Fat Cats & Diabetes

The Link is Strong but it can be Broken

Garfield the comic strip cat, famous for his obsessive eating, is not alone. Just this morning our cat Tony, having ripped a hole in an unopened dog food bag, was caught happily gorging. Jokes abound but an expanding feline girth can be lead to heartache. Obesity in cats is a big problem that is difficult to shake. Well, actually, everything shakes on these little porkers. Tony, that little pig, now wears on ankle monitor.

Cats weighing over about 12 pounds are at high risk of painful arthritis as well as fatty liver disease, an often fatal disaster. The most common risk, though, is diabetes. While not every feline chunky monkey ends up with insulin injections all overweight cats may be pre-diabetic. Weight management can make all the difference.

Pet cats do best eating the same kinds of nutrients that their feral cousins thrive on: high protein, low carbohydrate. Free-feeding a dry diet can lead to trouble. The starch that binds those little baked kibbles is replete with carbs. Feeding high protein canned food, in mouse-sized meals, provides a more natural intake with the right nutritional balance. Canned kitten food is appropriately protein-rich. Forget that it says kitten on the label. I recommend it for healthy cats of all ages.

Obesity also diminishes a cat’s welfare. Each of us, regardless of species, lives for behavioral reasons. Enjoying a full life means being ready to engage in your favorite physical pursuits. But cats who are so rotund that they are unable to jump and climb or even to groom themselves properly are incarcerated in their own bodies. Beyond their limited options in daily life they are often physically sick.

Cats should be allowed to do what cats do. Actually wild animals we keep as pets, they are genetically programmed to hunt and eat what they kill.  House cats who forage from food toys and puzzles expend calories in order to survive. A Kong Wobbler may light your cat’s fire or you can hunt for do-it-yourself food toys. Visit foodpuzzlesforcats.com for some great ideas.

Indoor cats, protected from dogs, cars, and infectious disease, need extra care for their well-being. A floor-to-ceiling cat tree and hide boxes at various heights in different rooms can help your cat be, well, a cat.