A 2011 study found that over 50 percent (that’s 47 million!) of house cats are overweight or obese. It might seem shocking – and it is — but consider the following: any animal, with endless access to food and a sedentary life style, will likely carry around some extra weight. After all, our cats, for the most part, aren’t hunting outside for food every day – they’re basking in a sunny spot on the carpet and walking over to their food bowl. If your cat has a belly, you aren’t alone. Here are a few tips to maintain your cat’s weight.

First up: food. What are you feeding your four-legged friend? It’s important to remember that cats are carnivores (as opposed to our omnivorous canines), so it’s much easier for a cat to maintain a healthy weight on a high protein meat-based diet. Another key tip: always feed your cat on a schedule in small portions. Don’t let your human mind get in the way! It’s tempting to wonder if you’re underfeeding him, but remember – a cat’s meal should be roughly the size of a mouse. If your kitty has access to food 24/7, he’s much more likely to eat throughout the day, leading to unnecessary weight gain.

If it’s an option, consider adopting or fostering a kitten. Having around a young, playful cat is the best way to get an overweight cat off the couch and engaging in some active fun! If it’s not an option (we realize that it probably isn’t), don’t fret: there are other ways to keep your kitty fit. For example…

Play More. Create a stimulating environment. If your cat is bored or stressed at home, he’s more likely to seclude himself and only come out to eat or drink water. Try leaving a few cardboard boxes around the house to give your furry friend hours of entertainment and a feeling of safety. Introducing new toys and games will also keep your kitty active and happy – try a cat tree, or a run-away toy mouse. Keeping your cat in an enriched environment is key here: the more he feels safe exploring within your home, the more likely he is to stay active and maintain his weight.

As always, it’s important to visit your vet for a physical exam, where they can run any lab tests and determine an accurate weighing. Your veterinarian will also help you calculate exactly how many calories your furry pal needs a day. Good luck!