If Your Cat is Fat, a High-Moisture Diet Could Be the Key to Weight Loss

High-Moisture Cat Food

Story at-a-glance -

  • An increasing number of veterinarians are realizing the benefits of wet cat food for overweight and obese cats. In a play on words, low-carb canned cat food called the “Catkins diet” is being recommended to help kitties lose weight and address some of the illnesses that arise from moisture-deficient nutrition.
  • Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, we’ll also see the mainstream veterinary community recommend moisture-rich diets for not only overweight cats, but healthy cats of all ages. Species-appropriate nutrition should be viewed not only as a treatment for disease, but also as preventive medicine.
  • The quality of canned food you feed your pet does matter. Inexpensive brands contain rendered byproducts that are often much less nutritious and digestible than higher quality sources of protein. We recommend buying the highest quality (preferably human grade) canned food you can afford, and also consider making balanced, species-appropriate homemade meals for your cat. You may find it’s more economical and desirable to make all your pet’s meals in your own kitchen.
  • The idea that dry food is better for your pet’s teeth is simply a myth. Just as crackers or granola do not clean your teeth, neither does kibble clean your pet’s teeth.

By Dr. Becker

In a bit of good news, it seems a growing number of traditional veterinarians are recommending what they call the "Catkins" diet for kitties who need to lose weight. "Catkins" is an amusing reference to the Atkins diet for humans, which many of you will remember as one of the first low-carbohydrate mass-marketed diets.

Equally encouraging is the fact that an article in a pet food industry journal actually mentions Dr. Lisa Pierson and her excellent informational website on feline nutrition called CatInfo.org.

From PetfoodIndustry.com:

"The Catkins diet may help obese cats not only lose weight, but also may aid with a variety of health problems that cats may develop from not having enough moisture in the diet. Pierson says that in the wild, a cat's typical prey contains 70 percent to 75 percent water, which is similar to the moisture content of many wet cat foods; however, she says dry cat foods typically contain only 10 percent moisture."

Hopefully soon the mainstream veterinary community will not only be recommending moisture-rich diets for overweight cats and those who are sick, but for healthy cats of all ages. Species-appropriate nutrition is the best preventive medicine available. It helps keep pets at a good weight (as long as their owners don't overfeed them), and the right food also dramatically reduces the risk of feline diseases, especially those involving the lower urinary tract, kidneys and liver.

Not All Canned Cat Food is Equally Nutritious

The PetfoodIndustry.com article also mentions a veterinarian in Rochester, MN, Dr. Travis Einertson, who recommends the Catkins diet. Einertson believes one reason pet owners don't feed more canned cat food is because it costs more than kibble.

In an interview with The Post-Bulletin in Rochester, Dr. Einertson says cost needn't be a problem "… because cats can get plenty of nutrition from the lower-cost canned foods, such as Friskies." He recommends pet owners not concern themselves with ingredients, including by-products, as long as the label says the food is approved by AAFCO.

In my 13 best-to-worst pet food ranking, I put grocery store brand canned pet food (which is the most appropriate category for a food like Friskies) down at number 10. I don't agree with Einertson that any old brand of cat food, as long as it's canned and therefore wet, is optimal nutrition for your kitty. 

The better the quality of animal protein in the food, the higher its biological value (nutritional effectiveness), digestibility and absorbability. Poor quality protein like that often found in rendered by-products used in inexpensive pet food can have little to no biological value (for example, feathers). So while the moisture content of canned food is tremendously beneficial, if the protein is poor quality, your cat's organs of digestion and detoxification will be chronically stressed by processing food that is far removed from the natural diet of a feline.

Fresh, unprocessed muscle and organ meats, frozen at least 24 hours to kill pathogens, served raw (or cooked, if that's your preference) is the type of animal protein a healthy pet's body can most easily digest, absorb, and make use of. The farther away from that ideal the protein in food gets, the less optimal it is as a source of nutrition for your pet.

Another problem with inexpensive canned pet foods is they often contain a long list of additives, preservatives, and fillers to make up for the lack of nutritious ingredients and to meet AAFCO's complete-and-balanced standards.

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Affordability of Excellent Quality Cat Food

If your budget can't accommodate human grade or even premium canned cat food on a regular basis, you can consider making some or all of your cat's food at home. This gives you complete control over the quality of food your pet is eating and the money you spend to prepare her diet. You can also consider mixing things up with a few cans of high quality commercial cat food per week and the rest homemade in your kitchen.

The one thing you MUST do if you decide to prepare your cat's meals yourself is make sure they are nutritionally balanced. In my pet food-ranking list, you'll notice that dead last is an unbalanced homemade diet.

So whether you use recipes from my book, Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats, or another source, please make sure your pet's diet is not only species-appropriate, but also nutritionally balanced.

Dry Food is NOT Better for Your Pet's Teeth

Dr. Einertson also feels another reason some pet owners don't feed wet food is because they believe dry food is better for a cat's teeth. But, he says – and I agree -- research has shown this to be a myth.

Just as crunchy human food does nothing to improve the condition of our teeth and gums, neither does kibble benefit your pet's teeth.

Kitties need their teeth brushed daily or several times a week. And the best time to introduce them to the routine is when they are kittens. For information on how to get started, you can view my video and read the accompanying article titled One of the Most Important Things You Can Do to Keep Your Cat Healthy.