Cats can’t look at themselves in the mirror and loathe their excess weight so what’s the problem?
First and foremost, dry cat food diets aren’t just linked to obesity, there’s also….
Life threatening (and expensive) urinary obstructions in male cats
Chronic bladder irritation– often leading to litterbox issues (the most common behavioral problem we see in cats)
There are TWO primary reasons dry cat food is linked to such serious health problems in felines:
1. WHERE’S THE WATER? Hands down, the single biggest problem with dry food is that cats seldom drink enough water when eating a dry cat food diet of any sort – even very high quality.
Cats evolved in the desert, and have a very low natural thirst drive. Before the advent of commercial cat food, they got the bulk of their water when consuming their prey.
Dry cat food has about 10% moisture. Fresh diets – whether raw meat, canned, or prey caught by your hunting cats have 70 – 75% water.
Dry food diets put your cat into a chronically dehydrated state. Their urine becomes very concentrated and that is what causes the rampant urinary health issues we see in cats who love their kibble.
Cats literally need to consume twice the volume of water to cat food to get close to 70% moisture. So in other words, if you feed your cat ½ cup of dry cat food, they need to drink at least 1 cup of water to remain properly hydrated.
I hear very often, “my cat drinks lots of water”, but I guarantee if you measured it, it’s not close to the amount required to keep urine dilute enough to avoid problems.
Chronic dehydration puts constant strain on the kidneys – and kidney failure is the primary cause of early death* in domestic cats lucky enough to have homes. (*Unfortunately, euthanasia for lack of a home is the single biggest cause of death in cats overall.)
2. CARBS FOR CATS? Cats are true carnivores. The majority of the calories in dry food diets are provided as CARBOHYDRATES. Yet, no known dietary requirement for carbohydrate exists for cats.
Carbohydrates are plentiful in commercial cat food because they are a cheap source of energy.
A cat’s natural diet is very low in carbohydrate. They evolved to have their satiety signals go off after a diet rich in protein and fat. Carbohydrate doesn’t send the signal cats need to stop eating. They inevitably become obese on carbohydrate rich diets. Also like us, their obesity leads to diabetes. Diabetes is both difficult and expensive to control in cats.
Many clients tell us, “my cat’s very fussy and will only eat crunchy food!”. And it’s true, cats in particular become very addicted to the salt, sugar, and flavorings present in commercial foods. Manufacturers try hard to get your kitty “hooked” so that they’ll only eat their brand of food.
HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO IF YOUR CAT’S A KIBBLE JUNKIE:
FIRST, transition your cats to high quality canned cat food. There are two outstanding websites that discuss, in tremendous detail, how to do this– Feline Nutrition and Cat Info.
We have a handout at Noah’s Ark that shows you how much it costs to feed a wide variety of high and low quality diets. You’ll be surprised at some of the data, so stop by and pick one up!
If you’re up for it, consider converting your cats to a raw, fresh meat diet. We are here to help you with that! I’m always available for diet consultations in person, or via email.
NEXT, plan a reasonable weight loss goal.
When I worked as a dietitian for humans, I primarily worked helping peopleshed unwanted pounds. Now that I’ve gone to the cats & dogs, I have more cooperative patients, but a 30-pound cat is every bit as obese as a 300 pound human, and in need of the same types of intervention. Like humans, some cats and dogs have the genetic potential to keep gaining weight – even to the point where they can no longer walk.
If the scale is creeping up on your fussy feline the first step is to stop further weight gain. Cats are fairly small critters that should usually weigh under 12 pounds. An average cat only requires 250 -350 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight.
Weight loss can only occur if fewer calories are consumed than “spent” — whether you’re a cat, a dog, or a human. If you feed a cat 100 calories per day less than needed to maintain their current weight, it will still take at least a month to lose a single pound; but that’s a perfectly fine rate of weight loss for cats.
Never put food out and let cats and dogs “free feed” or have access to food at all times …. that nearly always leads to obesity.
FINALLY, get your too loved fluffy feline off the sofa!
In the wild, cats expend lots of energy catching breakfast, lunch and dinner– those mice don’t just walk up and volunteer their services!
Our domestic kitties need to both eat less AND exercise more. Kitty feather wands, laser pointers, and chasing toys can all stimulate activity. We also carry the Fun Kitty Eggcersizer. Put some low calorie treats in and watch your cat move it around the floor. Once they’re slowly losing weight, they’ll be much more motivated to try to get the treats dispensed. For a longer article about encouraging cats to lose weight, click here.
But doesn’t dry cat food help keep teeth shiny and white?
Many cats and dogs swallow their kibble whole, without even chewing it. IF they chew, the kibble crumbles, mixes with saliva, and sticks to the gumline, helping to create tartar, not eliminate it.There’s is no truth to the myth that dry food keeps teeth cleaner.
Cat do suffer from dental disease and require annual examination of their teeth — because dental disease can cause a whole host of different health problems. We’ll be sure you cat has a thorough dental exam at their annual examination.