Your beloved house cat may seem like the perfect cuddly companion, but he also shares 95.6 percent of his DNA with the fierce tiger. Just like the tiger, he needs a lot of protein—preferably meat—to survive. So, when cats are overweight, Mud Bay often recommends that owners consider reducing non-essential carbohydrates to help boost weight loss.
To find out more about the link between a cat’s biology and the right balance of macronutrients for felines, we talked to Julie McCulloch. Julie started as a part-time store staff member, but after a few years, she became the manager of the Sammamish store. She’s also an expert in cat weight loss, in part because she spent a lot of time helping her own cat, Khan, reach a healthy weight.
MB: Cats tend to respond well to low carbohydrate diets, especially when they need to lose weight. Why is that?
JM: Cats are what are known as obligate carnivores. That means their diet should primarily consist of high protein, high fat and little to no carbohydrate content. Any carbs they do tend to eat aren’t processed by their bodies very well, so carbohydrates can result in cats being more likely to be overweight.
MB: Are their certain food types or food forms that make better weight loss food for cats?
JM: Kibble must have a certain amount of carbohydrates so the dough will hold together. There are a lot good lower carbohydrate kibbles, but every kibble contains a minimum amount of carbohydrates.
So wet food, having higher moisture and lower carbohydrates, tends to be much better for cats who are losing weight or need to maintain a healthy weight. Moisture in food is very healthy for cats. It not only protects cats from dehydration, but there’s more bulk in moisture-rich foods, which can prevent overeating.
Raw food has even fewer carbs. And frozen raw food will naturally have the moisture in the food that your cat needs. All raw foods have beneficial natural enzymes in it, as well as being easier to digest than kibble.
MB: Mud Bay recommends very slow weight loss for cats. Why do we make that recommendation?
JM: One of the biggest dangers for cats—which can happen if they don’t eat enough or don’t eat often–is what’s known as fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis). So, if you drastically reduce a cat’s food too quickly, it’s hard on the liver to process all that body fat so it can be used for fuel. It can be fatal for cats.
Going slow can help you figure out what’s right for your cat and their build, as well as make it easier for your cat to switch and adjust to a new diet. Three to four percent weight loss per month is ideal.
MB: If someone cuts carbohydrates in a cat’s diet, but she’s still not losing the weight that she’s expecting to lose, what are the options you can consider?
JM: Something to consider is how much you’re feeding, not just the food type. You may have cut carbs, but you may have changed to a food with a higher calorie content.
Other options are looking into different types of food. If you’re still using a kibble food, you might want to try cutting more carbohydrates by switching to a wet or a raw food.
And beyond diet—and this is always important—exercise is extremely important for cats to lose weight. So, try creating a play schedule, and figure out what best suits your cat’s activity needs along with their new diet.
My cat Khan, when he was younger, he was about 11 pounds or so. It doesn’t sound like much for a cat, but he has a small frame. And it meant that he was about two pounds overweight.
And when the vet first told he was overweight, I thought she was crazy. Having grown up with overweight or obese cats my entire life, an 11-pound cat was the smallest cat I’ve ever had.
So, I talked to my vet about different food options for him, and I mentioned that there was this pet food store near where I lived, called Mud Bay. And she said, “Yes, you could go there, and talk to them about different weight loss options for your cat.”
And so I did. I went to Mud Bay, I bought a lower carbohydrate, higher protein kibble for Khan after I talked to a Muddy.
And then, in about three months, I started working for Mud Bay. I started learning more about a cat’s diet and what it should contain, and what types of foods are better for them for weight loss. I transferred him to an all wet food diet shortly after that.
Then, after I got over my own squeamishness with raw food, I started feeding him a raw diet. Within about a year and a half or so, he had lost those two pounds. And ever since then, he’s been on a raw food diet, and I exercise him more frequently, and he’s hovering around a 2 ½ pounds loss.
MB: If people feel like they need more help with their own cat weight loss efforts, what are some of the resources available to them?
JM: Well, of course, you can come into any Mud Bay. Just come in and ask for a staff member that has a lot of knowledge about cats or has helped their own cats lose weight. There’s a lot of us!
We can find a food option that works for you and your cat. Maybe you’re not interested in a raw or wet food diet, and so we can try a lower carbohydrate kibble for your cat. And there are tons of literature and solution sheets, like “How to Help a Cat Return to a Healthy Weight,” we’ll be happy to give you as well.
We can go over our new feeding calculator and the resulting feeding guidelines to help decide exactly what amount of food works best for your cat. Because every cat—just like every person—has varied nutritional requirements, and manufacturer’s feeding guidelines aren’t rules. And we can set up a custom feeding plan for anyone who comes to Mud Bay.
We can also talk about an exercise regimen, and find out what works for your cat, as well as your personal lifestyle. We’ll just try a lot of different options together until we find out what works best for you.
Sammamish Store Manager Julie McCulloch has been a Muddy for nearly four years. Come visit the Sammamish store to talk to her about healthy weight, feline feeding or anything else you’d like to discuss.