02/27/2014 03:33 pm ET | Updated Apr 28, 2014

If Your Cat Is Fat, Try a High-Moisture Diet

A growing number of veterinarians are recommending what they call the "Catkins" diet for kitties who need to lose weight. "Catkins" is an amusing reference to the Atkins diet for humans, which many of you will remember as one of the first low-carbohydrate mass-marketed diets.


The Catkins diet may help obese cats not only lose weight, but also may aid with a variety of health problems that cats may develop from not having enough moisture in the diet. [Dr. Lisa] Pierson says that in the wild, a cat's typical prey contains 70 percent to 75 percent water, which is similar to the moisture content of many wet cat foods; however, she says dry cat foods typically contain only 10 percent moisture.

I recommend moisture-rich diets for overweight cats, sick cats, and healthy cats of all age. Species-appropriate nutrition is the best preventive medicine available. It helps keep pets at a good weight (as long as their owners don't overfeed them), and the right food also dramatically reduces the risk of feline diseases, especially those involving the lower urinary tract, kidneys and liver.

Not All Canned Cat Food is Equally Nutritious

The article also mentions a veterinarian in Rochester, Minn., Dr. Travis Einertson, who recommends the Catkins diet. Einertson believes one reason pet owners don't feed more canned cat food is because it costs more than kibble.

In an interview with The Post-Bulletin in Rochester, Dr. Einertson says cost needn't be a problem "... because cats can get plenty of nutrition from the lower-cost canned foods, such as Friskies." He recommends pet owners not concern themselves with ingredients, including by-products, as long as the label says the food is approved by AAFCO.

In my 13 best-to-worst pet food ranking, I put grocery store brand canned pet food (which is the most appropriate category for a food like Friskies) down at number 10. I don't agree with Einertson that any old brand of cat food, as long as it's canned and therefore wet, is optimal nutrition for your kitty.

The better the quality of animal protein in the food, the higher its biological value (nutritional effectiveness), digestibility and absorbability. Poor quality protein like that often found in rendered by-products used in inexpensive pet food can have little to no biological value (for example, feathers). So while the moisture content of canned food is tremendously beneficial, if the protein is poor quality, your cat's organs of digestion and detoxification will be chronically stressed by processing food that is far removed from the natural diet of a feline.

Fresh, unprocessed muscle and organ meats, frozen at least 24 hours to kill pathogens, served raw (or cooked, if that's your preference) is the type of animal protein a healthy pet's body can most easily digest, absorb, and make use of.

Affordability of Excellent Quality Cat Food

If your budget can't accommodate human grade or even premium canned cat food on a regular basis, you can consider making some or all of your cat's food at home. This gives you complete control over the quality of food your pet is eating and the money you spend to prepare her diet. You can also consider mixing things up with a few cans of high quality commercial cat food per week and the rest homemade in your kitchen.

The one thing you MUST do if you decide to prepare your cat's meals yourself is make sure they are nutritionally balanced. In my pet food-ranking list, you'll notice that dead last is an unbalanced homemade diet.

Dry Food is NOT Better for Your Pet's Teeth

Dr. Einertson also feels another reason some pet owners don't feed wet food is because they believe dry food is better for a cat's teeth. But, he says -- and I agree -- research has shown this to be a myth.

Just as crunchy human food does nothing to improve the condition of our teeth and gums, neither does kibble benefit your pet's teeth.

Kitties need their teeth brushed daily or several times a week. And the best time to introduce them to the routine is when they are kittens. For information on how to get started, you can view my video and read the accompanying article titled "One of the Most Important Things You Can Do to Keep Your Cat Healthy."

Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at:

Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.

By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.