It’s no secret that many cats and dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese—in fact, over half the pet population is too heavy. Shifting that number downward on the scale can be difficult for pet owners, especially when confronted with soulful stares and yowling screams for more food. However, chubby pets need tough love to shed those extra pounds, or they face an increased risk for a multitude of health problems, as well as a shortened lifespan. 

To illustrate the steps toward healthy weight loss, we want to share Oliver the kitty’s story. Oliver was rapidly reaching obese territory, and would suffer serious consequences if his family didn’t take action. Read how Oliver found his waistline again with help from his family. 

To protect the identity of our sensitive overweight patients, Oliver is a fictional cat, but we see pets like him all the time. Obesity is a serious health issue that must be addressed, so don’t be embarrassed about your pet’s hefty girth. Ask our team for help.

Oliver’s quest for an ideal body weight

At Oliver’s annual wellness visit with Dr. Barone at Walnut Creek Vet Hospital, his family discovered he had gained two and a half pounds since his last visit, pushing him well into dangerous territory. Although two pounds may not sound like much, a 20% weight gain is impressive. Oliver also had a body condition score of 8 out of 9

Dr. Barone remembered the handsome kitty from his last visit, when he was rapidly becoming overweight, and his mom insisted he was merely big-boned. Concerned by his continual weight gain, Dr. Barone settled in for a serious discussion with Oliver’s owner.

“I know we discussed Oliver’s weight at his last visit, Mrs. Lawrence, and we warned you about the health problems Oliver may experience if we didn’t manage his weight appropriately,” Dr. Barone said. “He’s gained more weight since last year, which further increases his risk for diabetes, feline idiopathic cystitis, heart conditions, respiratory issues, liver disease, and some cancers. We love Oliver’s quirky purr and his lovable personality, and would hate to see anything happen that can be prevented through proper diet and exercise.” 

Mrs. Lawrence sighed. “But he looks at me with such sad eyes when his food dish is missing a few kibbles, and when he screams in the middle of the night, feeding him is the only way to make him stop.”

“Oliver has you well-trained, Mrs. Lawrence. Never fear—we see this issue all the time with our pudgy patients, and we have a weight loss plan you can easily implement for Oliver’s sake,” Dr. Barone said. 

He continued: “Let me outline his plan. First, we are going to switch Oliver’s diet to a prescription weight-loss food designed to help him lose weight healthily—no more than one pound per month. If a cat’s food intake is cut too much, they can suffer from a serious liver condition, but this diet will help prevent that. We’ll also calculate how many calories Oliver needs per day to lose weight, and then divide that number into several small meals. Cats are grazers, and prefer to eat small amounts throughout the day. His final meal will be right before bed, so he doesn’t wake you up for that 3 a.m. feeding anymore. I also recommend ditching Oliver’s food dish and making him work for his meals, which will help burn calories and occupy his mind. Many house cats are bored, so they turn to food to fill their time. By feeding Oliver from a puzzle feeder, you’ll keep him entertained while encouraging him to be active. 

“To increase Oliver’s activity, we need to figure out ways to entice him to play, run, and jump. Use his favorite toys to make him play, especially ones that appeal to his predatory nature. Cats generally like feather wands, fishing pole toys, robotic mice, and other toys and games that allow them to stalk and pounce. Unlike dogs, cats exercise in short bursts, so shoot for multiple brief play sessions per day. 

“It may take some time to discourage Oliver’s nightly yowling for food, but with some vigorous exercise and a small meal right before bed, you’ll both be sleeping through the night,” Dr. Barone said. 

“Let’s check back in a month to see if Oliver is losing weight.”

One month after Oliver’s annual wellness visit, he returned for a progress report. This chubby kitty had nailed his diet and exercise plan and lost almost a pound. His mom was ecstatic—especially that his nighttime begging for food had finally stopped.

To monitor Oliver’s weight loss and ensure he didn’t lose too much weight, he returned for monthly weigh-ins. Once he reached his ideal weight, we switched him back to an adult maintenance diet, albeit a low-calorie option, to maintain his healthy figure. We’re delighted to report that Oliver is staying fit and trim, and enjoys chasing his robotic mouse and working for his daily meals. 

We’ve helped Oliver rediscover his slim physique, and we can help your furry pal, too. If your pet is leaning more toward pudgy than fluffy, contact our Walnut Creek Vet Hospital team for a personalized weight loss plan.