Cat Obesity Is On The Menu

Obese cat

Obese cat. Is this real? It looks it.

It’s official. It’s formal. They’re opening a clinic in America to deal with obesity in cats. Until now there was plenty of internet chat about that but not much else. When a respected organisation such as the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University decide to open an obesity clinic we have to accept that cat obesity has become mainstream.

However, I can’t find information about the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s obesity clinic on their website, which is strange. Maybe they haven’t got around to updating their website.

However in searching for “cat obesity” on their website the top found page is about “Preventing Feline Behavior Problems”. The page includes a bit about cat obesity. I immediately disagree with the vets at the Cummings School…typical of me, it seems.

I don’t think there is such a thing as “feline behavior problems”. For me there can’t be because everything a cat does is natural and instinctive within the environment that people create. Animal behavior that is natural cannot be described as a “problem”. It is better described as feline behavior that some people find difficult to accept. In reality “feline behavior problems” are “human education problems”. When people behave naturally and badly (criminal  behavior is a natural part of human behavior) it can be described as “a behavior problem”. But when an animal behaves naturally and that behavior conflicts with what we prefer to see we cannot call it a behavior problem because from the animal’s standpoint it is not a problem and in any case the cat lives in our environment. We are indirectly responsible for a lot of our cat’s behavior.

There is an overlap here with our cat’s feeding habits as well. We might become irritated if our cat constantly pesters us for more food even when he is overweight. We should look to ourselves for the cause of that not see it as a cat behavior problem.

I won’t chew on that anymore but move on to cat obesity. The Cumming School say:

For cats, twice daily feeding of reasonable amounts of high fiber, low fat cat food is a good approach…

My first question is why should the food be high in fiber?  Perhaps the idea is to restrict intake of some of the food through the stomach wall. I don’t know. That is a wild guess. The basis of all cat food should be the common mouse. Is the mouse high in fiber? What is the nutritional make up of a mouse? That sounds grizzly but it will guide us. Well the answer is:

The ideal natural cat diet, the mouse, is 40% protein, 50% fat, and only 3% carbohydrates….²

How does that perfect diet match up to commercially available cat food in the USA? Looking at the table below which is figures on a dry matter basis, you can see that wet cat food is a closer match to the ideal.

Nutrient¹ Dry Wet Mouse
Protein 26-36 34-60 40
Fat 14-24 20-46 50
Carbohydrate 50-72 16-44 3
Fiber 3-7 2-5 ?
Ash 6.5-10 6-10 none

I wonder if the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine invite the pet food manufacturers to their clinic? They should do because cat obesity is not caused by the cat but by commercial pet food manufacturers and cat owners working in tandem. And the rise in popularity of dry cat food coincides conveniently with the rise in weight of domestic cats. When did you last see a fat feral cat living off rodents?

My research indicates that the new clinic expects to receive about 600 clients per year in 2015 and provide advice to vets and cat owners plus do research. Sounds good. Please also talk to the manufacturers. What about a commercially available raw food diet designed for the domestic cat?

Also I don’t really agree with the twice a day feeding regime. I suppose that is a way of reducing food intake but cats generally like to eat small amounts more frequently than twice a day. I would prefer to provide smaller portions more often than bigger portions infrequently. I think you’ll find that that is the general consensus of opinion.

Linda P Case says:

..cats are nibblers who prefer to consume small meals..a minimum of two meals should be provided per day….¹

It is clear that cat obesity is about us. There are various statistics on the percentage of cats that are obese. You don’t think you’ll find statistics for obese German or French cats. The United States is very open about it which I applaud. Well done USA for providing the information. In the UK it is said that 25% of cats (3m) are overweight4.

Healthy cat weight

Healthy cat weight? No overweight. Photo: danperry.com

For the USA the figure is something between 40%³ and 70% (Foster Hospital in USA). There are various charts and tests to help you decide if your cat is obese (definition: “more than average fatness” – Free Dictionary). However, a quick visual check and the application of common sense will tell you. Nearly all cat obesity is due to overfeeding and under exercising. That is basically down to us to fix.

A cat doesn’t complain if you don’t respond to his pleadings for food despite having been feed adequately shortly beforehand. A cat won’t harbour a grudge if you gently restrict his food intake. Often a cat will ask for more treats. It is addictive. Perhaps the best cat caretakers are the most prone to overfeeding their cats.

Methods for losing cat weight:

  • Restricted high protein low carbohydrate diet. A bit of tender but tough love. Don’t kill with kindness.
  • Reduced treats – human food.
  • Some exercise – play time
  • Tip: L-carnitine supplement. It can increase lean body mass. Subject to vet’s approval: 250-500 mg per day.
  • Long term: high quality wet food and some dry for occasional grazing. Tip: a poor quality food is likely to be poorly digested which will lead to “soft stools” and more frequent defecation and poor coat condition. Monitor your cats stools and urination. Great checks on general health.

