help me get my fat cat slim
May 29, 2010 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Fat cat needs to lose weight, but can't afford special foods or diets, um, help? Special snowflake story inside.

So, I've inherited my daughter's cat from her when I moved into an 18' motorhome. This is the first time I've owned a cat in about twelve years, so I'm sailing on uncharted waters for me.

Anyway, he seems to like it here, and we're both quite comfortable with each other. The main problem is, he weighs 25 pounds! here's a pic I hope the link works. I play with him twice a day and limit his food to half a cup a day, and he doesn't seem to want more, no meowing or anything.

I don't have a lot of money at the moment, so his food is basically dry food and not the *cheapest* (because I know the cheapest is full of filler and not good for him) but inexpensive. I simply cannot afford Iams or any kind diet food for him. My question is, does anyone have any tips on how I can get my big kitty down to a more manageable size on a budget and in such a small living space?

I've tried putting him on a leash to take him for a walk, but he keeps pulling out of the halter collar that I put on him. So any tips on walking him would be helpful as well.

posted by patheral to Pets & Animals (61 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Wet food is less likely to pile on the weight, and better for his kidneys - you could try switching.
Awesome looking cat :-)
posted by media_itoku at 1:39 PM on May 29, 2010

Keep doing what you are doing - the weight will come off.

I have a foster cat who came to me grossly overweight. When he hunched down in the traditional breadbox cat pose, the rolls of fat would hang over his hips and spread out on the floor around him. I didn't weigh him, but I should have.

Now, six+ months later, he's much, much sleeker (still not 'thin', though). All I've done is limit his intake, monitor his health and occasionally play with him. My male cat plays with the foster cat quite a bit - chasing him from room to room, wrestling, etc., so that helped.

Also, when I adopted my male cat, he had a huge belly! It was the result of being in a very small cage with another adult cat for six months; the only activity he could do was eat - there was no room to run around. Hell, there was barely room for the two cats to turn around... Anyway, he took about six-eight months to lose his belly, too.

Cats can't drop pounds too quickly: if they do, there's the risk they'll have an issue with fatty liver disease.

Good luck with him!
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 1:39 PM on May 29, 2010

Do some price-checking on wet food. Wet food is supposedly better for the cat and really helps manage weight. You can feed him a can a day for about $0.41 a can with something like 9Lives.
posted by deadcrow at 1:43 PM on May 29, 2010

I would basically let it go -- that is, keep doing what you're doing, and he'll probably very slowly lose weight. Which is the way it should be done. We adopted a 16-pounder from the pound. She's slowly lost 2 or 3 pounds over the 3 years we've had her, and she's happy.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:51 PM on May 29, 2010

Oh, perhaps I should add that neither my male cat nor the foster cat have been fed any sort of 'special' food. They've been given dry grocery-store catfud since Day One with me (think MeowMix and Purina's Indoor CatChow).
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 1:57 PM on May 29, 2010

Cats can't drop pounds too quickly: if they do, there's the risk they'll have an issue with fatty liver disease.


A vet once recommended we put our happily obese cat Larry on a diet. We followed the vet's recommended dietary plan rigorously. Larry lost weight. Larry died three months later of liver failure at age 11.

Meanwhile, my mom's cat Jack was grossly obese all his life, ate as much of whatever he wanted whenever he wanted, and died fat and happy in his sleep at age 19.

I wouldn't piss down that vet's throat if his lungs were on fire. I feel like he was just trying to sell me expensive diet cat food. I felt betrayed, lied to, misled, and hoodwinked. And then the vet told me he also ran the local pet cemetery and would we like to have Larry cremated and placed in this precious little urn? I damn near assaulted him. Kinda wish I had.

I will never ever ever ever ever put a cat on a diet again, nor will I trust a vet who recommends crash dieting for an obese cat.

Monitor his food intake, play with him a lot, and enjoy your fat cat.

(sorry for the vitriol. cat diets are a hot-button issue for me.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:03 PM on May 29, 2010 [34 favorites]

My friend have been getting their cat to lose weight, and they're doing it by feeding her mostly wet food and controlling portions (rather than just having food out).

Also try to find some toys he likes so he's running around. I've found 'da bird' and laser pointers to be irresistible. But if you can't afford those, my cat plays with ribbon, string, twist ties, aluminum foil balls and boxes. So just try out various things to get him moving around.
posted by grapesaresour at 2:04 PM on May 29, 2010

BitterOldPunk - thanks for that reply, I am going to print it out and keep it to show my vet next time he rants on about my chubby (very happy) kitteh. I am also going to keep on enjoying his fat-catness for a long time I hope.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 3:01 PM on May 29, 2010

I'd go with increasing activity levels, it's safer than dieting for cats.

