Thriving Cat

How To Put Cat On a Diet (The Stress Free Way)

Cat Looking at Cook Book

How to Put Cat On a Diet

 

Why Is it Difficult to Put a Cat on a Diet and Is There a Better Way?

Gaining weight is a big problem for cats and the most common reason is overeating. Putting cats on a diet can be difficult. Cats are made to eat small portions throughout the day rather than one or two large meals. In fact, cats should not be fed only once per day since it is unhealthy for them. Cats have much faster digestion than people or dogs. This is one reason people give cats free access to dry food. They can go get a few bites throughout the day even when we are gone to work. This is also why it is very hard to put a cat on a diet. I found a better way! Here is my solution for how to put a cat on a diet. A puzzle or slow feeder lets them eat when they want but slows them down considerably. Your can put your cat on a diet but not have to measure out every serving.

Why is Weight Control Important For Cats?

Many common and serious health problems result from cat obesity. Diabetes is one of the most common health conditions cats develop and being overweight is a key risk factor. It would be sad and difficult to have a cat who needs insulin injections every day. If we want to avoid this future for our pets we need to make sure they don’t become obese or get the weight off if that is already the case. Being overweight also puts more stress on a cat’s heart and increases it’s risk of high blood pressure.

Healthy weight also helps prevent: some urinary tract and digestive problems, cancers, extra wear and tear on joints ligaments and tendons, compromised lung, liver and kidney function including fatty liver disease (“hepatic lipidosis”) which can become fatal if untreated.

These are just some of the potential complications of obesity in cats so we need to attempt to control it.

Why is it Difficult to Put Cats on a Diet?

There are several reasons it has been difficult to put cats on a diet. First of all, cats are made to eat small meals many times throughout the day (think hunting mice). They don’t sit down to a huge meal once a day like their larger cousins the tigers and lions. Domestic cats will suffer poor health if they wait too long between meals. This means if you are trying to feed a cat a certain measured portion of food you need to be there to feed them or buy an automatic feeder to dole out measured amounts of food. This is one option.

A more affordable and easy option is to find a way to slow cats down so they can’t gorge on dry food that is left for them. That is where my solution comes in…a puzzle feeder! This has worked great for my cats but more about that later.

Another reason it is hard to diet cats is because they often get indigestion when they don’t eat. Just like people they get an acidic stomach and will throw up if they don’t have food available (or throw up after they finally do get food). Who wants to clean up kitty barf and make your pet feel sick and uncomfortable every day? Not me.

The last reason it is hard to put a cat on a diet is that they will drive you absolutely crazy asking for food constantly. The meowing will get old. Why not avoid all these problems and just get a puzzle feeder?

The Easy Way to Put a Cat on a Diet

So how do we save our cat’s health and put them on a diet without starving them while we are gone to work? The easy solution I found is to use a puzzle or “slow” feeder for dry food. I still feed my cats wet food when I am home since wet food is healthier for them but they have the option to have some dry during the day. Dry food is a key factor in cat weight gain in the first place. Dry food is like bread to humans. It is often full of carbs which cats don’t need and it makes them gain weight. If your cat needs some food on his sensitive stomach while you are away however, dry food is the way to go.

How Does a Puzzle Feeder Help a Cat Lose Weight?

Puzzle feeders work by preventing cats from chowing down on a ton of dry food in a short period of time. Some cats (just like dogs) eat so much dry food so fast that they may throw it back up. Otherwise they just gobble down way more than they should have at once. Like we already discussed, cats are built to eat small meals many times per day. A puzzle feeder helps them do that by slowing them down. That is why puzzle feeders are called “slow” feeders. They force the cat to solve a puzzle in order to get the food. In the case of the puzzle feeder I recommend, it is not difficult, just time consuming. The food is right there where they can see it and smell it, they just need to reach their paw in to scoop the food out. This sounds simple and it is, but some cats take a while to figure this out while others figure it out instantly.

This puzzle feeder is very large and is in fact sold as a dog feeder. I use this one since I have 4 cats and I want it to hold enough food I don’t have to fill it every day. If you only have one cat you could get one of the smaller options by the same brand.

This bowl is my choice since the design is not too complex and it doesn’t make a huge mess on the floor. When the food is filled up the cats can simply eat normally out of the bowl. If I don’t fill it up or after enough gets eaten, then they have to use their paws to pull a piece out at a time (depending on the size of your cat they may be able to eat out of it directly but they will have to go slowly even when the food is at the bottom). My polydactile kitty might have a harder time reaching her large paws in to scoop out food but she is tiny so her little muzzle fits anyway and she can work the pieces out without using her paws.

