Dr. Volat has published another article in the Capitola Soquel Times! In this article Dr. Volat explains the importance of keeping our household cats fit and healthy with “Spring Training”. Learn what household cats should be eating to maintain their healthy weight and the best ways to maintain it once established. What is overweight you ask? Along with food choices, Dr. Volat also helps us understand what defines obesity.
Spring Training For Your Cat
Spring is in the air! Time to dust off the cat toys and get your kitty on a spring training regimen! Obesity is becoming an epidemic amongst household cats, but it is a preventable disease that you have the power to control for your feline friend. If your cat is a few pounds overweight, there are a few simple things that you can do to ensure they get to a healthy weight and stay that way for the years to come.
The single most important thing you can do for your overweight kitty is start feeding him exclusively canned food in 2 to 3 daily meals. Over the years, research has shown that this is the single most effective method for weight loss and maintenance in cats. We have come to realize that dry, grain-based foods not only lead to obesity, but also contribute to other diseases, such as urinary tract disease and diabetes. Most cats who graze on dry food from a bowl that is left out all day are generally overweight and are eating much more than their recommended daily calories. Cats will over eat if fed this way, just as a person probably would if left in a room all day with a large bag of potato chips!
The average dry cat food contains 4 times the calories ounce-for-ounce compared to canned food. Since canned food contains more moisture, cats feel full after eating much less calories than the same amount of dry food. Canned foods are also much closer to the carnivorous diet cats are naturally intended to eat. Canned foods usually are very palatable, so the transition is accepted very well by most cats. It is important to take time to transition your cat to this diet to avoid stomach upset. A good starting point is to feed a 1/2 can at each meal. If your schedule keeps you away from home for many hours, you can keep kitty’s meals fresh by leaving out “kitty food popsicles.” Simply mix some canned food with water and freeze in ice cube trays. Leave a couple of these ice cube sized popsicles out for your kitty’s lunchtime meal. As with all new things, most cats will take some time to adjust to this new routine. Do not be discouraged if you cat takes a few weeks to warm up to this new regimen.
When it comes to losing weight, physical activity is just as important as nutrition, but with cats, we must be patient and creative. Even though cats can sleep up to 20 hours a day, there is still plenty of time for exercise and play! Cats need activities for mental stimulation and enrichment. Not only does this help with weight management, it also prevents boredom and behavioral problems. Try to start with 2 or 3 10-minute play sessions per day. Cats are natural hunters, so find your cat’s favorite toy and get him moving by chasing around that little squeaky toy, laser light, or feather on a string. Always ensure you purchase safe cat toys and never let you cat play with strings or small objects without direct supervision.
Cats are very resourceful…they will entertain themselves by using toys and cat-friendly furniture when you are away from home. Cat condos or cat trees are great for scratching and climbing. Position your cat’s tree near a window so he can climb up there and see all the squirrels and birds that pass by. This will stimulate your kitty’s natural hunting instinct. Place your cat’s meals in different areas each day, working on making them harder to find over time. This will mimic the natural hunt that your cat would be spending most of his time doing if he were out in the wild. Once your cat becomes proficient at this new “hunting” routine, you can then hide meals under cardboard boxes or create a safe obstacle course to keep your kitty entertained for hours.
Not sure how much weight your cat needs to lose? Talk to your veterinarian to find out your cat’s ideal weight and calorie requirements. I recommend checking your cats weight every 8 weeks to monitor progress. What if you have one overweight cat and another thin cat? Almost 100% of the time, the overweight cat is over eating, and the ideal weight cat is eating all he needs. By switching all your cats to the new feeding regimen, most thin size cats will maintain their weight with no problems. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the safest approach and check to make sure your cat is fit and healthy enough to begin a weight loss regimen. Once you start to see your cat’s new shape and renewed vigor, all your efforts will be worth it!
For more information on transitioning your cat to a canned food diet, follow this link:
To see an entertaining feline weight loss success story, follow this link:
Contact Dr. Katie Volat or Dr. River May at the Capitola Veterinary Hospital: Capvet1@gmail.com