It seems that people are bombarded with weight loss regimes all year long; there is the get-in-shape-for-the-holidays diet, the post-new-year diet, the see-me-at-the-beach diet and the do-something-now-I-can’t- snap-my-jeans diet.
Domestic cats are under no such pressure; they eat and lounge … and eat again, looking forward to their next meal. A quick glance at your cat should tell you if it’s time to make some minor changes that can make a big impact. Like any diet there are two parts: increase activity and decrease food intake.
Cats are prey animals — if they are full and there is nothing to catch their attention they will “cat nap” all day. Bring interest into their lives by introducing toys. There is no need to spend a lot of money. Here are some toys they can use by themselves: new box to explore, a new box with a ping pong ball inside, a small overturned box with a treat inside, a crinkly bag at the end of a string, or a window seat to look at the birds. Try rubbing catnip on old toys and see what happens.
Interactive toys include a laser pointer you wiggle on the floor, or go “fishing” and erratically pull something at the end of a string. Visit the cat toy section an you will be overwhelmed by the options — try some out, or use them as inspiration for home-made versions.
Most cats will play for three to five minutes (simulating how long they would hunt), before moving on to a new game — or a nap. Make their time with you active in short bursts, rather than a marathon session.
Unlike adding interesting things to the cat’s environment, decreasing food and treat intake may result in your cat venting their displeasure, so make changes gradually. The best way to get a handle on intake is to measure out the total food for the day. So if they get a bit more in the morning, they will get a bit less at night. If you find a good low calorie food slowly mix it in regular. Rather than giving special treats, give regular kibble as a treat (deduct it from the daily total).
Make eating exercise. Put some kibble inside an empty paper towel roll, or buy a humpty-dumpty like kibble container that will dispense food when pushed over. A pricey option (about $60 online) is an automated feeder. You can set it to dispense small meals thought the day. This keeps the cat alert and keeps them from gorging. This also helps them stop begging.
A kitten will often get an older cat to play. Don’t expect them to be instant pals, but give them time and lots of toys. Even a jaded “king of the house” can’t resist a toy being batted around by a youngster — he’ll have to get off the couch and show them how to do it the right way.
The loss of a few ounces in a cat is the equivalent to the loss of several pounds in a human. Give them time, lots of attention and a bit less food and you will have a healthier, happier companion.