There are much more elaborate puzzle feeders to choose from if you wish such as this food tree model which I also tried:

If you want to read about my experience with this puzzle feeder food tree, you can check it out here: Cat Puzzle Feeders. There are pros and cons to different models.

Do You Need A Portion Control Auto-Feeder?

If you want to know exactly how much your cat eats you can get a timed auto-feeder. These will open up a compartment with food that you have placed there earlier. At a certain time (that you set) the compartment opens and the serving you put there will be available. If you only have one or two cats this would work but with 4 cats I don’t attempt this. If your cat is determine to chow down that may be required however. A smart and determined cat can still get too much food out of a puzzle feeder if you fill it up.

Here is a link to Amazon’s very large selection of timed feeders for cats and dogs. Auto-Feeders on Amazon. There are many great models to choose from! Some have remote controls, some just have one reservoir and measure the food to your specifications rather than having separate compartments. Some even have Wi-Fi so you can see your pet eating and get updates on how much they ate.

Is A Puzzle Feeder Effective for Cat Diets?

Yes! I was skeptical if it would be enough. I had been trying to get my cat’s weight down for years. With the puzzle feeder each of my large, male cats have lost at least a pound according to their records at the vet. One is an orange tabby and one is a Norwegian Forest Cat. They started at 15 and 16 pounds each. That would be equivalent to a 150 pound person losing 10 pounds. That is the only change we have made. They are eating the same food. We had already found a grain free, high quality food. The puzzle feeder was the key to help them lose weight.

Should Cats Have Dry Food?

Wet food is a better form of nutrition for cats. Wet food with it’s high water content and lower amount of carbs and fillers (in a high quality food) is closer to a cat’s natural diet. Eating dry food and not getting enough water is always bad for cats and can lead to serious health conditions such as urinary tract disease and kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease and kidney failure is one of the biggest silent killers of older cats. Therefore, it is vital to make sure your cat gets enough water. Giving wet food instead of or in addition to dry food is one way to help cats stay hydrated. I give my cats wet food as a vehicle to mix in supplements as well as dry food so they can munch throughout the day and night when we are not available to feed them wet food. Cats like fresh food so you cannot just pile up a bunch of wet food and have it last for long. It can spoil and dry out. If I ever find a good auto-feeder for wet food I will let you know!

Feed a High Quality Dry Food

If you feed your cats dry food, make sure it a high quality dry food. Real meat should be the first ingredient. It may be chicken, fish, beef or something else but make sure it is real animal protein from a whole source, not a “meat by-product meal” or other unknown substance. Corn meal, wheat gluten or other grains are also not needed by cats and can cause weight gain. Corn meal and wheat gluten are very common fillers in cat foods and should be avoided. A grain free cat food is usually a better source of nutrients. At a minimum, make sure corn meal, corn gluten meal or wheat gluten are not the first ingredient of your cat’s food. This applies to wet and dry foods. Purina cat foods (even the higher end varieties), Meow Mix and Friskies all have corn meal or something similar as the first ingredient. This means there is more corn meal than any other ingredient. There is more corn than meat. That will never be an appropriate diet for a healthy cat.

Getting Enough Water is Vital for Cats

As discussed above, dehydration is a big problem for cats and can lead to kidney disease and eventually kidney failure. Make sure your cat drinks water every single day. Some cats lap up a little here and there. Some tank up just a few times per day. When feeding dry food it is especially important to make sure your cats are drinking water.

Provide unlimited clean, fresh water for your cats to avoid health problems. It should be clean, in a clean bowl and it should NEVER run out. Here are my tips to make sure your cat drinks plenty of water. 

Have You Put Your Cat on a Diet?

If you have any good cat dieting tips or experience I would love to hear it. Leave me a comment below or ask a question.

For more information on cat health and behavior problems and solutions, please look around this website. The Categories on the right side of the page will take you to the specific topics you select.

Please note: I am not a veterinarian. Nothing in this post constitutes medical advice. Always see a veterinarian before starting a new diet or attempting to diagnose any medical condition.

Jessica

https://thrivingcat.com

Thriving Cat makes use of affiliate relationships with merchants such as Amazon Associates for monetization. This means when you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in a small commission that is credited to this site. This does not affect purchase price and you will not pay a penny more.

Please leave any thoughts or questions in a comment below! I would love to hear from you.

