Ever wonder what to do about your overweight cat? Obesity in cats is very common and can predispose the cat to diabetes, Hepatic Lipidosis and arthritis. Overweight and actually obese cats outnumber cats of normal weigh and are being seen more and more commonly by veterinarians for various disorders. Weight loss plans in cats needs to be approached very carefully. This page will help you determine what to do about overweight cats so that your kitty won't have to be encumbered by obesity.
There are more cats than dogs in the USA at this time. And 40 percent of those cats are considered to be obese! Only 5 to 10 percent of all cats can be classified as only slightly overweight. In recent years Feline Diabetes Mellitus (diabetes) has become almost a daily diagnosis in animal hospitals all across America. Our cats are at risk for a number of obesity related disorders. Documented research indicates obese cats are far more prone than cats of normal body weight to Diabetes, arthritis and a very serious disorder called Hepatic Lipidosis. And the 40 percent obesity figure seems to be growing.
So what is happening that predisposes our domestic felines to a life of sedentary obesity? The answer is multifactorial but to simplify, just remember this… any individual mammal (dog, cat, horse, human, etc.) will gain body weight if it consumes more calories than it burns as fuel for energy. That’s pretty simple, but true. In Nature, food acquisition has never been a sure thing for any creature… not for canines, felines or humans. So food acquisition has always been accompanied by physical exertion to capture (or cultivate) and consume the food. It is only in recent times that the unnatural situation of food excess, readily acquired and consumed with little accompanying physical exertion, has become a way of life. We humans have figured how not to have to do all that work of capturing and cultivating to build up stores of food. Through agricultural expertise we have learned how to grow food and raise livestock and to have those food sources readily available and in abundance… just in case we get hungry! We learned how to refrigerate, dry, preserve and store foods in large quantities that assured us we would not have to endure long and unsuccessful hunting forays nor suffer through famines. We have created the very same food acquisition assurances for our domestic dogs and cats. They, as we, no longer have to hunt to survive. Indeed, we no longer even have to live outdoors.
It’s interesting that our pets have mirrored our own tendency to have trouble with weight control. The major difference, though, is that we humans have complete control over what our pets eat and how much they eat. Unless your dog or cat is sneaking into the fridge and making ham and cheese sandwiches late at night when no one is around, the only way they get to eat is when YOU place the food in front of them.
Every veterinarian has repeatedly heard a serious minded dog or cat owner state “I know you think she’s overweight, Doctor, but it isn’t from the food! She hardly eats a thing.” Well… is the pet overweight from high calorie air? Maybe it’s the water… or from laying on that couch all the time. That’s it! The couch is making the kitty fat, not the food. Seriously, far too many pet owners truly believe that food intake has nothing at all to do with their pet’s weight and no amount of counseling will convince them otherwise. If that describes your position, read no further because the rest of this article is all about how to feed the proper food and in the correct quantity so that the cat will loose weight safely or maintain an optimum weight. There will be nothing in this article about the effect of high calorie air, water or comfortable furniture on the cat’s weight problem.
Any cat that is overweight should have a physical exam performed, exact weight measured and blood and urine tests run. It is vital that normal thyroid hormone levels are present and that the cat has no physical or metabolic dysfunction. If the cat is physically normal, other than the abnormal body weight from fat deposition, then a gradual and careful weight loss program can be instituted. First, let’s look at what the causes of obesity are and what we can do to correct OUR mistakes like free feeding, too many carbohydrate, protien, treats and little exercise.
WHAT SHOULD YOU FEED A CAT?
Cats, unlike us humans, obtain food satisfaction less from carbohydrate than they do from protein intake. Give ‘em a high protein mouse and they are as happy as can be. One mouse would make a good meal for an average sized cat. A typical mouse is made of 20% Protein and 9% Fat and lots of moisture. And now that you know that the cat is a true carnivore, that its metabolic pathways have been set by natural evolutionary processes to efficiently utilize meat protein as a major component of the diet, you understand why a carbohydrate rich diet simply does not make sense for felines. Cats are not plant-based grazers; they are hunters of other animals and to reach an optimum state of health they must to comply with what nature programmed them to be. There are no vegetarian diets for cats. No matter what your own personal preference is regarding the ingestion of meat, by Nature’s own rules the cat requires meat in its diet.
As the cat’s caretaker, you have complete control over what your cat eats, how much it eats and how often it eats. Pick a diet, for example, Purina DM canned food. The ingredient list looks like this and the percentage of products are… Do not worry about the teeth and gums “not having some abrasion to clean off the tartar”. Cats and dogs being fed soft meat-based diets have far fewer oral health problems than those consuming dry, grain-based diets. Other good dry food products will demonstrate protein levels above 30 percent and fat levels above 18 percent in the Guaranteed Analysis table on the pet food label. Usually these diets are the “Growth” or “Puppy” or “Kitten” diets… and these formulations can and should be fed for life. If you still fear the erroneous myth about “too much protein” being “bad” for dogs and cats or that protein “causes” kidney damage, you really need some facts. There are numerous documented reports that will allay your fears and will update you on correct research. The myth about protein causing kidney trouble was extrapolated from research done on rodents many decades ago; the myth developed a life of its own in spite of being refuted by proper research on dogs and cats.