Cats are Eating Cindy out of House and Home

cat looking at table food

cat looking at table food

Cats are Eating Cindy out of House and Home

I got this email from Cindy, who is a Cat Chat® listener, and has taken to heart my advice to feed cats wet food only, because they are obligate carnivores whose bodies don’t need or do well with carbohydrates. She wrote:

“Thanks to you, over the past year I have converted all 5 of my cats to wet food. They get 1/2 can 2 times per day. 4 domestic short hair and 1 feral. All was going well — the overweight cat lost 8 pounds and did well and everyone else maintained weight. These are indoor and outdoor cats that live on a very big farm. Here’s the problem: all of these cats are attacking human food. They seem hungry constantly. They are eating food on the table when I eat, bread in wrappers on the counters, dog food during preparation for my 9 dogs on the farm. I don’t think 2 times per day feeding is enough to satisfy or sustain and have been feeding 3 times per day with winter weather rolling in. They live inside and come and go at will. Any suggestions?”

I did ask if the cats had been de-wormed and she assured me that they had. So it sounds as though Cindy has 5 healthy, hale and hearty cats, who are enjoying all the benefits of living with people and also the safe freedom of having a natural feline life outdoors. However, there are two possible reasons they are eating everything in sight: the quality and quantity of canned food

The first issue is quality: not all canned cat foods are created equal

cat looking at steak on plateWhile wet food is a more natural diet for a cat, you still have to pay attention to what is inside those cans. Is it a good quality protein as the first ingredient (often after water needed for processing)? Is the proportion of carbohydrates in that food best for a carnivore—less than 10% of calories from carbs? Because there are many brands of canned food that are full not only of carbohydrates (more than 50%, as if they were dry food in a can) but also may utilize poor quality protein ingredients, like by-product instead of a meat source. Those lower quality ingredients are also less expensive, meaning greater profits for the manufacturer — but not the quality needed by a cat’s finely tuned “engine.” Those foods will not satisfy a cat’s hunger, and may even make her hungrier, the way eating nothing but dry food can do to a cat’s appetite. Halo happens to have created a new pate style canned food that has an extraordinarily low percentage of calories coming from carbohydrates–around 3% — a real gift of health to our kitties.

The next problem is: are cats getting short changed on quantity and simply need more food?

Cindy’s cats sound as though they are burning up their food at a high rate of metabolism since they have an active lifestyle in and out of the house (since it is safe on her farm); with the weather turning cooler, that burns more calories, too. So it’s not how many times a day she feeds, but how much at each feeding. Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, my co-host on Cat Chat®, suggests giving cats as much as they will eat in a 15 minute mealtime. Cindy can try feeding them a bit more to see whether that doesn’t calm their appetite. I’m not trying to break her piggy bank, but often a cat who gets as much as she wants at a meal will not feel so frantic and will soon walk away from an uneaten portion of that food (which can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for the next meal). Although this may mean a higher food bill, there will be a big savings in health. By feeding the obligate carnivore the quantity she wants of food at two meals — and making sure it is high quality — you will be ensuring their health and investing in nutritional wellness, instead of spending money on the vet bills that can be the result of poor feeding practices. Getting the best quality food you can manage for your kitties will result in happier, healthier cats who will live longer. And that — as the ad says — is priceless.

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credits: dailywishes via photopin cc & nix-pix via photopin cc

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