Q: What can I do to get my cat to lose weight? He has always been big, but is now over 20 pounds. I’ve tried several different diets, but I always give in when he starts to beg for more food and I let him have a little extra.

A: Your cat sounds like a lot of cats that I see. They just keep getting a little bit bigger every year, and before you know it they are severely obese.

A good place to start would be to find out from your veterinarian what his basic calorie needs are. You’ll probably be surprised at how small the number of calories required is, but remember that we’re talking about an animal that should only weigh 10 to 14 pounds on average. Then, figure out how many calories you have actually been feeding. Most pet food labels are not going to give you the information that you need for calories, so you will have to go to the manufacturer’s website to find this. People are generally shocked when they see that it may only require 2/3 of a cup per day to meet their cat’s daily calorie needs. Also, don’t forget that a cup is an actual measuring cup, not a Big Gulp cup.

There are multiple types of diet and/or reduced-calorie diets available through almost all of the pet food manufacturers. Something to keep in mind is that some cats are very carbohydrate sensitive and will tend to gain weight if they have very many carbs in their diet. If you have trouble with your cat not losing weight on a dry diet (which will have a higher level of carbohydrates), you should switch to a canned food as it will generally be much lower in carbs. Again, do your research as you want a canned food to be less than 10 percent carbohydrates, preferably around 5 percent.

Got a pet-related question? Send it to Dr. Anderson, a veterinarian at Hawthorne Park Animal Care Center in Bloomington, via email at features@pantagraph.com.

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