice daily in the scruff of his neck. We did it while he ate, though, and he didn’t seem to mind.

    If your house has stairs or a long hallway, maybe you could put the things he needs on different floors or at opposite ends of the house, to sneak in some minimal exercise.

    Do you have the cat dancer toy? it’s basically a wire with a piece of cardboard on the end. Most cats will leap around to get it. I like the idea of making the cats work for their food. Why should they get a free ride?

    For your other cat who would rather graze, have you tried mashing up canned food with his kibbles?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yeah, they both love canned food. But I don’t really like to cater to the picky eater’s needs. He will eat when he’s hungry enough. They get canned as a treat every once in awhile, though.

      Putting the food upstairs is a good idea for Mr. Lazy. He rarely comes upstairs since the kitchen is downstairs and that is the most important room!

  9. I forgot to add this earlier; there are kibble treat balls for cats like they do dogs. Just put some kibble in and the cat has to bat it around to get it out. Exercise and food! Maybe Beamer would be interested something like that?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You know, I’ve seen that at Target and I definitely need to get one. They are only $4 or so. I’ve put all his food in Ace’s Kong toy, and that slows him down a bit but the kibble falls out pretty easily.

  10. When we’ve tried feeding times, we wind up getting what we call “protest barfing”. Oscar will eat so fast that he regurgitates. And then he is mean all day long because he’s hungry. (I work at home – this is hard to deal with!) Maybe we need to give it a longer try, but it’s just been such a hassle! Sheesh. Crazy cats – but we love them anyway!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Haha!They don’t make it easy for us, do they? You could try three meals a day. But then that’s just more of a hassle, too. Our “mealtimes” are about 8 a.m. and 5 p.m, and boy do I get harassed starting at about 3:30 p.m. Keeping food out at all times would definitely prevent the stress of two meowing and scratching cats and one whining dog.

  11. This was a very amusing post. Since I know Beamer personally, I also know you are not exaggerating about how much he loves his food! Very good points on how to provide exercise opportunities for your cat. Since it seems they pretty much just lounge around and sleep, it’s easy to overlook their needs.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I wish I were exaggerating. Add I didn’t even mention the nonstop meowing! He tried to get into the garbage today as I was taking it from the bathroom to the garage. Jeez!

  12. I’ve wrestled with the same issue with my dog. But I can see how a cat could make weight loss process more challenging. For instance, my daughter’s cat definitely doesn’t like to exercise, and will only play when she feels like it! My dog is always up for a walk or play time. Silly cat!
    Your photos are beautiful!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, dogs are always up for exercise and it’s very easy to keep them at a lean weight. Cats are a bit more challenging but there is no excuse to allow a cat to become obese. It’s our responsibility to keep them healthy.

      Glad you like the photos!

  13. I’ve had this problem with cats and my vet encouraged me to do everything possible to increase the cat’s activity and caloric burn.

    I put her food on elevated counter-tops and surfaces so she had to jump up to eat it. I also put her water dish in the backyard in a distant corner so she had to walk back there to get a drink.

    I also got some string and teased her with it a few times a day for about 5 minutes each time. She got used to playing with me and the string and moved quite a bit during these sessions.

    I also stopped feeding her commercial cat food. Instead I fed her ground beef and real fish. She was a bit picky at first, but after about ten days she really took to this natural food and ate it without hesitation.

    She lost 5 pounds, which is a lot of weight for a cat! You could see her energy levels soar as she got lighter and her mood improved greatly.

    I hope this info helps others who may have cats with weight problems.

  14. I am so pleased that we are not the only people experiencing the mad, obsessive behaviour. We have had our little cat since birth; he was one of two kittens born to our cat Lexie. Right from the beginning he was a compulsive eater. He seemed to feed all of the time as a kitten when the other one would crawl around and play quite happily. He began stealing his mother’s food from around the age of 4 weeks. He is always fed away from the others as he growls and is really frantic with his food gobbling it down within seconds then looking for more. He will eat anything, he rips open any food we leave out, bread, rolls, cakes – anything really! He managed to get into the dog biscuits once and ate almost an entire bowl of dry biscuits – I was sure his tummy would explode!

    I am at my wits end now. He is very overweight and seems to be hungry all of the time. If he finds me in the kitchen he jumps up and digs his claws in or he leaps up and pulls the food over on top of him. He meows all of the time looking for food. He is quite an active little cat – mainly on his search for food. The vet advised that I cut down what I was feeding him but this has made no difference at all.

    He has been a bit poorly this week and is off his food although I fear he is constipated as he has eaten something he shouldn’t have from the rubbish bin. He is looking a bit bloated and uncomfortable. Another trip to the vet has been arranged. I can’t bear the thought of him being like this for evermore. I seem to spend my whole time trying to race him round the house removing any food from his path. I have five cats’ altogether and a dog and I have never experienced this before.

    I just wanted to share my story with you after reading yours – they sound so similar.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Your cat sounds even worse than mine! Thanks for sharing your story.

      Beamer meows frantically about two hours before meals and then inhales his food in about 30 seconds when we feed him. We actually just put him in our laundry room or in a crate about an hour before mealtimes and then he eats in there away from everyone else. If he’s out, he just annoys me way too much with the meowing. It drives me crazy because there’s nothing I can do to control him.

      When it’s not near a mealtime, he is pretty lazy and just sleeps on the couch (in view of the kitchen). And if we leave any dishes out at all, he will get to them. We can’t leave any food out. Everything has to either be in the refrigerator or locked in cupboards.

      It seems to be a psychological issue with our cat, and not a physical problem, but i’m thinking of having him tested for diabetes just in case.That’s so odd that your cat started this behavior almost immediately after he was born. We adopted ours at a year old so we often wonder what happened to him during his first year.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh my gosh! Haha! I don’t think mine will eat coffee beans! He also won’t touch onions or spinach. So, there are three things he won’t eat.

  15. I have 2 kittens that are around 9 months old, we got them when they were 10 weeks old, they are brothers, i only leave a 1/2 a cup of food down a day and they get each 1/2 can each, 5.5 oz cans, of friskies or 9 lives wet food when we eat dinner around 5 pm each day, but they are the laziest cats i’ve ever had and they both weigh near 10 lbs each and i need some advice to help them lose weight. When they play, they destroy everything in their paths, the trash cans aren’t safe, the spare mattress we have leaning against our closet, dirty clothes that one of us accidently left in the bathroom floor, even their litter boxes are their toys. I have a huge mess to clean up every morning when i finally wake up, if they don’t keep me awake in the wee hours of the morning tearing the house down. No matter what i do, their bellies are hanging down and the vet has ruled out diabetes and worms and all that stuff, but it seems like they eat and sleep all day and play all night long, but i don’t know what else to do to help them take the weight off and its frustrating to me. My dog also will not eat anything but cat food, so when we buy her wet dog food, usually mighty dog, same size can roughly that the cats eat, she eats it, but refuses to eat dry dog food….so i guess i have some really weird animals.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *