They really do call it the Catkins diet
November 18, 2006 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Should I switch my cat to a high-protein wet food? If so, what kind?

When we went to the vet this morning, Ronnie weighed 9 pounds, up from her usual steady 8 pounds. She is 5 years old. She is small-framed, so I had definitely noticed the weight gain over the past year, though she is far from fat.

She eats half a packet of Whiskas wet food a day, and has regular dry Iams available at all times. She is an indoor cat but very active. She is healthy except for some premature tartar buildup, which the last vet had me feeding her tartar control treats for.

The vet recommended I feed her a high protein diet to prevent further weight gain. He claims high protein (50%+), very low-carb (10%-) wet diets are better for cats, because they mimic cats' historic diets. He also said the old story about dry food being better for cats' teeth is wrong; dry carbs can actually make tooth decay worse. And he said high protein has not been proven to cause kidney problems, which used to be a concern.

He gave me some reading material, which I've gone through critically. I've also done some general internet research and read a bunch of abstracts on PubMed. And I still can't tell whether the high-protein argument has general support in the veterinary community.

I am willing to spend more on cat food, but not insane amounts, and I have neither time nor inclination to prepare Ronnie's food myself using whole rabbits, organ meats, and a variety of supplements. Advice?
posted by climalene to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know about wet food, but Innova EVO is by far the highest protein, lowest carb dry kibble that's easily available. I imagine their wet food will be similar.

All the "all-meat" canned foods I've seen are really expensive. Maybe the Innova will be more reasonable.
posted by bink at 10:17 AM on November 18, 2006


I got similar info from my vet a few months ago, when getting one of our cats' dental problems taken care of. The rule of thumb the vet gave me was this: the best wet foods should have meat or meat products as their first five ingredients. If you see a lot fillers in the first five ingredients, the food isn't that great.

I can attest to the fact that our cats seem much healthier since we switched to giving them mostly wet food (served once a day, with dry food left out for them to munch on). The cat with the tooth problems has not only not had any more tooth problems, her chronic dandruff has virtually disappeared, and I think she's lost a little weight.

We go to Northside Veterinary Clinic in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY, and I'm very pleased with the way they treat our cats.

The canned food I've been buying is PetGuard. It is definitely more expensive than the dry food we used to buy (Science Diet and Iams, both of which I've been told by our vet to avoid). But it does seem to me that much of what the (almost totally unregulated) pet food industry dumps on the market -- even some of the stuff marketed as natural and healthy -- is really pretty crappy. And as I said, the improvement in our cats' health since switching has been quite noticeable.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:38 AM on November 18, 2006


Check out Binky's Food Charts. You'll find wet and dry foods listed, along with some nutritional information.

Some of the info I've gathered from vets over the year:
- If you're on a budget, go for Fancy Feats. It's cheap, readily available, and most flavors are pretty low-carb
- Low-carb is the way to go for all cats. As you've noted, <1 0% carb diets are recommendedbr> - Cats needs 20-25 kCal/lb of weight. A fatass like my cat apparently needs nearly three 3oz cans of Fancy Feast a day
- Kitty diabetes is a killer. The reason why it's so prevalent is because so many dry foods are so high in carbohydrates
- Change diet slowly, or your cat will poop like he drank a quart of Yoo-Hoo.

The vet I go to believes that every single cat should be on a low-carb, wet food diet. Doesn't do anything to prevent stupid behavior, but it may help them from being so blimpy as to fall backwards off a perfectly stable platform.
posted by herrdoktor at 10:47 AM on November 18, 2006


Pretty much any decent-quality food is a step up from what you're feeding now - cats are obligate carnivores which means all the grains and filler and other crap in what you're feeding is unnecessary or even harmful (and is a big part of the weight gain in all likelihood). I would switch to a high-quality canned food (Felidae, Innova EVO, etc.), canned foods have more meat, fewer preservatives, and if high quality, few or no grains.
posted by biscotti at 11:34 AM on November 18, 2006


Timing can also be a factor (as it is with some humans). At the vet's suggestion, our cat gets a larger wet meal plus a little dry in the morning, and a smaller wet meal at night. That regimen was enough to get her back to regular normal weight after she'd put on a pound and a half in a year. We didn't change brands at all, because she's also got food allergies.
posted by gnomeloaf at 2:04 PM on November 18, 2006


And I still can't tell whether the high-protein argument has general support in the veterinary community.

It is (or should be) and your vet is right on.

I had a discussion a couple of years ago with the then head of the feline nutrition unit at Massey University and this is exactly what he said. I've since done some reading about feline metabolism and it backs him up totally (I study biochemistry and digestive physiology and this kind of thing is within my area of expertise, although I focus more on human and rodent stuff).

On his advice I switched my cats to tinned cat food only and they stopping being overweight and are very fit and active. My current vet was very surprised to find out how old they are (12). In your case I'd pinpoint the Iams kibble as the cause of your cat's weight gain (both due to the science stuff and because that's what made my cats fat).

Cats are made differently than other mammals. Obligate carnivores and all that. They are supposed to get their calories from fat and protein and need very little carbohydrates. You don't need to give them expensive food necessarily, it just needs to be nutritionally balanced/complete (cats have different micronutrient needs from other animals and this is very important) and
made from good quality meat rather than cereal or other fillers. In New Zealand Wiskas and Chef tinned cat food are both actually very good, I'm not sure how it works elsewhere.
posted by shelleycat at 7:55 PM on November 18, 2006


I had one vet (who I trusted) tell me that wet food was a scam, and that I could feed my cat dry food, exclusively, forever. That cat lived to 25 years old, and didn't ever reach Vegas-Elvis shape (always looked healthy-young) so I think this may be true.

I've also had another vet (who I trust almost as much) recommend any low-fat wet food, but sparingly (every three or four days) with dry the rest of the time.

YMMV, obviously.
posted by rokusan at 7:58 PM on November 18, 2006


... any low-fat wet food ...

You don't want to fed your cat low fat food. You want to feed it low carbohydrate food. There is a big difference to the cat and low fat food is a bad idea.
posted by shelleycat at 9:38 PM on November 18, 2006


Meanwhile, over in the Blue: Some other options...
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:57 PM on November 18, 2006


Thanks so much, everyone -- you were all very helpful. I have bought Ronnie some Petguard and will begin switching her over to exclusively high-quality wet food. No more Honey Nut Horsey-Os.

I don't think I'll have any trouble getting her to switch: when I put some Petguard Fish, Chicken, & Liver down in front of her a few minutes ago she looked at me with disbelief and delight, and proceeded to eat it all in about three seconds.
posted by climalene at 12:58 PM on November 19, 2006


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