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What do I do with my huge pussy?
April 30, 2014 7:33 PM   Subscribe

My beloved cat - The Mogget - has a weight problem (check out that HUGE furry belly!!). Currently weighing in at about 7 kilo's (just under 15½ pounds in old money), she needs to lose some weight. Help me help her! Relevant details inside.

We've gone from a working from home household to everyone working long hours in an office. The poor Mogget is shut inside all day due to a busy road nearby and feral cats lurking around and beating her up.

We've tried reducing her total food intake, but the net result is that she becomes so hungry that she'll eat anything. By anything I mean hooking bits of cooked carrot out of the compost bin because they smell a bit like chicken, gnawing on bread and - on one very memorable occasion - licking the chilli sauce from a dipping bowl because it had a tiny fleck of sour cream. The results from that episode were nasty to say the least. She'll pester us for food and will attempt to eat from our plates - being sprayed with water, swatted on the face etc has no effect on her. We don't normally feed her from our plates or give her human food, but the smell must get to her.

She has toys but she's not particularly interested in them. We've tried: catnip toys, balls, things on strings, automated cat toys, cardboard boxes, bits of crinkly paper etc. The only things she likes to play with for extended periods of time are live mice which she occasionally catches in the kitchen. NOT a solution! I bought one of those balls that dispenses treats when rolled around the room - she ignored it.

We leave the blinds open for her during the day so she can watch the birds, and she uses her very large cat tree to scratch and lounge around on, but she mostly just sleeps - judging from the nests that I find on beds and in the washing basket. She's a very snuggly cat - when we are home, she just wants to be as close to us as possible and has little interest in going outside despite the back door being open. It's a struggle to pry her off a lap, my desk (hence the keyboard pic) etc.

We've had her checked by the vet and she has a clean bill of health - other than the weight. Are diet foods my only option (other than the live mice)? Can I use something to bulk out her food so she takes in fewer calories?
posted by ninazer0 to Pets & Animals (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
What kind of diet foods are you feeding the cat? Most cat foods labeled "diet" are carb-heavy and protein-low, exactly the opposite of what you want to feed an obligate carnivore. There are lots of great AskMetafilter threads involving cat food and cat weight loss. Long story short, you should be feeding your cat high-quality, grain-free food (preferably wet only). When I switch cats to this diet they're remarkably less ravenous when I reduce their portions because the high protein content satiates them more than the corn and wheat byproducts in most commercial cat foods.

If you already feed her this, then I would try food reduction again, but reducing less food.

There are also little food toys like this that requires the cat to play with them in order to get the food out.
posted by schroedinger at 7:45 PM on April 30 [6 favorites]


How are you feeding her now? We have dry food for our cats, plus wet food, a spoon here and there. Our vet said wet food is actually better for them.

One of our cats loves greens, and comes running whenever I am chopping parsley or mixing a salad with spinach/Spring greens mix. Maybe she would like some cat grass?

I think it's the same as in humans: play with her more when you are home. Right after play, feed her, as that will simulate the hunting need. Show her lots of affection. My cat loves to come into bed and be petted when I'm lying down and reading a book. He also just loves to hang out with me.

Can she have a small amount of dry food during the day and then wet food from a can in morning and evening?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:45 PM on April 30


My vet suggested that Fatty Wombat (aka Cosgrove) could go on a high protein diet. Would you consider a second cat? Cosgrove's exercise mainly comes from the grand prix racing she does with her sister, the Darkness (aka Little Kiwi).
posted by janey47 at 7:45 PM on April 30


Our kitty has a weight problem too and we feed her wet food in the morning and at night. We also give her a little kitty snack in one of those food balls that she has to push around in order to get the food out of, and that works pretty well. we read that wet food is better than dry food because it has less filler and the kitty feels full even if they are eating less. We started our kitty at 1/4 of a can and have upped it to 1/3 because the 1/4 was too little.
We got suggestions of how much to feed her from our vet, have you considered asking your vet for advice on the weight issue?
posted by ruhroh at 7:47 PM on April 30


What kind of food are you feeding her now? Is she getting enough water? A lot of cats prefer to get the majority of their water from the food they eat (mice are pretty juicy!) so if you're feeding her just dry food you might switch to wet, and if you're currently doing wet food check out the possibility of making your own. It's actually quite easy to make in one-cat-bulk, freeze it in portions and dole it out, if you don't need to get special supplements for particular sickness. (There are plenty of tips for this here on AskMe.) If you have the surplus cash you can buy fresh frozen cat food too, which is the same deal only you're outsourcing labor.
posted by Mizu at 7:49 PM on April 30


