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Maine Coons
Brixter1 posted:
I have 2 Maine Coons and they are brother and sister and the male weighs about 35 pounds. The female is about 25 pounds but the male is getting bigger. He is gaining weight like crazy. He is on an all grain diet. Science diet and he has a urinary tract infection but he cant eat meat what is an acceptable alternative.
srstephanie responded:
Hi Brixter,

Well, I think a part of the problem is a high grain diet. What makes you think that he can't eat meat?

While humans and dogs are "omnivores" ... i.e. we can gain nutrients from both animals and plants ... cats are "Obligate Carnivores", which means that cats HAVE TO get most of their nutrition from animals ... not only muscle meat but also internal organs, bones, etc. Without an animal diet, a cat will miss vital nutritional elements, like the amino acid called Taurine which is required for the heart and without it can lead to a heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

While cats "can" get some of their nutritional needs from grains and other plant/vegetable matter ... cats have bodies that are pre-programed for animal protein. They crave protein! Nearly all the feline specialists acknowledge that and recommend that cats be feed a diet that is HIGH in animal protein, moderate in fat, and LOW in carbohydrates.

Probably one reason for your cats large appetite and weight gain is the high amount of carbohydrates in grain foods. Since their bodies are demanding more animal protein, they are likely to be hungry and over-eat in an attempt to get the nutrients their bodies want.

Most specialists recommend a high protein canned food as a good way to regulate their diet. Many cats drop weight naturally that way.

It is best to avoid an all dry food diet for a couple reasons. One is that dry food, by definition, requires higher amounts of carbohydrates in order for the pieces of kibble to retain their shape. A cat's natural prey diet is VERY LOW in carbohydrates and the carbohydrates are processed into sugar that puts on weight (and is a risk factor for diabetes ... all diabetic diets are high in protein and low in carbs). I've listened to a talk by a feline specialist (Dr Margie Scherk) on overweight cats and she comments that it is the protein intake that makes a cat "feel" full. Most cats will eat less of a high animal protein diet because they are getting what their body needs and they feel full.

The other reason for avoiding a dry diet is the added water content of canned food. That's even more important since you mention having a UTI. Probably the single most important thing you can do to help a UTI and avoid future ones is to increase the water intake. Many (if not most) cats that eat a dry food diet are not able to drink enough water to make up for it. They may seem to drink a lot, but cats do not have a good thirst instinct (they evolved from desert animals) and often do not drink enough. Having an increase in water intake will help to flush out the kidneys and bladder and reduce the risk of inflammation and blockages, etc.

What makes you think your cat can't eat meat? Some cats may have an allergy to certain "types" of meat ... frequently chicken ... but do well when switched to another type of meat. My own cat, not because of allergies but because of preference, eats a venison canned food. For an allergy, you can try other "single" protein diets ... i.e. with only one source of meat ... and see which works best. Sometimes giving a probiotic will also help any intestinal upset. It is more often that cats have allergies to grains, particularly corn, because it is not a natural diet for them.

If you are giving Science Diet (which is not my favorite food), the cats are getting more than just grains since it is an approved diet for cats. But Science diet, I think, is high in grains and corn which can be a cause of weight gain.

If you are really giving an only grain diet ... a cat would likely develop health issues at some point (e.g. from lack of taurine). I encourage you to discuss it with your vet. Perhaps you can do food trials with other single source meats to see what works best.

Good luck,
Stephanie in Montreal
Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP responded:
Your cat can't eat a vegetarian diet for long and stay healthy — he will eventually become nutritionally deficient. Cats are carnivores and can only get certain required nutrients from meat. If Science Diet caused a problem, there is another diet he can eat. This is a question for your veterinarian, who knows your cats. Interestingly, there is more and more evidence that a high grain diet can cause obesity in cats, but even these diets contain some meat.

Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
The Cat Doctor
Board Certified in Feline Practice
Brixter1 replied to Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP's response:
Thanks for the info i will pass this along to his vet


William Draper, DVM, better known as "Dr. Will," is a well-known small animal practitioner in the Atlanta, GA area. He grew up in Inglewood,...More

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