Weight loss is tough for cats and humans alike! However, ensuring that your cat maintains a healthy weight is key to them being happy and healthy. Plus, it can help lower the risk of other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis, potentially adding years to their life.
Helping your cat lose weight is easier than you think because, as the owner, you have total control over what they eat. However, the challenge comes when you’re trying to put your feline on a diet when you have a multi-cat household. How can you help a cat lose weight with multiple cats living in your home?
Thankfully, you can try feeding your overweight cat at a different time to your other felines and in a different location, or even investing in a collar-activated cat feeder that only opens after recognizing your cat’s microchip. Yes, it’s more challenging than if you just had one cat, but it is possible and important to ensure cats in multi-cat households also stay healthy.
In this article, I will run through some creative ways in how to help a cat lose weight with multiple cats living at home, along with some information on how you can tell if your cat is overweight and why maintaining a healthy weight is so important.
How Can I Help a Cat Lose Weight with Multiple Cats?
The main two ways to help your cat lose weight is by decreasing the amount of food that your cat consumes and encouraging them to exercise more. This will put them in a calorie deficit, meaning they will burn some of the fat on their bodies as a source of energy and reduce their body weight.
However, as having more than one cat can make this more difficult, you need to use some creative solutions to this problem. Knowing how to feed two cats when one is overweight is essential to their health and wellbeing. So, try using one or more of the below options to help your cat shift those extra pounds.
1. Avoid Communal Feeding
When you own more than one cat, it is common for one to be greedy and overeat, and for another to hang back, only eating what your overweight cat hasn’t managed to scoff. This is unwanted behavior for two reasons; your cat that overeats will become overweight, but also your other cat may become underweight and lack the nutrients that they need.
If you feed your cats from one large communal bowl, swap so that each of your cats has their own food bowl and see if this helps them to eat their allocated potion only. If not, try placing the food bowls in different areas of the room rather than all in a row. This should help establish that each cat should only eat from their specific bowl.
If your greedy cat still manages to gulp down all of your cats’ food, start feeding your cats in separate rooms with the door closed so that your overweight cat cannot get access to the other cats’ food.
2. Put Your Cat on a Diet
While stopping your overweight cat from nibbling on your other cats’ food is great, you also need to ensure the amount of food you are putting in their bowl is correct. If they only eat from their bowl but it is overflowing with too much food, they’ll still end up putting on weight!
The amount of food needed to promote weight loss will depend on your cat, so take them to the veterinarian and ask for their advice on what diet to put your cat on. This will be based on their current size and build.
You may be able to simply reduce the quantity of food in the cat food bowls, or use a special diet food designed to facilitate weight loss. Wet diet food is generally the most successful as typically cats will prefer eating wet food to dry food, but this is down to the preference of each individual cat.
You can purchase weight-loss food from your local pet store and many popular cat food brands will offer a diet option. However, these vary greatly, with some being high in protein but low in carbohydrates, whereas others will contain lots of fiber to keep your cat feeling fuller for longer. Therefore, it is best to use a diet plan specified by your vet to ensure the diet food contains the right nutrients for your specific cat.
Once you have decided on a diet food and determined the amount of food you should be feeding your overweight cat, place this in their allocated bowl away from your other cats at feeding time. You may need to start by mixing their old food with the diet food and transition to the new food over the coming weeks.
If your cat refuses to eat its new diet food, take your cat back to the vet and ask them for advice.
3. Don’t Leave Food Down
You also need to make sure you do not leave the food dishes lying around. Instead, pick them up around 30 minutes after feeding and throw away any remaining food. You should do this for all of your cats, not just the cat that you are trying to help lose weight. This will help your cats realize that they can only eat during meal times and help them form a feeding schedule.
Once they have realized this, you can start taking their bowls away as soon as they walk away from their food. Your cats will only walk away once they are full, so the remaining food does not need to be eaten and can be thrown away.
This is particularly important if you have put your overweight cat on a new diet and reduced their food intake. If you don’t do this, your cat may sneakily eat the remaining food in your other cats’ bowls, or your other cats may eat the diet food and not get enough of the nutrients that specifically they need.
4. Create a Blockade
If your cats are still eating from each other’s bowls despite them being placed around the room, you may need to create a physical blockade. As mentioned, feeding your overweight cat in a different room from your other cats can be a solution, but there are also some creative solutions too.
One easy way is to use cardboard boxes and cut a small hole in one side that is large enough for your smaller cat or cats to get through, but too small for your overweight cat. Simply place this box over the food bowls for your non-dieting cats and your overweight cat won’t be able to get access to their food.
Similarly, you could work vertically and feed your healthy cats on a high surface where the overweight cat is not fit enough to jump up to. Cats love climbing and should feel quite comfortable eating up high, meaning this will have no negative impact on your healthy cats.
You can also purchase a cat feeder with collar sensor. These feeders will remain closed and the food inaccessible until the specific cat whose feeder it is passes nearby. A tag on their collar or their unique microchip number will trigger the cat feeder to open, giving them access to their food.
By purchasing one of these collar activated feeding bowls for each cat you own, they will only be able to eat the food that is meant for them. This is perfect for controlling both the quantity of the food that they eat and for managing different diets in one household.
