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Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your cat's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your cat, how much food to feed, and the differences in cat foods, so your cat gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Cat Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of cat nutrition.

Helping Fat Cats Lose Weight

October 19, 2012 / (2) comments

Fat cats have been in the news recently. First, there was the sad story of Meow, a 39 pound cat from New Mexico that died of lung failure before a weight loss program could save his life. Next came Skinny, a 41 pounder that is up for adoption in Texas.

All the media attention is good if it can help people understand that fat cats are not healthy cats. What we really need, however, are proven solutions to the problem of feline obesity.

A recent article published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery touches upon just this subject. It is entitled "From problem to success: feline weight loss programs that work." The researchers make the following points:

Obesity is the most common unhealthy nutritional condition that is recognized in cats. Documented associated health risks include diabetes mellitus, lameness, non-allergic skin disease, feline lower urinary tract disease and idiopathic hepatic lipidosis.

It has been reported in some developed countries that as much as 40-50% of the feline population may be overweight or obese, with middle-aged cats, male cats, mixed-breed cats and neutered cats being at greatest risk.

Simply recommending a diet designed for weight loss fails, in most cases, to result in successful weight loss in the obese or overweight cat. A more in-depth approach that centers on communication and commitment, alongside a program of feeding a predetermined amount of a specific diet plus exercise and enrichment of the cat's life, offers a chance for a healthy result.

I approach feline weight loss in the following manner, which matches up well with the dietary recommendations made in the aforementioned paper.

  • Weigh the cat and convert pounds (lbs) into kilograms (kg) if necessary by dividing by 2.2
  • Calculate the cat’s resting energy requirement (RER) using the following formula: 70 x [(weight in kg)] 0.75
  • Multiply the resulting number by 0.8 to determine the number of kilocalories that the cat should eat to lose weight
  • Find the caloric density of the food that I think will work best for the patient in question, and then divide the number of kcal the cat needs by the kcal/can (yes, canned food is generally better for weight loss than is dry). This gives us the amount of food we’ll offer to the cat at the beginning of the weight loss program

Here’s what the calculations look like for a typical 18 pound cat.

18 lbs / 2.2 = 8.2 kg

70 x 8.2 0.75 = 338 kcal/day

0.8 x 338 = 270 kcal/day

270 kcal/day / 156 kcal/can = 1.73 cans per day (to be practical, 1¾ cans per day)

I aim for the weight loss program to be complete in 6 months (longer if the cat is morbidly obese). So, I’ll subtract her ideal weight from her current weight and divide that by 6 to determine roughly how much she should be losing each month. This allows us to adjust her caloric intake accordingly at our monthly weigh-ins.

Most importantly, that 1¾ cans per day from our example is ALL the cat is allowed to eat. I recommend that in the morning, owners put the cat’s total daily ration in a Tupperware container and all meals and snacks can only be taken from there throughout the day.

It sounds (and is) tough, but if we can prevent more cases like Meow’s, it’s well worth the extra diligence.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Source:

From Problem to Success: Feline weight loss programs that work. Kathryn Michel and Margie Scherk. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, May 2012; vol. 14, 5: pp. 327-336.

Image: kuban_girl / via Shutterstock

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Comments  2

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  • Multiple Cats
    10/19/2012 07:18am

    Measuring food would be straightforward if there's only one cat in the household. Additional exercise would obviously help the diet plan.

    However, if there are multiple kitties and only one needs a diet plan and sequestering isn't an option, does anyone have any suggestions?

  • 10/19/2012 01:04pm

    I have a LARGE amount of cats. I feed them a sort of "home made" cat food that I make by adding water, kefir, grape seed oil & Chia seeds to a top of the line dry food in large bowls & store it in the refrigerator. Then at meal times I add some canned food or cooked pureed meat to it. This way they are getting all of the benefits of the healthy things I'm adding, the nutrition of the dry food & a lot of liquid. The liquid & Chia seeds help with weight loss! For my 1 Cat that was obese I give her a bowl with a little gravy from a can of Cat food or some pureed meat mixed with a lot of water several times a day. she fills up on the water & eats less. Drinking before eating works for me as well as her to keep the weight off.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

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