Supercheap cat toys made with materials from around the house, one of them is bound to pique your cat's interest:

• wine cork with a feather or two duct-taped on
• Post-it note folded a tiny bow-tie or folded fan
• bread loaf clips bent into an L-shape
• the ring that is left behind when you open a plastic bottle of milk or water
• a old sock stuffed into another sock with some catnip or a drop of bleach
• upside-down cardboard box with peekholes punched into it and strips of paper taped inside.

Bonus level: any of the above tied to a string. However, don't let him play with string toys alone, too big of a choking/entanglement risk.

Re walking the cat: I've only had one cat (out of legions) that was willing to walk on a lead. Perhaps you can add your guy to The World's Heaviest Harness pool to make up for the cost of the unused leash.
posted by jamaro at 3:34 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My fat cat delights in extracting his meals from his SlimCat toy. It gives him a mental workout, and something to chase around other than his brother. Shh, don't tell him it's also a little exerciser. There is, however, the daily problem of finding the danged thing. It gets smacked into all sorts of corners. But I imagine in an 18' trailer there'd be fewer of those...
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:03 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you live in a multi-story home? One way that I've heard to give cats a little more exercise is to keep their food dish on the main or upper floor and their litter box in the basement.
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:16 PM on May 29, 2010

You could put as many cheap toys around the house as possible - wool strands tired to doorknobs, paper bags from the store, cardboard boxes etc.
posted by meepmeow at 6:18 PM on May 29, 2010

• bread loaf clips bent into an L-shape

Do you mean the flat, square plastic clips with a slit to a hole in the centre? DO NOT USE AS A TOY. After many years and several cats being able to play with them without a problem, it became a problem. One of my cats got one caught in the roof of his mouth. It was 15 minutes of panic and terror and lots of bites and scratches and yowling and screaming and blood trying to get it out of his mouth. I was on the phone to the vet when my husband finally got it loosened enough to fall out of the cat's mouth. Bent into an "L" shape may fix that issue, but I wouldn't want to bet on it.
posted by deborah at 6:21 PM on May 29, 2010

Oh, 18' trailer. Reading fail. Maybe you could make a similar arrangement with the steps to an enclosed porch or something.
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:24 PM on May 29, 2010

Best answer: I am a veterinarian who has taken over the BF's post here so I can respond to your question. :-) About 10 years ago, I attended a major medical meeting strictly on cats and the information I learned there made me come back and write the handout (that I've included here below) for my clients. I'm like a reformed smoker on the subject--I discuss it with every cat owner. My colleagues tell me Purina is going to hire a hit man to take me out; I say the cats will deify me and set up roadside shrines in my honor. :-) All kidding aside, I think for every dollar you spend on canned food, you have the potential to save $10-12 in medical bills. I've been able to reverse diabetes in cats that have been on insulin for years by getting them to switch to an all canned diet.

Cats are obligate carnivores. ALL dry cat food is too high in carbs for cats (except for the Hills m/d diet; to be honest, I don't see them lose all that much on it and is costs a gazillion dollars so I don't recommend it). Cats need to eat a high protein, high water content, small volume meal, i.e. a mouse. I joke that they should be on the "Catkins Diet". When we feed an all dry diet, we set our cats up for a whole wealth of health issues that can be *completely* prevented by an all canned diet. That having been said, I believe the taste window closes early in a cat's life and some cats cannot or will not make the switch if they've eaten all dry their entire lives. The only time I have seen cats safely lose large amounts of weight is when they are gradually introduced to an all canned diet. Brand is immaterial here, the key is CANNED. Any other time a cat drops weight rapidly, that should be a big RED FLAG for you to contact a vet; usually this means you've got something like diabetes (which overweight cats are very, very prone to developing).

Cats who eat all dry food however, must make the change to an all canned diet gradually or they will get into trouble with stomach upset and fatty liver syndrome if they lose too much too rapidly. So my recommendation is introduce a teaspoon of canned at a time, on a separate plate so it is not touching the dry, and each day offer a little more canned and a little less dry. A cat is the only animal I've ever seen that will starve itself into a serious health crisis when offered something to eat that it doesn't think is food, but if you are patient and make the switch slowly, most cats *will* change. Handout below:

Special considerations for the overweight cat
(Or “oh, no! How did my cat get so fat?”)

First some important facts:

Obesity in cats is associated with a whole host of serious health problems, including diabetes, fatty liver syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, an increased risk of cancer, heart conditions and joint problems.

Cats should not lose weight too rapidly or it can trigger some of these health issues. Weight loss in cats should be supervised by your veterinarian.

