It may surprise cat owners to learn the most common nutritional problem seen in their pets is obesity. Recent studies show as many as 40 to 50 per cent of pet cats are overweight and the peak time for obesity is during the middle years of their lives. Studies have also shown many owners do not recognize when their pets are overweight. The cause of obesity is relatively simple: we provide too many calories. Apparently, we are being too good to our cats!
Cats have some unique nutritional requirements. As obligate carnivores (i.e. animals that must have meat in their diets), they have adapted through evolution to a high-protein, moderate-fat and low-carbohydrate diet. Reflecting their heritage, cats are programmed to use protein for energy and require higher concentrations of some key amino acids found in animal protein to maintain normal body functions. Unlike other species, cats cannot synthesize certain essential fatty acids from dietary components. They require these fatty acids from animal fat in their diet.
The natural diet of cats in the wild is almost totally meatbased, usually consisting of small rodents and birds. This type of diet contains roughly 40 per cent protein, 40 per cent fat and only five per cent carbohydrates.
Cats lack some of the enzymes and mechanisms found in other animals to cope with higher-carbohydrate diets. This does not mean cats cannot use carbohydrates in their diets, for they can indeed do so efficiently. However, excess carbohydrates
in a cat’s diet are not burned as energy, but are instead converted to triglycerides and stored as fat.
In addition, high-carbohydrate diets can stimulate the production of insulin in the cat’s body, thereby increasing hunger and causing weight gain. Obesity is cause for worry because it has been associated with an increased risk for serious medical conditions in cats. Studies have shown obese cats are five times as likely as cats of normal weight to develop lameness requiring veterinary care. Excess weight puts stress on joints, muscles and ligaments and can predispose cats to soft-tissue injuries and osteoarthritis. ..... [Read complete article]
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