Trying to treat my cat right but it's coming out wrong.
September 2, 2008 4:46 PM   Subscribe

How should I get my 20-year-old cat on canned food? Is it worth it at this point?

I have a 20-year-old cat who grew up on the cheapest dry cat food imaginable. For the first eight years of her life, I was in graduate school, so I lived on beans and rice, and she lived on the cat equivalent. She is now 20 years old, with teeth going south, and I decided that she deserves to live the rest of her years in luxury. So I went out and sprung for really premium "wet" cat food. For the past week I've been giving it to her in very small doses (like literally less than a teaspoon), because I know her system isn't used to it. She loves it--but within 4 to 12 hours later, she is horribly sick. Vomiting, diarrhea, etc. As soon as she feels better, she starts meowing for more. I tried different "flavors" and two different brands, but the result is the same. Should I give up? Is there a step here I'm missing?

Other relevant facts: I have found that vets are very reluctant to do dental work on a cat this old and this small (always ca. 6 lbs) because it would require anesthetizing them, which is potentially fatal. And she seems to still eat plenty of her dry food. I just wanted to treat her a little bit and get her some more nutrition in case she was finding it hard to chew. Thanks!
posted by fiery.hogue to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just a guess, but what about mixing the two together starting with mostly dry and a little bit canned and gradually increasing the mix over time?
posted by monkeydluffy at 5:08 PM on September 2, 2008

Advice from a vet tech: You can soften her dry food with warm water before feeding it, which won't upset her stomach, but would be much better for her teeth. Similarly, talk to your vet. There are a lot of prescription diets (both canned and dry) offered that are designed for elderly cats that could work fine, and have the benefit of being much, much healthier than 90% of the off-the-shelf canned cat food.
posted by internet!Hannah at 5:21 PM on September 2, 2008

If she loves dry food, don't screw with her system - just buy the most expensive type of that and, as internet!Hannah suggests, soften it a little with warm water. There are even special gourmet cat "gravies" you can buy, which you mix with their luxury kibble, so maybe give that a shot as well?

The thing to remember, with a cat this old, is not to put her through anything traumatic, like projecting liquid waste from both ends.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:36 PM on September 2, 2008

What foods have you tried so far? And yeah, I might just wet her dry food.
posted by biscotti at 5:36 PM on September 2, 2008

i wouldn't mess with her food. at this point, she's all like, "why are you replacing my cap'n crunch with oatmeal? i LIKE cap'n crunch!"

she doesn't know how much you spend on her. happiness is your only measure--she's happy with the dry, so give her the dry. if she starts having trouble chewing, they make kitten-sized dry food that is softer and more crumbly. splurge on a nice bed for her or a heating pad to soothe her old bones.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:59 PM on September 2, 2008

oh and....most cats LOVE baby food meat. mix some up with dry food and see how that goes. i think you wouldn't want to feed it to a cat for their whole lives (it's not nutritionally balanced for a cat's needs) but for the year or three she has remaining, go for it.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:03 PM on September 2, 2008

If you try her on chicken or turkey baby food, read the ingredients. Onion and garlic are very bad for cats, so make sure the baby food ingredients are something like "[chicken][turkey], water (salt)".

Otherwise, yeah, just wet her crunchies a little.
posted by rtha at 6:27 PM on September 2, 2008

Wetting dry food is a really bad idea unless you are doing it exactly before the food is eaten, and none is left. Adding water to kibble makes it develop loads of bacteria in a very small amount of time.

I'd say try mixing the kibble with some good quality wet food in slow increments. If that doesn't work, then honestly, if it were me, I'd let her have her way. She's 20, that deserves some respect :) (Oh, and look into that anesthesia deal - there are safe alternative drugs, and a cat's quality of life greatly improves when the teeth are in good order).
posted by neblina_matinal at 4:13 AM on September 3, 2008

Advice I got from my cousin (not a vet yet, but a good deal of the way through vet school and a vet tech for years): Dry food isn't the evil it is made out to be, if you buy quality dry food and give it in reasonable portions. Cat nutrition is a flaky thing. It is easy to do it wrong. Find a good high-protein, wheat- and corn-free cat food, and just give your kitty the kibble. My cats get a bit under half a cup a day (trying to work them down to 1/4 cup a day, 'cause they're a bit chubby), split into several small feedings. Half-scoop each at 6 AM and 6 PM, a bit more before bed, and that's it. We're feeding them Solid Gold right now, it's a good food and not crazy expensive. They like the Indigo Moon flavor, but you might try the Katzenflocken instead as I believe it's more geared towards all life stages, or look for a senior-specific cat food. Blue Buffalo is another decent cat food, you ought to be able to find it around somewhere.

As for teeth, cats have pretty hard gums: Even toothless cats can pretty easily crunch up dry cat food. It helps that cats don't really chew their food to begin with - barfed-up cat food looks an awful lot like damp kibble, because they basically grab a mouthful, and swallow it. They don't really have any chewing teeth, just sharp carnassials, so they don't chew anything, they just slice it a bit smaller if it is too big to swallow.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:40 AM on September 3, 2008

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