 

 

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32 Comments

  1. Gomer

    Okay, I’m convinced. Our cat is obese, she’s visibly overweight and I may use an auto-feeder for her, preferably that one with wi-fi. I am a very busy person, I love automation and perhaps that one sold in Amazon (via your link) will help PLUS I can monitor how much she eat in a given moment.

    I’d like to ask, how do you know if the cat has a Diabetes? What sorts of signs can we see that indicates she’s suffering from Diabetes? Are the signs and symptoms similar to humans?

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Gomer,
      There are many signs of diabetes in cats including:

      Obesity,
      Weak hind legs,
      Excessive thirst,
      Excessive urination,
      Dandruff or oily coat,
      Lethargy,
      Vomiting,
      Weight loss,
      Lack of appetite

      Be aware that not all of these symptoms need to be present for a cat to have diabetes. There are also two different types of diabetes, Type I and Type II. Depending on which they have, they may have a different combination of symptoms. Type II is less serious but will progress to Type I. With Type I, the cat will need insulin injections every day. That is one reason we really want to prevent diabetes in cats.

      Reply
  2. Aye2019

    This is great, Jessica. I love cat, not only because they’re as friendly as dogs but because they’re quite funny. I never knew that putting them on a diet can be possible. Even though I try to put them on a diet, I can’t deny them access to the outside where they constantly look for and find food they will eat. However, your method  will definitely have impact no matter how much they eat when they get out.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Yes, cats will eat what they want outside. If they are catching small animals that is healthy however. Cats don’t get fat from eating wild animals, they get far from eating commercial cat food. 

      A puzzle feeder should help limit the amount of cat food they eat when they are inside. 

      Reply
  3. Stella

    This is a very interesting niche you have chosen…

    I usually allow cats I’ve owned outside to exercise.  Portion control never entered my head as I normally give my cats everything from fish,. avocadoes and minced carrot scraps.

    None of my cats have ever had a problem.  However, I understand that if a cat is only for indoors, it will comfort eat, especially when neutered.

    Thanks for the information though, very interesting!

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Portion control is more of a problem for cats that just eat commercial cat food. It is often low quality and has fillers and fattening ingredients that are not very nutritious. Therefore, cats eat more and more because they are not getting the nutrition they need. It is better to feed a natural food or wet food diet but if we have to offer dry food too then it helps to slow them down so they can’t eat so fast. 

      Reply
  4. David

    Wow! You did a nice job with your article. Its informative and captivating too. I never knew that gaining weight had a negative influence on cats nor how it could be controlled and i never pray for my cat to get obesity or diabetes because like you mentioned, having a pet that needs insulin everyday could be exhausting.

    I agree with you about the Puzzle feeders being the best way to control a cat’s weight because of its ability to prevent cats from chowing down on a ton of dry food in a short period of time. There could be no more better strategy than this. 

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Thanks David. It is a really easy and affordable solution that is not widely known so I am happy to share the idea here. 

      Reply
  5. Pronay Pappu

    Hey Jessica,
    I love this article. I’m also a cat lover. But I have no idea how to put the cat on a diet. So, I read your full article. So, guess what!! It’s solved my problems. I try this with my cat. And the result is positive. It’s really working.
    I’m gonna share this article with my friends. Thanks again for sharing this awesome article.

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Thank you. I am glad to know the puzzle feeder is working for you.

      Reply
  6. Riaz Shah

    Glad you wrote about this Jessica,

    My cat Koko has gotten a bit too fat, it’s eating breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, and dinner, talk about wow. Getting a portion controller would be a great idea, I can control how much food should koko eat but out of curiosity, wouldn’t the cat feel sad or moody if there was a sudden change in its food plans? I know I would 😀

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Yes, that is possible. One of my cats meowed and meowed and got me to fill it up to the top so he did not have to work for the food. I felt so sorry for him that I did! I knew I shouldn’t but I gave in anyway. My super smart girl figured it out right away however. She just reached in with her paw and scooped the food out with no problem. Eventually, all of them figured it out so now none of them beg for extra food. 

      Reply
  7. Jenny

    Oh, I like catit senses. I worry though a little bit that my cat is too heavy and she may push it down. She’s 14 pounds and very energetic. I’ve been trying to help her lose it with diet and some extra toys. I hope this will help her.

    Thank you very much for the suggestion.

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hi Jenny. My boys are both around 15 pounds and they never pushed it over. It has a HUGE base so it is not tippy at all. The base is stable but that means it is taking up a good deal of floor space as well. If you have the room you could give it a try. 

