Pet owners are just as concerned about the health of their animals as they are their own health. I own two cats who are a healthy weight, but I have another cat who is about five poundsJacimoCredit: self overweight. The average housecat weighs between ten and fifteen pounds. This may vary between breeds, but for my hefty cat, who is a Blue Russian, the top healthy weight is fifteen pounds, and he is twenty. I admit he looks incredibly cute waddling around the house, but I know there are compelling reasons health wise and temper wise, which will affect his quality of life and the quality of time we spend together.


When a cat is overweight there is tremendous stress on the joints and the desire to be active grows less and less as they age. This can cause problems with digestion, breathing, the heart, and other vital organs. When a cat doesn’t digest food well they become lethargic and are prone to infection along with diseases like diabetes.

When breathing is hampered there is a similar effect to poor digestion, lethargy, infections, and further weight gain. Housecats live an average of twenty years, but an overweight feline with health issues will live only a fraction of that time. While the rotund belly is cute, but the pain and stress it causes is not worth it.

Temper Changes

I know when I don’t feel well I’m more likely to be ill tempered and unsocial. This is the same for cats who carry around extra weight. Joints which are stressed are painful to the touch when stroking a cat you may get a bite or scratch for further irritating a sore spot. Housecats who were active in their kitten years calm down as they age, but when a cat spends most of the day at rest, they are at risk of gaining too much weight.

My problem

I have been lucky with my first two cats. They enjoy playing chase with each other and haveJacimo kittenCredit: self kept each other trim. I would occasionally play with them using a laser or string, but exercising was more or less up to them. When I brought home Jacimo, he was more active than my two adult cats put together. I couldn’t wait for his energy to settle into the adult cat mode. Then when he did reach maturity, his frame stopped growing but his stomach continued to billow out. He became more attentive in napping instead of playing with my other adult cats. They in turn weren’t interested in playing with him because he would use his superior weight to flop on top of them essentially pinning them to the ground.

My second problem is with how available I make food. Instead of putting a quarter to a half-cup of food in three dishes, I have an automatic feeder that I fill one or twice a week. Cats are not meant to be grazers and having food available all the time breeds bad habits. I also like to share human snack foods with Jacimo. He loves popcorn, pretzels, and bread, which are all high in carbohydrates. It will be a challenge not to share a snack with him, but I want him to have a long and healthy life.

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats
Amazon Price: $18.95 $13.34 Buy Now
(price as of Mar 8, 2014)

Educating myself

I know I’m not the first person to have an animal with a weight problem, so I scoured the Internet for answers. Some of my favorite exercise solutions are a giant cat wheel (similar to a hamster wheel), putting shelves on the wall at various levels, and cat toys, which make it fun for the human to operate and fun for the cat to play with.JacimoCredit: self

The dieting answers were more important in my eyes, so I went to a veterinarian website. There I found that it’s vital to gradually introduce a new diet. The consequence for immediately dropping food intake can cause a potentially deadly disease called hepatic lipidosis; this is when the liver is overwhelmed when trying to convert fatty tissue to energy and fails.

The weight loss plan

I have begun an exercise regimen in the morning where I play continuously with my cats for ten minutes, or until they are laying down on their side, still wanting to play, but their body is too tired. I want to make this activity twice a day, but gradual is the key to a healthy and safe transition.

I know that I allow too much free access to food, and I learned that I may be missing important clues to the health of my cats. One of the first signs of illness is the loss of appetite, but if the food dish always seems full, I can miss the hint, and then my cat can unnecessarily suffer or even die. The next part of my plan is to separate the food into three dishes for four weeks. I will weigh Jacimo at the start and at the end of the four-week period to note loss or gain. A good weight loss is one pound in every four weeks. I will steadily decrease the food in the bowl until I am feeding him twice a day and maintaining a healthy weight.

Purina One Cat Adult Urinary Tract Formula Cat Food, 16-Pound
Amazon Price: $31.92 $25.99 Buy Now
(price as of Mar 8, 2014)

Jackson Galaxy, famous cat behaviorist and cat rehabilitator gives a simple routine of keeping a cat happy:

Play-A cat is a predator and needs to be active to stay healthy. Interactive play with toys releases the built up energy and maintains the bond between human and pet.

Feed-Play mimics the energy a cat needs to kill and eat. Feeding after play is the perfect way to simulate how their body naturally wants to behave.

Rest-In the wild cats rest after eating to absorb the most calories, so they will have the energy to hunt again. Cats need a place where they can feel safe to rest between playing and feeding.

I expect by following the simple pattern Galaxy provides and the valuable advice from my veterinarian Jacimo will be in excellent shape and scampering around the house instead of waddling.