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Did you know that between 30-40% of all the cats and dogs in the United States are overweight?
Who is to blame?
The cats and dogs or their human care givers? You guessed it, we are. We love our pets so much, that in an effort to keep them healthy and happy, we are in turn creating health and numerous other problems.
Overfeeding, lack of exercise and too many treats are the culprits. The extra weight is as detrimental to our pet’s health as being overweight is to our health.
However, our pets don’t know they are overweight and as a result cannot do anything about it, we can, however by changing our ways of feeding them, giving them more exercise and holding back on extra treats.
No fad diets here just plain common sense and less high carbohydrates. Yes, even cats can benefit from a high protein, some fat and low carbohydrates. Cats are carnivores, which means they are meat eaters.
Simply stated an overweight cat is eating more than it needs.
Keep in mind just because you have had your pet spayed or neutered is not the reason he/she is overweight. Just like humans, too much caloric intake, lack of exercise and normal aging will add on the pounds.
I am not going to give you the perfect diet for your cat to follow. That is up to you and your vet to decide.
Just as with starting a diet for yourself, you should see your doctor. It is a good idea to visit your vet and make certain your cat is in good health and ready to start the slow road to losing weight.
An overweight pet should have his/her heart and thyroid checked and some minor blood work done to see if there are any metabolic problems.
As you have learned from earlier reading, cats are carnivores (meat eaters) and dogs are omnivores (meat and plant eaters). A cat’s body works differently than a dogs and care needs to be taken to see that your cat is getting all the proper nutrients its body needs while still trying to lose weight.
A cat has to eat everyday, do not under any circumstances allow your cat to go hungry or think by not feeding it that you are helping Kitty to lose weight.
First of all because of the nature of a cat’s metabolic system, never start a reducing diet without your Vet’s supervision. If you do, you may end up with some medical bills you weren’t planning on.
Obesity in cats can lead to diabetes, arthritis and hepatic lipidosis. Hepatic lipidosis, which is known, as fatty liver syndrome is somewhat, like anorexia in humans. It happens in cats for a variety or reasons.
Obese cats because they are prone to diabetes; pancreatitis, cancer or other liver disorders are prime targets. However it can also be stress related.
Cats do not take kindly to change and any kind of change can cause stress. In our case we are talking about a cat losing weight, which includes a change in diet. New food, new eating patterns, a change in routine all can cause stress and make a cat stop eating.
Whatever you do, when you decide to start Kitty on a diet, do it slowly. Discuss with your Vet what to expect regarding Kitty’s behavior plus use your own common sense. No one knows your cat better than you do, sometimes outside advice, no matter how good, does not fit your cat and its behavior. The reason for mentioning this disease is simple, your cat needs to eat, and this problem may occur when a cat is not eating sufficient calories or has gone without food for several days.
So if you are planning to make a drastic change in your cat’s menu (changing to a new food) while you are putting him/her on a diet, do it slowly. Allow sufficient time for your cat to accept the new food by mixing small portions of it with the current food.
If you are in the habit of leaving a bowl of dry food out for kitty to munch on while you are at work (and who hasn’t), this is a “no no” if you are trying to get kitty to slim down.
While I am on the subject of dry food, let’s discuss what it is made of. Dry food is mainly carbohydrates, with very little if any protein or fat. Carbs create sugar in the digesting process, which creates weight gain. Cats do not process carbs like dogs and humans do.
Dry cat food like dry dog food is made up mainly of corn or cereal based products. In order to keep it in a fresh state, dry food is filled with all the wrong kinds of preservatives, preservatives that are not especially good for either of your pets (cats or dogs).
Interestingly enough, nature did not create kitty to be a carbohydrate eater. Most animals and we humans have an enzyme called Amylase, which helps digest carbs. Cats have a great deal less of that enzyme. That is the main reason dry food, though convenient is really not what Mr/Miss Kitty should be eating.
Nature created cats to eat a meat-based diet. Cats need a great deal of protein. A high carb diet will ultimately lead to diabetes simply because a cat’s system cannot digest all the carbs.
Nature intended for cats to eat mice and birds. Believe it or not they are the perfect diet for our feline pets. A mouse or bird is composed mostly of protein and fat, the small amount of carbohydrate comes from whatever was in the intestinal tract and stomach.
Since I am not recommending you supply mice or birds for your cat, I am suggesting you provide some meat. Beef, chicken or lean pork are all favorites of my guys. The boys prefer raw beef and Miss Tiger cooked chicken or pork (with a hint of garlic, of course).
