Keeping kitty at her optimum weight is important at any age, but especially in older cats. Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, osteoarthritis, respiratory distress, lower urinary tract disease and early mortality. As our cats age and activity levels decrease, weight gain often becomes a problem.
Amber has been on a diet for the past several years – I’ve previously written about this here. I’m happy to report that our efforts are working, and she has been losing some weight.
There are several factors that contribute to weight gain in our cats:
- Free choice feeding. This has been the single biggest factor in causing obesity in cats. Free choice feeding means that food is left out for the cat at all times, which goes completely against the cat’s natural habit of being a hunter who may only eat one, maybe two meals a day.
- Carbohydrates. Unlike other mammals, cats have no carbohydrate-digesting enzyme called Amylase in their saliva. Nature did not intend our cats to consume carbs. They metabolize carbs into stored fat. Unfortunately, most commercially available dry cat food is very high in carbohydrates, contributing to this problem.
- Lack of exercise. As we all know, our cats spend most of their day sleeping.
- Treats. For most of us, giving treats is one way we show our cats that we love them. I’m definitely guilty of this – especially since Amber is the master manipulator when it comes to getting her treats!
How can we counteract these factors and help our cats maintain a healthy weight?
- Stop leaving food out for your cat at all times. Feeding two small meals a day, and feeding “normal” portions can go a long way toward helping your kitty loose and maintain her weight. A normal size portion for a cat is about equal to the size of a mouse. Don’t follow manufacturer directions when it comes to portion size – they’re all much higher than what your cat really needs. When in doubt, consult with your cat’s vetnerinarian.
- Feed a meat based diet. This is consistent with the needs of a carnivore. There are many quality commercial raw and canned diets available that are high in protein (meat) and free of grains (carbs). Two brands I like (and they are also Amber-approved!) are the Wellness Core and the Innova EVO lines.
- Play with your cat. This is a great way for the two of you to spend quality time together and to get your cat some exercise. For the times you when you can’t play with your cat, get him some interactive toys. Check out the toy department of the Conscious Cat Store for some suggestions.
- Limit or, ideally, eliminate treats. If you absolutely must feed treats, look for grain-free treats that are high in protein and give only a few. Amber has, reluctantly, learned that one Greenie treat (not grain-free, but only two calories a treat) is all she’ll get at any one time. She still longs for the days when getting treats meant having a handful shaken into her bowl….
How do you help your kitty maintain or loose weight?