Feline Obesity – ‘The Fat Cat’

In order to recognize this insidious and disturbing trend, we would do well to understand the signs of the overweight feline. The mixed-breed female cat should weight in between seven and eleven pounds. This does not apply to the larger breeds such as the Maine Coon, and various other big breed cats. The mixed-breed male should weigh between nine and twelve pounds. Males of larger breeds do not usually exceed eighteen pounds. When you place your palm against the rib cage, you should be able to feel ribs readily. If you cannot feel ribs even when you rub your fingers back and forth along the rib cage, and cannot feel the ribs, you cat is definitely over the weight limit.

There have been no ‘real scientific studies’ done with regard to feeding guidelines and feline weight control, as the two studies that we are aware of, have been conducted by commercial pet food companies, in order to determine acceptable carbohydrate intake in dry kibbled foods. These studies were conducted in order to support their pre-determined positions. No studies have been conducted with regard to a true low carbohydrate diet such as the meat-based diet of the predatory feline.

The Essential Nutrients: Protein & Fat

If we are to honor our feline friends, (as they have come to expect!) we must provide them with a life that is long, healthy and happy. And if we are to understand the dietary needs of the carnivore, we must recognize that our cats have evolved with an enormous protein dependency. We have been lead to believe that a ‘bottomless’ bowl of dry kibble, left out for the ‘grazing’ cat is perfectly acceptable. It is perfectly easy for the cat companion, but it is not perfectly acceptable.

The cat has unique nutritional requirements as a result of its status as an obligatory carnivore. These nutritional needs evolved in an environment that was plentiful in protein and fat sources, in the form of wild prey animals. The nutritional needs did not evolve through the consumption of foods rich in carbohydrates (most commercial pet foods). Millions of years have created a predator whose hunger is satisfied only when enough protein and fat have been consumed. It is essential to note that satiety signals do not trigger through the consumption of foods that are rich in carbohydrates. The cat does not cease food intake until its satiety trigger signals that enough protein and fat have been consumed. Therefore, over consumption of high carbohydrate foods are the norm when the cat is faced with most commercial pet foods, particularly those in dry form.
Risk Factors

The two most serious risk factors that face obese cats are diabetes and hepatic lipidosis. Additional side effects for obese cats include inability to clean itself, particularly around the rectal area, which can cause great discomfort, as the area can become contaminated with fecal matter. Grooming, in general, can be difficult, and a dull coat can result. The extra weight puts considerable strain on the joints, and jumping can be painful. The cat can become lethargic, and have little or no interaction with family.

The Solution

Essentially, the cause for obesity in our feline family members is diet, and likewise, the solution is also diet. Commercial ‘weight control’ foods are based on the faulty assumption that fat levels must drop in order to control feline weight. As already discussed, it is not the level of fat, but rather the level of carbohydrate that must be lowered. ‘Weight control’ foods were developed in order to address the problems which arose as a result of faulty foods in the first place, and one might draw the assumption that these ‘specialty’ foods are not based on keeping our felines healthy and lean, but rather to make more money for the pet food companies. They created the obesity epidemic in the first place, and then they take it upon themselves to come up with the solution. The inappropriately high carbohydrate level in the ‘weight control’ foods is no solution.

The only solution worthy of consideration is a meat-based diet which duplicates as closely as possible, the original nutritional content of the cat’s evolutionary prey diet. When a carbohydrate-laden diet of dry kibble is eliminated from the feline meal plan, and replaced with a diet of fresh protein, weight loss is inevitable. The cat, upon consuming the low carb diet, will not overeat because the satiety signals will kick in once enough meat has been consumed.

When making the switch to the appropriate diet, it is important to eliminate all dry food from the cat’s vicinity. Many cats are programmed to graze, and this habit is sometimes a challenge to overcome. An obese cat of 14 pounds should be fed about 1/2 pound of balanced meat mix per day, in order to satisfy hunger. The less obese cat should be satisfied with somewhat less than this amount. A healthy, lean cat of average size will consume about 1/4 – 1/3 pound per day. These daily portions should be split into two meals – the ideal schedule is half in the morning, and half in the evening.

An obese cat should never be without food for longer than 24 hours, in order to avoid the very serious threat of hepatic lipidosis. When transitioning a cat from dry kibble to a fresh meat diet, a little hunger is a good thing, but it must be rendered with caution.