Since I am not advocating you start trapping mice for your cat, what I want you to keep in mind is the size. Mouse size is a good portion. Food in ounces and not in pounds. Six tenths of an ounce to one ounce of food per meal is plenty for a 7 – 8 lb. Cat, a little more for a larger cat. That means Mr/Miss Kitty should be fed several times a day. In our household (and we work every day) our cats eat about 5 – 6 times a day, small bits every time. Our guys eat the first thing in the morning. If by chance one of us is home at noontime, they may nibble again (during the heat of the summer most likely they won’t). They seem to be evening grazers, wanting small portions several times during the course of the evening. As I have mentioned before, our boys are raw meat eaters and Miss Tiger likes hers cooked. They also get commercial canned food, too.
Cat treats have high levels of carbohydrates (flour & sugar) not to mention all the enticing flavor additions. If your cat is overweight and you believe he/she needs a treat think “meat.” A small piece of meat raw or cooked is a great treat. It may take a while for your cat to get used to eating raw meat and if that seems to be a problem, lightly cooking it for a few minutes is the answer. It might seem like this all requires too much effort, trust me it will be worth it in the end.
When feeding processed canned foods, buy the best you can. Read the labels; remember no animal by-products unless they are named. No food is 100% complete and balanced (no matter what the label says). Be certain that the cat food contains taurine, a very important mineral for your cat’s health. Watch for preservatives like propylene glycol, sodium nitrates, BHA or BHT. Do not feed your cat, dog food, as it does not contain the vitamins and minerals a cat needs to survive.
In order to lose weight, just like its human counterparts, cats need exercise. I don’t recommend taking your cat for a walk. I once tried to leash train one of our cats. It didn’t work. Actually my patience wore thin and I gave up, but I had a lot of laughs.
The exercise secret is “playtime.” Get some interesting inexpensive cat toys with a wand and drag them along the floor. This way kitty can stalk and pounce. You have to be consistent for this to work and it won’t overnight. Non food related attention is the best gift you can give your overweight cat.
By now you are thinking “it is as dreadful for my cat to lose weight as it is for me.” Special foods, several meals a day, (at least 2 -possibly 4 – 6 small ones), exercise, no more putting a bowl of dry food down and running off. I thought having a cat would be easy.
Trust me, it is, providing you start at the beginning and follow a few steps. First of all, cats will adjust to your schedule. Seriously, cats need and want a schedule or routine that they can follow. Remember that even though dogs have masters and cats have staff, you are still the leader.
The biggest problem here is you. You have to readjust your thinking and you have to establish the routine for all of you to follow.
Once a week shopping will allow you to buy all the cat food you need for the week. Read the labels on several good brands of canned cat food. Find a couple that fit the “good food criteria” of no damaging preservatives. Cats like variety (don’t you).
Buy a small piece of meat, by now you will have figured out if kitty likes his/her meat raw or cooked. If raw is the preference, cut it up in small pieces (bite size) and store in zip lock bags, store some in the refrigerator and the rest in the freezer, remembering to take some out when the other is gone. If cooked is the preference, cook it quickly, let it cool and do the same thing, small bite size pieces, some in the refrigerator and the rest in the freezer.
As you decide the routine, kitty will follow. Just remember that cats have to eat, they need and should have a high protein diet.
A little high quality dry food once in awhile is okay if you have to leave it. Dry food is high in carbohydrates and will add weight. Before beginning kitty’s weight loss program, have him/her weighed either at your Vets or try it at home. With a cat you are not looking for pounds of weight loss (unless your cat is very large). Weight loss in ounces will more likely be the norm, so unless you have access to a digital scale it may be hard to monitor weight loss without a trip to the vet’s to check every month or so. Do not expect dramatic results, this will take time and patience.
You as the caregiver have to realize that the success or failure is really up to you. You need to be committed to helping your cat lose weight. Here are a few gentle reminders that hopefully will help the process along;
- Feed your cat several small meals throughout the day.
- Feed all meals and treats in the cat’s bowl. Surprisingly enough when our cats are hungry they sit alongside their individual bowls.
- Reduce snacks and treats offer your cat pieces of raw or lightly cooked meat or a small bit of cheese.
Like the little train that wanted to climb the hill said to itself, “I think I can, I think I can,” you dear cat lover, can help your cat companion move on to a healthier and slimmer life.
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