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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

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Tori

Sunday 29th of April 2012

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.

Erica White

Sunday 2nd of January 2011

My cat is the same way. He will devour EVERYTHING in sight. Nothing is safe. And as I found out this morning, not even coffee beans!

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 2nd of January 2011

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.

Catriona Main

Saturday 4th of December 2010

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.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 5th of December 2010

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.

Larry

Friday 26th of November 2010

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.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 28th of November 2010

Thanks so much for those tips, and I'm happy to hear your cat is doing well!

Peggy @Peggy's Pet Place

Wednesday 27th of October 2010

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!

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 27th of October 2010

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!