“Your cat won’t hate you if you put him on a diet”

Cats are not meant to be “grazers”, but many owners have made them so, mistakenly, out of love, fear and ignorance.

The full article is here.

One only has to look at wolves and wild cats to understand that nature doesn’t create fat canines or felines – humans do. The nature of wild animals is to eat only the amount of food needed to survive, and maintain a well-conditioned body through lots of physical activity.

Sadly, the nature of many pet guardians today is to stuff their dogs and cats full of too much of the wrong kind of food, and offer them few opportunities to be physically active.

Study says your cat won’t hate you if you put him on a diet:

“Owners are often reluctant to impose a weight loss program on their cats because they think the cats will be less affectionate and will beg all the time.

“They fear that the cat will no longer like them and do not want the cat to exhibit annoying behaviors.”2

The researchers discovered there’s no need for cat parents to worry about losing their pet’s love if they cut back on their food intake. According to results reported by owners, after 8 weeks on a diet, the cats in the study were actually more affectionate than normal after they were fed.

According to the New York Times:

“… Owners felt that despite the restricted feeding, the cats did not turn vindictive. Instead, owners believed the cats showed more affection. After feeding, the cats would more often purr and sit in the owner’s lap.”3

Owners show love by offering (too much) food:

“A cat learns to manipulate us very well,” says Dr. Richard Goldstein of New York’s Animal Medical Center, “when she’s hungry, she’s the most affectionate cat in the world. And people will do anything to keep their cats happy.”4

In addition, many cat guardians free-feed their pets and keep the bowl topped off. It’s a good way to turn a hunter into a grazer, and a fat one at that. “Cats don’t self-regulate well,” says Dr. Goldstein.

One of the study’s lead authors, Dr. Emily Levine, believes cat owners misread their pet’s behavior, and unintentionally reinforce it with treats. For example, most people like it when their cat rubs up against them, but instead of returning kitty’s affection with attention and petting, they feed her instead.

She quickly learns that rubbing against mom or dad produces snacks. Often if a cat is expecting to be fed and mom isn’t cooperating, kitty may take a swat at her. Mom immediately feeds the cat to stop the behavior, and what does kitty learn? Swatting also produces snacks.

“A lot of cats are bored and that’s the bigger picture,” says Levine. “If the only thing they have to do all day is eat, they will ask for more and more.”

Here’s what we can do:

Does Your Cat Need to Slim Down?

Feed portion-controlled meals on a consistent schedule. In my experience, most owners of overweight cats serve their pets an all-day buffet. They put down a bowl of food and kitty is allowed to graze throughout the day. When the food gets low, the bowl is refilled.

The natural instinct of your cat is to eat a small amount of food followed by a fast, followed by another small amount of food and another fasting period. Kitties provided with a constant supply of available food turn into grazers. This is contrary to nature, and grazing cats very often consume too many calories from uncontrolled portion sizes.

Feeding two portion-controlled meals a day, one in the morning and one in the evening at about the same time each day, works well for most cats and also fits easily into the daily schedule for most families.

If you’re home during the day, you can feed several small meals instead, since one study shows that cats fed more often are more active. Initially, dividing your cat’s daily food portion into four smaller “snacks” is a good way to trick her into not recognizing the portion size and calories are shrinking.

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