Why do we see so many overweight cats in this country? There are many factors, but some of the most important include:

1. Most people in this country feed their cats dry cat food exclusively.
2. Most people allow access to food 24 hours a day.
3. Many people (for safety reasons) keep their cats inside 100% of the time.

Cats unlike dogs are true carnivores, originating in desert countries and surviving on a diet that is a small volume, high protein, high water content meal (that is a mouse). Unfortunately, mouse-based diets are not available for cats. Cats should however, eat an “Atkins”-style diet ("Catkins Diet"). That is difficult to do when almost all dry cat foods are too high in carbohydrates.

So what should you do? If your cat is overweight, you should consider changing him or her to a totally canned diet. Any flavor except fish is okay (canned fish has been linked to thyroid tumors in geriatric cats). Your average 10-pound cat should eat ½ of a 6-oz (tuna-sized) can of food twice daily (a 15-pound cat would eat ¾ can twice daily and so on). Make the introduction s-l-o-w-l-y. Offer the canned food separately from the dry. Start with a small spoonful. Not all cats can tolerate or will eat canned food. The last thing you want is your cat going on a hunger strike! This could trigger life-threatening fatty liver syndrome. Gradually increase the amount of canned and decrease the dry.

If your cat simply will not or can not eat canned food, then there is one prescription diet that is high protein/low carb for cats: Hill’s Prescription Diet m/d (metabolic diet). Ask your veterinarian for information on this diet. Some cats have specific dietary needs that will not allow dietary changes, in which case controlling the volume is the only real way to prevent escalating weight gains.

I will add here that I do not think the m/d diet is all that it is advertised to be. If your cat won't make the change to canned food, consider feeding a high quality dry cat food where the first ingredient is *protein* and not corn, rice. etc. Also, gradually reduce the volume available to eat over a period of several weeks, your average cat should not be eating more than 1/4 to 1/3 a cup of dry cat food twice daily. No indoor cat should have access to food 24 hours a day unless it is a growing kitten.
posted by idb at 7:09 PM on May 29, 2010 [392 favorites]

You can read some more about the research and theory of the "Catkins Diet" here. Dr. Greco was the speaker at the meeting I mentioned earlier.
posted by idb at 7:18 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wait, seriously, no fish-based canned cat foods? My cats adore canned, but only the fish-flavoured ones. Some will eat the others, one won't touch anything but fish, but all strongly prefer fish. I can't afford the artisan deer or duck stuff, which averages 3x the price of other wet foods, but which they eat. Given the choice between dry cat food and fish-based wet, which is better?

Sorry for taking this over.
posted by jeather at 7:22 PM on May 29, 2010

Best answer: I just came in to say - switch to wet food instead of dry, and keep on with the small meals instead of free-feeding. But idb's answer is so wonderful and contains everything I have learned on the internet about cat nutrition! Oh how I wish more vets were like you, idb.

You can sometimes buy good quality canned foods over the internet by the case, and save money. Learn to read and understand the ingredients on cat food cans. As idb already said, low carb, so no or very little grains or filler. Meats should be the first thing on the list. Better quality protein-sources where possible, which means for example, chicken > chicken meal > chicken by-products. Fruit and vegetables in a cat's diet are not necessary, and are put in to make the human buyer feel good, they really serve no purpose.

If its any comfort, a quick glance at the ingredients on a can of prescription cat food is pretty shocking once you know what to look for. They charge $35 a case for low-quality by-product proteins and a bunch of grain filler.
posted by Joh at 11:20 PM on May 29, 2010

idb FTW. And thank you for making the notes about variations in tolerance.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 4:32 AM on May 30, 2010

Credit to my GF, not me. She was posting using my account. I'm sure she'll be willing to clarify anything later when she gets a chance.
posted by idb at 6:19 AM on May 30, 2010

Given the choice between dry cat food and fish-based wet, which is better?

My question, too. None of the other wet foods are nearly as palatable to my cats as the fish-based ones. The beef- and turkey-based foods stay in the bowl all night until they dry out, so I give up and feed them to our pet chicken. Are all fish-based wet foods equally horrible? Are cod, sole, or shrimp-based wet foods as bad as tuna?
posted by Ery at 6:51 AM on May 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the answers. I will get some canned food when I next make it to a grocery store (I'm currently working in an RV camp and it's a bit isolated), in the meantime, I'll continue what I'm doing. It's good to know I'm doing the right thing.

About playing, when I play with Mister, he appears to *want* to play for about five minutes and then he starts to flag. I try to entice him to play more, but he either just loses interest or get's tired. He won't chase after anything rolled past him (rolled tin foil or crumpled papers) but will chase and swat things on a string. I don't have a laser pointer because I've heard that they're not good for the kitties mentally (because they don't catch anything?).

