Although indoor cats are safe from traffic, wildlife and other outdoor threats, their more relaxed indoor lifestyle can inhibit physical activity and lead to unhealthy weight gain. Obesity is a serious health risk for cats and can contribute to other health conditions including diabetes, arthritis, heat stroke, skin and oral diseases, as well as certain cancers. Feeding your indoor cat a special diet that’s unique to her lifestyle may help her maintain a healthy weight.
Studies conducted in the United States over the past 2 decades indicate that between 25 and 40% of cats are overweight or obese and the numbers are increasing rapidly. Banfield Pet Hospitals reported a 90% increase in the number of overweight and obese cats seen at their U.S. hospitals between 2007 and 2011.
Pet Parents should be aware of their pet’s weight from an early age and choose an appropriate diet for their cat’s age, lifestyle and neuter status, which can impact hormonal levels and weight gain.* As with any animal, obesity develops in cats because they consume more energy than they expend. Obesity can be caused by excessive eating, high-calorie food or treats, and reduced activity. Because most indoor cats are spayed or neutered and are usually less active, they are at greater risk for obesity than outdoor, intact pets.
A healthy way to prevent weight gain among indoor cats is by feeding high protein, low carbohydrate foods. These formulas better match the nutritional makeup of cats’ ancestral or natural diets and satisfy their carnivore metabolism better than foods with higher levels of carbohydrates.
High protein, low carb diets contain as much as 40 to 45% protein in dry foods, and 11-12% protein in canned foods. These diets have been shown to promote lean muscle mass and appear to allow slightly higher calorie intake, compared with lower protein diets. Pet Parents should feed these foods according to label direction as they can be high in calories and may require feeding smaller meals. Also be aware that senior cats (those over 7 years of age) and cats with liver or kidney problems may have lower protein requirements and should be fed a senior formula or formula recommended by a veterinarian.
Another way to support your cat’s healthy weight is with canned food. Although canned food was once believed to cause weight gain, recent evidence indicates that its high-moisture, low-energy content may help slow weight gain. It is believed that canned food leaves cats feeling fuller than alternative energy-dense foods, much the same as we feel fuller after eating a large apple compared to a candy bar, despite the latter having many more calories. An additional benefit of canned food is a reduced risk of certain urinary tract conditions in cats due to higher moisture content.
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