      Puzzle feeders in general are a great solution. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well they have worked. Seeing both of my boys lose a pound each was all the proof I needed! Of course I have to point out they are given wet food multiple times per day so they don’t have to eat as much dry food anymore. Wet food is healthier for cats and less likely to make them gain weight. I like to have dry food available for when we are not home however and super high quality wet food is expensive. The dry food we buy is a high quality dry food to balance out the lower (middle range) quality wet food. 

      Thanks for stopping by and I hope you find a puzzle feeder.

      Jessica

      Reply
  8. Monalisha

    Hi Jessica.
    Thank you for your post because your post helped me very much. I have a lovely cat and it has overweight. As you mentioned putting cats on a diet can be difficult, I have fallen into many difficulties to lose my cat weight. You have nicely described the better way of losing a cat weight, why is weight control important for cats, easy way to put the cat on a diet, is a puzzle feeder effective for cats diet, should cats have dry food and so on. I have learned many unknown things about cat that will help me to take care of my cat. I will definitely share your helpful post.
    Thank you so much for your helpful post.

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Thank you Monalisha. I am glad this was useful for you and I hope you can keep your lovely cat healthy.

      Jessica

      Reply
  9. Babsie Wagner

    I had three cats for many years.  Unfortunately, my last one (18 years old) died a year back.  I’ve been thinking of getting another two (I think they need to have each other) and I’m glad I came across your article.  I always fed my cats dry and soft food (lots of soft food) and people said I spoiled my cats, but now that I read your article, it just makes sense.  I don’t eat cereal myself except occasionally as a treat because I know it’s just full of grains which aren’t really good for us, so why would cats be any different.  They need meat and fish!!  Now I can just point people to your article when they tell me I spoil my cats, lol!

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      I am sorry you lost your kitty. 

      An all dry food diet is not healthy for cats. Canned food is very expensive though and of course it is harder to deal with due to spoilage. Dry is more affordable and more convenient. 

      The dry food we use is much higher quality than normal dry food. It is full of “superfood” ingredients. Buying comparable wet food would cost a lot. Therefore we use both. The wet food is a great vehicle to give them supplements as well. The dry food is higher quality and makes sure they are ok if we are gone and not there to feed them wet. It is an odd balance!

      No, you are not spoiling them. You are providing the with variety and more balanced diet. There is a reason the average life span of a cat has doubled since the 1980s (when it was only 7 years). That is because people are treating cats more like a part of the family and considering what they are fed, making sure they get regular veterinary care etc. Keep it up!

      Reply
  10. Kaju

    WOW, I LOVE your cat site Jessica! It is my one-stop place to find out everything about Cats!
    And all of the posts are helpful and very informative too.

    I can see why you do so well on Amazon. Kudos!!

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Thanks Kaju. I hope to provide pet owners with information to help them deal with common health and behavior problems and to encourage adoption of more pets in need. If pet owners have easy solutions for pet problems they will be more likely to keep pets and not dump them and hopefully also adopt more.

      I am glad you enjoy ThrivingCat!

      Jessica

      Reply
  11. Todd Matthews

    Those puzzle feeders are pretty cool, and a clever way to put a cat on a diet without them going overboard; greatly slowing down the feeding process. For those who have neither time or patience to exercise portion control, which for cats might be an issue due to the feeding frequencies to keep them healthy, puzzle feeders are perfect for such cat owners. Personally, I would go with these rather than measure every single portion four times a day; it’s a bit of a challenge for the cats, too. 

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Yes, we have busy lives and it is hard enough to keep ourselves eating in a healthy manner, let alone our pets. I was floored at how simple and effective this method was when I discovered it. I will never be without a puzzle feeder for pets again!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Jessica

      Reply
  12. Joachim

    Hi Jessica,

    thanks for an informative read. You had me within the first paragraph! I used to have a cat before, and I knew about and did the “free access to dry food”, but I never knew why this was ok! To me it seemed counterproductive if you want your cat not to overeat, but I never put in the research to find out why this was not actually the case, so thank you for explaining that right away!

    I wish I had your puzzle feeder back when I had a cat, but at least I know for sure now what to get the next I get a cat (and I’ve planned that for some time now). 

    One question on the dry food-section: Do you suggest not giving them any dry food whenever that’s a possibility? By that I mean for example on the weekend, since many people will work during the week, and have one or a couple of full days off during the weekend. I thought maybe they needed some dry food as well, to “balance” their diet, but that might be a misconception?

    Great article, and your writing makes it a very easy read!

    Thank you,

    Joachim

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Joachim,

      Yes, the puzzle feeder is a simple and totally effective method and I am surprised it took me so many years to figure it out! It makes life so much easier and the cats are healthier for it. 

