No, I don’t mean the political fat cats, but rather the ones that meow and purr. Have you noticed that the pressures of cat-napping have taken a toll on your cat, resulting in a little [or a lot of] weight gain? You are not alone, as feline obesity is currently the highest cause of mortality in cats due to the weight-related deaths.
The number one cause of feline obesity is exactly the same as human obesity; unhealthy diet. The main culprit being that nasty food group called CARBOHYDRATES. Cats have absolutely no nutritional need for carbohydrates as they are OBLIGATE CARNIVORES and need meat protein to survive and thrive. Further to this they lack the enzyme called amylase to digest carbohydrates.
So, why do commercial dry foods contain these carbohydrates? It’s cheaper for these companies to use corn, rice, wheat etc. rather than a higher volume of protein in their meals. This is their way of cutting their costs while still charging a premium price to the pet parent.
The 2 groups that suffer due to this logic are; 1).pet parents as the pet food prices escalate. Your cat also gets nutrition-related illnesses from being overweight and these results in vet bills. 2) your cats, as they eat what you feed them. Be aware that these carbohydrates are addictive to your cat. I have yet to watch a riveting documentary where the big cat is hunting for corn in the field.
Weight gain in pets is detrimental to their health and quality of life and can lead to several medical conditions such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, joint stress, fatigue and heart conditions. Also the stress of the added weight can result in stress induced conditions such as bladder inflammations, inability to groom and behaviour issues. An unhappy cat can very quickly become an unhealthy cat.
Here are 2 of our top tips for weight loss that you can try at home, to ensure your pet lives a healthy life for longer:
- The most common mistake most pet parents make is to free feed. Free feeding is when you leave food out for the entire day and allow your cat to help himself. Your cat is not a grazer and needs to hunt. You can simulate “hunting” by defining set meal times. This is actually easier to do than you think and you can make it fit into your lifestyle. Here are some tips that have worked for our clients:
- Determine how much food your cat needs in a day.
- Divide this requirement by how many meals you can actually feed in a day. For working parents the best option is 3 meals per day [breakfast when you wake up, dinner when you get home and a meal about an hour before bedtime]. For stay at home parents we recommend 5 small meals per day.
- Place the meal portion into the bowl and only leave the food out for 15-30 minutes. After the determined timeframe has passed remove the food bowl. Your cats’ next meal will be at the next meal time.
The above process will take some time to implement but before long your cat will be trained to know when his meal times are. Eliminating free feeding can help your cat lose those extra kilos as you are controlling his portions and not allowing him to graze out of boredom.
Do not starve your cat as this can harm him. Starvation in cats leads to hepatic lipodosis which can be extremely fatal. Any changes to the diet must be done gradually and at the cat’s pace.
- Eliminate carbohydrates from the diet. Ideally the raw diet is the best option but if you are intent on feeding dry or wet food, then consider adding fresh meats to the bowl, either cooked or raw. This will increase the protein load while decreasing the carbohydrate load per meal.
Pet food companies are now jumping onto the health wagon and offering grain free food options. While these are the better option for your cat, be aware that these use ingredients such as potato, lentils, peas etc. in place of the grains to ensure that the ingredients “stick” together to make a dry pellet. These ingredients get converted into sugars in the cats’ body.
Sugar ,as we all know, leads to fat storage and thus the cycle continues.