Overweight Cats


My daughter has a 4-year-old cat, Gus-he weights 24 pounds. She put Gus on Iams low calorie, but he still hasn’t lost any weight. He may be eating the other cat’s food as well. She’s worried that the extra weight is putting a strain on his heart.


Dr. Nichol:

So how does Gus feel about this? Does he have to buy two tickets on airline flights? Does he even care what you and your daughter think? Cats have feelings, you know.


To give you a perspective on Gus’s health, consider that his weight is three times normal. Your daughter is right. His obesity is putting a major strain on his heart as well as his kidneys, liver, and joints. If Gus’s expansion continues he will die much too young. He will also miss the joys of running, jumping, pouncing, and skipping rope with his friends. This is no way for him to develop his self-esteem.


Send Gus to his veterinarian’s office for a thorough physical exam. If he checks out OK, have him ask the doctor for prescription diet r/d. R/d differs greatly from regular cat foods because it is substantially higher in fiber and lower in fat. Contrast that with “light” diets. While many are good quality foods, they contain only slight modifications. Because they are available to the general consumer they must support all life stages-even growth and pregnancy. Thus Gus’s shape won’t change much on “light” fare. Instead feed his immenseness one-quarter cup of dry r/d, moistened with water, morning and night. The other cat may feast at the same time but in a separate dining room. We don’t want poor Gus to become the subject of ridicule nor can he be trusted not to steal. Catcalls will not be allowed.





Overweight Cats: Proper Feeding


I’ve noticed that my two cats, ages 3 and 4, are getting a wee bit chubby…perhaps 12-13 pounds. I feed them wet food in the morning, and they have access to lite dry food all the time. I know you’ve recommended kitten food, but isn’t that high in calories? What can I do to get them to a proper weight?


Dr. Nichol:

A wee bit chubby? Your cats are rotund. It’s time to get serious. Forget the treadmill and salad. The problem is that ever-present high carbohydrate dry food buffet.


Cats are physiologically different; they are not dogs with short ears nor are they little people in furry suits. They are supposed to eat other creatures, not baked goods like dry food. Healthy feline diets are much higher in protein and very low in carbs and fat. Canned kitten food has the right composition for healthy cats of all ages. Don’t worry about calories. Lose the dry stuff and your chunky monkeys will become well muscled lean machines.





How Much Canned Kitten Food to Feed


I read your recent article about feeding kitten food to adult cats.  I have a male cat who is about 6 years old and over 13 lbs.  He weighed 10.2 lbs when I adopted him a few years ago and he was very lean and muscular.  What quantity of kitten food would you recommend?  Are there particular brands?


Dr. Nichol:

After a few weeks of feeding a high meat protein, low carbohydrate diet to the strict carnivore in your life his body will recognize its new and improved nutritional plane and he’ll eat only what he needs.


Cats are wild animals whether they fend for themselves outside or eat from a bowl. They need about 3-5 small meals daily. When Tony, the Nichol family cat, complains and belly aches for groceries we reward his annoying behavior with a generous glob of canned Science Diet kitten food. His weight remains a healthy 9 ½ pounds. He’s lean, mean, and well muscled with a not entirely disagreeable personality. And that, folks, is as good as it gets.





Why Not Canned Adult Cat Food?


I decided to take your advice and put my 11-month-old cat on canned kitten food. This has become a topic of conversation in the office and we collectively have two questions: Why is canned kitten food preferable to canned cat food? Isn’t dry cat food better for their teeth?


Dr. Nichol:

Our domestic cats, being the obligate predators and carnivores that they are, need more meat protein than what is found in dry or canned cat food. If it says “kitten” on the can it has just what a healthy cat of any age needs.


Tossing a few crunchies on top of your kitty’s canned food may help reduce tartar build-up on his teeth. Of course, there are trade-offs. Lots of dry food, with its high carbohydrate load, can lead to obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver disease in cats.


In my practice I’m not convinced that dry food reduces tartar; I don’t see any more dental disease in cats on canned diets. Tony, the Nichol family canned kitten food eater, is almost 4 and has the teeth of a kid. Just last week he was seen feasting on a low carbohydrate, protein-rich live mouse. Like any normal cat, Tony is serious. When he goes to Burger King he orders a Whopper with double meat, hold the bun, cheese, pickles, lettuce, onion, and fries. What an animal!