While you are eating and then washing up the dishes and taking out the trash nightly, can you put her in a bedroom with the door closed? She needs to lose about 1/3 her body weight, right? That's going to take a lot more than exercise -- she's just going to have to be hungry, too. Maybe ask the vet if there's something she can take (like an OTC antihistamine) that can reduce her appetite until she gets used to eating a normal volume.
posted by Houstonian at 8:03 PM on April 30


Does the vet think she needs to lose weight? Because she's on the larger side, longer than a keyboard. My 13 yr old is about the same size and was around that weight, maybe a bit less, for most of her adult life and only in the last 1,5 years or so lost weight naturally due to age. Oh, and did you know that the bellies of female cats sag with age? It's a natural thing that there will be some fat and not just skin. But the fact that the belly is hanging is often due to age and not to weight.

If your vet thinks the weight has to come down, yes, wet diet food is the way to go or you switch to raw. Don't cut the portions of her normal food - the way you describe it sounds miserable. Play more with her, engage her more, encourage running. She clearly wants to spend time with you and not play by herself in a corner.

The mere number you gave does not say much. Here is a chart that shows when a cat can be considered overweight. The pic you linked doesn't allow for a proper look, but my guess is your cat is between ideal and overweight.
posted by travelwithcats at 8:03 PM on April 30 [5 favorites]


My little fatty does well on an all-wet food diet. She was friggin' HUGE when we had her on dry food. After about 6 months on canned food only, she is now down to what I would say is slightly overweight but within sight of normal.

I give her a can of Fancy Feast in the morning and another at night. She sometimes begs at the table but is satisfied with two or three tiny bites of whatever meat we're having.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:09 PM on April 30


Seconding all wet food -- and my monster loves her new kitty water fountain. She's drinking more water and seems more active, too.
posted by spunweb at 8:15 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


So yeah, when my cats were getting chunkier my vet said wet food too. And I just couldn't stomach the idea of it. Still can't. The thought of wet cat food puts me off my own dinner. So instead we invested in a Super Cat Feeder, which is a high end automated cat feeder, and had it dispense high protein, high quality cat food in pre-set amounts at pre-set times of day. It helped the cats realize that yelling at us did not get them food, too.

Is it possible for you to eat in a room with a door that closes so she can't invade your space? Then you just make sure all the dirty dishes are in the washer and put a child lock on the garbage every night. The weird thing about us getting the cat feeder - for about the first two months, the cats were obsessed with it and would cause a "cat-alanche" every time they heard it start going, even from across the house. Then they would fight each other for the food. After we set it up so it went into 2 separated dishes and gave it a few more weeks, they became oddly blasé about it. They no longer care when the cat feeder goes off and they just mosey down and eat some when they want it of the food that's been dispensed. I have no idea what the psychology behind this behavior is, but the situation's good now, so we'll keep it this way...
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:19 PM on April 30


Would she wear a lead? I'm sure she'd love to get outside for a walk.
posted by kjs4 at 8:20 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Here's what worked for my dear little cat: Catkins -- a diet of high protein wet food. I also reduced her daily food by 10 grams per month for three months.
Lady Exercise Hour -- a daily run-around with a laser pointer.

She's 12 (almost 13) and trimmer and happier now than she was when I got her three years ago.
posted by kate blank at 8:24 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


This is my response to this previous askme.

Our sweet Maggie topped out at 17 lbs. We have her down to 12 now.

We went through many different kinds of food including the Hills Satiety kibble. In the end what works for us is half wet food and half kibble. We got Orijen high protein kibble. The high protein stuff makes Maggie feel full. She was always bugging for food and the meowing for hours before feeding was annoying. So the feeding schedule is a half can (the small cans) each of wet food (mixed with a half can of water- but that's another issue) in the morning and the cats get a tablespoon of kibble twice a day. We give Maggie an even tablespoon. It doesn't seem like much but she is happy on it and Maggie went from 17 lbs to 12 lbs. It took a long long time for Maggie to drop the weight. It was several months before we saw her weight change at all but when it finally started to drop it was steady and she's been holding at 13 lbs for about 6 months now. Since the weight loss she's slightly more energetic and has spurts of playing.
posted by sadtomato at 8:59 PM on April 30


Sorry guys - I should have mentioned her diet, obvs.

