Researchers at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College conducted a 35-year study on more than 19 million cats from the US and Canada. The study confirmed a disturbing trend: most cats gain weight as they age, and cats’ average weight is on the rise.Continue Reading
Feline obesity has continued to increase over the past years. Statistics by the Association for Pet Obesity in 2017 show that a staggering 60% of America’s cats are considered obese. Pet insurance company Nationwide reports that nearly 20 percent of its members’ claims in 2017 were for conditions and diseases related to pet obesity, marking a 24 percent increase over the last eight years.Continue Reading
Your cat’s weight can be a good indicator of her health – but only if you keep track of it. Gradual weight loss or gain can be difficult to recognize in cats. Consider that the average cat weighs 10 pounds. Weight loss of only 6% of a cat’s body weight is considered a clinical sign – that’s less than ten ounces. Depending on the size of your cat, visible changes to her weight may be too subtle to notice without actually weighing her.
Dr. Andrea Tasi, a homeopathic vet and owner of Just Cats Naturally, considers weight the 4th vital sign.Continue Reading
A survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity in 2012 found that a staggering 58% of America’s cats are overweight or obese. These statistics mirror the equally disturbing increase in human obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one third of adults in the United States are obese.Continue Reading
Diabetes in humans has reached epidemic proportions, and sadly, this trend also affects our cats. Diabetes affects as many as 1 in 50 cats, with overweight cats being especially prone to the disease.Continue Reading
percentage of overweight or obese cats in recent decades
Did you know that a staggering 53% of America’s cats are considered overweight or obese? This trend has been on a disturbing increase, and mirrors the equally disturbing increase in human obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one third of adults in the United States are obese.
The serious health problems in cats which result from obesity are the same as in humans:
- Arthritis, joint problems and and torn or strained ligaments
- Heart and respiratory problems
- Gastro-interstinal and digestive problems
- Compromised immune system
- Increased risk during anesthesia and surgery
There are several factors that contribute to weight gain in cats:Continue Reading
Diabetes in humans has reached epidemic proportions. Statistics from the Centers of Disease Control show that in 2007, nearly 24 million Americans had diabetes. Statistics are no less alarming when it comes to cats. Just as for humans, there has been a tremendous increase in diabetes in cats over the past decade. Diabetes affects as many as 1 in 50 cats, with overweight cats being especially prone to the disease.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes results from inadequate production of insulin by the pancreas or an inadequate response of the cells to insulin. Without insulin, the body can’t utilize glucose. This results in elevated blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). In diabetic cats, excess glucose is eliminated by the kidneys, producing frequent urination. This in turn leads to increased water consumption to compensate for the increased urination.
There are three types of diabetes in cats:
Type I: Cats are insulin dependent and need to receive daily insulin injections because the beta cells of their pancreases are not making enough insulin.
Type II: The pancreas may make enough insulin but the body cannot utilize it properly. This is the most common type of feline diabetes. Some of these cats will require insulin as well, but others may get by on dietary changes and oral drugs to control blood glucose.
Type III: This is known as transient diabetes. These are type II cats who present as diabetics and require insulin initially, but over time, their system re-regulates so they can go off insulin.
While diabetes can affect any cat, it mostly presents in older, or overweight cats. The four classic signs noticed by most cat owners are an increased, almost ravenous appetite, weight loss, increased urination, and increased water consumption.
Diabetes is diagnosed with a thorough physical exam and laboratory testing of blood and urine. If the cat’s glucose is elevated, a second blood test, called a fructosamine, will provide more information. This test measures the average level of glucose control over the past few weeks.
Diabetes is treated with a combination of diet, insulin, or oral glucose medications.
What causes diabetes in cats?
While diabetes can affect any cat, it occurs more frequently in middle-aged and older, obese cats. It is more common in male cats. The exact cause of the disease in cats is not known, but obesity and poor diet seem to be major factors. Other causes may include chronic pancreatitis, other hormonal diseases such as hyperthyroidism, and certain medications such as steroids.
The link between diet and diabetes
More and more evidence shows that diabetes in the cat is a preventable disease, and is most likely caused by the high carbohydrate content of most commercial pet foods, especially dry foods. Since so many cats eat primarily dry food, these poor-quality, highly processed, carbohydrate rich diets that are the equivalent of sugared breakfast cereals are increasingly thought to be the major culprit for the epidemic increase in diabetes in cats.
A diet high in meat-based protein and free of grains and carbohydrates, either raw or canned, is not only the ideal diet for cats to prevent diabetes in the first place, but should also be the diet of choice for a diabetic cat. Veterinarians vary in their approach when it comes to diets for diabetic cats. Many traditional veterinarians still use high-fiber diets for these cats, but more and more holistic vets as well as feline vets have turned away from this approach. Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins makes a convincing case for how a grain-free diet can help diabetic cats and reduce, or even eliminate, the need for insulin. Her website Your Diabetic Cat provides a wealth of information on the connection between diet and diabetes.
There is no cure for diabetes. However, with proper dietary management, some cats may no longer need insulin. If diabetes has resulted from consumption of a poor quality diet and/or obesity, it is likely to improve or even completely resolve once the cat’s weight is under control.
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?