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START WITH SOME SIMPLE STEPS TO PREVENT OBESITY
FEED PRIMARILY A CANNED FOOD DIET, feed less dry food. 100% canned food is ideal. If you would still like to feed some dry, try to keep that portion to no more than 25-33% of daily food intake. If you are ready to change to a more canned food diet, we recommend talking to your veterinarian first, and making all diet changes gradually over a period of weeks to months.
Click to learn WHY IS CANNED FOOD SO IMPORTANT?
Transitioning Feline Dry Food Addicts to Canned Food This handout from VIN's Veterinary Partner offers some great tips to transition your kitty dry food addict to canned food!
STOP FREE CHOICE FEEDING! Free choice feeding high carbohydrate dry food is the number one cause of obesity. It is more than OK for your cats bowl to be empty for part of the day! Meal feed your cat! If you have a multiple cat home, feed cats with supervision, or in separate rooms, remove food bowls after 15-30 minutes. You will be relieved you have trained your cats to eat separately and by meals if your cat ever needs to be on a special veterinary therapeutic diet in the future that should not be shared with housemates.
Try The Neko Feeder System! Do you have multiple cats that need to eat different diets or different amounts? Here is a product designed to eliminate the problem of trying to feed cats differently in a multiple cat household. Many clients devise their own home made version.
MEASURE AMOUNTS CAREFULLY. Don't "eyeball" the amount, or use a "handful" or "bowl full" as a measurement tool. Use an 8 oz measuring cup for dry, measure canned food by fractions of a can (1/4 of a can etc.). Know what you are feeding. Keep a food diary. Look up calorie contents of your food, know how many calories per 8 oz cup, and how many calories per can. Unfortunately manufacturers rarely put calorie contents on their labels. You can often find the calorie content at the manufacturers' website, or by calling their 1-800 consumer helpline. If you cannot find the calorie content in your cat's foods, ask your veterinarian for help. Remember to include any treats or table food you offer in the daily calorie count.
WORK WITH YOUR VETERINARIAN to determine the right number of calories to feed per day. This may vary over your cat's lifetime and will change. This is why annual to semi-annual veterinary examinations are so important for our feline patients. It will allow us to reassess your cat and make new recommendations. Bring your food diary to all exam appointments. Bring the names and amounts of all diets, supplements, and treats fed. Ask for help early, before obesity is a problem!
FEED MULTIPLE SMALL MEALS. Think like Weight Watchers! Research in humans and cats has shown that calories are burned more efficiently from eating multiple small meals. Ideally feed 5-8 meals per day. This might be 3 canned meals (first thing in the morning, when you come home from work, before bed) and offer or hide 2-5 small dry meals (these dry meals may only be 10-20 kibbles of dry food) around the house for your cat to find while you are off at work or sleeping overnight.
MAKE FEEDING A TREASURE HUNT! Hide the food around the house, have kitty seek out and hunt for his meals the way Mother Nature intended. Enrich his life by giving him his job back! Take him off the unemployment line! Try food dispensing toys to make catching dry food a game! Cat's love food and treat dispensing toys! Check our our Cat Food Toys web page for some great ideas. You can even make homemade versions by cutting holes in an old yogurt cup or other plastic container, or cutting holes in a cardboard paper towel roller and capping the ends.
ADJUST CALORIES WHEN NEEDED. For instance, after your cat is spayed or neutered, decrease the amount fed by 20-25% or decrease amount by 1/4 to 1/5 of the prior amount fed. As your cat matures and ages, the calorie needs may decrease each year through adulthood. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian at annual exams to see if adjustments in daily calories need to be made as your cat ages. Many cats begin to lose weight after 10-12 yrs of age and your vet may even recommend an increase as your cat enters the senior years.
KNOW YOUR CAT'S IDEAL BODY WEIGHT. Your veterinarian can help you with this. In general most cats are at their ideal body weight at about 1 year of age. Knowing what you cat weighed at one year of age is often a good estimate of ideal weight, however there can be exceptions to this rule so check with your veterinarian. Cats usually continue to gain weight each year unless adjustments in feeding are made. This is why so many middle aged cats are overweight.
KNOW YOUR CAT'S BODY CONDITON SCORE (BCS). There are two methods for this. The simplest is a 5 point scoring system where 1=Emaciated, 2=thin, 3=ideal, 4=overweight, 5=obese. Sometimes this 5 point scale simply doesn't describe all the in between states so a 9 point scale is often used. On a 9 point scale 1 is still emaciated. 4-5 would be the range for ideal, and 9 would be obese. There is more room on the 9 point scale to describe the variations in between thin, normal, and obese. See the links on the Deer Run Animal Hospital website for body score condition handouts with more examples. See what you think your kitty's BCS is, then ask your veterinarian where she scores your kitty to see if you have a realistic understanding of your cat's BCS. A kitty with ideal body condition should have easily palpable ribs and pelvic (hip) bones, but you should not be able to see these bones from afar. If your kitty has ribs showing he is too thin, if there is a thick layer of fat over the ribs, spine, or pelvis, he is probably overweight.
Example of 5 point Body Condition Score (BCS) System
Example of a 9 Point Body Condition Score (BCS) System
WEIGH YOUR CAT FREQUENTLY and keep a weight diary. Deer Run Animal Hospital clients are encouraged to come in any time for weight checks using our scales, or use a baby scale at home. You can also use a regular bathroom scale, weigh yourself holding kitty, then weigh yourself alone and subtract. Keep a monthly diary of trends. If you see an upward trend, make an appointment to discuss the issue with your veterinarian. Do not wait for the once a year annual exam visit with your veterinarian for a weight check. By then, weight gain may already have happened. It is much easier to prevent obesity, than to achieve weight loss. Weight loss in our kitties is difficult! Try to avoid putting yourself and your cat through a weight loss regimen. Catch weight gain early, and before it is a problem, so you can reverse the trend with a minimum of effort and upset for your cat.
BEFORE STARTING ANY DIET CHANGE, BE SURE TO HAVE YOUR PET EXAMINED BY YOUR VETERINARIAN AND DISCUSSS SPECFIC DIET RECOMMENDATIONS FOR YOUR CAT.
At Deer Run Animal Hospital we are your partners in the health and welfare of your kitty. Please feel free to ask us questions regarding diets and weight control issues. Work with your veterinarian to devise an obesity prevention plan. We will be happy to give you calorie estimates for specifically designed for your kitty. The more we work together, the healthier and slimmer we can keep your feline friend.
For a printable version of this handout please go to our Download Handouts Page.