Put your fat feline on 'Catkins' diet

Dr. Travis Einertson DVM and co-owner of Heritage Pet Hospital in Rochester.

Is your cat fat? Are vet bills chewing into your savings account?

Here's a possible remedy: the "Catkins" diet, as recommended by Rochester veterinarian Travis Einertson and a growing number of American Veterinary Medical Association members.

While the Atkins diet for humans remains controversial, cats' systems are different — they're carnivores, so it’s natural for them to eat a low-carb diet loaded with meat.

The Catkins approach can solve both the problem of obesity — often caused by the high carbs in grain-loaded dry cat food — and the myriad health problems cats develop from not getting enough moisture in their diet. This lack of moisture can lead to problems such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones and kidney and liver diseases.

Lisa Pierson, a veterinarian in Lomita, Calif., says on her website, catinfo.org, that the Catkins diet involves simply feeding canned food to your cat.

“(Cats) have a better chance at optimal health if they are fed a canned food diet instead of dry kibble,” she said.

Her words are echoed by Einertson, who co-owns Heritage Pet Hospital with Dr. Laura Toddie.

In the wild, a cat’s normal prey contains 70 percent to 75 percent water. That’s almost identical to the water content found in canned cat food, says Pierson. Dry cat foods, however, contain much less moisture, typically about 10 percent.

It might appear that cats on dry food drink plenty of water, she continues, but when all factors are considered, a cat that’s eating canned food consumes twice as much water as a cat eating dry food.

Why don't more cat owners use canned food? The most common objections have to do with convenience and cost.

Cost, however, needn't be a problem, Einertson says, because cats can get plenty of nutrition from the lower-cost canned foods, such as Friskies.

As for the ingredients in the lower-cost brands, Einertson says that by-products need not be a concern; just make sure the label says that the food is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

Friskies and other lower-cost canned foods typically sell for less than 50 cents a can. (A “best buy” among canned cat foods are the Trader Joe’s brands. Their tuna for cats sells for 49 cents a can in the Rochester store. And their other cat foods, which contain ingredients comparable to high-end cat foods, sell for 69 cents a can.)

As for convenience, Einertson recognizes that canned food is messier than dry food. But the tradeoff in a cat's health is worth it, he says.

One last concern that circulates in the pet world is that dry food is better for a cat’s teeth. However, research indicates that the belief is a myth, Einertson says.

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