5 – Slow Down Feeding
Another good way to promote healthy eating is to encourage your cats to eat more slowly. This way, they are more likely to realize when they are full and when they should stop eating. This is a great one if you have two cats but one is overweight as it is easy to implement in a multi-cat household. Plus, if all your cats stop eating as quickly it is only a positive, helping to reduce indigestion and vomiting.
To do this, you could split the food that your cats need to eat that day into five or six smaller portions spread throughout the day, rather than two larger meals per day. Although this is more difficult for owners who are out of the house working, it is still possible to give three smaller meals in the morning and three in the evening once you’re home.
Slow feeding bowls are another great option. These have puzzles or other obstructions in the way, meaning your cat has to work for their food rather than simply eating it. Simply switching to a larger dish can also help slow down eating, particularly if you are feeding your cat kibble. It will be harder for them to pick up the food in their mouths and will chase it around the plate, slowing down feeding.
You could also try squashing down wet cat food so that your cat has to lick it to eat it or try adding a little water to wet or dry food to bulk it out. The added water content will help to fill up your cat more too, as well as helping them to consume more water.
6. Encourage Play
You can also help your overweight cat shift those extra pounds through exercise. This is another easy one to implement if you have two or more cats, as making all of your cats more active will only bring benefits to them all.
Ideally, your cats should each have at least 15 minutes of playtime twice per day. A little more is okay for overweight cats, so long as you keep an eye out for signs of exhaustion and take a break if needed. You can use a variety of different cat toys to spark interest, from laser pointers to feather sticks and everything in between.
Also, ensure you constantly change your cat’s toys to keep them entertained. Cats are intelligent creatures and will quickly get bored with some toys if every day playing is exactly the same. You can try automatic laser cat toys, motorized cat toys, flopping fish cat toys.
Another great way to encourage play is through balls that contain and release kibble. Instead of putting your cat’s biscuits in their food bowl, try putting it inside a toy like this which your cat has to roll around to get pieces of food. This will help to reduce weight by both encouraging exercise and slowing down eating simultaneously. You must do this instead of using their food bowl, not as well. Otherwise, your cat will be overeating.
Is My Cat Overweight?
Many owners don’t realize that their cat is overweight until it is pointed out by a vet. However, this is something you should keep an eye on religiously by yourself by paying close attention to their body shape.
Here are five different body shapes and what it means for your cat:
- Severely Underweight: If your cat has very little muscle, little to no body fat, and you can easily see their ribcage, backbone, and hip bones, then they are severely underweight.
- Underweight: If you can see your cat’s ribcage and backbone protruding, but their hip bones are covered in a layer of fat, your cat is underweight.
- Ideal Weight: Ideally, your cat should have a small pad of fat on its tummy, and its ribcage, hipbones, and backbone should not be visible but can be felt through touch.
- Overweight: If your cat is overweight, you will struggle to feel their hips, backbone, and ribs through their fat. They will also have no defined waist and an enlarged fat pad on their tummy.
- Obese: Cats that are obese will have a rounded body with no definition of the backbone, hips, or ribs which cannot be felt through touch. The tummy fat will also hang low underneath their body and you will likely notice health and movement problems.
If you do notice that your cat is overweight or underweight, always take them to the veterinarian before making any drastic changes to their diet or exercise regime. The excess weight may be down to underlying medical conditions or even pregnancy rather than being in a calorific surplus, so this needs to be ruled out before lifestyle changes are made.
What are the Health Risks of Cats Being Overweight?
Now you know how to help a cat lose weight with multiple cats in one household, it is important you understand the risks of obesity in cats. This way, you can understand the urgency of getting your cat to a healthy weight and start implementing some of the above tactics as soon as possible to promote weight loss at a healthy pace.
Getting your cat to a healthy weight can help reduce several major health conditions, such as the following:
- Type II Diabetes: Feline obesity is the biggest risk factor for feline diabetes, increasing the risk by four when compared to cats of a healthy weight. Diabetic cats will have high blood sugar levels, which can lead to vomiting, dehydration, depression, coma, and even death if left untreated.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is where cats have swollen and painful joints which makes moving around difficult and uncomfortable. While being in persistent pain, cats may also develop behavioral issues such as stopping to use their litter box. With no treatment for arthritis, maintaining a healthy weight is important in preventing it.
- Urinary Problems: Due to overweight cats not being able to groom themselves properly, they are also more likely to develop urinary problems, such as bladder infections, kidney stones, or feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC).
- Liver Disease: When cats stop eating for three or more consecutive days, they can develop a uniquely feline liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. The risk of developing this condition is greater in overweight cats. If not treated, this condition can be fatal.
- Breathing Difficulties: With added fat around the chest, lungs, and tummy, obese cats can also develop breathing difficulties as there is added weight that their muscles must move to facilitate breathing.
- Heart Disease: The excess of fatty deposits in the blood vessels of overweight cats will also cause an increase in blood pressure. This places additional strain on the heart which will need to work harder to pump the blood around the body. This will thicken the heart muscle and while making it weaker, increasing the chance of heart disease.
If you notice your cat is overweight, take them to the vet and ask for advice on a diet plan suited to your specific cat. This can help to give them a longer, happier, and healthier life, reducing the risk of several serious medical conditions.
Knowing how to help a cat lose weight with multiple cats in one household and ensuring your overweight cat sticks to their diet plan is essential in its success, so use these tips outlined in the article to ensure it works – be that changing feeding schedules, separating your cats at feeding time, or even encouraging play and slow feeding which will benefit each and every cat in your household!