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C2010-23

Dear Christopher Cat

I’m confused about what I should feed my overweight cats. Some cat food labels list calorie content, but others don’t. What do you recommend?

Christopher Responds

You’re confused for good reason, according to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Researchers evaluated 49 feline diets designed to be helpful in weight management. The dry foods varied from 235 to 480 calories per cup, and the canned foods ranged from 78 to 172 calories per can.

That means one diet food may have more than twice as many calories as another.

The manufacturers’ feeding directions don’t help. When their instructions are compared on the basis of total calories you’re told to feed your cat, the recommendations vary as much as 2.3 times.

So you’ll need to do your homework. Start by making a list of the foods you’re considering, and call the manufacturers or check their Web sites to determine calorie content of each diet.

Veterinary nutritionists say most cats require about 20 calories per pound of ideal body weight per day (e.g., 200 calories for a typical 10-pound cat.) Feed 50 to 70 percent of that amount to overweight cats.

Weigh your cats monthly and, if they’re not losing weight, decrease their food intake by 25 percent.

If you’re still having trouble, enlist the help of your veterinarian.

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