For years veterinarians told owners of fat cats “don’t ever feed canned food.” 20 years ago we all thought that would make them blow up like a balloon. Now the research has come out showing it’s exactly the opposite – Fat cats SHOULD be on canned food! It’s actually more likely to help them get the weight off – who knew!?!
First, it’s never just about the food, but portion control. A cat can get fat on any food if he eats enough of it.
And never moves around.
Even then, portions aside, canned cat food is better for overweight cats than dry. Why? In a word – metabolism.
Cats evolved to hunt for their food. Mice are their specialty. A mouse is 52% protein, and for a cat to have his caloric needs met, he needs about 6 mice a day. How does this apply to our indoor cat who’s slept on the couch all day?
Canned food is higher in protein than dry. In fact, the physical process of creating dry kibble prevents it from being more than about 40% protein – it simply won’t hold its shape if it goes higher than that. Well, a mouse is 52% protein, and that’s what a cat’s body wants to maintain a peak metabolism. Canned food can achieve that high concentration.
Also, canned food has more water in it. This is good for two reasons: more water makes a cat feel fuller. And, cats are not big water drinkers. Canned food is a sneaky way to increase their water intake, making the kidneys and bladder a little happier in the process.
What about their teeth? Yep, vets also used to think that dry food helped keep teeth cleaner. That’s actually not true. I can’t tell you how many dogs and cats on dry food I see that have mouths full of rotten teeth. Dental health is multi-faceted, with genetics playing a large role (hmmm, blog post coming up?), so dry food isn’t going to matter. Really, if you ate crunchy food like potato chips and celery, would that mean tooth brushing was not necessary? Doubt your spouse would agree!
Yes, there are prescription diets that are dry and have a specific design to help clean teeth. These actually do a remarkably decent job at keeping teeth clean. In the case of the regular, standard dry foods, however – not doing much for the teeth, so give up on that.
Also, cats are grazers. Small frequent meals work best, and this is easy with dry food – always leave some in the bowl, right? Problem is, portion control tends to go out the window with that strategy! Yes, feeding canned food is more labor intensive. If it sits too long, it gets dried out and gnarly. I tell most cat owners to shoot for 3 meals a day (4 is better). You can feed, monitor, and know which cat is eating what. Some people have to put cats in separate rooms. Yes, this is a bit of extra effort. And I get it – you have to go to work. So you can afford cat food. Just do your best.
So, to mimic how a cat “in the wild” eats, you would do a high protein canned food, and several meals a day. The protein/carb ratio of canned food, as well as the frequent meals, will help the metabolism stay high. It will also promote muscle retention, which helps a cat burn calories throughout the day.
Happier metabolism + muscle maintenance = weight loss!
Now if we could only get him on the treadmill……
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