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Overweight and Obese Cats – Why You Should Act Now

Overweight or obese animals are at risk for serious health consequences and their conditions should not be taken lightly. The extra weight can seriously impact the length and quality of an animal’s life and increases their risk for many health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, unnecessary strain to the bones, joints, and ligaments, and difficulty breathing.

Obesity is a nutritional disease that results from consuming more calories than the body needs. Current statistics show that in the U.S., over 50% of cats and dogs are overweight or obese. This means we are simply feeding them too much, and likely feeding them too much of the wrong food. The good news is it is fully within our reach to get our animals back to a healthy weight so that they can live a happy and pain-free life! (Read about canine weight-loss here.)

Identifying the Problem

For most cats, the obesity problem can be attributed to two factors: living indoors and being fed a biologically-inappropriate kibble. Typically, indoor cats do not exercise as much as cats that have access to the outdoors, and therefore do not burn as many calories in a day. Additionally, if we feed an indoor cat a diet that is exclusively or predominantly kibble, we are feeding a high carb diet to a low activity animal. This becomes an easy recipe for an overweight cat.

(See Flimflam Food: The Truth About Grain-Free Pet Food)   

The Solution: Eliminate Kibble and Increase Exercise

Eating Right: Ditch the Kibble!

It’s important to note that all kibble has carbohydrates, regardless if it’s grain-free or not. Grain-free simply means that the carbohydrate of choice is potatoes, peas, or tapioca, and is still not appropriate for your cat, who is a strict carnivore.

Most kibble is around 25-35% carbohydrate, the lowest on the market is 13% carbohydrate. The carbohydrates that your cat would naturally ingest would not exceed more than 5%, and those carbohydrates would have been predigested in the guts of their prey.

Cats lack the ability to digest carbohydrates because they lack the enzyme, amylase, which s responsible for digesting carbohydrates. When we feed cats kibble, especially carbohydrate rich formulas such as Indoor or Weight loss formulas, those carbohydrates are not translated into energy but instead are stored as fat. “Indoor” and “Weight Loss” formulas tend to be higher in carbohydrates because carbs allow the “person” to feed a larger portion of food to their cat, and avoid feeling guilty about reduced amounts of food.

Using an Indoor or Weight Loss formula is actually counterproductive to helping your cat lose weight because of these excess carbs.

Additionally, because cats cannot process and utilize carbohydrates, Indoor and Weight loss formulas result in the loss of lean muscle mass because your cat is not consuming enough protein to maintain that muscle mass. Your cat’s body uses more calories maintaining muscle mass, than it does maintaining fat, so when muscle mass is lost, their metabolic rate goes down. If weight loss does occur on these types of formulas, it is typically short term.

Regardless of age or stage, indoor vs. outdoor, skinny or fat, all cats should be eating a diet that consists exclusively of raw or canned food, or some combination of the two. Protein is the appropriate form of energy for cats and when we provide them with a diet rich in fresh protein their bodies are able to attain their full potential and avoid chronic health conditions.

Exercise is Good for the Body and the Mind

Exercise is a very important aspect to living a healthy lifestyle. If your cat is not a good candidate for harness training and getting exercise outside, then it is really important that you provide them with exercise and stimulation from play. Indoor cats can be just as high maintenance as a dog because it is your responsibility to provide them with the exercise and stimuli that they need.

You should be aiming for 15 minutes of exercise, at least 2-3 times per day. There are many great toys that can get your cat moving, the Da Bird, Da Mouse, and laser pointers all provide your cat with “the chase” that is so good for their cardio and mental stimuli. If your cat is obese then you should start with shorter bursts of exercise lasting anywhere from 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times per day, and work your way towards longer stints of exercise. Another great way to get your cat moving is by throwing a small healthy treat up or down the stairs. This is a really fun activity that gets your cat moving and is really easy to do. Just be sure you know exactly how many calories are in the treats and deduct those calories from how much you feed that night.

By following these steps and fine tuning your cat’s weight loss regime to their personal needs, your cat is sure to lose weight. As your cat returns to their ideal weight you will see huge improvements in their quality of life!

Simple Diet Solutions for Anti-Inflammation

Inflammation is a healthy and normal response the immune system uses for healing, but if not kept in check, can cause pain and more damage. For animals suffering from chronic inflammation and inflammatory diseases, we look for diets that are anti-inflammatory instead of pro-inflammatory.