How do I either get him to play more, or is he playing enough? Like I said, it's been a while since I've had a cat.
posted by patheral at 9:10 AM on May 30, 2010

Keep playing with him on a regular basis. Like us, unfit animals need to build up endurance after a long time of low activity levels.
posted by _paegan_ at 10:38 AM on May 30, 2010

Once you've decided to transition your cats to wet food, consult this 2008 AskMe thread for a lot of great information regarding what you should look for in terms of brands and ingredients.

Be mindful that even the cheapest canned food is going to be more expensive overall than buying dry food for your cat(s). In addition to the brands suggested in the linked thread, I've found that the Whole Foods and Trader Joe's brands of canned food provide a good balance between budget and quality ingredients. They're not the best food you can find, but they're not the worst.
posted by greenland at 11:13 AM on May 30, 2010

I see here that several people have asked questions about fish-based canned foods versus other flavors. I avoid fish when I can; there is a link to eating canned fish (oddly enough, only canned, not fresh fish) cat foods and an increased risk of developing hyperthyroidism as a geriatric cat. Also, many cats are allergic to fish in general. That having been said, I would rather see a morbidly obese cat eating canned fish, if he preferred it, over any dry cat food. Fish is often a filler in cat food as well, so when I am looking for a brand, I try to buy something where fish is not in the top five ingredients.

I should also mention that cats who eat an all canned diet (no dry at all) maintain their urine pH in the natural range and thus they are unlikely to develop the crystals in the urine that we frequently see when cats eat an all dry diet. If your cat is not obese, but eating all dry, I would try to feed some canned food if you don't want to make the switch to all canned and I would avoid cheap, dry fishy cat foods. Meow Mix is one of the common diets I see resulting in urinary blockages due to crystals. I've also seen cats block on virtually every Purina diet, including some of the newer ones. If you've ever had a male cat block from crystals in the urine, you are probably better off staying with one of the prescription diets for life, but consider the canned version.

Fat cats who eat mostly canned but still eat a little dry do not seem to lose the weight. It really is the Catkins effect!
posted by idb at 12:28 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

p.s. "I" = idb's GF
posted by idb at 12:29 PM on May 30, 2010

Does "canned" include packets?
posted by IndigoRain at 12:35 PM on May 30, 2010

I can actually chime into this discussion.

There are actually two brands of dry food I am aware of that have very high protein content and very little vegetable content: Orijen fish and fowl, and Wellness CORE.

I found these after quite a bit of research when I was looking to get my very sensitive cat off of the filler crap in cat food. All four of my cats like both brands (I go back and forth to keep it interesting for them), and the fact that they are much more expensive is largely negated by the fact that they eat so much less of it (about half).
posted by zug at 8:29 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

I can chime in that putting your cat on high-protein food works. I slimmed down two adopted kitties from a shelter by limiting feedings for them to twice a day, once from a high-protein dry brand called Orijen, the second meal from canned (don't remember the brand, think it's EVO). I couldn't afford to feed them wet all the time but the dry food I gave them was something like 70-80%, well over the usual 30% in most dry brands.

They not only slimmed down, but their health, energy, the softness of their coat, everything improved.
posted by Anonymous at 8:55 PM on May 30, 2010

That's good to know, about teh wet food, and about fish.

However, my cat's faeces STINK!! when she eats "beef casserole" etc. The odour sits on her for an hour or so after she comes inside, it's quite foul.

Hmmm, overweight, or hyperthyroidism, or smelly arse? Choices.

Think I'll just declaw her instead.
posted by wilful at 4:09 AM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

As for lasers, my cats totally know that it is make believe and they love it anyways. One of them has looked at the thing sitting on a table, then to me, and back, and jumped eagerly to the floor when I grab it and start pointing!
posted by frecklefaerie at 6:16 AM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Variety seems to be the key to keeping our kitties interested in playing. Doing different things with the same toy works, and our guys seem especially fascinated by combining two things together. When kitty gets bored with chasing the furry/feathery thing on a string, try putting the toy under the blanket on the bed, or under papers spread out on the floor, then pull the toy. Suddenly it's a whole new challenge! You can dangle the same toy in a laundry basket and kitty will try to reach through the holes to get it.

I have to second the paper bag and cardboard box suggestions. These are also great for combining with other toys... our younger cat will hide in a paper bag and pounce out when I roll a jingle ball past it.

