Weight control in a two-cat family
08:28 PM, Wednesday, July 18
As she slims down Amy, left, is beginning to show signs of having a “waist,” as her leaner brother Alexander displays.
As she slims down Amy, left, is beginning to show signs of having a “waist,” as her leaner brother Alexander displays.
Before: Amy exhibits her girth prior to her weight loss
After: Amy displays her new more slender profile.
Before: Amy exhibits her girth prior to her weight loss After: Amy displays her new more slender profile.
Helping a cat lose weight is not easy, especially when another cat is slender, but it’s manageable if you’re prepared to change their diet. (See “Reducing Miss Amy,” www.sandiegopetsmagazine.com, Nov., 2011.)

Our cats, overweight Amy and lean Alexander, just came from their annual checkup. Their vet, Dr. Ann Middleton of Cheshire Cat Feline Health Center in Clairemont, was pleased with Amy’s progress. She weighed in at 13.9 pounds, down from 16.5 pounds late last year, while Alexander maintained his 11 pounds.

Amy has now lost about 2.5 pounds, 15 percent of her peak body weight, difficult for a cat who loves to eat. Dr. Ann recommends a further weight loss of two pounds.

How? I changed their diets completely.

Cats, including Amy, are often addicted to kibble. Amy loved her crunchies and usually choose crunchies over canned food. After reading labels on their grain-free kibble and seeing the high percentage of carbohydrates, I reduced their portions and increased their wet food. Alexander also liked crunchies, but tended to vomit them up quickly.

Reducing the crunchies didn’t work for either cat. Even when I cut their serving to a quarter cup a day for both cats, Amy still didn’t lose weight.

Eliminating crunchies worked, despite Amy’s angst and complaints. As soon as the high-carb crunchies were gone from her diet, she started to lose weight, while Alexander kept more food down, with plant enzymes and probiotics mixed in.

Cats should not lose weight quickly because of the risk of hepatic lipidosis, a potentially fatal fatty liver disease associated with rapid weight loss, explains veterinarian Dr. Lisa Pierson on her website Catinfo.org. She advises a slow weight loss of not over a half pound a month and points out that many cats lose weight naturally once they switch from a predominantly kibble diet to a canned or raw diet.

That’s what happened with Amy.

At first they ate a purely canned diet, mostly their preferred Wellness brand. Following Pierson’s recommendation of four to six ounces of canned cat food or about 150 to 250 calories per day, depending on the cat’s size and metabolism, I fed them two 5.5 ounce cans daily, supplemented with small amounts of whatever plain fish or meat we had for dinner, especially for Alexander.

Later I experimented with a raw diet, after discovering they both enjoyed the raw ground turkey or beef I would slip them while fixing dinner. Our “cat food store,” Noah’s Natural Pet Market in Pacific Beach, offered me samples of several frozen raw cat diets. They loved it! Smallbatchcat sliders, each a one-ounce patty, are easy to handle and convenient to serve, as long as I remember to defrost them the night before serving.

Because the cats prefer variety in their diet, they’re receiving three or four raw sliders for breakfast, often doled out in several servings to avoid spoilage, and canned food for their evening meal.

Amy is more active and Alexander, too, thrives on the new regimen.

When I fed them just canned food, he lost a pound, since Amy gobbled up his portions, too. I snuck him extra food when she wasn’t around, preferably things he loved that she didn’t, a challenge since Amy devours most foods. On the partially raw diet Alexander has regained the weight he lost, while Amy’s weight remained stable.

Next is the challenge of helping Amy lose two more pounds.

First, I’ll tweak the quantity of raw sliders they receive for breakfast and then be more creative with diet and exercise.

Useful feline nutrition and obesity resources:
(Includes tips on transitioning cats from kibble diets)

(Includes recipes and diets for cats with digestive disorders)

(Contains cat food calorie counts and nutritional information)

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