The Right Weight Loss Diet for Your Cat
Depending on the size and breed of a cat, each one has a specific weight requirement that is best for a long, healthy life. Much like people, cats have different personalities when it comes to food, and some cats may seem eager to overeat. When cats are “free fed,” meaning they are given unrestricted access to a bowl of food at all times, excess pounds may arise quickly. While “food is love” is a nice sentiment, a better sentiment is making sure every cat has the right diet to sustain a long and healthy life. For pet parents with overweight or obese cats, finding the right diet is paramount.
What Causes Obesity In Cats?
When a cat becomes overweight or obese, there are often more culprits than accidental overfeeding. Even a pet parent that has a regular feeding schedule can end up with an overweight cat. Things such as treats and an unbalanced diet can lead to obesity in a cat. To determine the best diet for weight loss in cats, it is important to understand the leading causes of feline obesity.
“Free feeding” is a popular way for pet parents to provide their cats food. For those who have a busy schedule, allowing their cats to graze on a large amount of food throughout the day is a tempting option. Cats have a natural hunting instinct, and their metabolism is not suited for a grazing diet. When a cat is allowed to free feed, she tends to eat more than she needs. Cats who have scheduled feedings of anywhere from two to four small meals every day have better weight management.
It is hard for a cat to turn down a tasty treat. Since cat treats tend to be small, many pet parents do not realize how many extra calories (that hold very little if any nutritional value) they are giving their cat. Too many cat treats can cause cats to gain weight quickly. Many treats are full of carbs, which carnivorous cats need little of. Giving treats to your cat is a great way to interact and bond, but be sure to practice restraint and limit the number of treats you are offering them.
One might think that all cat foods are created equal when it comes to nutritional content; however, that is sadly not true. These variations in nutrients and caloric density can keep even the most strictly scheduled eaters from losing weight. For example, many dry kibble cat foods are very high in carbohydrates, which are notorious for causing weight gain.
Cats are “obligate carnivores.” This means that for a cat’s nutrition to be at its absolute best, diets need to be meat-based. Meat provides the amino acids and vitamins that cats need to stay healthy and happy. Ensure your cat is eating a food that is properly balanced to meet her biological needs. This can help in maintaining a healthy weight.
The Best Diets for Weight Loss in Cats
From dry food to wet food, raw or fresh diets, to a combination of them all, cat diets are as varied as cats themselves. Pet parents should always consult with their veterinarians to ensure that there are no special dietary needs for their specific cat. However, putting a cat on a weight loss diet is as easy as knowing the right foods to feed her. Here are the best weight loss diets to feed an overweight or obese cat, and the benefits:
Cats do best on a high-protein diet, especially those who need to lose weight gradually over a period of time. High-protein diets contain carnitine, an amino acid that cats need to stay healthy. Carnitine is invaluable in being able to turn fat reserves into energy. While found in abundance in animal meat, many plants that can be found in many dry cat foods, such as wheat, lack the carnitine that cats need.
It is important that cats get animal-based protein in order to be at their best. Cats do especially well on chicken and fish-based cat food recipes. When searching for protein-based foods, pet parents should always look for the labels that name the protein. Steer clear of food containing “byproducts,” since it is not always clear what that means, and some byproducts may not be nutritious. One might think that a dry food with animal-based protein might be a good place to start; however, wet food tends to contain more protein, fewer carbs, and more water - all things that cats need.
While carnitine and a high protein diet is best for a cat that needs to lose weight, pet parents with elder cats should be aware of chronic kidney disease (CKD). When a cat has CKD, two-thirds of her kidney function is lost, which means her pet parents have to be careful with her diet. Chronic kidney disease often occurs in elder cats, and as a result, these cats may actually need to have a diet with lower phosphorus levels, and it takes some work to get protein without making the phosphorus too high.
If a high-protein diet cannot be used, then it is recommended that L-carnitine supplements be considered to treat feline obesity. This supplement's application in treating overweight cats has been well researched and is found to be safe and effective. You can obtain carnitine supplements both over the counter as well as by a local veterinarian.
Scheduled Feeding Diet
Teaching a cat to adhere to a food schedule is easier than most people think. The first thing to know is the amount of food the cat needs every day. This does vary depending on the size, age, breed, and health of the cat in question. An Asian breed is going to have a different ideal weight than a Maine Coon or a domestic short hair, for instance. As a baseline, your average house cat needs about 150-200 calories a day, equivalent to about 1 can of your typical 5.5-ounce cat food, about ½ a cup of dry food, or about 5 ounces of fresh food.
Once a vet has determined the right weight for the breed of cat, taking up a scheduled feeding diet allows pet parents to gradually control the amount of food their cat eats every day. The scheduled feeding diet is the exact opposite of free feeding, and it is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than leaving a big bowl of food out for the cat to graze on throughout the day, the pet parent should feed their cat two to four times each day with a set amount of food that is to be eaten in one sitting.
For a scheduled feeding diet, most vets recommend portioned food two to four times throughout the day. Wet foods, whether they are canned or fresh, provide more moisture, which adds volume to the food to help keep cats full. In addition, studies show that cats fed high-moisture diets lose weight more effectively and that they are more active. Scheduled feedings also work great for a cat who needs prescription foods or needs to take medication along with her feedings.
Every pet parent wants to give their cat the right nutrition and to make sure she stays active and healthy. Vets have all the information needed about cat breeds and their ideal weights. Together, both vets and pet parents can create a diet that uses the best cat food recipes that can help shape an overweight cat back into her true lithe, slim form. There are plenty of products that can help pet parents out, such as automatic feeders that release food on a timer, so even the busiest parents can make sure their cat is always on schedule for her meals. While weight loss in cats does take months to see results, the health benefits are well worth the wait.