Regarding the harness and leash, the best advice I can offer is to start with just putting the harness on for a while inside and let him get used to it in a safe environment. Make sure it's tight but not too tight; you should be able to slip a finger underneath comfortably. After he's used to the harness, try clipping on the leash and let him get used to that inside as well. Then try taking him outside. Both of our kitties adjusted to leashes surprisingly quickly, but all cats are different and I know some probably never would adjust.

Remember that walking a cat on a leash is nothing like walking a dog... you basically let the cat wander wherever he wants, and only tug the leash to keep him away from somewhere dangerous or where you can't follow. A lot of the time you walk 10 feet, then spend 15 minutes watching a bird, which is what the cat would do naturally if he weren't on the leash. I never take the kitties out without my iPod full of podcasts to keep me occupied while watching the cat watching a bird... it can get pretty boring for a person, but it's what a kitty loves to do!

Also, thanks to everyone for their food suggestions, and to idb's gf for the info. We read the labels and only buy food that lists meat as the first ingredient (not by-products or grains), but we're going to be re-evaluating the kitties' menu in terms of the amount of protein they're getting. I don't think I've seen Evo at our pet store; I'll have to look for it.
posted by RestlessNeerdowell at 12:20 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

You should check the percentage of protein in the food as well. I've found stuff that lists protein as the first ingredient, but only 40% of it is protein. Cats are carniverous! Ideally they'd be eating 100% protein!

If you find the poops are smelly switch brands or flavors.
posted by Anonymous at 1:22 PM on May 31, 2010

I heard that the dry food is necessary to clean their teeth?
posted by b33j at 2:40 PM on May 31, 2010

Innova EVO is the lowest-carbohydrate and highest protein dry food available if your cat absolutely will not eat canned. It is way lower carbohydrate and higher protein than CORE or Orijen (both are great foods, but both are higher carb than EVO).
posted by biscotti at 4:23 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Personally, I stay away from any pet food that was effected by the contamination a few years back. Iams, Hills, Science Diet, Purina, most every store brand - all used the same base.

My fat cat had urine crystals at age 2 from cheap food. The vet gave me some Hills in dry and wet, and he refused to eat it - I thought he was going to die. The feed store down the road told me to get Wysong Uretic - my fat cat loves it, and it is actually keeping my geriatric cat alive with one working kidney. There is a diet form of the food too. You are supposed to feed a very small amount a day because it is concentrated. My fat cat is fat because when my geriatric cat finishes her first couple of nibbles, he likes to finish the bowl. The food is expensive - but so are vet bills (Over $2000 for that last one - I wouldn't have done it if he had been older and I didn't have kids.) I decided to pay ahead by getting quality food. A bag lasts my two cats about 2-3 weeks, so the $8.00 for the bag should last you a month or so if you feed correctly - do switch slowly though.

I feed my dog Solid Gold - first ingredient is meat - they also have a cat version of the food, just not one for ones with urinary issues. It costs about the same as the Wysong, and is more available in the area where we moved to.

Exercise - my cats do about the same as yours. Makes sense - they are not big running hunters like dogs - they do short spurts with high adrenaline. You could try a harness and a leash, but unless introduced as a kitten it may not work. Also, since you are in a RV park, it may be better that it not try to go outside.

Good luck with the cat - with cheap food and a neutered cat (you didn't say but I assume so) urinary problems are the biggest issues. Canned or good quality dry are probably your best bet - and don't ask the vet for recommendations on food - they will want you to buy the stuff they are getting a cut for selling.
posted by 445supermag at 6:28 PM on May 31, 2010

idb's girlfriend, I have a question about canned food's effect on dental care. When I adopted my cat Trilby from the Humane Society last October, I was told that wet food can lead to calcium build up on a cat's teeth and that the cat should only have it once a week. So I've been feeding Trilby the dry food with one packet of wet every week. I see someone else has asked about this too, so it would be great if you could weigh in on this issue. Trilby isn't overweight and it worries me that if I switch he could wind up with bad or no teeth.
posted by orange swan at 7:11 PM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: (idb's gf again)

To clarify, when I say canned food, I mean wet food which includes pouches, and when I say canned fish, I mean canned fish cat food as opposed to canned tuna. Canned fish cat food has amino acids and vitamins added to it that canned tuna severely lacks. Canned tuna should never be fed as a sole diet for cats.

Virtually every person asks me about whether or not cats need dry food to keep their teeth clean. My answer is that there are no dry, crunchy mice. Cats' teeth are designed to tear flesh and they have a shearing bite. Where I see dental disease in cats tends to be on the molars and I believe that this is where dry cat food cakes and sits for a long period of time. This is in a cat with an otherwise healthy mouth. If your cat has excessive gingivitis, stomatitis or excessive tartar buildup, your cat could have an underlying Bartonella infection and you should discuss testing and treatment with your veterinarian as this disease is potentially contagious to humans.