She gets a small (1/3 cup) serving of high-protein dental kibble in the morning, and she gets the same in the evening plus a half-cup of wet food - either fresh meat (whatever we're having, but raw) or sometimes tinned food (usually sardine chunks in jelly). She very occasionally gets a small piece of cheese as a treat (generally as a swap for a mouse - the neighbours use baits). I wanted to keep her on some kibble for dental health, but perhaps I should try without? She's not fond of chicken necks or I'd give her those to chew on.

She rushes her food at the best of times (she came from a shelter and has always had food issues) and this leads to impressive puking, so we try to space the food out (kibble first, meat an hour later). After a puke-session, we will generally wait a while and then re-feed her a small portion of dry food. She has water available to her at all times from multiple sources and - if her litter tray is anything to go by - her kidneys are in good condition.

We trying playing with her (catch the string! catch the ball! chase up and down the hallway!) but she gets bored after a few minutes and goes back to wanting to snuggle.
posted by ninazer0 at 9:10 PM on April 30


Also, bonus pic for size comparison - she has put on about half a kilo since I took this.
posted by ninazer0 at 9:27 PM on April 30


Stop feeding her dry food. That's like kitty junk food and will lead to diabetes. It's also hard on her kidneys -- cats are supposed to get most of their water from their food, so a cat fed dry food is almost always chronically dehydrated.

Here's a really good website, written by a veterinarian who specializes in feline nutrition: http://www.catinfo.org/. She has a page specifically about feline obesity.

When was the last time your cat has been to vet for a complete checkup, including bloodwork? As long as you're changing her diet, you should check whether she needs any other dietary restrictions for health reasons. For example, if her kidney function is starting to decline, you'll need to start feeding her a low-protein / low-phosphorus diet.

If she doesn't need a special diet for medical reasons then I recommend the Merrick brand of canned cat food. It's the highest-quality food I could find that wasn't ridiculously over-the-top expensive.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:31 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Nthing wet food, kitty drinking fountain, and cat grass. Worked for our chunky-kitty. Aren't humans who diet often advised to eat nutritionally-denser foods, hydrate, and fill up on greens? I guess it may work for cats too (despite being classifiable "carnivores").
posted by lovableiago at 9:39 PM on April 30


so my girl Mara (lookit this plumpy babe!) gets both wet and dry, though now that she's older and in the early stage of kidney disease i've cut back on the dry by a lot and started adding spoonfuls of water to her wet food. but the dry, oh she loves it though, so it's hard to cut out completely. she has a kibble ball that she has to bat around but has become incredibly clever about figuring out how to get it all out really quickly with very little effort on the hardest setting. so it's not much of a challenge and not that much exercise.... so here's what i did: i started throwing her kibble, one piece at a time, down the hallway - and she wants it so bad that she chases it! so that's how we do it, bit by bit. she gets a lot of running in. it takes a certain amount of time in the morning to go one by one, and sometimes i don't even make it through all of it before i just put the rest into the kibble ball and go about my day.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 9:48 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I think the anti-kibble thing can get a bit over the top - I don't feed much kibble, but I find it's handy to keep in the house.

You're almost certainly feeding too much, because every bag of cat food will super kitten levels of food, with a mix in philosophy of just in case, and that it helps sell cat food.

I'd suggest getting a digital kitchen scale, and weighing the food you feed out and cut back. If you want to be very enterprising, move her to food with a stated kcal/gm, and work out how many kcal she needs for her desired weight, then make sure she gets that much food.

With the US wet food the posters are talking about, you're probably looking at a hair under a medium sized can a day of wet food to get some weight loss (about 150 grams a day of average high protein wet food, some are higher, some are lower), and maybe three quarters of a 160g can would get her in range of her target weight (but your mileage may vary by a lot). Spread it out over several feelings if you can, so she isn't so super hungry - one in the morning, one when the first person gets home, one before bed. The smaller servings will help with puking too.

