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Feb 24, 2014 06:41 AM EST

Frequent, Smaller Meals Prevent Feline Obesity, Study

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Eating frequent smaller meals is known to cut obesity risk in humans. However, University of Illinois researchers have found that tiny, regular meals can eliminate feline obesity as well.

The researchers said that the amount of food required in helping a cat maintain healthy body weight can be given in frequent, smaller meals throughout the day.

Previous studies have showed that excessive food intake minus the physical activity causes obesity. The studies found that increasing meal frequency could help increase overall physical activity.

For the study, the researchers conducted two experiments on cats. In the first experiment, the cats were divided into four groups and kept in four separate rooms. They were fed dry kibble meals four times per day, two times per day, one time per day, and random meals per day respectively. The amount of food was constant across all the rooms, only the frequency varied.

In the second experiment, the researchers divided the cats and put them in two different rooms. They were all given a 70 percent hydrated diet, twice a day. The amount of kibble used in the first experiment was used in the second one too. Water was added to the kibble an hour before meal time.

The researchers found that the cats that were fed four meals a day at random times were more active when they knew they were going to be fed.

"If they know they are going to get fed, that's when they are really active, if they can anticipate it," Swanson said in a press release.

Cats also displayed enhanced physical activity when they were given water-rich foods and after their meal. Swanson added that frequent use of the litter box may have caused a spike in their physical activity.

"I think veterinarians will be interested in this information because it gives them evidence to be able to recommend something to pet owners that could help with feline obesity and diabetes," Swanson said. "When cats are allowed to feed ad libitum, it's difficult to prevent obesity.... Many owners are accustomed to dumping a pile of food out for multiple cats, just once per day.

"The owner does have an active role in helping with weight management."

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