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 being...um, 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?