References:

  1. The Cat Its behavior, Nutrition & Health page 330 – ISBN 978-0-8138-0331-9
  2. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook page 491 4th edition ISBN 978-0-470-09530-0
  3. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook page 510 4th edition ISBN 978-0-470-09530-0
  4. People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, PDSA.
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Cat Obesity Is On The Menu — 5 Comments

  1. I wonder how many overweight cats are strictly indoor cats?
    They are kept indoors and deprived of their natural life and exercise. The cats who don’t have caretakers who take into consideration that indoor cats need stimulation to make up for what they are missing by having their freedom taken away, have nothing to do but eat and sleep and therefore grow heavier.
    It’s worse still for the declawed ones, how many of those are overweight?
    Take the freedom from cats and keep them safe, but at what cost? Would a cat choose a long boring unhealthy life or the life cats are born for, taking their chance and enjoying life?
    If cats have to be kept prisoner then that prison should be full of entertainment, lots to do and lots of attention from the caretaker, to ensure the quality of life all cats deserve to enjoy.

    • I totally agree Ruth. Outdoor life means healthy living when it comes to cats. My outdoor cats have never over eaten or had weight problems. I think any serious cat person has to think about outdoor living arrangements for their cats if they want an ideal. I for one am looking to move to the countryside where I can safely let my cats out. I had a bad experience recently – about 2 months ago, where I am living currently and I have decided this means I need to move. Nothing makes me happier than to see my cats enjoyng the outdoors. I bought the place I live in now, so I will have to rent it and go rent a place somewhere safe and away from busy roads.

      Until 2 months ago all my cats have always been outdoor/indoor cats and they have all been super happy and super healthy. I don’t believe in booster shots. Apart from that a good diet and exercise is what I want for my cats. At the moment I have 2 indoor kittens and one cat who is currently staying inside til I work thngs out. I make sure to spend as much time as possible with them and play with them and keep them happy and healthy. It’s a serious job since they are stuck indoors at the moment. I might let them out when it get cold so they dont wander too far because of the cold. But for now, whether I want to or not, I go home right after work and play with them for at least an hour or 2. I also play with them later for a half hour before I go to bed and then another 45mins or so before I go to work. It’s hard work but satisfying to see them happy. They dont seem to have behaviour issues or eating issues so far. I wont let it happen!

      • Marc you are truly a cat lover and I agree that any serious cat person should take into consideration the need for cats to have some quality outdoor life.
        Sorry you have to move, the same happened to us, we got cat hating neighbours and we daren’t the 9 year old cats we had then out to enjoy the freedom they’d been used to since being kittens, so we left our own house and moved to this rented one, losing a lot of money because those people were so awful we had to almost give our house away to get rid of it.
        This was 13 years ago and it’s the best thing we ever did, but if the same happened here we’d move again without a second thought, because our cats health,happiness and welfare comes first. Our present two are 11 years old, one had a feral father, it would break their hearts to be imprisoned and ours too watching their misery at being shut in. We will never buy a house again, renting you can always move without the hassle of trying to sell.
        The people who say they can’t afford some sort of outdoor run for their cats annoy me because you can be sure they can afford TV and other stuff and probably holidays for themselves too.
        Good luck I hope you find somewhere nice to live for you and your cats, very soon

        • Thanks for the encouragement Ruth. Gosh, you have done exactly what I must do albeit for a different reason. For me it’s not neighbours but a busy and dangerous road which I have come to fear since I believe it took the life of my dear Red. As soon as that happened I knew I have to move, so now it is simply a matter of time. It will be some time though, but I look forward to the end result. Luckily the place I bought is an investment in that it is an older place but in a very good area that can’t go down in value basically. Until the time I move, which will be after I do a bit of work on the place to get more rent out of it, I will use the balcony as a run. I am currently trying to figure out a way to secure it and the area on the ground directly below it so the cats can safely be outside whenever they want. I’ve certainly got my work cut out for me but I know the joy of the result when I can actually move. I know how happy they will be to be totally free again and how happy that’s going to make me.

  2. So sorry about Red, I can understand why you have to move. We were very lucky to find this house empty when we were desperate,the landlady had a no pets rule because of previous tenants with an entire tom cat….but the kind agent told her we were 2 nice quiet mature sisters with 2 nice quiet neutered cats lol We are great friends with her now.
    It’s not so bad for kittens like yours having to be kept inside, ours always stay in until after they are neutered anyway, it’s worse for older cats used to their freedom to have it taken away from them.
    Good luck, I hope it works out for you Marc.

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