Even a high protein dry diet tends to be too high in carbohydrates for cats, however the diets that people have suggested here sound like they are better than your average grocery store cat food if your cat refuses to eat canned.

Regardless, if you are making dietary changes for your cat, it is important to do them very gradually, and if your cat is morbidly obese (or has specific health issues) you may want the assistance of your veterinarian.
posted by idb at 8:23 PM on May 31, 2010 [8 favorites]

idb/GF, not that you need another voice chiming in with how right you are, but when we switched from NutroMAX dry (which is hardly a barrel-bottom dry food) to Wellness grain-free canned, the effect on my cats' health was dramatic. Within six months, I had gone from having a 7.5 pound cat and a 14.5 pound cat with crystals to a 9.5 pound cat and a 10.5 pound cat, neither of whom had crystals. The fat cat's revenge peeing had virtually stopped, too, and the skinny cat's terrible dental problems. . . stopped getting worse so quickly. We spend a lot more on cat food now, probably eighty dollars a month, but on the other hand there's a couple of thousand dollar vet bills that we don't have to pay every year.
posted by KathrynT at 9:04 PM on May 31, 2010

Slightly OT, but still - do laser pointers pose any risk to cats besides the obvious no-no of getting in their eyes accidentally?

This is a great post. I have two cats, the male of which one vet has told me needs a serious diet, and another said he was just a big cat. It's this very cat who loves a laser pointer, but he gets kind of manic when he sees it. He'll sit in front of the drawer I used to keep it in for hours, waiting for me to get it out. He's already an adorable doofus. Don't want to damage him further - he's perfect.
posted by New England Cultist at 2:09 AM on June 1, 2010

Another vote for the idb regime, we took on an overweight (6 kilo) stray 6 months ago, we have been fairly strict with his feeding, sachet of wet food in the morning, 1 in evening then a little dry for supper, by doing this we have slowly slimmed him down. The key though has been to get the neighbours to stop feeding him as well.

do laser pointers pose any risk to cats besides the obvious no-no of getting in their eyes accidentally?

No Mr Boots, I expect you to die!
posted by biffa at 9:44 AM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm taking the coincidence of idb's girlfriend's awesome advice and my latest bag of dry food running empty as a sign that it's a good time to switch him over to canned food. I'm sure Mr. Catsworth would thank you in advance, if he were able to!
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 3:31 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your average 10-pound cat should eat ½ of a 6-oz (tuna-sized) can of food twice daily (a 15-pound cat would eat ¾ can twice daily and so on).

Could you please clarify this as to the amount twice daily total or each serving? And thanks for all of your information.
posted by Brian B. at 4:47 PM on June 1, 2010

Idb GF:
Brian B. On average, for an adult cat, roughly 3 ounces at each feeding, with two feedings in a day. For a 15-pound cat it's often easier to have three feedings of 3 ounces until he slims down. The 25 pound cat in the original post should work towards 2 1/4 of the 6 oz cans every 24 hours divided into two to three meals per day.

Remember to make the switch gradually, e.g.two to three weeks to make the switch from dry to wet.
posted by idb at 5:16 PM on June 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just out of curiosity: Is the gradual switch so the cat gets used to the taste of the new food, or for some other dietary reason? 'Cause mine goes bonkers for the canned stuff already.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 5:49 PM on June 1, 2010

Response by poster: Just out of curiosity: Is the gradual switch so the cat gets used to the taste of the new food, or for some other dietary reason? 'Cause mine goes bonkers for the canned stuff already.

I wondered this myself - sorry for the late post, it's been a very busy weekend (I work in the service industry). I tested my kitty with a can of wet food, and he loved the stuff! I still have a whole bag of dry food for him so I can mix the two for a while, but after that bag is gone, will it be okay to just switch him completely to wet food since he likes it? Then again, I guess a whole bag of dry food will last two weeks... maybe? Like I said, it's been a long time since I've had a kitty.

I really appreciate the advice everyone. Mister is an awesome kitty, even cat haters just love him.

If anyone does know whether or not laser pointers are or are not harmful to cats, that would be great to know. I mean, my knowledge comes from the interwebs, so I could be way off base. I gave up on trying to walk him, he simply refuses to go outside on a lease. He'll look out the windows and look out the door with curiosity, but once the leash is on the harness (he doesn't mind the harness) he goes bonkers. *shrug*
posted by patheral at 10:42 AM on June 2, 2010

Best answer: idb's GF again: The main reason for the gradual switch from dry to canned is to prevent stomach upset from changing foods too rapidly. Many people, on being advised to make the switch, tell me that their cat won't tolerate canned food--they've tried it before and the cat barfs or has diarrhea, etc. I suspect in many of those cases, the cats simply didn't have time to adjust to the higher level of protein in their diet all of the sudden. Face it, if you've been eating Doritos your entire life and someone suddenly changed you to steak, you might have trouble adjusting to that as well!

