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Healthy Weight for Your Cat

WebMD veterinary experts answer commonly asked questions about cats’ weight, diet, exercise, and more.
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That’s why, when I work with fat cats, I look at the environment as well as the food intake.

Q: Will spaying or neutering a cat make it gain weight?

A: Studies that have been done on this topic suggest that spaying or neutering a cat can cause a change in the cat’s body weight of zero to 25%. Removal of the hormones will change its metabolism a little bit and it will change its activity level a little bit. So my advice to owners is to be careful and pay attention. This is the time to keep checking that body condition score we previously talked about. Or, if you have a scale, weigh your cat regularly. And if he starts gaining weight, we might need to cut back his food intake, or switch his diet.

Q: What kind of diet should my cat be on to lose weight?

A: If we want a cat to lose weight, we have to do two things. We have to think about what we feed him and we have to figure out how to make him more active. One easy way to do both is to feed out of a foraging device. These are small plastic containers with holes that we put the cat’s food in. The cat then has to play with the device to get the food to fall out. Cats will work for food, which a lot of owners don’t realize.

But remember, we never want to change an animal’s diet without asking their permission. And the way we ask permission is offer the new food or new feeding device alongside the old dish or food.

Owners also need to know that the food intake recommendations on pet food packaging labels are generally well above what most pets need to consume. Those recommendations were developed for intact, active animals, while most of the animals I see are sedentary, spayed or neutered pets.

Q: I tried putting my cat on a diet and he howled for days. Are some cats just too old or set in their ways to change?

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What is the biggest challenge you face in keeping your cat?