Last week we wrote about the obesity epidemic among America’s cats (58% of cats in this country are either overweight or obese) and the serious health risks of obesity. What makes this trend so disturbing is that it is created entirely by the guardians who love their cats. There are no obese cats in the wild. Our cats rely on us to make appropriate nutritional choices for them, and one of the biggest mistake cat guardians can make is to equate food with love.

Getting a cat to lose weight can be challenging. It may require making changes to a cat’s feeding schedule, changing the food itself, increasing the amount of time spent playing with the cat, and more. Read Weight Loss Tips for Cats for guidance on how to get your kitty to a healthy weight.

Study suggests cat guardians need not fear rejection

Getting a cat to lose weight can also require a healthy dose of mental fortitude on the part of the cat’s human. Most overweight cats won’t be happy with reduced amounts of food, a different feeding schedule, and fewer treats. Cat guardians are often worried that their cat won’t love them if they stop giving them what they want. Some eve fear that their cat may become aggressive.

A recent study conducted at the Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine suggests that cat guardians need not fear rejection if they put their cats on a diet. In fact, the study found that after eight weeks of being on a diet, the cat actually showed more affection toward their guardians.

For the study, 58 obese cats were fed one of three restricted diets, equal in calories. Owners were asked to record prefeeding begging, following, meowing, and pacing. They were also asked to record postfeeding behaviors such as jumping in the lap, purring, resting, sleeping and using the litter box.

After four weeks, many of the cats increased their prefeeding behaviors somewhat, but they also increased postfeeding behavior. After eight weeks, prefeeding begging lost its significance, and purring became more significant.

Kitty may complain at first, but will be happier in the long run

What these findings suggest is that while kitty may be complaining a bit more during the first four weeks of a diet, eventually, she will be happier, presumably, because she will be healthier and feel better, and demonstrate her increased happiness by showing increased affection to her guardians.

Feline veterinarian Dr. Fern Crist recently wrote an article for us on how to transition your cat to a healthier diet, and her advice also applies to helping your cat lose weight: “Cats generally don’t like change of any kind, and they will be temporarily grumpy about a change in their food. What you do: ignore the grumpiness.” She recommends thinking of your cat as a two-year-old toddler. “You already know how (and why!) to say no to your child when she pulls a Terrible Two on you,” says Dr. Crist. “It is exactly the same with your cat. Your cat is simply a whiny child, and you already know how to deal with that. Ignore the melodrama. It will pass. You know better than your cat.”

Photo by Dan Perry, Flickr Creative Commons

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5 Comments on Cats on a Diet: Will They Still Love You?

  1. I recently switched my cats to a wet food diet to help the heavy one lose weight. I’m noticing neither have had a bowel movement in 2 days. Is this normal?

    • Some cats will only have bowel movements every other day on wet food, but if they still haven’t had one after 48 hours, I’d be a bit concerned. You can add some canned pumpkin to their food to see if that gets things moving.

  2. Our biggest cat weighs about 25 pounds. But, he is not just a bit plump, he is really big in height, length, body parts, etc. As he and his brother were born from a stray we took in off the streets, we have no idea of the parentage, but are guessing that the dad might have had some Maine Coon in him. The problem is that his mom is a bit smaller (18 pounds) and his brother, who is just as long and tall but more petitely built at around 18 pounds, all have different eating habits. Since they are a family they are happy to eat off each others plates and never fight, but we have to feed them separately or the smallest one won’t eat. He also has some anxiety issues so we use Spirit Essences which has helped a bit. But he also takes Prozac (a very low dose) as per our vet so he doesn’t develop hot spots from compulsive grooming. It’s a challenge! But they are worth it :).

  3. I remember the days Pono was on a diet. He was super cranky. We gave in and let him eat. But it was an illness that he got where he ended up losing the extra weight and never ended up gaining it back. I still feel he looks a little round, but the vet says he’s ok. They like him to be about 10 lbs for his size. He usually weighs around 10.5 or so now.

  4. I looked at this a few days ago too on my blog – humans forget that we cats have a much more basic and less emotional relationship with food than they do!

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