Gotta eat to live gotta live to eat. On three legs, no less.
September 11, 2011 3:34 PM   Subscribe

I am freaking out because I think I might be underfeeding our recovering cat.

Our kitty [flickr video] had his left rear leg amputated on Friday due to (likely) feline vaccine-assoicated sarcoma [YouTube, someone else's cat]. He's on a fentanyl patch (12mcg/hr) and is, in general, resting well. I work from home and I'm able to be here or tag team off most of the time so that he doesn't have to wear the Cone of Shame other than at night.

We usually feed Natural Balance Reduced Calorie Kibble. There are two cats in the house, and they get .25 cup 5x daily and do not behave in a hungry fashion. I realize that's just over half a cup for each of them, but these are very, very sedentary cats. (Good for Magical Tripod now, I know, right?). Anyway, if we're underfeeding in general we're happy to look into that but they seem to have a pretty stable weight and the fat one isn't getting fatter. Everyone is healthy other than this fucking cancer bullshit we're dealing with. ANYWAY.

I've been feeding him the "Indoor Cat Formula" since he got home. 3x per day, about 1/4 can. I put in some kibble and water (he's not terribly interested in drinking, as sleeping seems to be his priority). As I type, he's just had exactly that, and then I came back to offer him plain kibble, which he doesn't even admit exists. He's napping now. Very excited for food, though. Eats all of the slurry when I bring it to him.

The can says he should get 1 can (6 oz) per 8 lbs of body weight. He weighs about 12 pounds, so he should get a can and a half per day. However, keep in mind he eats as normal just over 1/2 cup of kibble per day. I'm thinking that we should be feeding 1 can of food plus 1/3 of the proper serving in kibble (so ~1/4 cup for his weight, 4 tbspoons). Does this sound like a good plan, feeding him 2/3 of his requirements in wet food, 1/3 in kibble?

I am (of course) afraid of over-feeding him and making him fat on three legs, but he has a lot of work to do healing his body. We like Natural Balance because THEY like Natural Balance, and it meets the nutritional requirements we set when we looked for a higher quality food to offer them.

I realize I've used a lot of measurements and I may be talking a little crazy. I'll be threadsitting, since it's copacetic with cat-sitting, and I will do my best to answer any questions. Also, yes, I could and will call our very expensive surgical vet, but I value the depth of experience here on Ask, and none of you are afraid I'll sue you for validating my math. At least, I hope you're not.
posted by Medieval Maven to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
If he's eating all his food, offer him more in case he's still hungry.

Otherwise, don't worry.

Poor little guy, you must be feeling awful for him.
posted by tel3path at 3:39 PM on September 11, 2011


I would think your little furbaby is trying to heal. He'll need a lot of food to help get him 'back on his paws' so to speak, so I wouldn't fuss if he gets a few bites of extra kibble a day. Your plan appears quite sound; if he really really seems hungry, maybe spoil him a bit with a little handful of kibble later on so he's not eating it all in one big lump. Maybe a couple high-quality kitty treats. If he gains a couple ounces, it probably won't hurt. And you'd be surprised at how tripod kitties (and dogs, too) can get along quite well without four paws to balance with.

And you're not crazy. Your furbaby is sick, and you're worried about him. You are having what's known as a Perfectly Normal Reaction.
posted by Heretical at 3:44 PM on September 11, 2011

Speak to the surgeon/vet hospital who performed the operation please and don't talk to people on the internet. All you will get is bad/wrong advice.
posted by TheBones at 3:46 PM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

It takes a LONG time to starve a cat into poor health, as long as you feed them something. They just sleep more to make up for the caloric deficit.

That said, I'll agree with TheBones on this one, ask the vet whether you should feed him more for a few weeks after his surgery.

After he recovers from his surgery, maintaining cat weight works pretty much exactly like it does with humans... Weigh him. Give him a fixed amount of food per day. If he gains weight, lower the amount, If he loses weight, raise the amount. As for what qualifies as the right weight... Their belly should curve slightly inward/upward. when viewed from the side. If it pulls up a lot, too thin. If flat or curved out/down, too heavy.

This can take some effort to figure out, however, particularly if you have a longhair cat that doesn't like its belly rubbed. :)
posted by pla at 4:32 PM on September 11, 2011

(I am not a vet, I am not your vet, I am not a mathematician, but I am a crazy cat lady.)

I think the most important thing for your healing kitteh (who is adorable, by the way!) is lots of protein right now. If he wants a whole can and no kibble, I'd go with that, because wet food is better for maintaining healthy cats, especially male cats, who can get kidney issues with the kibble. Even if you don't, though, and stay with what you are doing, you are not starving your cat. Like you, I'd err on the side of maybe over-feeding a bit just now, though.

Make sure he is drinking water, and if he wants to sleep that's fine. He'll be lazier than usual because of the surgery, but if he is trying to hide from you, starts behaving oddly (oddly for him, I mean. Obviously, he's going to be weird, because he's a cat. But he should still be himself), or is really lethargic (seems drowsy all the time, even when he is awake) that's when you need to call the vet.

It's great that you can be home with him right now. I think you're doing just fine!
posted by misha at 4:35 PM on September 11, 2011

I just read what pla wrote, and the way the vet looks at our cats in judging weight (because one of mine is a Maine Coon, and they can grow to a crazy size) is to look down on the standing cat from above, and run her hands from the ribcage back to the tale. The body should flare slightly at the ribcage, narrow a bit at the stomach until it reaches the hips and then flare out again.
posted by misha at 4:44 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


That said, upon my vet's advice and A LOT of Dr. Google...

