From Fat to Fit – Get Your Cat’s Sexy Back!

Jul 15, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Tips & Advice

Franklin was an adorable kitten when he came into my office for his first checkup. Before long, though, his obsession with food had resulted in a young cat who weighed nearly two times what he should. Franklin’s owners knew there was a problem and switched from leaving regular food out all day to a diet food and cutting back on portions. Problem was that Franklin was very unhappy with this new state of affairs, and his constant meowing and begging for food was disrupting the household.

When I next saw Franklin, this two year old, gorgeous black and white cat could barely jump and weighed in at 22 pounds, which was a far cry from his ideal weight of 10 pounds. His owners were desperate. They were literally feeding him a quarter of a cup of diet dry food a day, and he was ravenously hungry and both cat and family were miserable and looking for help. Franklin was gobbling up his food and anything else that came his way—bread, iceberg lettuce, potato chips and Oreo cookies all went down the hatch. He was dangerously overweight but felt like he was starving!

And Franklin is by no means a rarity. Statistics show that nearly 75% of all cats in the United States are overweight, and a sizeable chunk of those cats are obese. This dramatically impacts their health and overall wellness, and just like with people, the extra pounds can contribute to blood sugar problems, lack of mobility and heart disease.

Most of us grew up hearing that cats need dry food for their teeth and that canned food is a “junk food” with little nutritional value. But reality is very different. Cats are what are called obligatory carnivores, which means they need to eat meat to survive. Dry foods are loaded with carbohydrates, which is how they achieve that dry cereal consistency. Dogs have digestive systems that process carbohydrates quite efficiently, and like so many things in pet care, dogs came first to the table. Cat foods originated as spin offs from dog foods, and even though cat physiology is very different than that of the dog, dry cat foods quickly caught on and became the accepted cat food choice.

Fast forward to 2007. Nutritional studies that focused strictly on the cat identified one key reason for cat obesity. Because cats are pure carnivores, they have difficulty digesting carbohydrates, which has led researchers to speculate that the extra carbs may enhance fat accumulation and drive blood sugar levels up. Canned cat food is cereal-free, so all those carbohydrates get bypassed. Another advantage of canned food is that it is much lighter in calories than an equivalent amount of dry food.

One other piece of the puzzle that researchers looked at was what makes a cat feel full. Protein levels in food seems to affect satiety, so the higher amounts of protein in canned food leave cats feeling content and not deprived. The actual volume of food in the stomach also factors in, so this is why tiny amounts of dry food, which tend to have much less protein density than canned food, will not help your cat feel full.

So we converted Franklin into a canned food junkie, and gave him lots of it—two tuna fish sized cans each day. Because you can never have your cake and eat it too when dieting, we eased him entirely off his dry food. He is down to 11 pounds and counting, and he has become as active as he should be. And most importantly, he is happy and doesn’t have a clue that he is eating fewer calories!

Dr Cathy Lund

Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

City Kitty
18 Imperial Pl # 1B
Providence, RI 02903-4642

Phone: (401) 831-6369
Email: email@city-kitty.com

Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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