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Cats need to lose weight... questions on food choices

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Hey, everyone! I have two precious cats -- Gristle (13 lb female) and Quincy (13 lb male). I took Gristle to the vet earlier this week to have a general checkup, and the doctor told me she needs to lose three pounds. (Quincy only needs to lose two pounds because of his size.) Anyway, the vet wasn't very nice when it came to giving me instructions on a weight management plan... so I'm kinda stuck trying to figure out what is best for my babies.

I'm a college student, so I can't quite afford the BEST food that's out there. I've been feeding them Special Kitty ever since the beginning. I'm now feeding them precisely the recommended amount that the brand recommends, which is roughly 6-8 oz. per day. At the end of the day, there is still food left in the bowl -- so I'm sure they are still getting PLENTY of food. Both cats have the habit of scooping up pieces of their dry food and dropping it into their water bowls, and later fishing it out to eat it. This, of course, makes the water all funky... and it makes me think that they are craving something softer, such as a semi-moist food.

I'd like to help my cats lose their few pounds, and also keep them from scooping food into their water bowls... as well as help them maintain healthy bowel movements, and all of that other fun stuff. Any suggestions on what brand I could try (I guess a semi-moist kind?) that is reasonably priced for a college student, as well as how much I should feed them and how often? I'd appreciate any input!
post #2 of 3
Special Kitty, unfortunately, isn't a good quality food, so it would be beneficial for your cats to switch to another brand, even if they didn't need to lose weight.

Semi-moist food contains lots of additives and artificial ingredients - things that aren't healthy for cats. A good quality canned food is the best type of food to feed, and of course, the most expensive!

Buy the best quality canned food you can afford. Read labels and look for foods that don't contain by-products or artificial colors or flavors. I haven't priced it lately, but I think Nutro may be a good mid-priced option - not as expensive as say, Petguard or Wellness, which are among the most expensive brands.

When you feed a better food, you don't have to use as much of it since it's more nutrient dense. Cats tend to gorge on low quality food in an effort to get the nutrition they need, but is lacking in such food.

Don't free-feed your cats (leave food out at all times). Give them two meals per day. It may take awhile to determine how much you should give each one - weighing them at least once per week will help you guage the amount of food they should get. You want to see a *gradual* weight loss.

Give them a separate water bowl well away from their food dishes to prevent food being dropped in the water.

Just as with people, somewhat smaller portions and more exercise will help the weight come off. Be very patient - it will take time!
post #3 of 3
Problem #1)
Regarding your food dropping in the water, I have simply created more distance between my water fountain and the food and it eliminated the problem.

You did not mention the age of your cats nor the activity level.

Problem #2)
I personally do not know what Special Kitty brand is, you will have to assess the nutrient percentages.

Healthy senior cats may be fed free choice, meal fed or fed by a combination of methods. Obese cats should be offered measured amounts of food. The measured quantity may be fed in meals or dispensed at one time to allow continuous access throughout the day. Underweight cats should be allowed to eat free choice. Only dry and semi-moist foods may be fed free choice and these foods are typically less palatable than moist foods. Older cats may have reduced senses and taste perception. It may be preferable to feed moist and warm foods to encourage food intake. Providing dry foods for free-choice consumption and moist foods in several meals throughout the day may optimize food intake. Adding broth or canned meat juices to dry foods may enhance food and water intake in geriatric cats.

I'm telling you all this because weight could be controlled with measured portions and/or fat-energy or it can be controlled by how it smells/appeals to the cat.

There are only two recommended nutritional food factors that should be reduced as a cat ages or becomes obese prone. These are: Energy density (kcal ME/g) and Fat (%). (These are dry matter estimates).

----------------------Young - Middle Aged-----Obese Prone------Older
Energy density (kcal ME/g)-----4 -5------------- 3.3-3.8--------- 3.5-4.5
Fat (%)---------------------------------10-30-------------8-17------------10-25

This is important to know because your cat needs to maintain all the other proper levels of nutrients. My point being are these are the two key factors that will need to be reduced. Controlling energy intake is important in managing and preventing obesity. Approximately 25% of pet cats in the United States are overweight. The prevalence is highest in middle-aged cats (seven to eight years); nearly half of this age group are overweight or obese. Obesity increases the risk of death in middle-aged cats about 3 times above that of lean cats, thus preventing obesity is necessary for long-term health.

Obesity usually takes place because of the following:

1) middle age and older
2) neuter status being yes
3) low activity
4) high-fat, high-calorie foods

The only nutritional model known to slow aging and increase the life span is caloric restriction. Reducing caloric intake by 20 to 30% of normal while meeting essential nutrient needs reduces the aging process, cancer, renal disease and immune-mediated diseases.
Your answer:
With all this being said there is a calculation that would define the exact model diet your cat needs. I do not have all your data in which I will generalize instead.

Be advised when you start changing foods you also lose your starting reference.

One method: Volume decreased:
In other words we know right now that what ever it is you are feeding them they are over weight. The simplest would be to reduce that amount by about 20%. You would then weigh them every month to evaluate your measured results.

Two method: Fat decreased and energy density reduced:
If you change foods, the appropiate reason is to reduce fat intake. I would bet the current food you are feeding them now is about 20% fat. You can easily change to a cat food that has about 10% fat and keep your portions the same. (These percentages are dry matter, can food is calculated differently by removing the water weight). This does not have to be an expensive move, you can still keep your cost low being below 8 cents an ounce.

Three method: Fiber increased:
You can also add add some pumpkin to their daily meals. If you add fiber to their meals it will reduce the dwell time of the food in the stomach and move it through faster. The fat will simply come out in the stool instead in their body.

Most cats do not experience digestive upsets with typical food changes, a gradual transition to a new food may benefit older cats. Progressively exchanging the new food for the usual food over four to seven days will minimize upset stomachs, stool issues and food refusal.

When you have some spare cash, obtain an excercse wheel. These can be obtained for as little as a couple hundred dollars. My two bengal boys love their wheel. I have an odometer on it and these guys will track miles in that thing each day. I also leash walk them. My biggest guy is close to 20 pounds and he is solid as a rock, all muscle. It's all about diet and excercise.

I believe the proper diet and excercise will promote muscles, reduce fat and target the 16 to 20+ year life span mark.

Remember: A healthy weight cat will live the longest!

Good luck.
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