Preventing Obesity in the Altered Cat
Veterinarians have recognized for years that the altered cat has a much greater tendency to become obese than the unaltered cat.
This effect is due to changes in the altered cat’s activity level and hormone balance. Once thought to be inevitable, obesity is actually easily prevented in all cats (see chapter 20).
While real changes do take place inside the altered cat’s body, the real culprit in the almost universal fattening of the altered pet is high-carbohydrate foods. Much as human adults seem to gain extra pounds in middle age as their metabolism changes, so too do altered cats begin to accumulate excess weight with no apparent change in lifestyle.
The truth is that the kitten consuming lots of high-carbohydrate junk food in the form of dry kibble seems to tolerate this poor diet full of unnecessary “carb calories” much as a human teenager with a junk-food diet often can. Once metabolism changes, however, the altered cat loses that tolerance and foods high in processed carbohydrate begin to pack one pound.
In my practice, most of the adult cats I see for the first time are overweight, and many are morbidly obese (so overweight that their health is damaged).
The histories of these cats invariably include a slow but unchanging weight gain after the time they were surgically altered. All of my overweight patients ate dry cat food as kittens and continued to do so as altered adults.
This health-damaging weight gain does not occur when altered cats eat low-carbohydrate foods as adults. It is a good idea to feed even unaltered kittens canned food and/or raw meat even before they are spayed or neutered. This will eliminate the need to change foods after altering, and obesity prevention will be automatic.
Whatever wet food you choose for your altered cat, do not free-feed additional dry food alongside.
Many owners make this mistake. Cats do not need to “graze” on a constant basis as though they were cattle. The natural feeding behaviors of the cat dictate intermittent feeding when prey is successfully located and killed.
In the wild state, cats do not eat constantly; they eat periodically depending on the availability of prey and their ability to catch that prey.
Twice-daily meal-feeding of wet food at about 3 to 4 ounces of food per meal simulates the cat’s free-roaming feeding behaviors as closely as is reasonably possible and allows the cat to maintain a healthy adult weight throughout its life.