Have you ever seen a cat that looks like it had a meal too many? I know I have. These cats are seriously struggling.
It makes you wonder, "What the hell are they feeding that thing?"
Much to my surprise, it turns out that cat obesity is a real problem. These cats are in really bad shape. What started out as an innocent headline to a simple blog post has turned into a mission...I must save the world’s cats!
In all seriousness, what I found was a bit surprising and disturbing.
As it turns out, our feline friends may be more like us than we ever imagined. An article on PetMD cited a 2011 study by the APOP (Association for Pet Obesity Prevention) which found that over 50 percent of cats were either obese or overweight.
Here's an excerpt from the article:
"The answer is multifactorial but to simplify, just remember this: any individual mammal (dog, cat, horse, human, etc.) will gain body weight if it consumes more calories than it burns as fuel for energy…In nature, food acquisition has never been a sure thing for any creature -- not for canines, felines or humans. So food acquisition has always been accompanied by physical exertion to capture (or cultivate) and consume the food. It is only in recent times that the unnatural situation of food excess, readily acquired and consumed with little accompanying physical exertion, has become a way of life. We humans have figured how not to have to do all that work of capturing and cultivating to build up stores of food. Through agricultural expertise we have learned how to grow food and raise livestock and to have those food sources readily available and in abundance just in case we get hungry! We learned how to refrigerate, dry, preserve and store foods in large quantities that assured us we would not have to endure long and unsuccessful hunting forays nor suffer through famines. We have also created the very same food acquisition assurances for our domestic dogs and cats. They, as we, no longer have to hunt to survive. Indeed, we no longer even have to live outdoors."
Turns out that our cats are getting far away from their roots of being hunters and kings of the jungle, and the results are making them fat.
The really shocking part is the similarity to human weight issues that we hear about all of the time.
Yes, food acquisition has never been guaranteed. As humans we used to have to work hard to feed ourselves. You know, gathering plants, fruits and seeds and going out looking for prey on the hunt.
Not only did we used to be more active in acquiring our food, we were eating a totally different diet. We relied on plants and animal protein to sustain us. This diet has also been linked to our rapid brain growth and body development as a species.
So what happened? Well, according to the cat obesity article, modern agriculture and the ability to raise grain-fed livestock means we no longer have to work for our food and neither do our cats. Now the focus is convenience and ease.
But here's what really blows my mind... I read a number of cat obesity articles, and each one blamed our cats’ fat bellies on the fact that they are simply eating too much and not exercising enough...sound familiar?
A majority of articles said the cat obesity problem was a simple calories-in versus calories-out math problem. It’s convenience that’s expanding the feline waistline, they declare.
Cat owners everywhere are screaming...”What's the cure?!”
“Simple”, say all the pet food companies...Just ensure that you use proper discretion when feeding your cat and use portion control. Don't forget to put the cat on the treadmill for at least 30 minutes a day as well”...this is not a joke; they really do suggest that you put your cat on a treadmill.
But reality demonstrates that it's not this simple. Despite following this advice our cats keep getting fatter and fatter.
Maybe you noticed, we are getting fatter and fatter as a society despite the advice we get from doctors, dieticians and the government organizations to control our portions, count our calories, eat more whole grains and to spend more time jogging on the treadmill.
How could we ever help our pets if we can't even help ourselves? Surely they are doomed!
Well...much to my surprise I found this article by Lisa A. Pierson, DVM. Turns out there are people that go "against the grain" even in the field of feline nutrition.
Here is a paragraph from the article:
"Obligate carnivores are designed to meet their energy needs with calories supplied by protein and fat - not by carbohydrates. The average prey (birds, mice, rabbits, etc.) of a wild cat is made up of only 3 - 5% of calories from carbohydrates. Now consider that dry kibble diets generally range from 35% - 50% carbohydrate calories and you will see a serious disconnect between what the cat is designed to eat and what Man insists on feeding to them. Dry foods flood the cat's system with 5-10 times (500% - 1,000%) more calories from carbohydrates than what would be found in a wild cat's prey."
Here's something else from the article:
"An indoor-only cat will usually not burn off as many calories as an outdoor cat. Also, as mentioned above, indoor cats often eat out of boredom (just like humans) and end up overweight. Of course, the safest place for a cat is indoors but just because a cat lives its life inside, this does not mean that he has to be overweight."
Convenience has become a real issue, not only for our cats, but also for us as humans.
I talk to people all the time who say they don't have time to prepare nutritious food for themselves and their families. They say that it's too much work eating a paleo-style diet. They would much rather grab the bag or box of whatever and just heat it up for five minutes.
It seems that actually preparing our meals and cooking them on a stove has become too arduous of a process for our busy schedules to handle.
It's time for us to wake up. If not for yourself, think of the cats!
I wish that losing weight and being healthy was as simple as calories-in versus calories-out. I wish we could all eat sugary treats all day long and never gain a pound or negatively affect our health. I wish I could tell you that you don't need to do any kind of physical activity to keep your body healthy and vibrant. But if I said that, I would be a liar.
I would be someone else trying to appeal to your desire for convenience and an easy fix that actually doesn't exist.
Don't be afraid to educate yourself and find alternative sources of information. I know that doctors, registered dieticians, personal trainers and the masses will tell you that a healthy diet is based on whole grains and carbohydrates. I also know that those same people will tell you to eat less and exercise more to lose weight.
I’m telling you that this type of advice has gotten us to the point we’re at today, where a large portion of the population is obese, unhealthy and sick.
It's not that doctors, dieticians and trainers are bad people. They're simply misinformed. If you're really looking to change your health for the better, then you owe it to yourself to run an experiment. Try eating paleo for two weeks straight. If you're feeling crazy, go for a whole month.
Along with that, start incorporating more movement into your life. Take walks and hikes. Go canoeing. Just move every day. Chances are that you sit a majority of the day. I'm here to tell you that sitting all the time will make you sick and shorten your life.
As far as preparing your own meals and actually cooking for yourself and your family...you won’t get around it.
What I will say is that I used to be the same way. I was more likely to reach for a box then to cut up some veggies or prep some quality cuts of meat. But after living a paleo lifestyle for almost three years I can tell you that I now enjoy cooking.
Sure there are times where I don't feel like putting in the effort, but I will still take the time to prepare something because it makes me feel good.
Use mealtime as a way to ease into your evening. It should be a time of relaxation and connection. Cooking meals is a very tribal thing. It's a bonding experience. Don't take it for granted. Stop worrying about what's easiest and convenient when it comes to your health and well-being. Spare no expense when it comes to being healthy. Your health is all you've got.
And to ensure your cat is healthy and fit here is a feeding tip from Lisa:
“Feeding the least expensive canned food is far better than feeding the most expensive dry food.”
She also suggests that you do not “free-feed” your cat. Free-feeding is when you just leave a bowl of food out in the open all day. Chances are the cat will keep stuffing itself and will not regulate its intake.
If you have a pet cat then you should check out the full article. Your cat will thank you.
One last thing...try PrimalPal for free. Use it to plan a week of meals and then spend a week actually cooking. Forget convenience. Splurge on yourself and enjoy a luxurious meal of wholesome food. We are constantly adding new, delicious recipes to the database. Get back into the kitchen and enjoy the process. Take it from a reformed convenience addict; once you get into the kitchen and experience the awesomeness of real food you will start to enjoy meal preparation and cooking again (or maybe for the first time).
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