Articles online discussing the feline obesity problem have not been kind to manufacturers and pet owners who feed cats packaged and preserved dry foods that have higher levels of flour and sugar. The main argument is that cats are carnivores and have no carbohydrate-digesting enzyme called Amylase in their saliva to break down carbohydrates.
From being hunters, many cats now lead a convenient, sedentary existence with an eat-all-you-can diet of dry foods. Instead of hunting for food, cats get their food bowls filled just because they meowed. Experts blame the unlimited access to food as the biggest single factor contributing to feline obesity.
Obesity in cats can lead to diabetes, hepatic lipidosis (feline fatty liver syndrome), arthritis and heart ailments. Dr. Ashley Gallagher from the Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington D.C. spoke over at petmd.com on the importance of having a veterinarian determine the body condition of an obese cat and how it can lose weight by exercising and changing its diet based on age and lifestyle.
At home, it's easy to spot an obese pet by standing above the animal while looking down. Gallagher said if you can't see the animal's ribs or feel them when you touch either side of its chest, it is likely obese.
Experts recommend that before starting an overweight cat on a weight reduction program, the cat must first have a complete physical exam to determine if it has normal thyroid hormone levels or if it's suffering from physical or metabolic dysfunction. It should also be noted that cats should not be subjected to any form of crash diets.
Every pet owner must have been told or have heard about the dangers of feeding cats and dogs with too much protein. Articles by pet experts online, however, strongly belie this “myth” and put the blame on so-called “Complete and Balanced” corn-based dry food that compromises cat's health.
Lisa A. Pierson, DVM and author of Feline Obesity: An Epidemic of Fat Cats published in catinfo.org, said “the feeding of dry food plays a very significant role in many of the diseases that plague our cats including obesity, diabetes, urinary tract problems, and inflammatory bowel disease.”
A water-depleted diet, she said, causes a great deal of suffering in cats and is linked to feline diabetes.
“Excess carbohydrates wreak havoc on many cats' glycemic (blood sugar) balance. Cats on dry food are much more apt to be overweight or obese. Fat cells secrete a substance that can cause insulin resistance – leading to a diabetic state,” wrote Pierson.
What's best for cats, experts say, is to eat what nature intended them to eat – meat. Feeding cats with more protein and fat and less carbohydrates will help them maintain a healthy and leaner body.
Pierson said feeding cats this way is like putting them on the popular Atkins Diet wherein those who follow it abstain from carbohydrates and just eat protein. In the feline world, it's called the “Catkins Diet”.
PetMD says the feline species-appropriate diet should “have a high protein level in the 35 to 45 percent range” if the food is dry, with “moderate fat content with a low percentage of carbohydrate (grains).” In addition, PetMD recommends supplementing a cat's diet with L-Carnitene (approximately 250 to 500 mg a day) as Carnitine helps the liver convert fat into glucose for energy.
But even better is if cats can get their paws on a mice or bird. PetMD says both cat preys are made up of only three to eight percent carbohydrate making them good carnivorous treats. A typical mouse is made of 20 percent protein and 9 percent fat and lots of moisture enough to satisfy an average sized cat.
It would also help chunky cats to lose weight by feeding them small portions at two to three intervals a day, and changing their carb snacks to pieces of meaty treats. Pet owners should make their cats' environment more suitable for play and exercise so they don't get bored and resort to long cat naps.