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Overweight Cats: Diets and Associated Health Risks

WebMD discusses health problems common in overweight cats, and offers tips on helping your cat to trim up.
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Slimming Down Kitty continued...

The consensus among vets is to implement a new diet slowly. Cats may stop eating if you suddenly confront them with different food.

“The bottom line is, you have to cut calories in proportion to the amount of work the cat is doing,” says Johnny Hoskins, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, of Branson, Mo.  “We try to do it over a several-month time period.” The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says a loss of about 1 pound per month is healthy.

The Best Cat Diet

Research has shown that there are several ways of approaching a cat diet. Fortunately, there are many commercial varieties of therapeutic canned and dry foods that are palatable and nutritionally sound.  Hoskins tells WebMD that it’s fine to combine canned and dry foods for your cat’s diet.

Joe Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, DACVN, is a clinical nutritionist with Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.  He recommends a diet of low-calorie canned food because it has more fillers than dry food. The recommendation is not aimed at your cat, but at you. The canned food tends to make you, the caretaker, feel you are giving your cat enough to eat. Wakshlag also says to make sure you don’t forget to look at the calorie count on the label. “I think the bottom line is you have to replace fat with protein and carbohydrates,” he tells WebMD. “The key is to remove fat, which is contributing the most calories.”

The latest trend in feline weight loss management is a high-protein/low-carb diet, the so-called “Catkins” diet.  Hoskins says he prefers low-carb cat diets because he believes carbohydrates raise the risk of diabetes. Diets that contain L-carnitine help maintain lean body mass, he says.

Other research has shown that obese cats lose weight without losing lean body mass following low fat/high fiber diets and high fat/low carb diets. Both kinds of diets have been shown to improve glucose tolerance.

Look at the label on the cat food to make sure your cat is going to get the right nutrients for his stage in life and that the top ingredients are meat, meat byproducts, or seafood. Nutrients like taurine and B vitamins are also good.  

Keep in mind: cats are natural carnivores, so vegetarian diets won’t do.

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