How to get your cat to eat vegetables...and lose weight

Patty Khuly, DVM
Updated: November 02, 2010
Published: May 30, 2009
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OK, so this post isn’t all about vegetable feeding or a feline vegetarian diets (which I’m not big on). If you’ve Googled up this entry in error, however, please consider reading it anyway.

Everyone always asks me how they can get their cats to lose weight. As someone who’s never had the pleasure of living with a fat cat (all my cats have been skinny Abyssinians adopted from the University of Pennsylvania’s genetic colony), I’m not sure I’m as qualified to answer this question as many of you are.

Sure, I can tell you what’ll happen when they’re too fat (diabetes, osteoarthritis, respiratory compromise, fatty liver disease, etc.) and I can treat them (usually). But I can’t always tell you how exactly to get the pounds least not as well as many of you can.

That’s why this post is designed for you to flesh the comment section below. In the meantime, here’s what I tell my clients:

1. Try the higher protein diets.  

Cats are obligate carnivores. That means they need far more protein than many of our cat foods provide. Apart from being what they need, it also helps keep them feeling more “full” for longer. Because animal protein is expensive, commercial foods tend to eschew it in favor of plant proteins. But that sometimes also means higher glycemic index levels so...

2. Feed diets with low glycemic index carbs. 

Choosing these means you get fewer fluctuations in blood sugar (glucose) and insulin levels. Not only is this potentially a way to have your cat feel fuller longer, it may hedge against the diabetes fat cats are predisposed to. 

3. Play with their food.

Throw kibble across the room. Yes, really. Highly food motivated cats will happily scamper around for their kibble. And all you have to do is sit there and enjoy the fun. (I think it’s fun throwing kibble for my boyfriend’s cats. They’re no longer overweight thanks to this and other methods.)

Then there's the SlimCat feeding ball. 

4. "Outsource" your feeding.

Consider purchasing an automatic feeder. It sometimes makes it easier when cats know that their food will arrive at a pre-programmed time unrelated to your daily activities. Not only might it allow you to sleep longer, it could also mean fewer human guilt-related extra feedings. (Beware, however, some wily cats know how to get at the kibble in the canister––or the wet stuff in the adjacent slot. Buy a non-cheapo version and it’ll help get around this possibility.)

5. "Creep-feeding," anyone?

Got multiple cats? Separating them at feeding time is best but most of my clients report this isn’t so doable. OK, so maybe not. But building or buying a creep-feeding system can make all the difference for some feline families.  In the commercial versions, an electronic collar allows certain cats to enter a box where the food lives. 

In the DIY version, you simply buy a big Tupperware-style container and cut a hole in it too small for the fatties to enter. That way you “skinny” ones can eat their own food slowly, undisturbed by thievery. 

6. Try treat alternatives.

Here’s where I talk about the veggies. Get them used to treat-veggies at an early age. Yeah, I know cats aren’t meant to be vegetarian but treats aren’t meant to replace their basic diet, either. Treats are for fun, right? And some cats adore treats like frozen corn, peas, broccoli florets, chopped carrots, even cauliflower. 

Covering them in stinky cat food is one way to introduce them. Storing them in a bag with stinky cheese or liverwurst is another great tip (courtesy of one of you). 


So what do YOU do to keep your cats slim?