One of the biggest problems in a multi-cat household is when one cat is overweight while other cats in the household are fit; therefore, one cat has to go on a diet while the other(s) does not. I, Cheddar, face this issue. I am a rescue cat who was malnourished when I was young, so I tend to overeat now that my wonderful humans provide me with lots of kibble. While food alone is not going to be the way your cat loses weight, aka special weight loss foods, it will be a way for your cat to gain weight and must be controlled. Strangely, most often this scenario happens in households with three cats and most often the overweight feline is the most dominant one; however, this is also common in shelter cats who have struggled to get enough food previously. You may have tried to limit your chubby cat’s food only to see them stroll over to the other cat’s dishes and polish off whatever your other cat(s) left in their bowl.
Cats’ eating habits differ greatly from dogs. Dogs always hunt in packs, there is a lot of competition for food, and so even though dogs have been domesticated and may have never even seen the wild, they still eat rapidly and in large quantities in one meal. Cats, however, have always hunted alone, therefore they can pick over their meals leisurely. In terms of feeding behaviors, dogs are gulpers and cats are sippers, dogs are big meal eaters whereas cats are nibblers. Most cats tend to nibble on their kibble throughout the day like their ancestors. Although, thirty percent of all felines now big meal eat, like dogs. A three cat household perfectly displays this percentage with two of the cats nibbling throughout the day and the overweight cat having multiple big meals. If the meal eater is the dominant cat, then they will be even happier to eat the other cats’ food to show their authority.
What You Should Do
Get rid of any free feeding. This will stop the pudgy cat from over eating, the nibblers will learn to meal feed just fine. No communal feeding dish, instead give your cats each their own smaller dish, this is a good first step. Then establish a schedule of when you are going to feed your cats and where you are going to feed them. If you are worried that your fat cat will eat the other cat’s food then eat their own, feed your cats in separate rooms. The cats will probably feel more comfortable being fed in the same room; however, don’t put your cats’ dishes in a row. It may even be necessary to get a baby gate to separate your cats’ dishes. If none of this is working then you will have to get tricky, try getting a kennel or cutting a hole in a box that is big enough for your normal cats but too small for your chubby feline. Another option is to try going vertical. Most cats aren’t afraid of heights and love to climb; they should feel very comfortable eating somewhere high up. In the beginning, you will have to supervise the entire time your cats are eating, but cats are smart and pretty quickly they should learn which bowl is theirs and where to eat. Start by leaving the dishes out for around thirty minutes then picking them up, uneaten food and all, once your cats understand that they are meal eating, pick up their dishes as soon as they finish eating and have walked away from their bowls.
Slow Your Cat Down
In order to force your fat cat to eat slower, use a big dish but only put about two layers of kibble in it. It will make the kibble harder to pick up forcing your cat to slow down. If you exclusively feed your cat wet food, then add a little bit of water to your cat’s food to slow them down, just be careful not to add too much water or else your cat might turn away from their food entirely and the point is not to starve them.
Some of these suggestions might be impractical or even impossible, but not to worry, there are some other things you can do that are less effective but still helpful. There are diet foods that help your overweight cat but also be healthy for your normal cat. There are multi-cat foods that have a substance called carnitine that helps burn fat in an overweight cat and helps healthy cats maintain their slimness. Like the Atkins diet for humans, cats aren’t as hungry when they consume a diet that contains fewer carbohydrates. Unlike human foods, however, the number of carbohydrates per serving of cat food will not be displayed on the bag. What you can find on the bag is the guaranteed protein level of the kibble. Protein and carbs have an inverse relationship, so if the protein level is very high, then the number of carbohydrates will be very low.
Foods with high protein levels will also have high-fat levels, which might sound strange because humans tend to avoid fats to lose weight. Because of the high fatty content, you have to feed your cat less food to instigate weight loss, but since there are fewer carbs in the food, your cats appetite will be suppressed. Wet foods have some of the highest protein content and a moderate amount of fat, so you might consider switching at least one of your cat’s meals to wet food. There are also some dry foods that are pretty high in protein content, try to find a kibble that is high in protein and low in fat.
One of the foods you might consider is the Performatrin Ultra Slim Care food; it is specifically formulated to be high in protein and low in carbohydrates. It also contains a mix of quickly and slowly absorbed carbohydrates in order not to have a spike of glucose after consuming it. The recipe also contains Carnitine and green tea extract to help your cat burn carbohydrates quicker than they usually would.