Preventing Obesity in Cats: Portion Control Tips

Preventing Obesity in Cats

Obesity is one of the most common health issues affecting cats today. Studies show that over 50% of cats are overweight or obese. Carrying excess weight puts cats at risk for several serious diseases including diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.

The main cause of feline obesity is overfeeding. Cats are natural grazers and tend to eat whenever food is available.

As pet owners, we have to take charge of their portions to keep their weight at a healthy level. In this article, we are going to share some practical tips on using portion control to prevent or reduce obesity in cats.

Why is portion control important for cats?

Controlling portions is critical for preventing obesity in cats. Cats are prone to overeating because domesticated house cats have inherited the eating behaviors of their wild ancestors. In the wild, cats would eat as much as possible when food was available to survive times of scarcity.

However, our house cats always have a full bowl of food accessible. This leads to chronic overeating and obesity. Studies show that 58% of cats are overweight, with roughly 25% qualifying as obese.

Carrying excess weight puts cats at serious risk for diabetes, arthritis, urinary tract disease, heart disease, respiratory disease, and fatty liver disease. Overweight cats also have lower energy levels and a shortened lifespan.

Since cats will eat whenever food is available, it’s up to owners to regulate portions. Carefully measuring meals based on your cat’s needs and feeding set amounts can prevent overeating and obesity. Portion control puts you in charge of how much your cat eats to maintain optimal body weight and health.

10 Portion Control Tips for preventing obesity in Cats

1. Determine the Right Portion Size

The first step is to figure out how much food your cat should be eating each day. The amount depends on your cat’s age, size, and activity level. Read the feeding guidelines on your cat food bag or can and use the recommendations for your cat’s weight as a starting point.

The guidelines show a range, so start on the lower end. For example, if your 10 pound cat’s food says to feed 1/2 to 2/3 cups per day, start with 1/2 cup split between 2-3 small meals. You can adjust portions up or down depending on your cat’s body condition.

2. Weigh the Food

Once you know how much to feed per day, use a measuring cup to portion out the amount. Don’t just eyeball it or refill the bowl without measuring. Weighing or measuring ensures accurate portions at each meal.

Invest in a kitchen scale for the most precision. You can find affordable digital scales designed just for pet food. Weighing dry food is simple – just place the bowl on the scale, hit tare to reset between ingredients, and pour until you reach the desired weight.

For wet food, you’ll need to weigh the can first, then weigh the bowl with food. Subtract the bowl’s weight to get the food amount. This takes a bit more effort than dry food but ensures proper portions.

3. Split Between Meals

Don’t dump the whole daily portion in the bowl at once. Feed cats smaller meals a few times throughout the day. Smaller meals are easier for cats to digest and prevent overeating.

Split the total into at least two feedings. Three is even better for portion control. Just divide the total by the number of meals. For example, if your cat gets 1/2 cup per day, feed 1/4 cup twice a day or about 1/6 cup three times a day.

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4. Use Slow Feed Bowls

Slow feed bowls have maze-like patterns that force cats to eat more slowly. This gives the brain time to recognize feelings of fullness so cats don’t overeat. Look for bowls with a flower, circle, wave, or egg crate pattern.

You can also make your own slow feeder by placing a ball in the bowl so your cat has to eat around it. Or put dry food inside a food dispensing toy. Anything that slowed down speed eating helps with portion control.

Use Slow Feed Bowls for cats

5. Store Food Properly

Don’t leave food sitting out where your cat can access it anytime. This makes it too easy for cats to overeat. Pick up uneaten wet food after an hour and store dry food in a sealed container.

Store in a pantry, closet, or cat-proof cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind. Cats are less tempted to beg for food they can’t see or smell. Proper food storage supports your portion control efforts.

6. Weigh Regularly

Weigh your cat at least monthly to make sure portions are working. Use a pet scale designed for easy weighing. Pick a consistent time like first thing in the morning before feeding.

Record weights to monitor trends. A gradual increase likely means you need to cut back on portions. If weight stays steady, you’ve found the right amount.

7. Avoid free feeding.

Free feeding or leaving food out at all times is extremely unhealthy for cats. This allows them to eat more than their bodies require, especially high-calorie dry food. Set scheduled mealtimes and pick up any uneaten wet food after an hour or so. This trains cats to eat when fed and avoid overeating.

8. Split into small meals.

Don’t dump the whole day’s food into one bowl. Feed smaller portions 2-3 times per day instead. Small, frequent meals mimic natural grazing patterns and prevent overeating in one sitting. This approach is healthier for digestion and portion control.

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9. Store food properly.

Keep dry food in an airtight container instead of the bag so your cat can’t snack between meals. Cats beg for food they can see and smell, so proper storage reduces chances to overeat.

10. Encourage exercise.

In addition to diet, ensuring your cat gets daily activity helps burn calories and prevent obesity. Schedule active playtime with toys that get your cat running and jumping. Consider toys that dispense treats or feedings to encourage movement. Outside time in a cat enclosure also provides exercise.

11. Consult Your Vet

Check with your vet before changing your cat’s diet, especially if your cat needs to lose weight. Suddenly cutting portions or switching foods can be dangerous if not done properly.

Your vet can help assess your cat’s body condition score, rule out medical issues, and determine a safe calorie intake and weight loss plan. Work together to decide the daily calorie amounts and portion sizes to help your cat slim down.

Other tips for preventing obesity in cats:

Choose low-calorie foods. Cut unnecessary calories by feeding foods formulated for weight control or sterilized cats, which are lower in fat and calories.

Talk to your vet. Have your vet assess your cat’s body condition score to determine if and how much weight they should lose. The vet can advise proper calorie intake and portion sizes.

Rule out health issues. Make sure any weight gain isn’t tied to an underlying medical condition, such as hypothyroidism. This requires treatment beyond just diet.

Limit treats. Don’t give high-calorie treats like catnip beyond the allocated daily calories.

Choose healthy treats. Swap fatty treats for low-calorie options like freeze-dried chicken or fish.

Feed puzzle toys. Making cats “hunt” for food burns mental and physical energy.

Conclusion:

Portion control is key for preventing and managing obesity in cats. Consult your vet, use an accurate form of measurement, split into small meals, store food properly, and monitor your cat’s weight.

With some diligence about portions, you can help keep your cat at a healthy size. Learn here more about animal and pets health and wellness tips.