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.
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.
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.
- The Cat Its behavior, Nutrition & Health page 330 – ISBN 978-0-8138-0331-9
- Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook page 491 4th edition ISBN 978-0-470-09530-0
- Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook page 510 4th edition ISBN 978-0-470-09530-0
- People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, PDSA.