      Whether cats should not eat dry food on certain days is a complex question. First of all, cats are sensitive to changes in their diet so anytime they start a new food they are inclined to have digestive issues. I don’t know if a day without dry food would cause a problem but several days at a time might. The nutritional value of dry food is entirely dependent on the quality and variety of the dry food and the quality of the wet food they are eating. If they are being fed a very high quality wet food, the dry may not be necessary nutritionally. For us it is the other way around however, and the dry food is the higher quality food with better nutrition since wet food is very expensive. 

      Your cat, the kind of food they are eating etc. will all contribute to your decision to balance wet and dry food.

      Thanks for your comments and for stopping by!

      Jessica

      Reply
  13. Charles

    I think the hardest part would be if the cat meowed and showed signs of sadness. It would  break my heart. But its true. Being overweight can’t be healthy for any species including cats. I appreciate how you wrote about the subject from a very gentle perspective. I also checked your link about providing plenty of water. Water will be good for cats. Are there cat exercises you can do, to play with the cat and help them raise their activity level? 

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      They don’t show any signs of unhappiness because the puzzle feeder allows them to eat anytime they want. They just have to slow down and can’t gobble all the food at once. 

      Yes, water is crucial for cat’s health. Make sure it is clean and fresh every day. 

      Exercise is always good but is difficult to achieve with some cats. A tall cat tree helps since they want to be up high. Even my laziest cat goes to the top of the tree. Getting a playmate for a cat is the best way to assure they get exercise. That is why we got more cats in the first place. We wanted to keep our first cat active so he didn’t just sleep all day. 

      It worked. The two boys play together and even my oldest who is 15 still plays like a kitten running and bouncing over the others and running up the cat tree. 

      Reply
  14. Jordan Smith

    The catit senses 2.0 food tree is very awesome. My fat, lazy cat really hates this thing. Well, I love it. She hates it just because she can’t gobble her food down as fast as possible and she has to do a lot of work to get the food, she always cry for more. She has actually being eating a little less since she is to lazy to keep at it too long and that’s a good news because she’s also loosing weight. Nice write-up Jessica.

    Regards!

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Jordan,

      I am glad your cat uses the Catit Senses 2.0 and it is slowing her down so she can’t gobble her food so quickly. I am amazed cat food puzzle feeders didn’t catch on sooner since they are such a good idea!

      Thanks for your comments,

      Jessica

      Reply
  15. SeunJeremiah

    Indeed too many pet owners truly believe that food intake has nothing at all to do with their pet’s weight and no amount of counseling will convince them otherwise. I have come to realize this article is all about how to feed the proper food and in the correct quantity so that the cat will lose weight safely or maintain an optimum weight. It’s amazing how this post is truly helpful and stress free. Thanks a bunch.

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello,

      I am glad this post was useful for you. It really is easy to put cats on a diet with puzzle feeders. 

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Jessica

      Reply
  16. Bailey Boudreau

    Thank you for this information! This might be the cat weight loss solution I have been looking for.

    We have four cats, so it is tricky to change their eating habits. One of them is a healthy weight, two are chubby, and one is very overweight. We give them wet food once a day and have dry food out all the time. The overweight one seems to be always eating and does eat rather quickly. It is really sad to see a pet be that unhealthy, and I know something has to be done about it.

    I had read about timed feeders before but thought they wouldn’t work because we have four cats. A puzzle feeder is a new concept to me, and it looks like a simple but effective solution to overeating in cats. I am going to order one and hope that it helps!

    Which style did you get for your cats? I want to be sure to get one that they can reach into.

    Thanks so much again!

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Bailey,

      I have tried three different models. I tried a box style made of cardboard but it was messy and slid all over the floor. I tried the Catit Senses tower and it was ok but honestly I have stuck with the third one which is the flat bowl style by the Outward Hound brand. I got the large size.

      That brand is made for dogs but since I have 4 cats I wanted a large enough feeder to hold a good portion of food so I don’t have to fill it multiple times per day. If you have four cats as well I would recommend the same large size. 

      I got the purple one because I liked the design and also thought it was a good balanced design that would keep the food in place but still allow them to get their paws in and pull it out. I have not tried the other colors/designs but I am sure some of them would work as well. All four of my cats use the feeder and have learned to eat straight out of it (slowly, one piece at a time) or scoop a piece of food out with their paws and eat it.

      If you get one I would love to hear what you (and your cats) think of it! Please come back and leave a comment. 

      I hope whichever one you get works well for you. 

      Jessica 

      Reply

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