October 14, 2010
About 40 percent of cats in American households are obese.
"Obesity is a serious medical condition and has been linked to
other medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, degenerative
joint disease, and lower urinary tract disease," explains Liz
Kelley, veterinary technician II at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). There are a
number of steps that you can take to ensure that your cat is
When choosing food for your cat, the primary ingredient should
include a high quality meat product.
"Cats are obligate carnivores and have very specific protein
requirements that must be met, and cannot metabolize plant
proteins, such as wheat glutens and soy, as efficiently," notes
In addition to the best primary ingredients, many cat owners
wrestle with the debate over canned food versus dry food and which
is the healthier of the two. Kelley recommends canned food for a
number of reasons.
"Canned food is a better choice for your cat," says Kelley. "It
is easier to get a higher protein content as well as more water
with canned food. Dry food is a high carbohydrate food and has a
low protein content. The high energy carbohydrates in dry food are
also a major factor in causing obesity in cats and dogs."
If you feel your cat is obese you should consult with your
veterinarian. They will give you a specific diet and exercise
regimen for your cat. Kelley explains that exercise alone does not
work for weight loss in any species.
"Diet must be the key to weight loss, and for cats a high
protein, low carbohydrate diet is the best choice," suggests
Kelley. "Protein is used for energy and also to maintain their
muscle mass which increases metabolism and therefore weight
In order for your cat to maintain a healthy lifestyle it needs
to be properly hydrated. An eight pound cat should drink about half
a cup of water every day.
"Cats get most of their daily water intake if they consume
canned food," notes Kelley. "If cats are fed a dry diet, they do
not get enough water from their food. You can make water more
tempting by using water fountains or flavoring it with a little bit
of low sodium tuna juice."
If you would like to give your cat a treat, Kelley says that it
is okay as long as it does not exceed 20 percent of its daily
caloric intake. The best treats to give your cat should include
protein made from dehydrated meats.
"The most important thing to remember is to make sure the
protein is from a high quality source and that the diet is a
balanced diet," stated Kelley. "Nutritional deficiencies can take
anywhere from months to years to become apparent. There is a fee
based website, www.balanceit.com, that is run by DVM consultants
who are board certified veterinary nutritionists who can provide a
balanced diet recipe or consult on a recipe that an owner is
already using to make sure that it is healthy and balanced."
The clinicians and staff of the Small Animal Hospital have taken
a progressive approach to applying the best nutritional practices
for their patients. On October 18, the CVM will open a new $70,000
kitchen donated by Nestle PURINA PetCare to help ensure that all of
their patients' nutritional needs are being met. Not only will they
house Purina products, but they will have other brands available so
that they can guarantee to have the best options available for all
of their patients as they are each given different meal plans by
With the help of your veterinarian, you can make the changes
necessary to prevent your cat from becoming obese and take the
steps to give them a healthier lifestyle.
"Please remember that while working toward a healthier lifestyle
for yourself, be sure to include your pets as well," Kelley
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