I’m afraid I have a reputation for overindulging in the cuisine department. I can’t resist treats or canned cat food or dry food or people food or dog food. Come to think of it, if I can digest it, I’ll eat it. My human, who hasn’t missed any meals herself, says it’s time for us (translate that to mean "me") to go on a diet. She’s cut me back to a thimble full of something that tastes like sawdust. Help me, I’m starving.
Being a fat cat may be a great coup in the corporate world, but not if your genus is Felis. Your expanding waistline puts you at risk for diabetes, hepatic lipidosis, arthritis and even urinary tract disease according to my friend Dr. Margie Scherk, DVM, ABVP.
I admit I’m a little on the corpulent side myself. After all, we kitties are masters of guilt persuasion. One pathetic glance makes my human melt like high cholesterol butter. A bite of chicken fried steak won’t hurt me, but thousands of bites later, I’m sorry to say, my girth has increased — to the size of Saskatchewan.
According to Dr. Margie, if every day you eat just 10 extra pieces of kibble more than your body needs, you can pack on an entire pound of lard in a single year! Now one pound may blend right into your human’s 150-pound landscape, but that’s about 10 percent of your total weight. In a few years you’ll have to be fitted with a "Wide Load" sign.
According to the CDC, two-thirds of Human-Americans are either overweight or obese. In the U.S. and Canada cats are stepping into their owners’ ever-widening shoes; 25 percent of cats fall somewhere between fleshy and obese, Dr. Margie says.
There’s a reason why Ameri-Cats keep letting our collars out. We sleep all day and eat whenever we want. A cat in the wild doesn’t have time to get fat. Granted, he may sleep a mere 16 hours, but the rest of the time he works hard: sprinting, leaping, scaling giant trees with a single bound. A natural cat may have to kill between five and 10 mice a day to survive, and he’ll botch 15 expeditions for every productive hunt. It gives new meaning to the term "fast food." We felines are designed to eat lots of little meals, not feast from a trough.
Tubby Tabby, there may be a medical reason for your waist expansion program, so get thee to a vet and include your vet in your weight loss plan. Since you don’t have to squeeze into that outfit by the end of the month, don’t rush your reduction. In fact, rapid weight loss can result in hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), a potentially fatal condition. Sudden weight loss causes fat to accumulate in the liver, which makes you feel pukey. Then, cuz you have an upset stomach you don’t feel like eating. It’s a vicious cycle. You have to be force-fed, either by mouth or through a surgically implanted tube that goes directly into your stomach. Neither of those options are a bed of catnip. Moral of the story is: Take it slow.
To lose weight gradually, your vet may recommend a high protein/low carb diet. She might warn you to stay away from dry cat foods altogether cuz they contain more carbs. If you don’t like your new menu, have your human contact the vet. Unlike dogs, we kitties can’t be starved into eating a certain food. If you go without food for even a few days you can develop that fatty liver thing.
Remember, too much of the wrong food and lack of exercise add to our flab factor. So, your human’s going to have to get off of her duff and lead some exercise classes. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a cat manhandling a pair of dumbbells (unless you count the family dogs), but your human can give you a chance to hunt by putting high-quality kibble (not treats) in a food puzzle or by devising a treasure hunt.
Mom can hide your kibble throughout the house. To eat, you have to track down the munchies just like your wild counterparts. Hey, it’s better than sitting around watching Jerry Springer Spaniel.
By eating frequently, you’re keeping the metabolic furnace fired up all day long. It takes more energy to digest food over 12 hours than it does to process one or two big feedings.
These university vets tell me just cuz there’s some blubber under the belt doesn’t mean your mom can’t sneak you an occasional treat, but treats should serve a purpose — when she gives you medicine or trims your toenails.
Your mom should reward you with lower calorie all-meat treats: turkey baby food, tuna flakes, freeze-dried chicken or fish. They have far fewer carbohydrates than processed snacks with grains. Don’t eat treats for more than five percent of your diet.
One last thing, the treatballs and treasure hunts may get you off of your duff, but you need to burn more calories if you want to shed some kitty cellulite. If there aren’t vermin running around the house, then your mom will have to become a mouse analog for 10 minutes twice a day, using feathers or fur on a stick.
Be patient, Oprah, and stay at it. I wouldn’t be surprised if you soon decide to change your name to Beyonc├®.
Find out how Catster can teach you more about your cat:
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Read more by Einstein and about healthy food for cats:
- Ask Einstein the cat: ‘Tis the Season to Be Cautious
- Ask Einstein: What Should Be My Kitty Resolutions for 2014?
- Ask Einstein: Our New Weekly Column Offers Advice from a Cat
- Tips for Feeding Your Kitten a Healthy Diet
- Nutrition 101: Tips for Feeding Your Kitten a Healthy Diet
Got a question for he who knows everything feline? Just Ask Einstein in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. (Letters don’t have to be written from the cat’s point of view.) Remember, any change in your cat’s behavior or activities could be a symptom of disease and should be investigated by your vet, even if it unfortunately involves glass tubes and cat posteriors.