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The Scratching Post: Love Handles

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

“Mr. Snuggles is starting to get love handles! Is there anything I can do to help him lose weight?”

Yes there is, and it is actually easy to help cats lose the excess and then maintain a healthy weight. What it does require is patience on your part and the desire to get your cat to lose those love handles.

Cat food comes in a variety so broad you can spend over an hour in the pet store reading labels and picking out just the right food for Mr. Snuggles. I like to break down cat foods into the following categories:

High quality, low quantity — these tend to be the majority of the high end brands and the “grain free” diets and raw diets. While these diets are beneficial, it is not ideal for a cat who likes to graze during the day. These diets tend to be very calorically dense in a very small quantity. If you are not careful on the amount you feed, you certainly will pack the pounds on Mr. Snuggles.

Low quality, high quantity — these tend to be the “lower cost” foods.  Foods that you can find in the cereal sized boxes and are bold colors that do not occur in nature.

High quality, high quantity — These foods fall into the RX category. They are meant for cats that LOVE to eat and need to eat a high quantity to be satisfied. These foods are designed to be fed in larger portions, but the caloric content is lower. You will not find these foods in a pet store even if it states “Low fat, or Light.” They are not low enough to make a huge difference when a pet is morbidly obese.

What determines the choice of diet is your lifestyle and your cat(s)’ lifestyle. Most healthy adult cats only need between 220-260 calories (noted as K/Cal  on the bag/can of food) per day to function, depending on their activity level. Kittens, pregnant/lactating cats, sick cats and geriatric pets fall into a totally different category as they each have different caloric requirements. The more active the cat, the more calories on the calorie scale it can have.

After determining your cat’s lifestyle, activity level, and their current weight, we then choose what kind of food category they fall into (NEVER category 2) and calculate their daily caloric need to help them lose the weight without feeling like they are starving themselves. 

You do not have to completely switch your cat(s)’ diet unless it is medically needed (morbidly obese, failure to lose weight with lowering the caloric content and exercise). What you do need to learn is how to read the bag of cat food.  While reading the ingredients is important, what you really need to look for is this:  K/Cal per Cup or K/Cal per can. Those numbers alone will determine how much your cat can eat of the cat food.

Never assume by the feeding guidelines on the back of the bag. The feeding guidelines are for active, healthy cats, not couch potatoes. Once you learn how to read the bag or can of food you can then determine how much your cat needs to eat per day!

Before starting on any diet adventure with your cat, be sure to give NOVA Cat Clinic a call. We can help you understand the food you are currently feeding your cat and decide if we need to tweak your cat’s current diet or if we need to make more involved changes.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of 

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