New Horizons Veterinary Behavior Solutions

300 Somonauk St.
Park Forest, IL 60466




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I Am Not Chicken To Tell You I Have A Beef About How Cats Are Fed!!


Canned cat foods have so many benefits to support the health of our feline friends. Feeding free choice dry food is the number one cause of obesity in cats.  Feeding measured meals of canned food is a great way to prevent weight gain in your cat.


WHY IS CANNED FOOD SO IMPORTANT?  How can it help with obesity prevention and weight control?  Felines are obligate carnivores, they are meant to be meat and protein eaters! They did not evolve to be primarily biscuit or cereal eaters!  They are truly different than dogs and people.  They need protein and a certain level of fat in their diet.  Although they can eat carbohydrates, they are not designed to metabolize carbohydrates efficiently. 


High carbohydrate diets (basically almost all dry foods) will promote weight gain and may cause insulin resistance in cats.  In some cats this may predispose them to the development of Type Two Diabetes.  Canned foods tend to be much lower in carbohydrates than dry foods. High protein feline canned diets increase cellular metabolism and the burning of calories.  High protein diets will help prevent the loss of lean muscle mass during weight loss. For cats, high protein diets will increase a sense of satiety, or a feeling of fullness, much sooner than high carbohydrate diets. The moisture content of canned foods is high (most being 70-75% water) and this also contributes to a feeling of fullness and satiety. 


On a volume basis, canned foods are much less calorie dense than dry food.  For instance the volume of canned food in a hockey puck sized can of food has about 1/3 of the calories as an equal volume of dry food measured out in that same sized can. You cat's tummy will feel much more full after the canned food meal, and will have ingested far fewer calories, than if an equal volume of dry food was fed.  


The Skinny on Canned Food!  Click the link for more great info on the benefits of canned food obesity prevention


But feeding canned foods to cats has so many more benefits than just obesity prevention!


Feeding canned food can help prevent lower urinary tract diseases and symptoms in our younger cats.  It also supports hydration in our older cats that are at risk for upper urinary tract or kidney diseasesCanned food with its lower carbohydrate content is also more ideal for the feline digestive tract and can reduce the risk and aid in the treatment of diabetesStart your cat out right, feed canned foods!


To Feed or Not Feed Canned Food?  That is the Question! 

More great info on the benefits of canned food from the Feline Docs website.



For a printable version of this handout please go to our Download Handouts Page


Obesity is the number one nutritional disease in cats in the United States.  Conservative estimates suggest that more than 50% of American cats are overweight.   Obesity has serious consequences including shortening the lifespan, and quality of life of our cats.  Keeping our kitties lean and well muscled will help them live longer and healthier lives, prevent health issues, and keep veterinary costs down!


Some of the consequences of obesity are listed below.


  • Diabetes
  • Hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome
  • Hyperlipidemia (high blood fats)
  • Lameness, immobility, arthritis
  • Dermatologic conditions
  • Anesthetic complications
  • Respiratory Compromise
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Decreased immune function
  • Increased incidence in lower urinary tract diseases


What are the causes of feline obesity?


1.      Increased palatability of dry foods! American manufacturers of pet foods have done a fabulous job of making dry kibble extremely tasty.  It now resembles tasty junk food loaded with carbohydrates and calories.  It is so palatable that it can be difficult to get a kitty to switch to canned food.  Our cats have become junk food junkies, much like many of today's teenagers. Obesity diseases such as diabetes are on the rise in America's children and cats!  So introduce young cats to canned food diets from the start, and limit the amount of dry food that you feed them. If you are attempting to change to a canned food diet in an older cat, we recommend talking to your veterinarian first, and making all diet changes gradually over a period of weeks to months. 


2.      Pet food advertising has convinced us that when our kitties love their meals, that they will love us too.  They encourage us to over feed.  Often times their feeding recommendations recommend too many calories, or do not take into account that our pets are spayed and neutered.  


3.      We bond to our feline friends by feeding them; we panic and feel guilty if their bowls are empty!  We need to bond to our cat's through other activities, playing with them more, grooming them, etc. We need to find other ways to develop our bond with them and to enrich their lives.


4.      Boredom and lack of exercise is the price we ask our kitties to pay when we house them safely indoors.  We need to enrich their indoor environments to alleviate boredom and increase their activity.  Please check out our webpage on Feline Environmental Enrichment for helpful tips and suggestions on how to spice up your kitty's life with fun activities. 


5.      Housecats no longer work or hunt for food as nature intended.  They expend less energy.  They are often couch potatoes and large meals magically appear on a platter.


6.      We decrease their energy requirements by 20-25% by neutering and spaying.  Neutered animals do not need to become obese!  We simply have to recognize that we should reduce the amount fed after spaying and neutering.


These causes can be reversed and overcome!  We have to change our own behavior as well as the behavior of our cats.  We need to start new kittens and young cats out right from the very start.  Obesity prevention is the goal!.  Weight loss is difficult in cats, we want to have to avoid having to "diet" our cats. 


We need to feed our kitties the way Mother Nature intended.  In the wild, a cat hunts for food, it may sit, and survey its environment, stalk, and then a burst of energy explodes as it chases its prey.  A kitty may hunt and catch, hunt and fail, then hunt and catch, until it catches 5-8 mice a day.  Each mouse provides about 30 calories of high protein food.  So that is about 150-240 calories per day but it is spread over the entire day into 5-8 small meals, with bursts of calorie burning energy between each meal.  


In our homes many cats are simply served a large plate of high carbohydrate food that is 350 calories or more, and do very little exercise.  It is easy to see how they can become overweight.  A frightening example of how easy it is to get a cat overweight is that if you feed an average 10 lb cat and extra 10 kibbles of dry food every day for a year, you will likely have that cat gain an extra one pound, or 10% of its body weight per year.  Keep that up for 5 years and now the cat is 5 lbs overweight from simply eating 10 extra kibbles daily!!  If we allow cats to free choice feed on dry food they often consume far more than an extra 10 kibbles per day.


Is there any place for dry food diets for cats?  Yes....Food Toys are a great way to let your cat allow dry food as part of his diet!  Food Toys simulate a cat's natural prey behavior and help burn calories!   But we also have great ideas for using food toys for canned food toys too!





To learn more about nutrition click on our Nutrition Facts Page