Shadowood’s Feline Fat Farm – A Weight Loss Program for Cats

Weasel, an overweight catAs I explained in my blog entry, Free-feeding vs. Portioned Meals for Cats, I used to live with a houseful of feline fatties. This was the outcome of decades of free feeding high-carb kibble diets to my cats. This cheap and lazy way of feeding cats resulted not only in fat felines, but also in the tragic loss of one of my cats to renal failure that was diagnosed way too late, and a diabetes scare in another.


And so, in 2007, I implemented a weight loss program here at Shadowood’s Feline Fat Farm. I had been resisting embarking on this endeavor for an irresponsibly long time because I simply couldn’t imagine how I would work out the logistics of a weight loss program for all of my kitty kids. But I couldn’t continue to stand by and watch them fall, one by one, to various weight and diet-related illnesses. It was way past time for me to bite the bullet and act.


Phantom, an overweight catMy strategy was threefold. The first step was to remove the all-day kitty buffet and start feeding scheduled, portioned meals, instead. Simultaneous with this effort, I also upgraded the quality of their diet by swapping out their high-carb kibble for premium quality dry and canned foods as low in carbs as possible. Lastly, I started weighing each cat every two weeks on a digital baby scale and using the results to adjust food portions to maintain slow, steady weight loss.

I figured that since the cats were used to grazing on kibble all day, they’d make the adjustment with less complaining if I offered three meals a day: two kibble and one canned. I portioned and individually fed the kibble meals and then fed the canned meal in one, large, communal bowl at night before bedtime. Since the cats were committed kibbleheads with very little interest in canned food, I knew they wouldn’t overeat at that communal meal.

Somer, an overweight catAfter the first week, the cats were eating canned food more readily, so I swapped one of the kibble meals for canned and fed one kibble and two canned meals daily. After the second week, I eliminated one of the canned meals and settled on feeding only two meals daily: kibble for breakfast and canned for dinner.

Knowing from experience that commercial cat food packaging typically recommends feeding 1/3-1/2 times as much food as any normal cat needs to eat, I started each cat’s daily kibble allowance at 1/3 less than the package directed (also calculating in the fact that kibble was making up only a portion of the daily diet). After the first biweekly weigh-in, almost all cats had gained weight. I reduced the kibble amount slightly, and by the second weigh-in, most cats had maintained close to steady weights. I reduced kibble amounts again, and at the third weigh-in, some of the cats had finally started to lose weight.

Noddy, an obese catIn order to achieve steady, slow weight loss in all of the overweight cats, I now had to start portioning the canned food meal, as well as the kibble. I had reduced the kibble breakfast for each cat to a mere 1/8 c., which was as little as I felt I could feed them in a full meal. Once I started portioning the canned meal (2-4 oz per cat daily), I had complete control over each cat’s caloric intake, and I could make effective portion adjustments, as necessary.

This is where the regular weigh-ins assumed a more exacting role.  I maintained (and still do maintain) a chart of all of the cat’s weights so that I could easily track fluctuations over time.  Any time a cat lost less than .2 (2/10) lb during a two week period, I decreased the daily canned food portion slightly. If more than .4 (4/10) lb was lost during a two week period, I increased the canned food meal slightly. It’s important to note here that it is critical for cats to lose weight slowly, because rapid weight loss can trigger a potentially lethal liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) in felines.

Using this strategy, I was able to restore all of my fat cats to lean, healthy weights over the course of about 18 months. Cats who had been lame carrying around all of that extra weight were now much more comfortably mobile. Cats who had been unable to groom their masses were now keeping themselves clean and shiny. Cats who had been completely sedentary were now chasing toys and each other around the house. Cats who weren’t even able to sit in a normal, upright position were now sitting pretty and perfect. Most importantly, there were no more fat-induced health issues in any of the felines. The Pride of Shadowood had, indeed, regained its pride.

Noddy the cat has a waist

What’s that I see? Noddy has a waist!!!

