Monday, February 19, 2007

Famous Fat Cat Should Go On A Low-Carb Diet

Hercules the cat got his 15 minutes of fame for his unusual size

Have you heard about this cat named Hercules who is most well-known for, er, uh, just a wee bit chunky. Oh forget it, this cat is fat, there's just no beating around the bush about it. He was immortalized in this The Oregonian column which told the story about how this flabby feline became a worldwide sensation.

If you haven't heard the story, here's the long and short of it:

Hercules was being watched by a kitty sitter while his owner who has cystic fibrosis was having a double-lung transplant. But somehow the cat ran away and was presumed to be dead. Last month, he was found rummaging around in the garage of an Oregon family's home and stuck in the doggie door frame. The homeowner contacted the Oregon Humane Society who then let local reporters know about the discovery of this strangely large cat.

It didn't take long for the story to take off not only locally, but then around the world when the video hit the popular web site YouTube. As of right now, this video of Hercules (who they refer to as Goliath in the video before the owner claimed him) has been seen by nearly a half million people and growing.

See the famous "Fat Cat" video for yourself:

When Hercules' owner saw his beloved feline friend on television one night while watching the news, he was able to get his cat back again. But now Hercules is a cult hero who is still enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. Look for him to appear in Martha Stewart Living magazine article on how to help your pet lose weight very soon. There's even talk of having Hercule become a pitchcat for high-protein cat food!

Actually, it's not a bad idea to put him on a low-carb diet as I previously blogged about. Although there are some veterinarians who are opposed to livin' la vida low-carb for fat cats (in fact, my own vet is!), one of my astute readers explained quite succinctly in a recent e-mail that a low-carb diet is PERFECT since "almost every cat I see today is overweight."

Here's what he wrote:

Eating small prey, cats in nature consume about 5% of calories from carbs. Some internal organs, like the liver, contain carbs. The other main source is the prey's stomach contents (which not all cats even eat). Cats are very purposefully designed to eat a low-carb diet. They even lack some of the enzymes in their digestive systems for dealing with starches and sugars. They can and do, however, get fat on carbs.

Cats are what are called obligate carnivores--humans and dogs are omnivores, and can survive on a variety of foods, but cats must eat raw meat. They cannot synthesize certain substances that omnivores and herbivores can make for themselves. Cats need to eat the flesh of a creature that has already synthesized them.

One of the most important is taurine, which is destroyed by heat and is not present in even slightly cooked food. Cats will go blind and develop heart problems without it. You will see taurine as an additive in all cat food products--it must be put back in after cooking, and heating a cat's food will destroy it again. Like with human food, the manufacturers remove vital nutrients in processing and then make an attempt to artificially replace the ones they are aware of.

Cats are extremely good at regulating their own food intake, and will not normally overeat, as long as they can satisfy their craving for fat and protein. Unfortunately, a cat fed typical dry cat food is eating meat-flavored cereal, and must eat a huge quantity of carbs in order to get the protein and fat it craves--usually 60% or more (sometimes much more) of the calories in cat food is in the form of carbs.

In my opinion, even the premium, high-priced dry cat foods are still crap--they may have better quality ingredients, but they're still just grain-based crackers. Some even blatantly advertise the grain content--'chicken and rice' is common, for instance. Try to get a cat to eat rice. Note that the corporate parents of most pet food companies are grain processors.

Kibble is sprayed with a tasty coating that appeals to a cat's sense of smell, not unlike the sugar frosting on breakfast cereal. As an interesting experiment, scrape the outer layer off and see a cat's reaction.

At least some of the protein content listed on a cat food package is from corn or other grain, and is not actually available to the cat, whose short digestive tract is designed for processing meat. This is especially true of the popular, cheaper cat food brands.

Humans can't directly digest this protein either, but our longer intestines give beneficial bacteria time to break it down for us. This means that cats must eat still more dry food, and even more carbs, to satisfy their need for protein. The high percentage of cats that become diabetic today should come as no surprise.

What is cruel is that, like us, cats now have 'low fat' foods designed for weight loss. This is even more insane for a cat than for us.

Another issue is that cats are desert animals--they are descended from wild ancestors living in north Africa, first kept as pets by the ancient Egyptians. (Among other details, this is why they like warm temperatures, why the more sand-like their cat litter is, the more they like it, and why they have extremely concentrated urine, to conserve moisture.) In nature, cats get almost all of their moisture from the prey they eat, and drink very little water.

Cats fed dry food are forced to drink a lot, but they don't have a well-developed thirst mechanism, and don't drink nearly enough to compensate. This makes their urine even more concentrated than it already is, and this is believed by some to be the reason for the prevalence of urinary problems in older cats. On the other hand, it is a bad idea to add water to dry kibble, because of the rapid growth of bacteria this will encourage.

This link (a PDF file) is an article from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) that gives a lot more detail. Here is another good article.

Many vets are convinced that dry food is superior to a natural diet, and say that crunching on dry kibble cleans a cat's teeth (in spite of the fact that cats don't have a digestive enzyme in their saliva to break down starch, which leaves more food for bacteria on the teeth).

When I first took my kitten to the vet, I came home with a bag of flyers and brochures and cat health booklets produced by the commercial pet food manufacturers. At the time I thought this was a nice and helpful thing, until I started to do my own research about feline nutrition.

Sorry, didn't mean to make this into a long rant, but I thought you'd find it interesting.

There is a movement among some cat and dog owners to feed a more natural diet--try Googling BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food). Some groups use the same acronym for 'Bones And Raw Food.'

