Obesity in Cats
Over the past forty years, the number of overweight and obese cats has skyrocketed1. This isn’t coincidental; the moon did not move closer to the earth and cause your cat to get fat. Think about what has happened in the past forty years, and think of cat behavior prior to now. What were your grandparents’ cats eating? What would those cats do all day? What were cats doing 1000 years ago? What is frightening to see is that no one seems to think anything is wrong. In fact, people seem to think fat cats are cute.
How did cat food come to be like it is today?
Cat food began to be commercialized in the 1950’s and 60’s by companies that made cereal. Yes, human cereal2. They popularized the idea that grains are beneficial for cats and that table scraps are harmful3. Loading the dry food with grains and cooking it made kibble affordable and popular with households after WWII4. In the 70’s prescription cat food was popularized by companies that sold toothpaste5. To this day, cat food is not tested by any government body to ensure companies are labeling their product accurately6.
Have cats always eaten like this?
The heavily starched, dry cat food diet coupled with lack of exercise as cats moved into suburban homes led to the feline obesity epidemic we have today. 100 years ago, cats spent their days hunting and fishing, much like large cats today. In fact, we don’t see any large cats that are overweight, ever. Cats are meant to hunt, to prey on their food. It is also not natural for cats to openly feed from a container loaded with carbohydrates7. It is the same as if you left a bowl of M&M’s out for your kids. Will they eat too much? A cat’s image should mirror that of a tiger or a panther. The ASPCA recommends that a cat’s body should be lean enough to see a waist from above, and you should be able to feel the ribs8.
Is that behavior normal?
Some cat behavior that we view as normal was not always the norm. Does your cat want water from the sink, shower or toilet? Why is your cat that thirsty? Dry kibble does not provide enough water, ever. It leaves your cat thirsty and can lead to serious digestive diseases9! Cats that kill and eat their prey get enough moisture through that meal that they barely need any additional water. Have you heard your cat vocalizing and thought, “You must be hungry!” and then given it a treat? Your cat wants attention, not more food. By giving it a treat you teach the cat to continue vocalizing, when it is interaction that it really wants10.
How do your get your cat to lose weight? It may be easier than you think because your cat wants to lose weight. It doesn’t want to be carrying around so much weight that it cannot even groom itself correctly11! Yes, it loves the taste of that dried food you’ve been feeding it. However, it will grow accustomed to the taste of raw wet food, and grow to love it. In as little as one week, to up to two months, a cat’s diet can change. Feeding your cat a diet similar to what he would hunt in the wild is crucial to its well-being12. Also, play with your cat13! If you don’t want to let it outside then use toys with natural scents and wand toys to make your cat run.
Just like humans, obesity is linked to our lifestyle and is literally killing us. Food is our medicine; food is our cat’s medicine. If you love your cat, feed it well and play with it. It will be with you for a lot longer.
1. Pet MD
2. Pet Food Institute
3. Justine S. Patrick, “Deconstructing the Regulatory Façade: Why Confused Consumers Feed their Pets Ring Dings and Krispy Kremes,” LEDA at Harvard Law School, April 2006.
4. Paw Nation
5. Funding Universe
6. Justine S. Patrick, “Deconstructing the Regulatory Façade: Why Confused Consumers Feed their Pets Ring Dings and Krispy Kremes,” LEDA at Harvard Law School, April 2006.
7. Pet MD
9. Cat Info
10. Pet MD
11. Cat Info
12. Medical News Today
13. Cat Info