So your kitty kat is a couple of pounds overweight, and you’re thinking maybe you should do something about it.  Yep.  You definitely should.  Even just a couple of pounds can make a big difference on such a small animal.  Overweight cats can run into several health problems due to their obesity:  arthritis, diabetes, liver disease, heart failure, and kidney disease are all potential issues.

Weight issues in cats can occur for several different reasons, but most often, high-carbohydrate foods left out for “free-feeding” can be linked to the issue.  When you have multiple cats, one may eat just because the other is eating.  When you have just one cat, he may eat out of boredom.  Controlling their food intake will help control their weight.

Here are some steps you can take to get your cat’s weight in line.  Even if your cat is not overweight, these steps will help you improve and maintain your cat’s health.

Step 1:  Stop the grazing. By nature, cats are designed to live a feast-famine lifestyle.  They have a large stomach and short intestinal tract, allowing them to take in large amounts of food at once and process it quickly.  They are not built to graze.

Step 2:  Understand how to read a label. Reference our “Great Nutrition” document to learn more about reading labels.  You want to avoid the same yucky stuff in your cat’s food as you do in your dog’s.  No by-products, no wheat, no corn, no soy, no BHA/BHT, no ethoxyquin, no artificial flavors or colors.  No yucky stuff.

Step 3:  Reduce the carbohydrates. Cats do not use carbohydrates like humans do.  They derive their energy from protein and fat…in other words, from meat.  Yes, cats are carnivores.  They cannot survive without meat.

Step 4:  Embrace the can (or go raw). Generally speaking, canned foods have lower carbohydrates, but check the label.  Another benefit of canned foods is that they also help to increase your cat’s water intake, which is great for their urinary tract health.  A cat’s normal prey contains more than 70% moisture.  Kibble usually contains less than 10%, but canned foods usually come in around 75-78% moisture.  Canned foods more closely resemble what a cat is designed to eat.  A raw diet is ideal.

When looking for a canned cat food, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Look for high protein (from animals, not plants), low carb foods.  You want to keep carbs under 10%.
  • High quality proteins from named meat sources are necessary.  No by-products; avoid foods that have vegetable-based proteins.
  • Avoid fish-based foods.  Despite contrary belief, fish is not a natural part of a feline’s diet.

Initially when you begin feeding your cat canned food, they may gain weight.  Don’t panic.  Their body will adjust and begin to lose weight in a healthy way.  And your cat may actually turn his nose up to canned food at first.  Cats are extreme creatures of habit so changing the texture of their food may take a little extra work in the beginning.  Stick with it.

So many of us simply think “but my cat is fine on dry food.”  Everything is “fine” until something goes wrong.  Diseases and trouble begin building long before any symptoms begin to show.  Feeding your cat a species-appropriate diet is the greatest thing you can do for his health.