A few days ago, I interviewed board certified veterinary nutritionist Dr. Edward Moser. He’s an adjunct assistant professor of nutrition at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine and consulting veterinary nutritionist and spokesperson for Wellness Natural Pet Food. Dr. Moser is also on a USDA panel, National Organic Program’s Pet Food Task Force, which works to define organic standards for pet food.
We talked about several topics: natural cat food, feeding wet or dry food and how to help overweight cats.
What’s inside natural cat food?
Wellness Natural Food leaves out artificial ingredients, colors, preservatives and flavors. Dr. Moser says, “If we don’t need them, why have them in the food?” He notes that Wellness identified certain ingredients that are associated with diets that run into problems like allergies. These are animal by-products, corn, wheat, soy, dairy, artificial ingredients and sugar.
“If you don’t know what it is and doesn’t sound right, chances are you should look it up and see what it does do,” cautions Dr. Moser. And Wellness has an ingredient dictionary to help you investigate!
Wet or dry food?
“My experience has been people can successfully feed all dry food and people can successfully feed all canned food. Others choose to mix it and seem to do it well,” says Dr. Moser. He advises that cats with urinary tract problems like stones, crystal and inappropriate elimination may need wet food. “A lot of those cats, when fed all canned food, and get more liquid in their diet, seem to have fewer relapses.”
Talk to your vet about adding canned food as part of the diet or the complete diet. Dr. Moser notes that there’s little moisture in dry food, while canned food is about 76% water. To help encourage more fluid intake, he suggests supplying filtered water that may have less smell and chlorination.
What’s the biggest problem related to diet?
“Biggest problem that we see in inappropriate feeding is feeding too much,” says Dr. Moser. He notes that by the time cats are 7 years of age, about 30% of them are overweight. And that can lead to big health problems like arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.
To help an overweight cat, look at calorie intake and encourage exercise. Dr. Moser says that within a 1/2 cup or dry food there can be anywhere from 200 to 300 calories depending on fat level.
“The real goal is to figure out how many calories you want to feed in a day,” notes Moser. To cut calories, first find out how many calories are in your 1/2 cup of dry food or that 3-ounce can of wet food. Then look at how many calories to feed per day. Dr. Moser says that if you cut 15% of what you’re currently feeding, you’ll probably see weight loss over time, but you may have to go back and cut again to get to the right level.
It’s wise to not let your cat become overweight in the first place. “The best thing you can do is weigh your cat and weigh it frequently, starting at a young age,” advises Dr. Moser. The time to start really taking note of weight and calorie intake is when a cat is altered. Dr. Moser cautions that cats are more susceptible to weight gain after being spayed or neutered.
Plus, Dr. Moser doesn’t suggest feeding a portly cat treats! “It would be great if you could give them a treat and make them exercise, but most of them won’t do that,” he says jokingly.
If you’d like to put your cat on a diet similar to the human Atkins Diet, try Wellness CORE cat food. It’s grain-free and contains 50% protein. Dr. Moser says that research shows that high-protein diets help cats reduce the amount of lean body mass that’s lost. That means cats lose body fat instead of muscle mass. By maintaining the lean body mass, cats are actually burning calories through the metabolic rate increase. Dr. Moser notes that a different option is a higher-fiber lower fat diet like Wellness Healthy Weight.
When it comes to controlling weight for cats, sometimes owners will have to practice tough love – not handing out treats or extra food on demand, no matter how cute the mew!
Do you count calories for your cat?
Playful cat image via stock.xchng. Feeding cat image via flickr.