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Feeding Your Overweight Cat
In multiple cat households, particularly those with aging cats, it's not unusual to have a cat that starts to gain a little too much weight. With multiple cats, it's much easier to just have one common food bowl that stays out all the time so that the cats can all eat at any time. But what do you do when one cat decides to eat all the time and develops weight issues?
Just like humans, when cats have access to food all the time it can lead to constant snacking and overeating. The answer is to begin controlling your cat's food intake using meal feeding.
Veterinarians generally recommend starting cats on a meal feeding schedule at a young age. Meal feeding is a great way to ensure that your cats aren't overeating. You control when they eat and the amount that they eat.
To set up a meal feeding schedule, decide whether you want to feed your cats once a day or twice a day. Most cat food companies have recommended feeding amounts on their labels, but you should consult your veterinarian. Depending on the cat's age, size, and health issues, the amount needed may be more or less than what the label says. If you choose to feed twice a day, be sure to only feed them half of the recommended amount each time.
Simply put their food out for 10-30 minutes. When the time is up, put the food up and do not feed them again until the next feeding time.
Help for the Overweight Cat
If you have a group of cats and only one needs to lose weight, you will need to set up meal feeding for all of your cats so that food is only ever available at meal times. Then you will need to separate the overweight cat in another room with their individual amount of food. A bathroom, laundry room, or other spare room is a perfect choice. Put the cat and it's food in the room for about 10-30 minutes. Once the time is up, let the cat out and put the food up.
Check your cat's weight once a month or so. You should see some weight loss at a slow, healthy rate. If the overweight cat still isn't losing weight after switching to meal feeding, discuss this with your vet. You may need to decrease the amount of food even more, or possibly change the type of food that the cat is eating.
If you're trying to get older cats used to meal feeding, it may take them a while to get used to it. They may not eat all their food at first, and they may start begging for more food or treats between meal times. Stay strong! Don't slip them extra food or give them treats between meal times, and they will be hungry enough by the next meal time to eat more food. Within a few days, they'll know exactly what time of day is "breakfast time" and "dinner time" and the the begging will cease.
Once the cats are used to meal feedings, you can start giving them between-meal treats occasionally, but only do this in moderation, and be very careful about the amount of treats you give your overweight cat.
It can take up to 2 to 3 months to fully transition your cats to meal feeding. Sometimes you'll have another cat who has a very difficult time adjusting to meal feeding and who just isn't eating enough during mealtimes. Simply slip that cat some extra food each day during a time when the other cats aren't around.
Stacy Lynne is happily owned by her feline friends and has successfully helped one of her kitties lose weight while also managing an growing adolescent cat and a cat with special dietary needs. Her husband jokingly calls her the "Kitty Chef".