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Feline obesity: Helping your cat lose weight

Q: My veterinarian tells me my cat Milo is overweight, which puts him at risk for diabetes, arthritis and other diseases. She’s advised me about weight loss, but I have trouble following her recommendations because I love Milo and want to pamper him. Please help.

A: Feline obesity is at epidemic proportions. Feeding behavior, food type and exercise all play a role. It may help to understand that a cat’s body wasn’t designed for life as a house pet.

In the wild, cats are solitary hunters. Because only 10 percent of their 100 to 150 daily hunting attempts are successful, they must hunt six to eight hours each day. Cats eat whatever small rodents and birds they can catch; they all taste about the same. Thus, they are active most of their waking hours, and they ingest many small high-protein, low-carbohydrate meals of consistent flavor.

Contrast this with domestic cats who sleep most of the day and eat a variety of highly palatable, carbohydrate-rich foods in relatively large quantities, given their lack of exercise. Is it any wonder so many pet cats are overweight?

To make matters worse, cats meow when they want attention, but humans misinterpret the signal and, thinking their cats are hungry, offer food instead of affection.

You can help Milo by feeding him the amount and type of food your veterinarian recommends. Pamper him by petting and snuggling him, rather than giving him treats. Increase his activity by offering him places to climb and jump, putting kibble into food puzzles, and incorporating his daily food ration into games you play together.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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