If you have tried weight loss strategies with your cats that have or haven’t been successful, please leave a comment and let us know. We can all learn from each other!

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12 Responses to Shadowood’s Feline Fat Farm – A Weight Loss Program for Cats

  1. Pet Care says:

    Great post! Been reading a lot about how to help my cat slim down. Thanks for sharing this!

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  4. Edorah says:

    This is inspiring! I am beginning to put Mei on a diet. Since she doesn’t like canned food, my vet recommended portioned kibble breakfast and night, and she’s helping me figure out how much. Maybe I should try again with the canned food.

    • lfrazer says:

      Edorah, I would definitely urge you to keep trying with canned food. It is much closer to a species-appropriate food than kibble. As such, it is also much healthier for Mei. I’ll explore this topic further in a future blog post. In the meantime, there are two websites you really should read to gain an understanding of the importance of avoiding kibble in a feline diet:. The first is http://www.catinfo.org/ – this page includes a link to another page of tips for transitioning a kibble-fed cat to canned food. The second site is http://yourdiabeticcat.com/ – here you will learn about the association of kibble with the onset of feline diabetes.

      Thank you for your comments, Edorah. I truly appreciate the feedback!

  5. Pingback: Cat Burglars – Preventing Felines from Stealing Each Other’s Meals | Turkeybutts, Monkeys, and Crabbies , OH MY!

  6. Charles Huss says:

    I feed our two cats a small can of wet food mixed with some raw food in the morning. I want to feed them just raw food but they won’t eat it. I then give them a small amount of dry food when my wife and I leave for work. I give them just a little because I want the dry food to be eaten and the cats to be hungry by the time I get home and give them more wet food. I then give them a little more dry food after they have finished their dinner. I have to make sure my wife does not feed them because she will fill their bowls with dry food. I would actually like to eliminate the dry food but she thinks it is cruel to leave them with no food. Fortunately our cats are not fat at the moment.

    My question to you is: How do you proportion food without one cat eating the food of another?

    • lfrazer says:

      Thank you for your feedback, Charles. Several years ago, I swapped out canned food for Raw Prey Model for most of my cats. It wasn’t an easy transition, because most of the cats didn’t recognize raw meat as food. It took a while, and with a few of them I had to try a wide variety of meats to find the ones that released their inner carnivores. I’ll write a blog entry about their introduction to RPM one of these days.

      You are very wise to restrict the amount of kibble you are feeding your cats. It is completely species-inappropriate and unnecessary for cats who eat canned and/or raw. Also, healthy adult cats don’t need to eat more than twice a day. There is no need to leave food out for them between meals. I understand why your wife feels the way she does, because I was raised with the same cat feeding philosophy and practice. But the fact is, I was wrong, and so is your wife. I’ll write more about the effects of various feline dietary options later, as well.

      Food proportioning – yet another topic I will be covering in an upcoming blog post. The short answer is, I either feed each cat in a separate room behind closed doors, or I feed them in one room and personally supervise until everyone is finished eating. Because I don’t leave food out between meals, it only takes a few minutes for the cats to finish each meal.

  7. Congratulations on this effort. I managed to shave almost 1 kilo off both of my cats through measuring food carefully and being very strict with it. Unfortunately, one of mine gets cystitis often and I had to change their diet and they’ve regained the weight. The one major problem I have is they won’t eat separately and so sometimes I think one steals the other’s food!

    • lfrazer says:

      Congratulations to you on your cats’ weight loss, too! I’m sure you’ll get their food portions adjusted properly again with the diet change so that you can take the weight back off of them. One of my boys wouldn’t eat alone, either, so I finally started feeding some of the cats in separate rooms and others on separate plates in the kitchen with me supervising until everyone was finished. That way I could make sure no one did any stealing. Occasionally a few of them will still try to sneak a bite off of someone else’s plate if they think I’m not watching, but a sharp, “HEY!” from Mommy sets them straight. 🙂

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