Is Your Cat Fat?…Probably.

Is Your Cat Fat?…Probably.

Is Your Cat Fat?...Probably.

So you came into our lounge (or pretty much any animal shelter,) you saw a big bowl of dry food sitting out for all of the cats to graze on and you figured that’s how you should feed your cat too, right?  Not so fast. 

Where Does Your Cat Fall on the Chonk Chart?

Chonk Chart funny cat weight chart

While funny, the above video is also true (see a proper version of a cat body condition score chart below.  The Chonk Chart is actually pretty dead-on.)  Many cat lovers are so used to seeing Heckin’ Chonkers that they don’t realize how overweight their cat is, and how this could be negatively affecting the cat’s health.  

Cat body condition score chart for cat health

Check With Your Vet

Keep in mind, we are not veterinarians.  You should always talk to your veterinarian about the best thing to do for your specific cat.  That said, indoor cats are more commonly overweight, likely due to a combination of having fewer opportunities for exercise, and being free fed. Shelters generally free feed their cats because it’s often a necessary evil when taking care of that many animals at once.  (Imagine trying to set down the first bowl of food for cat #1 out of 30 without the other 29 divebombing it all at once.)  For cats living in their forever home though, they will ideally be fed measured portions at set mealtimes.  This provides the most health benefits for the cat.  

For clarification, by “free feeding” we mean you fill a bowl with dry food and top it off whenever it’s low, not measuring how much you’re giving them.  By “meal feeding” we mean you feed them a minimum of two meals a day, each meal measured according to the package instructions for the weight and age of your cat.  

Benefits of Meal Feeding Your Cat

How to Transition from Free Feeding to Meal Feeding

If your cat is currently free feeding, it’s relatively easy to transition them.  Again, check with your vet, but here’s one way to do it: 

  1. Determine what times of day you will feed your cat.  Consider your work schedule and what times of day you are generally home.  They will need at least two mealtimes a day.
  2. Refer to the cat food packaging or the company’s website to determine how much food your cat should get in a 24 hour period.  An average sized housecat weighs about 10lbs, but it’s best to weigh your cat, if possible.  
  3. Divide the food amount by the number of meals you plan to feed them.  So if the packaging says they should get 1/2 cup a day and you plan to feed two meals, then they should get 1/4 cup at each meal.  
  4. Put away their food bowl at the first scheduled mealtime.  So if you plan to feed them at 9am and 9pm, put away their food at 9am.  
  5. At the next scheduled mealtime, give them their measured portion of food.  (ex: 1/4 cup at 9pm) If they don’t eat all of the food right away, leave the bowl down until they seem like they’re finished and walk away from it, then put it away for a few hours before setting it out again to let them finish the rest.  It’s important they eat enough food each day, but it may take them several days to get used to eating all of their food in one sitting. 
  6. Continue to feed your cat measured portions at the scheduled times, putting away their food when they walk away and trying again a few hours later, until your cat is eating their entire meal at each mealtime. 
  7. Monitor your cat over the next several months.  The serving sizes on the packages are a starting point and you may need to increase or decrease their food portion depending on how their weight changes.  

Bonus Tips

  1. Select a word, action or even ringtone that will be the mealtime alarm to let your cat know they’re about to get food.  Use it before EVERY meal.  This can be very helpful for cats who like to wake you up early for their breakfast and it can be a helpful reminder for you to keep their meals on schedule if you set a recurring alarm with a specific ringtone.  When your cat learns they only get fed after they hear that specific ringtone, and they’re fed at the same times everyday, it tends to be a little easier to get a full night’s sleep. 
  2. Make mealtime an exciting event, especially for the first few days.  Play with your cat with a wand toy for a few minutes before, talk in an excited voice, give your cat lots of pets when they’re finished eating or whatever other positive reinforcement they respond to.  You want your cat to know that mealtimes are a positive bonding time with them. 
  3. If your cat is overweight and you’re transitioning them to mealtimes, but you miss giving them treats throughout the day, just use some of their portioned food as a “treat.”  Or if you want to give them actual cat treats, just be sure to deduct that amount of calories from the portion at their next meal.  Keep in mind an average sized housecat should get around 250 calories a day, so even what seems like a small handful of treats can easily add up to half of their calories for the day!

Keep Your Cat Happy AND Healthy

So talk to your vet, and consider measuring out your cat’s food and feeding them at set mealtimes. While you’re at it, add a few extra shelves for your cat to jump around on and spend a few extra minutes a day burning off some of their energy with one of their favorite toys.  We know you already love them to pieces or you wouldn’t have read this far.  We’re just just hoping to give you a few more ways to be a rockstar cat parent.  😸

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