Any wet food is apparently much healthier for cats than kibble. We've switched over entirely to wet or homemade raw food (don't do raw with a kitty on the mend, just saying, we've gone all meat no carbs) and this is apparently the healthiest diet for cats.

I notice my cats eat twice as much wet than they did of kibble.



Just phone and ask. That's what you've paid them for!
posted by jbenben at 4:46 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi guys.

I've talked to them about his water intake (which on the regular is great because he loves his water fountain). I'm planning on sticking w/ 2/3 of his daily caloric requirement from canned food (that's the "Indoor Formula," I might have been cryptic on that point) and mash kibble with the wet food to make up the last 1/3. Because the Indoor Formula is not "fat cat food" like our kibble, I think that will mean he's getting enough calories. It's hard to tell because he's SO DOPED he just eats whatever you put in front of his face and then goes back to sleep, with random periods of staring wakefulness and talkiness.

Otherwise he's doing "him" things, and he's confined to a kennel for now until he gets off the drugs. He can't be trusted with jumping or stairs so . . it's kitty jail.

Any experience feeding a cat in this or a similar situation would be great. You guys are being awesome. He's my buddy, and I just wish he could be magically better and not have to do all this waiting.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:53 PM on September 11, 2011

The can says he should get 1 can (6 oz) per 8 lbs of body weight. He weighs about 12 pounds, so he should get a can and a half per day. However, keep in mind he eats as normal just over 1/2 cup of kibble per day. I'm thinking that we should be feeding 1 can of food plus 1/3 of the proper serving in kibble (so ~1/4 cup for his weight, 4 tbspoons). Does this sound like a good plan, feeding him 2/3 of his requirements in wet food, 1/3 in kibble?

For what it's worth, my ~14 lb male cat, who is mostly indoor except getting leash walkies, eats between 1.5 and 2 cans of wet food a day. His health is pretty excellent--he leaned down from being a touch overweight when he was on a wet/dry mix. It's very easy to monitor your cat's weight and just step back a little if the cat starts gaining on an all-wet diet; since he's not free feeding, you can tell pretty definitively how much he's eating. If he's really enjoying wet food, and ignoring the kibble, I might use this as an opportunity to switch your cat straight over to wet right now, and just give him the amount specified on the can. As jbenben says, wet food is much healthier.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:02 PM on September 11, 2011


My friend's family's dog had three legs, and he was one of the happiest pups ever, and totally beloved in his community! He was able to get around town quite well, which is why he had so many friends!

I hope your kitty has a speedy recovery and adjusts well.

posted by jbenben at 6:25 PM on September 11, 2011

Regarding the water intake, my vet recommended offering low-sodium chicken broth mixed 50/50 with water. I leave a bowl of that out, in addition to their water dish. It's meant to encourage my kitty with constipation issues to drink more, but fine for the others as well, and low calorie.
posted by dorey_oh at 6:52 PM on September 11, 2011

As regards the body condition charts, keep in mind your individual cat's shape. Our vet rates our 7-year-old cat as a 6 on this chart although she looks like a 7 because she's built very stocky. Our 2-year-old cat is a 6.5 on the chart, although from above he looks scarily thin because he stores all his fat in his belly.

My vet is OK with a 6 on that chart for indoor-only cats (we are slowly reducing the 2-year-old a bit), saying that a 5 is a perfectly toned, athletic, outdoor cat.
posted by telophase at 10:42 AM on September 12, 2011

Just want to throw in here that your kitty is going to do just fine with three legs. I had a 3-legged kitty who lived a long and happy life and never missed what he didn't have (the only thing he couldn't do was jump up on the kitchen counters--not a problem, as far as I was concerned--and he was a decent hunter despite his handicap). As an adult, he developed a tumor in his stump and so he went from 3 1/2 to 3 legs--easy, quick recovery and he went on as usual. I was amazed at how quickly he recovered from such a major operation and the vet said that was typical for cats.

Cats are tough, they're survivors, and your kitty will be fine. All the best to both of you.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 2:00 PM on September 12, 2011

I think you've got this under control, but I wanted to remark that the fentanyl patch may make your kitty quite lethargic and may depress his appetite, as opiates can cause nausea.
posted by Seppaku at 2:53 PM on September 12, 2011

Response by poster: Aw, thank you guys.

He had a short, supervised jail break today - bopped drunkenly around the office for about two minutes, and then he was like a human with the flu who thinks, "I feel great! I'm going to shower and go to work!" and then you realize you only had enough gas to get through the shower. Biiiig nap afterward.

I've been adding 1/4 cup of water to his wet food and today he actually drank water on his own, without me having to show it to him and remind him what water is about. He is clearly still pretty drunk, but with moments of strange kitty lucidity. I know he needs to have the fentanyl, but I'll be glad when the patch comes off and he starts being less drunk.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:55 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Further update - for the future of people who may find this in the future - the cat hasn't starved. Throughout this entire process he's stayed well-hydrated (the vet remarked on it, in fact). As soon as he came off the fentanyl, he started showing more interest in "normal" food - his kibble - and also didn't need as much help with remembering to drink water. I purchased a 2nd water fountain for upstairs (since he would be gated upstairs with us at night) and he and his sister have enjoyed having the water handy when the fam goes up for the night.

He is doing great with three legs! The last 2-3 days have been very much days of having my kitty back, and it's really great to see that his personality is intact. We did end up doing chemo - he had one treatment this week and will have at least three more. The chemo isn't upsetting him other than the trip to the vet. Here's hoping we're going to beat this and keep it beaten for the balance of his life.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:15 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

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