Three bowls with dry cat food and wet cat food

For help with a weight-loss management plan, it's best to talk to a veterinary professional.

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Is wet or dry cat food better for weight loss?

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Cats struggling with their weight will probably need to go on a special diet. Whether the best food for your overweight cat is wet or dry food is discussed here.

If your cat needs to lose weight, a dry food will generally be more suitable because it is easier to find lower-fat options. Having said that, there are some great wet diets available too – and some cats simply won’t eat dry kibble.

It is worth discussing a weight loss programme with a vet practice, as they may be able to advise a special ‘therapeutic diet’ for your pet. These diets are specially formulated so that they contain the ideal balance of ingredients and calories to help manage weight loss. They may include more or less of specific nutrients than a normal healthy animal needs, so should only be fed under veterinary guidance.

Can I mix wet and dry food to help my cat lose weight?

It may also be possible to mix a wet and dry diet, if your cat prefers this. This can make it more difficult to monitor daily intake, so feeding both diets from the same manufacturer can be helpful. They will often provide guidance on nutritional advice for feeding both diets in combination and for weight loss.

What should I feed my obese cat?

Speak to a vet or vet nurse for advice on what diet to feed your cat and what rate of weight loss you should be aiming for. This will vary between individuals, but will often be 3-5 per cent of their body weight per month.

Food packets will usually have guidelines on how much to feed, which acts as a good starting point. It is beneficial to weigh portions using kitchen scales to ensure accuracy. The best advice is to feed your pet to body condition. This refers to how under- or overweight your pet is, and there are some great guidelines from the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association (PFMA) that are particularly user-friendly too.

If in doubt, you can ask a vet or vet nurse to show you how to monitor your pet’s body condition. You can then adjust your pet’s food intake until you find a portion size that works. As your pet loses weight, this is likely to affect their metabolism, so you will need to make further changes to portion size.

Try to avoid giving your cat additional treats outside of mealtimes. Or if you do, make sure to compensate for these in their daily intake.

How can I help my obese cat lose weight?

Discuss a weight-loss management plan with a veterinary professional. This will involve a controlled diet. Another important consideration is not allowing free-feeding. Many owners free-feed their cat by allowing unlimited access to food round the clock. Yet this can exacerbate obesity and increase certain health problems. It is important to note that cats can gain weight from free-feeding even on a low-fat diet. If they live in a multi-pet household, they may also be helping themselves to someone else’s food. This can make monitoring their intake very challenging, so sticking to mealtimes really helps.

For very food-oriented pets you might consider a puzzle-feeder, as these can provide great mental enrichment and make mealtimes last a bit longer.

What can I feed my cat if I run out of cat food?

Any sudden change in diet can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea or vomiting. If you are running out of your cat’s usual diet and are unable to get an immediate replacement, then there are a few options. If possible, try to find another food from the same range or manufacturer as your cat’s usual diet. Otherwise, ask a pet food retailer for their advice about which diet is most similar or feed something that is suitable for sensitive stomachs.

With dry food, it should be possible to make this last a bit longer until a replacement arrives, by mixing this with the new diet over a period of a few days. This helps to minimise the impact of a dietary change. This is not possible with wet food, as this has limited storage-life once opened that should not be exceeded.

If you run out of cat food unexpectedly, you could feed a portion of something bland such as chicken breast or plain white fish. This should not be cooked in oil or seasoned. Bear in mind that this is only suitable as a stand-in for one or two meals. It is important to get an appropriate complete cat food as soon as possible, as this will meet your pet’s nutritional requirements.

Can you give your cat a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Never feed your cat a vegetarian or vegan diet, if you run out of their food. Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they must have meat protein in order to meet their requirements for essential nutrients and amino acids that they are unable to make themselves or gain from plant-based sources. Lack of these can lead to very severe symptoms, and can occur very quickly, even within a day or two.

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