This is rather freely adapted by an engineer from the Feline Obesity page and web site that Jacqueline cites above, for use with a house full of cats who tend to eat too much.
posted by wotsac at 10:06 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Our vet gave us a specific calorie target for feeding our overweight cat each day. He's a larger cat than yours (17 pounds to start, now down to 16 and we're continuing to work on it!) but it sounds like less food than you're giving him, though it is hard to know without knowing the exact foods (2 T dry food in the morning + 1 can of a specific wet food spread out into 3 portions during the day). A lot of cat foods are pretty calorie dense, so the right amount of calories is less than you would think by just eyeballing it. See if you can get a healthy calorie range from your vet and then stick to that.

We've found that being really consistent with this has helped. He was super pissy about it for the first few weeks, but once there was the routine of always getting the same food at around the same time each day, he has calmed down and no longer seems so upset about it.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:22 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


One trick I'd heard was 1 tablespoon of canned pumpkin a day - it's got nil calories but cats love it.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:13 PM on April 30


It sounds like you feed her a healthy diet. You said the vet gave her a clean bill of health? Maybe she's actually doing okay.
posted by sam_harms at 2:42 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Our vet told us to up the wet food because it's higher in protein. We free feed the kibble, so her theory was, "they get full on the wet food, and eat less of the kibble." This has worked for our cats (who were pudgy, but not fat.) She also advised that we stick to poultry, since cats don't take down cows in the course of their daily lives. We put a high protein kibble in the feeder.

I'm thinking seriously of getting chicken livers at the butcher and just giving them that, however our cats are brats and won't eat them raw. They prefer them sauteed.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:24 AM on May 1


We recently had to put our chubby cat on a weight loss diet too, and what's worked is a high-protein wet food. We switched him to Merrick's 'Chicken a la King' canned food, which is a little less expensive than other premium brands and very high quality. Look for foods that list specific protein sources in the ingredients (the first ingredient in the Merrick's is 'deboned chicken'), not just a generic "meat byproduct." Dry food isn't all that great for cats, and the dental benefits are overrated according to my vet (occasional dental treats are adequate). The upside of a high-protein diet is a higher energy level, which along with some intense playtime, is a good recipe for weight loss.

Definitely talk to your vet before putting your kitty on any kind of diet, though, as too-sudden weight loss can be very bad for cats.
posted by sonmi at 7:32 AM on May 1


"I'm thinking seriously of getting chicken livers at the butcher and just giving them
that
"

Organ meat should be fed only in small quantities. Liver is very rich in vit A & D and both are toxic. Think about how big a liver of a small rodent or bird is in comparison to muscle meat. A raw diet (or a canned & raw diet) is great, but there is more to it than just buying the cheapest pieces available.
Feeding only one meat source (i.e. chicken) will not provide all necessary nutrients. Cats don't hunt chickens either and the meat of small wild birds is not as "white" as the chicken we buy at the supermarket or butcher. Same goes for mice, it is not white meat. Game meat and red meat is probably closer to a "natural" diet.

Look at recipes like those or this to get an idea how a balanced raw diet for cats looks like. The example recipes are for a raw diet, if cats are fed about 50% raw and 50% commercial cat food, it is not necessary to add extra supplements.

OP, if your cat enjoys hunting for mice in your house and actually eats them, you could also look into frozen feeder mice and chicks. It might stimulate the pray drive and lead to extended playing sessions before she eats it. But it certainly is not necessary for a healthy, balanced diet.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:32 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I agree that taking her for a walk would help. We live on a busy street so we don't let our cat outside generally. But when the weather is nice we put a harness and leash on her, and walk her around the house and in the backyard. We actually got a 50 foot leash for this purpose, as we have a large backyard with a field behind, and this way we can walk with her, and know that she is safe, and she has room to walk around and explore.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 7:52 AM on May 1


There's already been some great advice about consulting with your vet about the caloric requirements for your kitty. I would encourage you to keep a food journal of what she eats over the course of 5-7 days to track her caloric intake. From your original question, it sounds as if she gets a lot of 'people food' treats in addition to both wet and dry food. It might be helpful to figure out what percentage of her caloric intake comes from treats, and if she is getting more calories than she needs.

There are a lot of folks recommending raw food or recipes from the internet, and I caution against that.

Cats have some specific nutritional requirements that may not be met by recipes found on the internet. If you are interested in cooking for your cat, there are veterinarians who can help you feed your cat a complete and balanced diet.

I used to feed my 3 cats raw. Then they all got Salmonellosis. Supportive treatment was expensive, and they felt very bad. Despite stringent protocols and being well-versed in aseptic techniques as a bench scientist and veterinary professional, my food safety measures failed. Your pet may not have clinical signs of a Campylobacter or Salmonella infection while being a carrier. Then your cat's litter box is full of zoonotic bacteria, and maybe your cats are like mine and walk on the counter where you prepare your food.

