You are sitting at the dinner table, when your dog puts his head on your lap. He looks up at you with those big sad eyes that say, “feed me!” Or your cat jumps up on the table and tries to stick her nose in your plate.
In these scenarios, sharing isn’t caring. Many of us use food as a form of love. But an overweight pet is an unhealthy pet.
Here are eight tips for putting your cat and dog on a diet.
1. Talk to Your Vet
If you are unsure if your pet is overweight, talk to your veterinarian. He may be able to provide you with a diet for your cat or dog.
2. Find the Right Portions
If you are unsure of how much to feed your cat or dog, a vet can help you figure it out. Portions vary drastically, and depend on the size and growth stage of your pet. Obviously a small dog will eat a lot less than a large dog, and while a kitten won’t eat more than an adult cat, he will eat more meals throughout the day; the portions will just be a lot smaller.
3. Limit Snacks
We all love treats; just remember that a treat is a once-in-a-while pleasure that should not be overdone. A treat for a dog can be fresh carrots. Cats can enjoy dark leafy vegetables and carrots too. Please note that cats are obligate carnivores; they require proteins to survive. Dogs are omnivores, but do better on a meat-based diet.
4. Don’t Give in to Begging
When most people bring their new pets home from a shelter, the pets are often ravenous. That is because they are on a limited diet. So here they are in your new home, and they have all these wonderful foods. Limit what you give them. Instead, spend time with them.
5. Exercise with Your Pets
Walking a dog is great exercise for both you and your dog. You can also take your dog to the dog park and toss around a ball. Cat people can exercise cats too. My cats love chasing the light from a laser pointer, and their favorite toy is a Cat Dancer.
6. Transition Slowly
As with any diet, you need to start slowly. Gradually reduce the portion size.
7. Make Sure Your Pet Has Plenty of Water
Many fountains come with filters so your pets can drink clean water. Cats, especially, tend to like flowing water from a fountain.
8. Be Careful with Multiple Pets
If you have a household with a cat and a dog, you can feed your cat on a counter away from your dog. If you have two dogs, you might want to separate them at feeding time. For homes with two or more cats, you may find that one cat is larger than the others.
“If you feed your cats trough-style, you’re encouraging rapid eating and food bowl aggression,” says Dr. Ernie Ward DVM, and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. “Many times I encounter families with one obese cat and one skinny cat. Many cats have an ownership zone of about one to two feet around their bowl; that is, “anything in that area is mine.” This is one of the ways wild cats prevent fighting over a carcass in the wild. While modern cats needn’t fear stronger predators stealing their food, these behaviors persist. Take advantage of this instinct by separating your cats’ food bowls by several feet. Feed them at the same time and stand back. If one cat quickly eats his food and then pounces on the other cat’s bowl, either separate them further or feed the aggressive cat in another room.”
If you have any diet tips for pets, please share them in the comments section.
Michele C. Hollow writes the pet lifestyle blog Pet News and Views. She writes about pets, wildlife, and interiors for several magazines and newspapers. She also has two cats, and separates their feeding stations.