As my youngest cat, Henri, trundled up to me one Saturday morning, sitting squarely on my chest as I read a book, I realized something: my cat might just be more fat than fluff. But, like most people with cats, I am unsure of his breed, so searching the deep corners of the internet for healthy weight for “generic cute cat” was not very helpful.

A trip to the vet confirmed my suspicions: my cat was not only fluffy, but he was very fat.

If you have ever had a harsh realization about your pet parenting and felt like a failure, rest assured, you are not alone. I felt like a flat-out failure. How had I let my once-tiny kitten get so big? How had I not stopped it sooner? I have three cats, and of the three, how had I failed with the youngest one? I owed him a better life than that!

Fortunately, I was able to make changes in Henri’s life that helped him get back to a healthy weight range and helped put a spring in his step. This is how I got Henri’s life back on track:

Start with Feeding Times

Who else is guilty of pouring the amount recommend on the cat food bag into the bowl and then leaving it down and going about your day, and then coming home from work and pouring more into the bowl and letting it sit? Just me? That can’t be right.

The first thing that helped me get my cats to a healthy weight was limiting feeding times and starting a routine. We put their food down in the morning and in the evening (around 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.), in separate rooms, and set a timer to leave it down for 20-30 minutes. After that time limit, we pick the bowls up, save the leftover food, and go about our lives.

Starting this feeding routine not only helped get all three of my cats to a healthy weight, but also helped keep them more content. In fact, cats thrive on routine, and starting a morning and night time feeding schedule seemed to lower their anxiety and drastically decrease their food aggression. They seemed to trust that they would be fed and stopped waking us up early to feed them. Everybody wins.

Monitor Amount Being Given

Have you ever noticed that the cat or dog food container or bag has a recommended serving size? Have you ever thought maybe it was too small, like when human servings are smaller so that they can claim it is a diet-friendly option? As it turns out, following the recommendation on the bag may not be a good idea, because the recommendations are generic at best and in some cases, are intended to make you run out of food faster so that you buy more.

Talk to your vet to find out the right amount of food for your specific pets needs. Your vet will take into consideration your pet’s activity level, current diet, and allergies. I learned that Henri needed less than a quarter of a cup of his dry food twice a day. For my older cats who battle UTIs, it was one-third a can of wet food each (which I purchased from my local EarthWise Pet Supply).

Monitor for Underlying Causes of Overeating

I was quick to blame myself for Henri’s weight, but just like people, cats can have emotional and physical issues that cause overeating.

It wasn’t until I was home with Henri one afternoon during a thunderstorm that I first realized he was shaking. Every time the lightning made its symbol-like crash and the thunder rolled like a bass drum, Henri would stick his head up from under my chair, and shake. Five minute into the storm, I noticed he started to pace. Then, after about 15 minutes, he went to his food bowl (which I had forgotten to pick up) and started nervously eating. As soon as the storm passed, he calmed down and stopped. He always seemed so aloof — we joke that he sells timeshares because he can make anyone love him and he isn’t afraid of people like my older cat, Inigo, or sassy like my oldest, a calico named Chloe. But during that storm, I saw that he was struggling. I remembered that his previous owners had abandoned him outside during a storm, and immediately understood that this was a deep fear for him. (Yes, I psychoanalyzed my cat.)

I started giving him CALM CBD oil for pets, which I learned is safe for all mammals, and it was able to treat his fear of storms. I put 0.5 mL of the oil under his lip when I saw the sky clouding up, and he took a nap and did not stress eat. Getting to the root cause of his stress eating has helped him stay at a healthy weight now, even if I forget to pick up the food bowls.

You may also want to see if your cat is overweight or overeating because of diabetes, and may need to discern if they are bloated because of the type of food you are giving them. Either way, getting down to the root of the problem is vital.

And yes, sometimes, cats just eat because they are bored, just like us.

To learn more about holistic pet health, visit CBDDogHealth.com/Blog.

About Krista Lyons

Krista Lyons is the mother to three cats: a tabby named Henri, a calico named Chloe, and a black domestic long-hair(she thinks) named Inigo. She has been caring for pets for over a decade and has worked as a journalist and writer. To learn more about Krista, visit https://cbddoghealth.com/about-us/#OUR-TEAM.