The other reason for going slow is that if your fat cat prefers dry, you need to make sure you aren't radically dropping his caloric intake too fast. Fat cats who eat all dry diets are at risk of developing fatty liver syndrome if they lose weight too rapidly (in fact, if you have a fat cat that does not eat for more than 24 hours, or a fat cat that suddenly and dramatically begins to lose weight, this is grounds for contacting your vet ASAP). Fatty liver syndrome is *bad news* and requires aggressive treatment to reverse.

As for the fat cats who poop out during play, remember, these guys are really overweight! As they lose weight, they will become more energetic too. Don't overdo the play at first--if you make your cat pant, he's playing too hard! As far as I know, laser pointers are perfectly safe to use as cat play toys, just avoid pointing the laser directly into the cat's eyes.

A word too about harnesses and cats: most harnesses are designed for dogs. It is all too easy for a cat to get out of the average dog harness, so if you are not using a cat harness, your kitty might get away from you. I do know people who successfully walk cats on harnesses, but most of them started out training their cats as small kittens. 100% indoor cats can also become a little agoraphobic and going outside (when they are not used to it) is a form of sensory overload that can freak them out. Whew! Okay, shutting up now...
posted by idb at 7:38 PM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Thanks GF! (of idb)
posted by New England Cultist at 9:59 PM on June 2, 2010

Maybe it's just me, but I never feed my cat pork or beef products because they would never eat that in the wild... of course my cat does bring in lizards, which are actually supposed to be bad for cats.
posted by atomicmedia at 8:50 PM on June 4, 2010

Response by poster: A word too about harnesses and cats: most harnesses are designed for dogs. It is all too easy for a cat to get out of the average dog harness, so if you are not using a cat harness, your kitty might get away from you. I do know people who successfully walk cats on harnesses, but most of them started out training their cats as small kittens. 100% indoor cats can also become a little agoraphobic and going outside (when they are not used to it) is a form of sensory overload that can freak them out. Whew! Okay, shutting up now...

I really appreciate all of the info you've given and you've helped a lot. Mister sits in the dashboard of the RV and stares at everything so I thought he might like going out, but every time I put him on a leash he struggles and pops out of the halter, so I just stopped trying. He doesn't seem to mind the halter, just the leash. *shrug* You're right that it's a dog halter, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a cat halter! Guess a trip to the pet store is in order (I got mine at Wally World), and maybe I'll try again later.

Of course, the English Mastiffs our neighbor has probably don't help the situation at all. I guess he doesn't mind them when they're on the other side of the glass, but he'd rather not go nose to nose with them. ^_^ He may outweigh your average Yorkie, but those dogs'll give him a run for his money.
posted by patheral at 10:29 AM on June 5, 2010

I started adding canned on the day idb/GF first posted. My two cats LOVE canned food, and the first few times they bolted it, then threw it back up. I finally saw success starting with half a teaspoon once a day. We're up to two tablespoons twice a day now!

They haven't lost any weight yet - it's far too soon, and I'm still rounding out their diet with dried. But one change that happened within the first week is that their coats improved even more, despite the fact that they were pretty awesome to begin with!

I'm a strict convert to fancy-pants pet food. VF, Natural Balance, that level of quality. And they're indoor cats. Prior to The Wet Food Experiment, their coats had a wonderful gloss.

I wasn't prepared for the cost of the canned, so I have to admit I've been feeding them Purina. Just until I was sure they would take to the diet. But even on the shitty canned stuff, their coats have gotten this amazing depth of texture. It's like mink, only thicker. Chinchilla, but glossier. I've never felt anything like it!
posted by ErikaB at 9:24 AM on June 7, 2010

We feed our cats EVO dry food along with canned food. We free feed and they are both very small, skinny cats. Some people are shocked at the sticker price of a food like EVO but because it is 50% protein, the cats actually eat less of it because they are getting what they need from the small portion they eat. With a brand that has less protein and more carbs, they'll actually eat more (in our experience) to get their protein, thereby going through the food faster - all in all, the total price over a the long haul is not that significantly different.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:23 AM on June 8, 2010

Re cat food prices, I'm accustomed to paying the price for a premium bag of dry food. $30 will buy a bag of high-quality dry food that will last two months. And is a better value than the crap brands, for all the reasons you mention.

But compare that to the price of the wee little cans I was seeing at the grocery store, which I specced out to $50/month! Three times the cost of dry food was... more than I was expecting.

