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When to Feed Cats a High-calorie Diet

By Rose Springer

When to Feed Cats a High-calorie Diet

A high-calorie pet formula packs a nutrient-dense punch and has even saved the lives of cats that are in need of gaining weight. Because of the calorie density in such formulas, a cat can ingest about one-quarter of the bulk of standard cat food and get the same nutritional benefit. Below, Virginia-based veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson, who is a member of the Iams Pet Wellness Council, weighs in on when a higher-calorie formula may or may not be right for your furry friend.

When to Feed High-calorie Food
“If your cat has lost weight, it’s possible that something is going on metabolically that needs to be addressed,” says Nelson. “No normal cat on a normal diet is going to start to drop weight unless there’s something underlying. This is specifically a recovery diet.” Cats treated for inflammatory bowel disease, as well as the following conditions, are often prescribed calorie-dense foods:

  • Fatty liver disease. When an older cat stops eating, it is vulnerable to fatty liver disease. The body goes into starvation mode and begins sending fat cells into the liver to process as protein. Untreated, this will result in liver failure and death. “You can stop the process by supplying the animal with a fat source. A cat with fatty liver may end up being prescribed a high-calorie food for three to six months,” says Nelson.
  • Cancer. Cats with cancer will likely need extra calories to heal, but may not have large appetites. Nelson shares that eating just one-sixth of a can of certain high-calorie cat foods is “like eating a full can of regular food.”
  • Dental work. Many higher-calorie formulas are wet foods, making them easy on the teeth.
  • Hyperthyroidism. Once the condition is identified and the medication is started, a high-calorie formula may still be prescribed to help the cat return to a healthy weight.

When Not to Feed Maximum-calorie Food
A pet owner should not independently make the decision to put a cat on any prescription diet. A high-calorie formula “is a phenomenal food to have in your arsenal, but no owner should say, ‘I’m going to make a diet change because my cat is losing weight,’” says Nelson. “These foods are very high-protein, very high-fat. Start it unnecessarily, and your cat’s going to end up with pancreatitis or horrible diarrhea.”

  • Pregnancy/lactation. “Kitten food is most appropriate for pregnant and nursing cats. It has the appropriate levels of all sorts of nutrients that are necessary for the kittens,” says Nelson. A cat with a particularly large litter might be given a higher-calorie food as a supplement, but check with your veterinarian first.
  • Old age. Many elderly cats have mildly compromised kidneys, making a food that is very rich in protein likely a bad idea. For slender, senior cats, choose a nonprescription senior-formula cat food.

Switching to a new food generally requires a transition period, but Nelson explains that when cats need a high-calorie formula, time is often of the essence. “Typically, in situations where this food is required, you don’t have transitioning time. If you have to deal with a little diarrhea versus their liver getting compromised, you go for the former.”

Transitioning off is another story. Once a cat’s underlying issue has been identified and addressed, and the cat returns to a healthy weight or the oral problem is resolved, spend seven to 10 days adjusting the ratios of the new diet back to the older one.

Rose Springer is a frequent contributor to The Daily Cat and The Dog Daily. She lives in New York City.  

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Posted on June 11, 2012

Jeanne says: My 14-year-old male cat is losing weight. I've spent over $1,000 at the vet so far to try to find out why. Blood tests and urine show his kidneys and liver are fine, no diabetes. He is taking thyroid medication daily. We've cleaned and fully examined his teeth. An ultrasound shows no tumors, but thickened walls in his digestive tract. He's been eating a single-protein food, and now a single-protein prescription food. He's still losing weight - I just think he hates the food now. What else can I do?

Posted on March 17, 2012

Elaziz says: My cat was allergic to fleas and had the same soyptmms. I would take your cat to the vet. But i understand in hard time you may not have money, so i'll give you some advice if you can't go to the vet. Get advantage, it will kill the fleas fast. wait a couple weeks, is the scabs healing up? then it was probably the fleas, if notChange her food, scabs can also be from a food allergy, if you change her food and it clears up you know that's what it is Mange is pretty bad, you should take the kitty to the vet if possible, because like said before it can be passed to people and other pets. again i'm only giving this advice in case you are in a situation where you can't take the kitty to the vet right now, but you need to as soon as you can.References :

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