When is inflammation a good thing?
Inflammation is a useful response of the immune system to attack foreign debris, objects, viruses and bacteria. When the body is attacked, white blood cells surge to the affected area to combat possible infection and to repair or destroy affected cells. The increase of blood flow and the release of healing chemicals cause the affected tissue to warm and swell, which creates pressure or pain. In acute cases, inflammation is a great response, it lets us know we are hurt, and it helps us to recover.

Inflammatory Disorders
Chronic inflammation results in conditions like ear infections, allergies, arthritis, colitis, IBD and IBS, dermatitis and pancreatitis, and can cause cancer and chronic pain. Most inflammatory disorders begin as a healthy immune response. Inflammatory disorders develop for a few different reasons. 1) The cause of initial inflammation is not eliminated, 2) the immune system responds to the pain resulting from the initial inflammation and more inflammation occurs to treat the existing inflammation, or 3) the body suffers from an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakes healthy tissue for a pathogen, and the body attacks itself.

Anti-inflammatory Diet
Unfortunately, we can’t control everything that contributes to inflammation, but we can control what our animals eat. Because the body’s natural response is inflammation, we choose foods that keep that response in check. This is especially important for animals suffering from disease, but healthy animals benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet as well.

  • Feed raw, species appropriate foods
    Remember, inflammation occurs when something foreign enters the body, so we want to feed our animals foods that the body recognizes and accepts as natural nutrition. Our animals evolved eating fresh meat, and we can mimic that with species appropriate raw diets that are either frozen, freeze-dried or dehydrated.
  • Dogs may benefit from added fruits and vegetables
    Fruits and veggies with anti-inflammatory properties like berries, cruciferous vegetables (like brussels sprouts, kale and spinach), and dark leafy greens. Some commercially available raw foods, like SmallBatch and Bravo include these ingredients in their dog food formulas. For cats, we always want to avoid plant-based proteins and carbohydrates.
  • Avoid kibble and other highly processed foods
    High cooking temperatures actually increase the pro-inflammatory property of the food. Processed, dry dog food (we call “kibble”) are heated to temperatures of 400°, resulting in denatured proteins and high levels of AGEs, both of which can trigger an inflammatory response.

Inflammation Fighting Supplements

How to Decipher Pet Food Labels & Misleading Marketing

Retrain the Cat Brain: Solutions for Eliminating Kibble

As we approach our July 4th Kibble Independence Day, we want to prepare and support our customers who are transitioning their cats off of kibble (dry food) by shedding some light on the inner workings of the cat brain and why you may be encountering some challenges along the way.

Why are cats such finicky eaters?! It’s fresh meat, just take a bite! (At least that’s how I’ve felt when transitioning some of our foster kitties.)

The most important lesson that any animal learns is how to identify and secure a food source. Wild animals teach their young what food is by bringing them dead or nearly dead prey in order to teach them how to hunt and what their natural food source is. A young animal needs to know how their prey looks, smells, and tastes.

We humans, teach our cats the same lesson when we offer them food, whether it’s kibble, canned, or raw food. Cats learn what their “prey” is from a very young age. This is why it is often much easier to transition a younger cat onto a raw food diet than it is with an older cat. Our mantra for transitioning any cat is “stay persistent and consistent in your attempts.” Some cats learn quicker than others, but as long as you don’t give up, your attempts will eventually be rewarded.

In addition to understanding the benefits of feeding a “zero” kibble diet, we think understanding how cats relate to their food has the potential to give us a bit more patience in the process. Our foster cat, Carlos, has just started eating about 1-2 oz. of fresh food per day, and it has taken close to two months. Compare this experience to feeding one of our foster kittens, 6-week-old Clementine, who has devoured raw food without hesitation. The experience is as different as night and day, which also speaks to the importance of introducing healthy food and habits as early on as possible.

Common Challenges & Solutions:

  • My cat is now waking me up at 5am to EAT!!! Get an automated feeder to help adjust to feeding your cat only twice per day rather than the “free feeding” that we often see with cats on a kibble diet. At The Happy Beast, we carry a great automated feeder from Petsafe that includes a tray so that you can fill it with either canned or freeze-dried raw food. You set the timer and the top is released at the designated chow time.
  • Keeping cats off of kibble. Some cats will put up a fight when it comes to trying a new food. Maybe they will eat the new food really well at first, but then a few days later won’t even look at it. Do not cave in and give them their old kibble! If you give in, you will essentially be starting the entire process over. Of course we don’t want you to starve your cat; the process simply requires offering a variety of different options throughout the day. We suggest rotating foods and, at a minimum, trying three different flavors and three different brands. When you find a brand and flavor that works, you can use that as the foundation of for your cat’s calorie intake, but it is still important to offer them different types of food since you never know when you will find a “new favorite.”
  • My cat is now crazy with energy! Most cat’s will feel a renewed sense of energy once they have transitioned off of kibble and onto a fresh food diet. Take this opportunity to start a new play routine with new toys or supervised outside time. Or introduce a cat harness and be the wonderful weirdo who walks their cat down the sidewalk! 🙂

