Q: Sometime back you suggested feeding cats that weigh more than 12 pounds canned kitten food. Our cat weighs about 18 pounds. He eats canned food and dry. You recommended kitten food because of the protein. What brand or brands and how much? I am confused because the amount of calories is what causes weight gain?
Dr. Nichol: You are right to be concerned about your cat’s well-being. His generous girth puts him at risk of fatty liver disease, diabetes, and degenerative arthritis. Obesity advances insidiously, leading people to accept their corpulent kitties as “big boned,” bless their little hearts.
Cats are naturally adapted to eat prey only; they do best on a diet that mimics the nutritional content of rodents. The Nichol family has two cats who are loved like little children in furry suits. But beneath those sweet exteriors beat the hearts of a couple of ruthless carnivores.
Nutrition that is matched to the physiologic needs of a species really matters. The high protein, low fat and low carbohydrate composition of canned kitten food is close to the nutritional analysis of the helpless creatures cats eat and thrive on in the wild. The type of nutrients is more important than the calorie count. My 9-pound cats eat Science Diet canned kitten food on demand, along with the occasional mouse.
After completely transitioning away from dry food, most cats self-regulate, meaning that they adjust to eating only what they need. Weight reduction for the chunky monkeys usually occurs over several months. The most any domestic cat should weigh is 11 to 12 pounds.
If mouse hunting season is short at your house, your feline porker can tap into his inner savage by foraging for his sustenance. Food toys, stuffed with canned food, can be frozen in Zip Lock bags. As you head out the door for work you can add to the challenge by hiding these gifts of life under furniture. Your erstwhile couch potato’s brain and manual dexterity will be tested as he hones his survival skills.
Why should your cat work for a living? Dry food freely available from a bowl is like a handout. But healthy stresses to the brain keep cats, dogs, and humans sharp while reducing the risk of age-related dementia. Work is good for us.
Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). Questions on pet behavioral or physical concerns? For answers, Like my Facebook page at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.