Stabilize (for new cats) - If you are bringing a new cat into your home, it's important that they continue to eat on a regular basis. Some cats will initially refuse to eat because of the stress of moving into a new space and not eating can be very dangerous for them.
Cats losing weight too quickly is more of a health risk than them being overweight. It can lead to health issues like Feline hepatic lipidosis, also called fatty liver disease, which can be fatal.
We suggest waiting until your cat has warmed up to their new home and are eating regularly before starting them on a new type of food or diet.
Schedule a vet visit - Before starting your cat's new diet, it's important to take them to your vet for a full checkup to be sure that there aren't any underlying health issues. You would want to talk with them about the diet you're thinking of going with to see what their thoughts are. Some vets may suggest a specialized diet brand of food, but we have had great success with feeding Bronson high quality grain-free wet food.
After the checkup and assessment, your vet should be able to give you a maximum daily calorie number for your cat so that they are losing weight at the correct rate.
The daily calorie goal is found using a calculation based on current weight and assumed metabolism, so it may need a few adjustments before you see weight loss at a healthy rate. Since their weight will change over time, it's a good idea to continue bringing your cat in for frequent checkups. Our vet offered free monthly weigh-ins, which we would suggest if you don't have a baby scale. We would have taken the vet up on the monthly weigh-ins, but Bronson absolutely hates car rides, so we bought him a scale.
The first scale we tried out had really good reviews, but tipped over very easily when Bronson would try to step onto it, so watch out for that. We ended up getting a different scale that lays flat on the ground, the same style as this one. We added foam pads to ours so that it gave a less slick surface for Bronson to walk on.
Choose a diet - We highly suggest either a wet food diet or a raw food diet. Dry food has a lot of carbohydrates and from everything we've read online and heard from our vet, it's not a very good option for weight loss. Bronson's on a high-quality, grain-free wet food diet. We've had really good results from the diet and highly suggest it. Before choosing a brand, we did a lot of research online and also reached out to a few nutritionists.
Ingrid King has a website called The Conscious Cat. On the site she wrote a really nice article called "The Best Food for your Cat: My Recommendations" which talks about different types of cat food and also shares some quality brands. We found this to be a great resource to check out before choosing a diet.
Scheduled feeding - This is really important and has been the most difficult part for us. To properly track calories, you need to start scheduling meals throughout the day. We feed them three times a day, which can be challenging when it comes to needing to be home at that time or taking trips out of town. Another issue we've run into is counting Bronson's calories in a household full of cats. Since Bronson is very heavy, he’s limited as far as which areas he can access, so we feed the other cats up on the wall using shelving that Bronson can't reach. Another option would be feeding in a separate room, which we're not looking forward to, but will likely do eventually.
There are automatic feeders that can help with this. We've tried a microchip feeder by Surefeed, but it was when Bronson was quite a bit heavier and he had a bit of trouble fitting through the arch that reads the microchip. I also wish these feeders kept the food refrigerated because wet food can only stay out short term.
After that, we tried some feeders from a company called Cat Mate, which are photographed above. We bought 4 of these feeders and liked them because they have ice packs you put under the food and the feeders have a rotating top, so you can keep a whole day’s worth of food in there. We've used these when leaving town for the day, but also had issues with this because as the top would rotate to open all 4 cats' meals worth of food, only one or two cats would realize they were open and eat all the food. We had a camera in our kitchen over the holidays and were tortured from afar, watching Bronson feast on a buffet of flavors until we got home.
Promote exercise - Although we attribute most of Bronson's weight loss to diet, it's also important to play with your cat and do your best to promote exercise. When Bronson was really heavy we started feeding him downstairs to help his activity level, so he would need to make the journey up and down with each meal. Bronson would not stand up to play initially, but he was very food-motivated, so things like walking to his food were his first exercise routines.
We lucked out a little, because Bronson was only three years old when we brought him home and he still had some kitten energy hidden inside of him. So although he didn't want to stand, we could wave cat toys in front of him and he would move his arms around to catch it. We try to get Bronson moving around for at least 15 minutes a day. Now that he's thinner, he spends more time on his feet exploring the house.
We also suggest starting a weight-loss Instagram account and then asking Bronson to follow you. Starting his Instagram account has been incredibly beneficial to his weight loss. The account being public has helped hold us accountable for his progress and we've also received a lot of really good ideas from his fans.