Thus imagine my excitement today when I spotted giant cans of Evo and Innova canned food at the co-op feed store. These were $1.99 for a 13-ounce can. Compared to $1.68 for a 6-ounce can of Natural Balance!

So it seems that the key to not bankrupting yourself on canned cat food is to find the REALLY BIG cans. Even the super-good stuff is affordable in the giant mega can!
posted by ErikaB at 6:04 PM on June 8, 2010

Been feeding our cats Hills m/d for about four (Henry, 14 ys) slimmed down nicely to about 12 lbs (he used to be 15, and he's very long) and it's relieved his arthritis a lot, but the other (Potato, 5 ys) just keeps getting bigger, up to 20 lbs now. He's large, too, his head is just below my knee when he stands on all fours, but that's still too big, I'm thinking abut 16 or 17 lbs would be a better weight for him. We split 1/3 of a cup of m/d between them twice a day, and they get about a dozen Greenies each in the evening, so I can't understand where Potato is getting enough calories to keep getting bigger, especially since he's the opposite of sedentary (one of his other names is Jetcat).

Henry likes wet food, but Potato is hyper fussy, used to be he wouldn't touch anything except Eukanuba, and only in his blue bowl, but he took to the m/d immediately. I guess we'll try to wean him onto wet and see what happens.

What would the effect of wetting the m/d be, if Potato won't take to the canned food? Would that bulk it up enough to keep him from over-eating?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:53 PM on June 10, 2010

Response by poster: I've started Mister on canned food and he seems to like it, but I have a concern. I'm up to half a 5oz can of canned food in the evening with no seeming ill effects, plus half of what I used to give him in dried food in the morning. But now he's demanding more food! He's even gotten to the point where he's "hunting" for the food, going through motor home looking for the bag (and the open can, which I have sealed in a plastic container) and eating whatever bits and pieces of anything else he can get his mouth on.

Is the canned food making him hungrier? I bought enough to wean him off the dried food and hopefully they will both run out at the same time and then he can be on just canned, but it concerns me that he's suddenly acting as though I'm starving him. :(
posted by patheral at 10:20 AM on June 11, 2010

I started this process this week with my 3 yo kitty. My super-sweet kitty turned into a monster - won't eat the dry at all, screaming at me for wet, and generally being a brat about meals. She's only at a half-teaspoon 2x a day and I'm hoping this bad behavior ends when she learns that she'll still only get food at feeding time because this cat mommy does not give in to tantrums. (Do it once, and you do it forever.)
posted by _paegan_ at 12:17 PM on June 12, 2010

Response by poster: Well, i guess he's not starving, but he certainly acts like it! He nibbles on the dry (half a portion lasts him all day now, but gulps the wet down like he hasn't been fed in forever. And the past few mornings he's started waking me up at 5am with head-nudges and plaintive meows. If I sit up in any way, he heads to the feed bowl. The first time he did this, I tossed some dry food in there, but he ate a couple nibbles and ignored it.

Poor, starving kitty ^_^
posted by patheral at 12:39 PM on June 12, 2010

What would the effect of wetting the m/d be, if Potato won't take to the canned food? Would that bulk it up enough to keep him from over-eating?

No, bad idea.
Although the cooking process kills bacteria in the ingredients, the final product can pick up more bacteria during the subsequent drying, coating, and packaging process. Some experts warn that getting dry food wet can allow the bacteria on the surface to multiply and make pets sick. Do not mix dry food with water, milk, canned food, or other liquids.
- What's Really in Pet Food
posted by heatherann at 1:43 PM on June 12, 2010

Considering that the cats hoover up their food within half an hour of getting it, I don't think bacteria growing on it would be a problem. If it won't grow in their stomachs, it won'[t have much chance to grow in their dishes.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:11 PM on June 13, 2010

Just a plug for the regime proposed by idb's GF - my cat used to eat dry food only and weighed 23 pounds (though he is "big-boned" and the vet said she'd be happy with about 15 pounds). Based on the info posted online by Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM (try googling her), I put the big boy on an all wet food diet, and a year later he's lost 5 pounds. This is a long time, yes, but worth it. He's still losing. It is pricey - I spend about $60 CDN a month on cat food. But I'd be spending more to treat arthritis and diabetes...
posted by analog at 7:58 AM on June 18, 2010

Response by poster: I opened a Metalk thread about this, but just in case, I want to say thanks to everyone on this tread for the great advice they gave me. Mister is now a much healthier and much more active cat than he was in May. He's more playful and almost kittenish.

Again - thanks to everyone for the great advice!
posted by patheral at 5:54 PM on January 1, 2011

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