Probably the most common question we get at our front desk about cats goes like this: "My cat has gotten really fat, and I've cut back his food, but he's not losing weight and he's forever meowing at me like he's starving. What can I do?"
The lazy reality of kitty inside
Pet parents often struggle with keeping their indoor cats a healthy weight. The fact is that domestic cats have a sweet life - they get to lounge around all day, and don't have to work at all for their food. It just magically appears at regular intervals. It's a far cry from a bobcat chasing a rabbit through the snow, and a heck of a lot easier. But cats do miss the exercise of chasing game, and the excitement and stimulation it provides. Food is definitely one of the biggest highlights of their day, so cats can be incredibly persistent about reminding you to feed them.
It's ok - we had a chunky kitty too!
Our 10 year old big tom Haatim moved from our house to the clinic (Pandosy Village Veterinary Hospital) last fall. Our feelings were a bit hurt when the nurses casually referred to him as "overweight," but sure enough... he was. This just goes to show that even a veterinarian's love can be blind. He had slowly gained weight over the years, and we felt bad about cutting back his food more - after all, he was getting less than the recommended amount! Our nurses, (who have no love lost for Haatim since he routinely bites them!) took over his feeding and put him on a diet. Haatim still ate Tikicat, the high quality, protein dense canned seafood, but 2/3 the amount. A few months later, we were pleased to see Haatim had a waistline again! He has a saggy belly flap, but he's more spry and active (and to the immense delight of our nurses, more able to jump up onto the top of cupboards where they can't reach him.)
feed good, protein rich dense food
Forget the vet diet foods that have lots of filler in them to make your cat feel more full. Stick to extremely high protein, high quality cat food. We recommend raw or canned food first, like our Pounce & Hound Raw Food Nutrition and Tikicat, since they have the water cats (especially toms) need to keep a healthy urinary tract. If it's kibble, it needs to be extremely protein rich, like Orijen, and please make sure they have access to fresh running water, like a leaky tap or a fountain.
portion control - feed for body condition
It doesn't matter if you feed your cat kibble, raw food or canned - if your cat is a bit or a lot fat, then you need to cut back on their food. No debate! Portion it out, and control the amount. A good start is to cut out 1/4 of what you are currently feeding them. See if the diet changes their appearance. Most importantly, realize that "recommended feeding amounts" are only a starting point to find the right portion, since every cat has a different age, activity level and metabolism.
stop bothering me cat!
Inevitably, if a cat does on a diet, they take it out on their human parents. Cats have no trouble pouncing on your head early morning or meowing incessantly if they think they should be eating right now. Think back again to that bobcat - the only time wild cats are happy with their portion size is when they have gorged themselves on a kill and are following it up with a good nap. Domestic cats by nature are often hungry (if they aren't overweight) so we need to keep their minds and bodies busy so they aren't obsessing about food all the time.
Hopefully these tips will help you keep your kitty cat healthy and happy!
Yours in holistic pet health,
Dr. Jason and Arnica
+ Dr. Pam, Hannah, Jackie and Molly