Feline Obesity – Part 4 – Choosing a Feline Diet for Weight Loss and Maintenance

Raw ChickenThe good thing about choosing a weight loss food for cats is that the food will be used for maintenance as well. The following is a short list of requirements for choosing a commercial cat food. If the commercial food in question, meets the following criteria, then look for the quality of ingredients and question the company as to the source of those ingredients. (Percentages are on a dry matter basis – DMB*).

  • Protein – from meat and over 45%
  • Fat – from meat and over 25%
  • Carbohydrates – 0% but not over 10%
  • Water – at least 60% (not DMB) this excludes all dry and semi-moist foods!
  • Grain-free and soy-free

Basically, the best cat food is a wet food that contains lots of meat and fat. It’s as simple as that. Cat food should never contain any grain, soy, vegetables, fruits or ingredients from plant sources such as flaxseed oil. These ingredients are poorly, if at all, used by the cat. The recommended canned cat food contains some organ meat such as liver or kidney (heart is considered muscle meat); many varieties contain none.

For the most part, the worst wet food is better than the best dry food. That’s how important water is to cats. Cats need water from their food. Most cats do not drink enough water each day to make up for ingesting dry or semi-dry food and dry foods are inherently loaded with carbohydrates. However, there are some high-meat-protein dry foods on the market that can be used to transition cats to a wet only diet or in a rare instance used to feed a cat that will continue to only eat dry food.

When comparing ingredient labels, look for multiple animal sources with very few plant sources.

Cats do well on poultry (chicken, duck, turkey, quail, Cornish game hens, etc.) and rabbit, prey like they would naturally hunt. Lamb, venison, pork, beef and fish can also be given. Beef and fish may be hyperallergenic in some cats and fish may contain high levels of heavy metals, pesticides, and toxins.

It is impossible to recommend specific commercial brands. Ingredient panels may change, companies get bought out, manufacturing facilities move, etc. Some brands that I have used to transition my cats to a raw diet are Wellness, Blue Buffalo, and even some of the more meaty Fancy Feast pate choices. Do not discount some of the more pricey canned foods such as ZiwiPeak and Wysong as they are typically better utilized by your carnivore, so, he should eat less. In the long run, the better quality expensive foods may be cheaper than the cheap brands.

If you are considering serving a commercial raw diet, there are now, happily, many commercial brands available. Read the labels as well, a number of the companies make one product for both dogs and cats and they often contain vegetables and fruits. While dogs may eat vegetables and fruits (they don’t need them either) cats certainly do not benefit from these ingredients at all.

And never feed a “weight management” or “lite” dry or canned food to a cat. For the most part, they are exactly opposite of what a cat should eat, many fillers including fiber to “help a cat feel full”. Meat makes a cat full!

When you are first transitioning your cat(s), feed them as much of the new wet-high-meat-protein/low-carb food as they want. You can then start reducing the amount if they do not lose weight. Most cats will begin to lose weight immediately even if fed free choice. Don’t forget to weigh them in at least once a week to monitor their weight loss. As your cat loses weight, he will become more active which in turn will help him lose more weight.

Any cat that is a diabetic and on insulin should be monitored carefully. Switching your cat to this type of diet may require an insulin adjustment (lower dose) within the first day or two of the diet change and thereafter. If this is not done properly, your cat may become hypoglycemic which can lead to coma and death.

*Dry Matter Basis (DMB)
Dry Matter Basis removes water from the equation. When foods are considered on a dry matter basis, they can be directly compared to one another. In other words, a canned food with 78% water can now be compared to a dry food that contains 11% water.

At first glance, it appears that the dry food below has more protein than the canned food. However, the canned food on a dry matter basis contains 45% protein as opposed to the dry food which contains 40% protein, when calculated. Use the equation below to calculate DMB.

Dry Food

Canned Food













Calculating the DMB (Dry Matter Basis):


Dry Food Protein = 36%
Dry Food Moisture = 11%
100% (dry and wet) – 11% (wet) = 89% dry
(36% Protein / 89% dry) x 100 = 40% Protein DMB in dry food

Canned Food Protein = 10%
Canned Food Moisture = 78%
100% (dry and wet) – 78% (wet) = 22% dry
(10% Protein / 22% dry) x 100 = 45% Protein DMB in canned food

Information on this site is for general information purposes only and is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. This site is not intended to replace professional advice from your own veterinarian and nothing on this site is intended as a medical diagnosis or treatment. Any questions about your animal’s health or diet should be directed to your veterinarian.

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