Do you have an overweight cat that can’t lose weight?
There’s a lot of conflicting information online about helping cats lose weight (aka “dechonking”). We all want our cats to live long, healthy lives, and losing weight helps.
Losing weight/dechonking helps reduce the risk of health problems such as diabetes and improves mobility.
In this article, I’ll guide you through step-by-step to dechonking your cat so your cat can live a healthier and happier life.
In this article, I’ll go into detail about how you can help your cat lose weight.
I’ll talk more about how to set calories, how big the deficit needs to be, the ideal weight for your cat, the use of treats, getting your cat to exercise, and special food recommendations.
My name is Derrick, and I write for Simply Cat Care. Our goal with this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats.
I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions relating to your cat’s health.
Let’s get into the article.
How do I know if my cat is overweight?
Use the Body and Muscle Condition Score chart to find out if your cat is overweight.
Similar to humans, cats have an ‘ideal’ weight that is optimal for health.
Your cat should have a little fat around the ribs but not too much. Their abdomen should not distend out.
You can also get a vet to perform a physical and medication examination to inform you whether your cat needs to lose weight.
Keep in mind:
Being too thin also creates health problems for your cat such as reduced strength and increased risk of illness.
The Muscle Condition Score chart will help you find out whether your cat is losing too much muscle.
What are the health risks of my cat being overweight?
More than half of US pets are overweight or obese.
Obesity increases the risk of feline diabetes by 450%, as well as other health conditions.
Larger cats may have trouble grooming themselves and being mobile.
Cat’s rely on grooming to maintain cleanliness.
How do you help your cat lose weight and dechonk?
To lose weight, your cat needs to eat fewer calories than it burns.
This is a caloric deficit and the only way your cat will lose weight.
You can reduce the amount of food given to your cat and/or increase your cat’s exercise and play to burn off more calories.
How do you calculate your cat’s energy needs for weight loss?
This is the fastest and easiest way to get started with a weight loss diet.
You need to enter data into the fields to find out what you need to eat.
Let’s go through each entry:
You need to enter your cat’s weight in kilograms or pounds.
The best way to get your cat’s weight is by holding your cat and standing on a scale.
Subtract your “person weight” from your “person holding cat” weight to find your cat’s weight.
Joe weighs 70kg
Joe holds his cat and stands on the scale – it reads 75kg
Joe’s cat weighs 5kg ( 75kg – 70kg = 5kg)
Spayed, Neutered, or Intact
Next, you need to select whether your cat is spayed, neutered (i.e. desexed), or intact.
This affects how many calories a cat burns in a day.
Body Condition Score
Use the Body Condition Score chart and rate your cat using the scale.
For example, if your cat is a 7 on the scale, use the slider and move the scale to 7.
After you do this, the right-hand panel will show you how much to feed your cat.
Your Estimated Calorie Needs For Your Cat’s Weight Loss
After you entered all the information you will get the daily calories to give your cat.
Here’s an example below:
I entered my pet weight as 5.0kg (equivalent to 11lbs), spayed/neutered, and entered a body condition score of 7.
The calculator suggests an ideal weight of 4.0kg and my cat is 20% over his ideal weight.
You can also see the daily recommended calories of 168 kcal per day (151 kcal from food and 17 kcal from treats).
It’s recommended that you shoot for a weight loss of around 0.5-1% of body weight per week.
For my cat that adds up to around 100g per week – and that means our ideal weight will take around 10 weeks to achieve.
How big does the calorie deficit need to be?
The calorie deficit should be around 10-20% less than the estimated calorie needs of your cat.
The Pet Alliance website will factor in the calorie deficit in their recommendations – so follow the instructions and you are good to go!
Keep in mind your cat still needs enough food to get enough protein, moisture, vitamins, and minerals for overall health.
Slow and steady is the best way to help your cat lose weight without any other health problems.
What is the ideal weight for cats?
The ideal weight for cats varies depending on breed, age, and length.
The most important thing is that your cat is holding enough weight to maintain strength, whilst not being too heavy.
Use the Body Condition Chart to check whether your cat is at a healthy weight.
Check the Muscle Condition Chart to see if your cat is maintaining muscle.
Talk with your vet for more help finding the healthiest weight for your cat.
How many treats should I feed a cat for weight loss/dechonking?
Use the Pet Alliance calculator to find out how many treats to give your cat.
Generally, cats that need to lose weight need fewer treats and healthier options (e.g. freeze-dried meats).
Treats can add up, similar to snacking on finger food during the day. It’s a hidden source of calories outside of meals.
Are there any special food recommendations that help a cat lose weight?
The most important factor in weight loss is making sure your cat does not overeat calories.
You can use the Pet Nutrition Alliance calculator to enter your cat food to find out how much of the food to give to your cat.
I recommend giving your cat wet canned cat food. This helps your cat lose weight in a healthy way for a few reasons:
- Wet canned food has more moisture which helps your cat’s kidneys stay healthy
- Canned food contains fewer calories (lower caloric density) per gram than dry cat food which helps lower calories with the same volume of food
- Wet canned cat food contains more protein which helps your cat stay full for longer
Check out my article on the best wet canned cat food for help choosing a canned choice.
Try to reduce or eliminate the dry cat food in your cat’s diet over time by introducing wet cat food slowly.
How often should I feed my cat for weight loss/dechonking?
I recommend setting scheduled meal times for your cat.
The number of meals your cat needs may vary from 2-6 meals. In the wild, cats eat a lot of small meals in the form of prey such as birds and mice.
This is better than free feeding as you’ll be able to control how much your cat is eating for weight loss.
Check out my article on how often to feed your cat for more.
How do you help dechonk a cat that hates exercise and play?
It’s hard to get a cat to exercise and want to chase a bone like a dog.
However, there are a few strategies that help.
The first strategy is to add more opportunities for play around the house. An automatic cat toy is a great option to look into.
Puzzle feeders are another good choice. They make your cat ‘work’ for their food, similar to how they would in the wild.
How can you narrow down what my cat is allergic and/or intolerant to for dechonking?
If your cat has a suspected food allergy or intolerance they need to go on a food elimination diet.
This involves giving your cat a limited ingredient diet with novel protein food sources (e.g. lamb, turkey).
You then reintroduce foods to check for symptoms of allergy (e.g. dermatitis, itching skin) and remove the offending foods.
Check out my article on the best dry cat food for allergies. Speak with your vet for more advice on a food elimination diet.
What do I do if my cat is not losing weight even with diet?
Make sure to double-check with the Pet Alliance calculator that you are providing the right amount of calories for weight loss.
Your cat must be in a caloric deficit or they won’t lose fat. Excess treats may also be a problem.
If your cat is still struggling to lose weight, check with a vet for more help.
It is possible your cat may have an underactive thyroid or other health problem that makes it harder to lose weight.
Conclusion: How To Dechonk Your Cat
That wraps up this post on how to dechonk your cat.
As with humans, if a cat eats a little too much they start to gain weight over time. This may increase the risk of diseases such as diabetes and reduce lifespan.
To lose weight, your cat must eat a calorie deficit. That means eating fewer calories than they burn.
Use a Nutrition Calculator to work out how many calories to feed your cat for weight loss.
If you continue to have problems, get the help of a vet for professional advice and support.
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