In addition to its potential for food poisoning your cats and yourself, raw food is more digestable than either commercial canned or dry food. But there was a study that showed a raw diet that was subsequently cooked was as digestable as the same diet raw. So if you can afford the time and money, a whole diet is probably best, provided that it is both nutritionally balanced and cooked.
posted by Seppaku at 8:57 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


I have a fat kitty (sorry, on phone so no pics). She started losing weight when we changed her to all wet food. She gets a small tin divided into two meals. We had her on a very restricted dry diet and she was so hungry all the time. She would gulp down the food and promptly puke it back up. She also has a special snowflake sensitive stomach. We've discovered that the only food she can keep down reliability is the pâté type.

We're having success in getting her to lose weight. Kitty was around 10 kg. Don't know her current weight but she looks better and can now jump up on the bed where she was too fat to do so before.
posted by kathrynm at 9:29 AM on May 1


Our small but chunky cat slowly slimmed down by about a pound, and started puking less (she was a gorger) after we got a plastic cat feeder that looks much like this ceramic one. She has to paw each kibble out to eat, which slows her down. (The cats get wet food in the morning and dry in the evening, because our little snowflake is leery of anything other than dry and sometimes won't eat wet.)

There's a bunch of different types of cat feeders on Amazon and in pet stores that work like simple puzzles, so the cat has to paw the kibbles out to eat. If she's highly food-motivated, then she might stretch her brain and entertain herself a bit when eating from one of those or one of the exercise balls that drops kibble or treats as the cat bats it around. We had a more complicated feeder than the one I linked above for a while, but the small-but-chunky cat refused to do anything other than look at it mournfully, and the larger cat would eat from it, but only if we weren't looking. If we were looking, he'd sit there and yowl until we knocked the kibbles out ourselves. (He loves the treat balls, even though the other refuses to bat them!)
posted by telophase at 9:35 AM on May 1


I just wanted to add to Jacqueline's post about catinfo.org. There's a wonderful chart of food nutrition values to refer to here. On that chart, the numbers you want to be looking at are in the "Calorie %" column. This gives you percent of calories from protein, fat, and carbs. On the far right, you can see the total number of calories in the can.

Lisa Pierson recommends > 40% calories from protein, < 50 % from fat, and < 10% from carbs. (She emphasizes keeping carbs down in particular, and says that ideal numbers are > 50% protein, 20-45% fat, 1-2% carbs.) This ratio should feel more filling, but be much healthier.

The calorie intake she recommends is 15 calories per pound per day, using kitty's ideal weight. I've seen it recommended elsewhere to calculate for 2 lbs. less than kitty's current weight.

Good luck!
posted by moira at 2:26 PM on May 1


In my anecdotal experience, switching to low-carb wet food as the sole food may help.

We have two cats, and fed them both kibble for a while. The boy stayed very lean, the girl got very chubby. We tried limiting the amount of food, and they were very sad and hungry; the girl stopped gaining weight, but didn't lose any. We switched to grain-free, low carb wet food, and the girl has gradually lost weight - now the boy cat is still lean (hasn't gained or lost) and the girl cat is an appropriate weight. So, it seems like the boy cat maintains a normal weight no matter what he eats, and the girl cat needs to eat an 100% wet food, low-carb diet to maintain a healthy weight.
posted by insectosaurus at 3:23 PM on May 1


Sorry, forgot to mention that our cats both get to eat as much wet food as they want. Girl kitty was quite chubby on restricted dry food, but remains at a healthy weight no matter how much wet food she eats.
posted by insectosaurus at 3:25 PM on May 1


Dry food does not improve dental health. That's a myth. It has the potential to worsen dental health in cats as pieces can get stuck in their teeth and lead to decay.
posted by schroedinger at 11:30 PM on May 1


I started marking best answers and sort of gave up because you all are giving pretty good advice. I'm going to start phasing out the dry food, moving onto a more wet/raw food regime. The throwing kibble down the hallway idea is brilliant, though! And it works well - Fatso actually was scrambling all over the place for a while before flopping in a heap and meowing piteously when she was too tired.

Thanks guys!
posted by ninazer0 at 8:47 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]


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