My neighborhood pet store recommended an organic, high-protein canned diet for my cat. Can't I just leave dry food out for him?
Some cats, like some people, are blessed with an active metabolism or the ability to self-regulate their food intake. And then there’s the rest of us.
Obesity is a very common problem in cats, affecting approximately 40 to 50% of cats seen in veterinary hospitals. People often don’t even realize their cat is overweight, or think it’s cute. (I’ve heard all the excuses — “the shelter said he’s part Maine Coon,” “it’s her long fur,” and “he’s just a big cat” being among my favorites.) Unfortunately, obesity increases your cat’s risk for a number of feline health problems, ranging from inability to properly groom herself to diabetes.
Why are so many cats overweight? Sedentary indoor life styles certainly don’t help, but an increasing body of evidence is pointing towards inappropriate diet as the main culprit. While it’s hard to beat free-choice feeding of dry food for convenience, it’s likely the perfect recipe for making cats gain too much weight.
Cats are “obligate carnivores,” which means they need to eat an animal protein-based diet, rather than one high in carbohydrates. Canned food, organic or not, typically has a much better protein-to-carbohydrate ratio than dry kibble, as well as a greatly increased water content, which can also be beneficial for urinary tract problems. Also, canned food facilitates feeding portioned meals, rather than at-will grazing, which gives the humans in household more control over the calories their cats consume.
Before making the switch, be sure to talk to your veterinarian. Higher protein diets can be contraindicated for certain medical conditions, such as chronic kidney disease. Also, severely restricted diets may put your cat at risk for a serious liver problem called hepatic lipidosis, so discuss the best amount to feed for your cat to achieve (or maintain) a healthy body weight.