While putting your cat on a diet may make you feel incredibly guilty, a new study shows that dieting in cats makes them more affectionate towards their owners.
“Owners tend to anthropomorphize their cats and, therefore, are afraid to reduce the cat’s food intake because they think the animal will become vindictive,” the authors stated in the study. “It should be easier to convince owners to put their cats on a reducing diet, if the owners know that the cats will not snub them for it or exhibit undesirable behaviors.”
The study, conducted by veterinarians at Ithaca, New York’s Cornell University, in conjunction with Hills Pet Nutrition in Topeka, Kans. studied 58 obese cats over a period of eight weeks. The cats, all with 25% more bodyweight than recommended, and harboring no other health conditions, were fed one of three diets for the study: a high fiber (HiFi) diet; a low carbohydrate / high protein diet; or a control diet made to maintain the weight of adult cats.
At four and eight weeks, owners recorded weight and behavior changes in their felines, which researchers then compared to the other diet groups. Published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, the study found that 81% of cats lost weight in the first four weeks of the change, regardless of which diet they were on; with felines on the high fiber (HiFi) diet shedding the most weight over the eight-week period. Aside from their trimmer waistlines, all of the cats involved showed signs of behavior changes.
“Irrespective of the diet, many cats reacted to caloric restriction by intensifying their appetitive behaviors,” the authors wrote in the study.
Based on questionnaires filled out by owners, at four weeks, owners described their cats as begging, pacing, and meowing more frequently before a meal; additionally, they followed their owners around, awaiting a morsel of anything to be dropped for their dining pleasure. Begging behavior was most often noted as taking place 15 to 45 minutes before feeding.
Of note was the fact that cats did not begin begging earlier during the restriction of food. Even better: they indicated being satisfied with their meals once dinner was done based on an increased use of their litterboxes, and inclination to jump onto the laps of their owners. By the end of the eight-week trial, most owners described their cats as being more affectionate.
“When compared with their behavior before food restriction, the cats were significantly more likely to have increased purring, sitting in the owner’s lap, resting, and using the litter after their meal at either 4, 8 weeks, or both,” the study explained. “The cats exhibited increased affection at both four and eight weeks. The cats became more affectionate, which owners should view as a positive side effect of restricting their cats’ intake.”
Perhaps dieting is a bonding experience regardless of species?