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Cat Nutrition and Weight Loss Management

Nutrients are substances obtained from food and used by an animal as a source of energy and as part of the metabolic machinery necessary for maintenance and growth. Barring any special needs, illness-related deficiencies or instructions from your vet, your pets should be able to get all the nutrients they need from high-quality commercial pet foods, which are formulated with these special standards in mind. Here are the six essential classes of nutrients fundamental for healthy living.

  • Water is the most important nutrient. While food may help meet some of your pet's water needs, pets need to have fresh clean water available to them at all times.
  • Proteins are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones and antibodies, and are essential for growth, maintenance, reproduction and repair. Proteins can be obtained from a number of sources. Animal-based proteins have complete amino acid profiles.
  • Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and are divided into essential and non-essential amino acids
  • Fats are the most concentrated form of food energy, providing your pet with more than twice the energy of proteins or carbohydrates. Fats are essential in the structure of cells and are needed for the production of some hormones. They are required for absorption and utilization of fat-soluble vitamins. Fats provide the body insulation and protection for internal organs. Essential fatty acids must be provided in a pet’s diet because they cannot be synthesized by a cat in sufficient amounts. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid for cats. Arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, is also essential for cats for the maintenance of the skin and coat, for kidney function and for reproduction.
    • Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in healing inflammation. Replacing some omega-6 with omega-3 fatty acids can lessen an inflammatory reaction—whether it is in the skin (due to allergies), the joints (from arthritis), the intestines (from inflammatory bowel disease) or even in the kidneys (from progressive renal failure).
  • Carbohydrates provide energy for the body’s tissues, play a vital role in the health of the intestine, and are likely to be important for reproduction. While there is no minimum carbohydrate requirement, there is a minimum glucose requirement necessary to supply energy to critical organs (i.e. the brain). Fibers are kinds of carbohydrates that modify the mix of the bacterial population in the small intestine, which can help manage chronic diarrhea. For cats to obtain the most benefit from fiber, the fiber source must be moderately fermentable. Foods that are high in fiber are not good for cats with high energy requirements, such as those who are young and growing.
  • Vitamins are catalysts for enzyme reactions. Tiny amounts of vitamins are essential to cats for normal metabolic functioning. Most vitamins cannot be synthesized in the body, and therefore are essential in the diet.

Adult cats should eat enough of a high-quality, nutritious food to meet their energy needs and to maintain and repair body tissues. The amount you feed your adult cat should be based on his or her size and energy output. Activity levels vary dramatically between pets and will play an important role in determining caloric intake.

  • As a general rule of thumb, we recommend that all cats be fed twice daily using the portion control feeding method. Start by dividing the amount suggested on the label of your pet’s food into two meals, spaced eight to twelve hours apart. You may need to adjust portions as you learn your cat’s ideal daily “maintenance” amount. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best feeding schedule and types of foods for your pets.
  • Some people have schedules that can’t accommodate normal two-meal-a-day feeding regimens. Not to worry—cats may be fed successfully in a number of ways to meet both the owner's and the animal's needs and circumstances. The different types of feeding methods are as follows:
    • Portion-control feeding entails measuring your pet's food and offering it as a meal, thereby controlling the amount of food that can be consumed. This method is used for weight control programs and for animals who might overeat if fed free-choice. Food can be provided in one or more meals daily.
      • The timed feeding method involves making a portion of food available for the pet to eat for a specified period of time. For example, you would place food in your cat’s bowl and allow your pet to nosh for 30 minutes. After that time, whatever food the cat has not eaten is removed.
    • Free-choice feeding is also known as "ad lib" feeding or "free feeding." Food is available at all times, as much as the pet wants, whenever the pet wants. This method is most appropriate when feeding dry food, which will not spoil if left out. However, some cats will overeat when fed free-choice, which can result in obesity.
  • Milk should not be fed to cats as a treat or a substitute for water. Cats do not possess significant amounts of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk. Feeding milk and milk-based products to cats can actually cause them to vomit or have diarrhea.
  • Treats should be given in moderation and should represent 5% or less of a cat’s daily food intake. The rest should come from a nutritionally complete cat food.

Senior cats begin to show visible age-related changes at about seven to twelve years of age. There are metabolic, immunologic and body composition changes, too. Some of these are unavoidable. Others can be managed with diet.

  • Start your cat on a senior diet at about seven years of age.
  • The main objectives in the feeding of an older cat should be to maintain health and optimum body weight, slow or prevent the development of chronic disease, and minimize or improve clinical signs of diseases that may already be present.
  • As a cat ages, health issues may arise, including:
    • Deterioration of skin and coat
    • Loss of muscle mass
    • More frequent intestinal problems
    • Arthritis
    • Obesity
    • Dental problems
    • Decreased ability to fight off infection
  • Routine care for geriatric pets should involve a consistent daily routine and periodic veterinary examinations to assess the presence or progress of chronic disease.

Overweight Cats- Obesity is an extremely common problem in pets and, as with humans, can be detrimental to the health of a cat. The overweight pet has many added stresses upon his body and is at an increased risk of diabetes, liver problems and joint pain.

Obesity develops when energy intake exceeds energy requirements. The excess energy is then stored as fat. Once a pet is obese, he may remain obese even after excessive caloric intake stops. The majority of cases of obesity are related to simple overfeeding coupled with lack of exercise.
We recommend that you consult your pet’s vet before starting on a weight loss program, which should include these major areas:

  • Overweight animals consume more calories than they require. Work with your veterinarian to determine your pet’s caloric requirements, select a suitable food and calculate how much to feed. The diet should contain a normal level of a moderately fermentable fiber and the type of fat that prevents the skin and coat from deteriorating during weight loss. Diets that dilute calories with high fiber lead to increased stool volumes, frequent urges to defecate and variable decreases in nutrient digestibility.
  • Increasing physical activity can be a valuable contributor to both weight loss and maintenance. Regular exercise burns more calories, reduces appetite, changes body composition and will increase your pet’s resting metabolic rate.
  • A successful weight management program requires permanent changes in the behaviors that have allowed the pet to become overweight. Perhaps you are giving your pet too many treats, for example, or not giving him enough opportunities to exercise.

Are you committed to your pet’s weight loss? Here are some important things you can do:

  • Remove the pet from the room when the family eats.
  • Feed your pet several small meals throughout the day.
  • Feed all meals and treats in the pet's bowl only.
  • Reduce snacks or treats.
  • Provide non-food related attention.

Prescription-only Formulas

We are proud to carry Royal Canin Prescription Diets exclusively in our hospital. The Royal Canin Company's commitment to quality, their wide variety of formulas and excellent palatability make them a perfect fit with our goals. The ingredients used are always selected to optimize the nutritional content of the food. A therapeutic diet can make a difference in the life of a cat

Royal Canin’s Veterinary-Exclusive diets support a wide range of health issues such as: Urinary Health, Skin and Food Allergies, Diabetes, Digestive Support, Joint Support Renal Health and Weight Management. These formulas are highly palatable to appeal to cats and many offered in both wet and dry formulas for both cats.

Our Veterinary-Exclusive formulas also offer a full line of well-pet food formulas that are highly palatable and provide complete and balanced nutrition for healthy cats based on their age, lifestyle and other important factors. Your veterinarian can help you determine which Veterinary Exclusive diet is just right for your cat.

100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE

Our veterinary exclusive foods are designed to support all of your pet’s special dietary requirements.

More than just a vet, Portland Oregon's Town and Country Animal Hospital is your animal's second family.