For more info about Kibble Independence Day or transitioning your cat off of kibble, check out a few more of our recent blog posts. Good luck and stop by the store if you have questions or would like to talk more.

 

Kibble Transition Guide for Picky Cats

As everyone who knows me knows, I always encourage people to get their cats off of kibble and onto a high moisture, high protein, low-carb canned or (ideally) raw food diet. Our kibble transition guide is great place to start. 

Convincing some cats to give up their “sugar” addiction isn’t always the easiest transition. For those cats that are giving you a run for your money, here is a step-by-step guide to getting your picky, kibble-addicted cat on the road to a healthier and happier life. Remember patience and persistence are the keys to success!

First, let’s reiterate the importance of getting your cat off of kibble.

  • Too low in moisture.
    can lead to kidney and urinary tract issues.
  • Too low in animal protein.
    Animal proteins provide the full spectrum of amino acids, including Taurine, which a cat needs, whereas plant-based proteins such as peas and potatoes do not. Peas and potatoes are the most common “binder” found in grain-free kibble, and can make up as much as 44% of the total kibble diet!
  • Too high in Carbohydrates.  
    All kibble, even “grain-free,” contains an average of 25% carbohydrate (a cat’s natural diet is generally less than 2%). This excess amount of carbohydrates promotes obesity because it is higher in sugar and causes cats to overeat. Cats tend to overeat kibble because the carbohydrates in it do not trigger satiety like fats and proteins do.

 

Kibble Transition Guide

  • Step 1: Eliminate “free-feeding” (leaving out kibble). Cats will be more inclined to try something new if they are hungry. The most difficult part of transitioning away from free-feeding is often that we humans feel bad taking away their “choice” to eat. However, keep in mind that a cat can easily go 8-12 hours without food, just be sure to leave out water.
  • Step 2: Once your cat has not had any food for 8 hours, offer a “stinky” can of cat food, such as B.F.F. Tuna or Weruva Paw Lickin’ Chicken.

If your cat eats the canned food…

  • Step 3: Feed your cat canned food 2x/day, always aiming to expand their palate by introducing new proteins and different textures. Don’t get discouraged if all your cat wants to eat is tuna. Eventually your cat will try and like different proteins, but you must be persistent.
  • Step 4: When offering new foods, leave new food out for up to 30 minutes and if untouched, place their “old” food next to it or in the same bowl.
  • Step 5: Incorporate freeze-dried treats or foods into the diet. Freeze-dried foods have a very distinct odor, flavor and texture which can be very alluring especially when enticing a cat to try something new.

If your cat won’t eat the canned food…

  • Step 3: Try sprinkling freeze dried food into the cat’s kibble. Or alternatively, you can try sprinkling a little bit of the cat’s kibble on top of the canned food.
  • Step 4: With each feeding, decrease the amount of kibble and increase the amount of freeze-dried or canned food. Remember that because kibble is so high in carbs the cat becomes “addicted” to the sound, smell and texture and the longer the cat goes from having kibble the easier the process will get.
  • Step 5: Once the kibble has been eliminated for 4 weeks, try introducing raw food

Why switch to raw from canned? Raw is less processed and therefore more digestible, and surprisingly can be less expensive than doing canned foods.

  • Step 6: Because raw food does not have a strong smell, using a little bit of canned or freeze-dried on top of the raw is a great way to entice your cat to try something new. Also be sure to add a bit of warm water to the raw as cats like their food at room temperature.

If your cat does not like the raw, continue serving 1 tsp of raw next to the cat’s current food, either in a separate dish or next to it in the same bowl. Some cats are very suspicious of new things, and this allows your cat to become familiar with the new food and begin to associate the raw with meal time.

Good luck and happy feeding!

If you want to tell us how your cat’s transition to raw food is going, send a us an email at eat@thehappybeast.com, find us on Facebook, or stop by the store