Overweight Cats and Diets
By: Kris Field
Executive Director, Barnwater Cats Rescue Organization
Behavioral and Nutritional Feline Consultant
In this weight-conscious society, many people see their animals as overweight when they are really just big and/or solid due to muscle mass. Cats are like people: They come in many sizes!
Once you have determined that your cat is truly overweight, you must decide on a diet that both of you can live with - emphasis on the word "live." Several pet food companies have high-fiber dry foods on the market that are usually labeled "lite," "light," "less active" or "reducing." These foods are very dangerous when fed long-term and the cats usually don’t lose weight and are hungry all of the time. They are miserable and so are you!
The problem with high-fiber diets is that increased fiber intake limits the availability of nutrients, bulk up the gut, and makes the stools hard and often difficult to pass. Even if the "lite" food is fortified with vitamins and minerals, the presence of the high fiber keeps the nutrients from being properly absorbed.
So, what do you do? The best way to lose weight is to eat smaller portions - the same rule applies to cats. Be sure that you are feeding your cat a premium dry food (these cannot be purchased at a grocery store). Premium dry foods do not contain cereal as their main ingredients or toxic food colorings. Supplement all diets with canned food every day.
Cats are carnivores, not omnivores like dogs, and must get their nutritional needs met with meat, and on a daily basis. Some people think of canned food as a "treat" for their cat and feed it only occasionally. This is not the way to go, especially if you want your cat to lose weight. Canned food contains about 78% moisture, which means that your cat will be getting the meat (without the added cereal that dry foods contain) as well as the extra water that he needs in order to keep his urinary tract healthy. The more water you cat takes in, the more dilute his urine will be, and the more dilute his urine is, the less chance he has of forming the struvite crystals that are cause by urine is too alkaline, hence fewer instances of lower urinary tract inflammation.
Check with a nutritionist to determine how much dry and how much canned food you should feed for weight loss or maintenance. Cats have a high metabolism; and the number of kilocalories consumed should be approximated based on target weight as well as the cat’s health in general. Whether you "free feed" or "limit feed," be sure that you make food available several times per day, not just one big meal once a day.
And remember, when in doubt, consult a feline professional for advice. Incorrect feeding can cause great harm, including organ problems such as liver and kidney damage. Poor nutrition can also be blamed for many behavioral problems, skin problems and elimination problems.
In the long run, a better diet will save you time and money in vet services and add to the quality of life for both you and your beloved feline companion!