Noticed your feline friend is a few pounds heavier than they should be? There are many reasons why a cat might be overweight, such as hormonal changes, diet, overeating, age and lack of exercise.
While every cat is different, it’s a good idea to ask yourself these two questions:
- Am I feeding my cat the diet they need to thrive?
- Am I feeding my cat the right amount of food?
Feeding your cat the right foods, in the right quantities, will help them reach a healthy weight and reduce their chances of obesity-related problems such as diabetes, arthritis, skin and coat issues, and urinary tract disease. Let’s explore the best cat food for weight loss below.
What should your cat be eating?
Think about big cats in the wild. Do you ever see an obese lion or tiger?
The answer is generally no, because wild cats aren’t eating highly processed foods filled with carbohydrates. They’re eating a biologically appropriate diet based solely on meat-based protein.
Cats are obligate carnivores (or ‘true carnivores’), meaning they’re designed to eat meat. They have no requirement for carbohydrates in their diet, yet many commercial cat foods are filled with them.
Why? Because grains are cheaper than meat!
Cats use fat and protein as primary energy sources, so a diet high in carbohydrates is a recipe for weight gain (as any carbs not used for energy are stored as fat). Cats also lack salivary amylase (the enzyme responsible for carbohydrate digestion), which puts additional strain on their digestive system.
This is why steering clear of ‘light’ or ‘diet’ foods is also important. They may seem appealing at first glance, but if you look closer at the ingredients list you’ll notice some red flags. These foods are low in fat and replace quality meat-based proteins with grains and other non-digestible carbohydrates - so they will never deliver the energy or nutrients your cat needs to thrive!
Remember: it’s not just the number of calories we should be thinking about, it’s the source and quality of the calories. If your cat is eating foods their body can't digest, their internal systems can’t work as effectively.
The best cat food for weight loss is the same food that supports their everyday health and wellbeing: a biologically appropriate, meat-rich diet like ZIWI Peak. You’ll find 96% meat, organs, seafood and bone in all of our air-dried recipes, without the added carbohydrates or sugars. It’s perfect for all breeds and life stages, especially picky eaters or those with sensitive tummies.
How much should your cat be eating?
The great thing about biologically appropriate foods like ZIWI Peak is that pets are more satisfied after eating - but because they’re so nutrient dense, it’s crucial to feed them the right amount.
To figure out how much your cat should be eating to reach their ideal weight, follow these 4 steps:
- Choose a ZIWI Peak recipe (either air-dried or wet)
- Slowly start transitioning to the new ZIWI diet (see tips here)
- If your cat is slightly overweight, start feeding them the amount recommended for their ideal weight, not their current weight (use our handy feeding calculator here). If your cat is significantly overweight, you’ll need to reduce their food intake slowly, in very small increments, before you’re able to drop it further in line with the recommendation for their ideal weight
- Once they reach their ideal weight, keep feeding your cat this amount ongoing.
Health is a lifestyle
Diet is only one part of a healthy lifestyle, so it’s important to remember the age and activity levels of your cat will also impact their weight.
Older cats are more likely to gain weight over their younger counterparts due to the natural aging process (which sees their metabolism slow down). If your little fluff ball is still a kitten, they need to be eating a higher number of calories per day while they’re young, but don't forget to reduce their calories as they move into adulthood.
If your cat is mainly indoors (with no access to trees, streets or gardens), it's even more important to create opportunities for daily exercise. Physical activity isn't just important for their physical health but their mental wellbeing too.
To keep your indoor cat active you could try:
- A cat tower or play gym
- Pointing a laser pen at the walls (they’ll love chasing it)
- Experimenting with toys like wands, shoelaces or ping pong balls
- Leash walking outside
Last but not least, only feed your cat at designated meal times. Although leaving a big bowl of food out for your kitty (known as ‘free feeding’) can keep them occupied, they’ll end up eating far more calories than they need. Like humans, cats don't always have the willpower to stop eating when they’re full!
The diet and lifestyle changes we’ve explored today won’t solve all your cat’s problems, but they’re a powerful step in the right direction.
When you start feeding your cat the right foods in the right quantities, you’ll notice many positive ripple effects on all areas of their health and happiness. Slow and steady weight loss is just the start.