WOW, that's some pretty AWESOME and educational information for pet owners to use. Hercules, are you paying attention to this, buddy?! It's time you start livin' la vida low-carb, ya fat cat! As it stands right now, he is down to 19 1/2 pounds which is HUGE. I was surprised to find out last night that my oldest cat Muffin now weighs 17 pounds. EEEEEK! She and Hercules would make a beefy couple indeed. :)

As the owner of four cats, I am always trying to make sure they are getting adequate exercise and good nutrition. It's a neverending battle, but I will be taking the advice provided by my reader today to maximize the opportunities to have them eat a more natural diet. Do you have any success with your dogs or cats feeding them a low-carb diet? It makes total sense and yet the major pet food companies flood their products with carbohydate-based fillers. UGH!

Any thoughts about the low-carb lifestyle for your pet?

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Blogger Scott Kustes said...

My wife and I just got a Golden Retriever/Husky mix (yes, she's as awesome as you imagine she is). She's going on 5 months old now. When we got her, she was on kibble with plans to switch her over to a raw diet. She rarely ate all of her kibble unless I mixed it with applesauce or something. Now that she's on a diet of chicken necks and "veggie slop," she cleans the bowl and continues licking it like she's trying to take the finish off. I can't say there's been any change in her behavior as she is a puppy and was active anyway. But I do know that she LOVES eating now. She is putting on weight normally and remains quite lean. She also drinks less water since she doesn't need it to rehydrate the kibble.

I did the research and it seems unnatural to feed grains to a dog or cat (especially an obligate carnivore like a cat). Dogs can and do process some fruits and vegetables, but they need to be juiced (hence the veggie slop) for their short digestive tract to take advantage of the nutrients. As long as you don't feed cooked bones to your dog, s/he'll be just fine. The chewing is good for them, strengthening their jaws and cleaning their teeth.

The veggie slop that I make includes eggs (with shell for calcium), raw liver, various fruits and vegetables (apples, broccoli, spinach, carrots, celery, cucumber, whatever is in the fridge), coconut oil and fish oil. I'm going to start grinding some flax seeds to put on top of it. She also loves sweet potatoes.

2/20/2007 11:46 AM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Pets should be fed a natural BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet.

The first American veterinarian to write a best-selling book that endorsed home-prepared pet food was Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, whose Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats was published in 1982 and revised in 1995. Dr. Pitcairn recommends a diet based on raw or cooked meat, raw bones, raw or pasteurized dairy products and cooked grains, with small amounts of nuts, seeds, vegetables, herbs, fruits, natural flavorings, brewer's yeast, bone meal, powdered kelp, vegetable oil, cod liver oil and vitamin D capsules.

Cat groomer Anitra Frazier adopted the Pitcairn diet, encouraged her clients to do the same and described the results in 1981 in The Natural Cat. Her book, which was revised in 1990 as The New Natural Cat, recommends that food be removed between meals because cats in the wild don't lounge beside automatic food dispensers (that tip alone has improved many cats' coats), and meat should be served raw. Frazier's "Superfinicky Owner's I'll-Do-Anything-for-My-Cat Diet" consists of protein (raw ground beef, organic chicken, organic egg yolk, etc.), finely grated vegetables, and soaked oat bran or cooked barley, millet, oat flakes, brown rice or other grain. Supplements include a vitamin-mineral mix, optional digestive enzymes and once-a-week feedings of vitamins E, A, and D from capsules.

2/20/2007 8:16 PM  
Blogger Fat Victoria said...

I use an ultra premium cat food (Innova Evo) that is 50% protein and 7% carbs, with no corn or grains. My cats have absolutely THRIVED on this food so it's their main food now. Their fur is soooo soft now I just want to pet them all the time.

2/21/2007 1:43 AM  
Blogger Sid said...

My late cat was a diabetic and I had a terrible time keeping her regulated. It wasn't until almost 5 years after her diagnosis that we ended up seeing a vet endocronologist (poor kitty almost died of diabetic complications! She spent a week in the ICU) and learned that the food that I had been feeding her was contributing to her problems. I always bought "good" food for her - Whiska pouches and Meow Mix. Well, I thought it was good.

The vet told me that many cat foods have corn syrup,glucose, and other sugar fillers added in. Its sad because cats don't have sweet taste buds like humans do! She said that she was seeing more and more cats and dogs with diabetes and most were being fed foods with sugar in them! Sugar they don't need and sugar their bodies weren't designed to process!

She put kitty on a high protein diet and the result was nothing short of amazing. While she was a diabetic until the day she died, her diabetic swings were gone. She was frisky, her coat was shiny, and was livin' la vida low carb baby!

She died about a year and half later at 13 of cancer.

I've since adopted two new kittens and you can bet that they are high protein diets! Everyone who sees them remarks on how bright their eyes are, how great their fur is, and how much zip they have. They're still growing but so far we've had no weight or health issuses - just healthy kittens!

2/23/2007 10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I only feed my cat and puppy (a malamute) raw food. I always have, and always will. My 4-month puppy was switched at 7 weeks to 100% raw food, inlcuding whole raw chicken with bones and organs, whole raw fish (only before a bath, ugh) and various other, others including rabbit and squirrel. My kitties mainly get raw chicken, and I've adapted this recipe ( which I love. NO pre-made cat food comes close, no matter how "good" it claims to be. Feeding any animals kibble is comparable to raising a child on cookies. Cookies don't clean your teeth or provide any kind of healthy diet.

1/17/2008 2:25 PM  

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