Most hungry overweight cats are just bored.


My eight-year-old cat, Nelson, was placed on IVD special diet three years ago. I have noticed that giving him the same measured amounts of food have recently caused him to gain weight.  He always acts famished, so I am reluctant to reduce the amount. Being a housecat, he is inactive and cannot burn off the calories.  Can you recommend another limited diet plan product for him to try? He is my first-born, after all, and I want to keep him around at least another eight years.


Dr. Nichol:

Does Nelson threaten you with action from Animal Humane? Does he stagger into the room with the back of his paw against his forehead and flop unconsciously at your feet-even though he can barely fit through the door? I think I know this guy. I’ve met him a thousand times.


I know how you feel about Nelson. My cat Raoul always insists that he’s never been fed. Cats are such con artists. The only viable treatment is finding this bored teenager wholesome after school activities. If he already owns a cat tree with feathers-on-a-stick toys attached get him a window-mounted birdhouse or a fish tank. If his gluttony continues to haunt your relationship I suggest offering raw carrot wheels. If he won’t eat them maybe he’ll chase them and burn off a little fat.




My daughter has a 4-year-old male cat; Gus-he weights 24 pounds and has become very sedentary.  He had urinary problems 3 years ago. She put Gus on Iams low calorie food for a month, but he still hasn’t lost any weight. There is another cat in the apartment, and he may be eating her food as well. She’s worried that the extra weight is putting a strain on his heart.


Dr. Nichol:

You are smart to get serious about Gus’s immenseness. The poor guy lugs around so much extra baggage that there’s no way he could be active. Weighing three times normal puts a big strain on his joints, kidneys and his heart.


Let’s make this simple. Feed each cat two measured meals daily-at the same time, in separate rooms, with the doors closed. Neither cat can see the other so no one will compete. They can’t steal because you will pick up their bowls when they walk away and only allow them to be together when there is no food available. Your new structure will be iron clad. There will be discipline. They will shine their shoes and stand for inspection at attention. Forget the calisthenics, though.


Light diets: often good quality but very little difference compared with regular food. Ask your veterinarian for prescription diet r/d. Gus will get much more fiber and far less fat. Give one-quarter cup, moistened, twice daily. Now march.





Free Choice Dry Cat Food is a Formula for Obesity


When I got a kitten from the pound she was malnourished but recently, she has been putting on weight at an alarming rate. She eats only dry food. The other cats get canned food. There is dry food available all of the time. Are we overfeeding?

Dr. Nichol:
As a chunky monkey, this cat’s health will suffer. Safe feline weight loss means feeding the right diet. Canned kitten food is best for most cats of any age because it has the proper amounts of protein and carbohydrates. Unfortunately, cats raised on dry food as babies can be resistant to change.


Segregate your cats at mealtime. Start your little butterball on her new diet by mixing small amounts of the canned kitten food with her dry. Over several weeks, gradually phase out the dry-completely. Pick up the food bowls when your cats walk away. No snacking. Tell her that this will hurt you more than it hurts her, but that she’ll thank you later.





The Obsessive Feline Eater


We have 4 cats. One of them is 9 years old and weighs 17 lbs. He is 100% consumed with a search for food. He acts frantic as we prepare his meals (meowing, rubbing on us, jumping up on the counter, etc.) and is often found “stealing” any food he can find. What’s wrong?

Dr. Nichol:

Your cat’s excessive appetite and ample girth are serious problems. At 17 lbs. he weighs twice what he should. Feline obesity is a serious disease because it causes fatty infiltrates in the liver and a tremendous strain on the joints. Worse still, fat cats who suddenly stop eating are in danger of rapid onset liver failure and death. This boy is at risk.


There are many possible causes for your cat’s obsession with food. Diabetes, adrenal, pancreatic, and intestinal disease, tumors of the brain or thyroids, even some drugs can make a cat eat like a fiend, then lose weight later. A thorough exam and lab profile are essential first steps. But if your chunky monkey gets a clean bill of health you must take charge at home.


Indoor cats are often bored. The resulting inactivity and obesity becomes a vicious cycle. A generous supply of cat toys is great but if you “rotate” them every couple of days you’ll keep life interesting. Interactive play is important to help your cat stop focusing his social needs on food.


Our kitties are not little people in cat suits; eating should not be a social activity for them. But many cats make feasting an Olympic level competition because the other cats cause the anxious fat one to protect the food bowl. A much healthier activity would be for your boy to pounce on a feathers-on-a-stick toy you share with him.


All adult pets should be fed twice daily in separate locations with the doors closed. Otherwise healthy adult cats can lose weight safely on prescription diet m/d (from your veterinarian). It provides suitably high levels of protein with feline-appropriate low amounts of fat and carbohydrates. For a snack, give his immenseness a small portion of his dinner. And last, if he’s a truly compulsive eater, there are drugs. Better living through modern chemistry-if that’s what it takes.