Kittens cannot live on motor oil and fan belts alone. Right?
August 15, 2012 3:37 PM   Subscribe

You might remember me from such questions as "There's a cat wedged in my car" and now that the cat isn't wedged in there but instead entertaining the entire household with hysterical kitten antics I have a concern about feeding him.

I'm concerned that somehow the kitten (Ottö) isn't getting enough to eat to grow into a strong "big boy". His energy level is really insanely high (I knew about kitten energy but I didn't KNOW about kitten energy since my other cat was 2 when I adopted him) and he spends most of the day (and the night, OH MY GOD THE NIGHT) chasing the older cat (Baz, 8 years old) around and then they wrassle and then they lick and nip and growl and then the groom themselves and then it starts all over again. You can see a video of it here happening on my lap (it also happens on the pillow next to my bed - fyi, that's all normal playing right? No one seems unhappy about it) or a calmer version here.

This is the most exercise Baz has had in a very long time and it will be very good for him. He's 12 pounds and can definitely stand to loose a couple of those. I've been feeding him a limited-ingredient diet for a few years as otherwise he has allergic reactions. So he's eating just under a half a cup of dry Natural Balance Green Pea and Duck kibble a day. He's never had wet food.

Until now. The vet advised I feed Ottö as much wet food as he wanted. So we've got the same food just the wet version. Baz thinks it's delicious and Ottö is also a fan of it AND of the kibble (eating the kibble as well is okay, right?). The trouble is that I don't know if he's eating enough. He seems far more interested in playing than eating, though if I open a can he is there to noms, but he only eats a few bites and then it's back to playtime. The rest either sits there for hours or Baz finishes it off (Baz does not need more food but he's also never been an over-eater - he always has kibble left over and I expect with the extra energy he will be hungrier than normal). I try to put out little bits - and snag Ottö up to eat it - every couple of hours when I'm home but I'm not home all day. I'm also wasting a lot of food that sits out and gets gross.

So basically I worry that either one is eating too much or one is eating too little. I can't find anything that says something like "A 6 week old kitten will need to eat at least 3 oz of food a day" that I can use to figure out how to make sure he actually is eating enough. I've tried to segregate Ottö to eat but he eats two bites then cries because he wants to play.

Sorry for the general incoherence, I'm not getting a lot of sleep these days. Though someone else seems to be doing just fine.
posted by marylynn to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You should feed your little guy food designed especially for kittens. It has more calories than regular adult food, is formulated for growing kitten bodies, and will also tell you on the packaging how much to feed.

On that note, I so happy that the kitten is no longer in your car and has found a loving home!
posted by cgg at 3:48 PM on August 15, 2012

Best answer: As long as he's active and high energy, he's probably doing OK. You can always check at the vet next time you're there, or even just call them (they're usually pretty good at answering questions like that over the phone).
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:49 PM on August 15, 2012

Best answer: Canned is better than dry. 95% of the diet should be canned. You will know if he is not eating enough by him being too skinny, if he is not too skinny, he is fine. (BTW, most cats are overweight, healthy lean body weight is a lot leaner than you'd think). Natural Balance is, I believe, all life stages, so that's fine, but feed the canned rather than the dry. A few crunchies a day is fine, but the vast majority should be canned.
posted by biscotti at 3:50 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Does Baz overeat the dry food if it's out? Or will he stop at the approx. half cup that he's used to?

You can get an automatic dry food dispenser like this one that will give him as much dry food as he wants. Then you can feed small amounts of wet food to Otto. This is what we do with our 2 cats. They don't overeat the dry food because it's not OMNOMNOM WET FOOD, but if they get hungry it's there. Then they get wet food at night, in controlled amounts. This was because one of them threw up if he ate the other's food so it prevents him from doing that.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:53 PM on August 15, 2012

Best answer: How much are you feeding Otto at a time?

A whole can of cat food is like half the body weight of a kitten. This would be a little like me giving you 50-100 lbs of meat for dinner and then worrying about you if you didn't finish it all.
posted by Sara C. at 3:56 PM on August 15, 2012

Best answer: Does the kibble sit out all day?

I'd say that if Ottö is eating his (itty-bitty) fill on wet food when it's out, and also snacking on Baz' (Baz's? idk) kibble, and he is maintaining kitten-spaz levels of energy, he's probably fine.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:56 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

We our boys were young kittens, our vet advised us to feed them as much wet food as they wanted. Since wet food gets gross if it's been sitting out for a while, instead of putting out a ton at once we would put out moderate amounts 3x a day: once first thing in the morning, once at some point in the afternoon (or as soon as getting home from work) and once right before we went to bed.

If you're worried about older kitty eating too much, you can feed quarantine Otto for a half hour each time you feed him so he has a good amount of time to eat on his own.
posted by joan_holloway at 4:01 PM on August 15, 2012

I would try to segregate them during feeding times as possible.

In terms of food volume, you can ask your vet for a calculation. When we switched our dogs to canned food when they were sick, they used some computer program to calculate how many calories each needed and then translated that into canned food volume.
posted by radioamy at 4:06 PM on August 15, 2012

He's probably getting enough, but you could always get a scale just to make sure he's gaining weight consistently, and to save you worrying about it.
posted by little cow make small moo at 4:14 PM on August 15, 2012

Response by poster: To answer a few questions:

1. The kibble is out all day. When it was just Baz, and his life was pretty sedentary, I put out 1/2 cup (measured) kibble a day usually in the evening. That would last him until the next day and usually there was some - maybe 12-15 pieces - still left over.

2. With the addition of Otto, both with his needs and also with the added activity, I added another 1/4 cup to what I put out. That out on Monday evening and gone by lunch yesterday when I popped in to check on them. I have no idea who's eating how much of that.

3. Over the course of a day I'm putting out about a can (3 oz) of wet food a day and throwing away maybe a tablespoon of that?

4. Otto might learn to eat when he's segregated, but right now he doesn't - he's just mad that he's not out playing with Baz. I'd prefer for him to just eat the wet food (and for Baz to eat none, or very very little) but segregation and multi-times a day feeding schedules won't work out for even the next few months as I do have to travel sometimes and getting people in 3x a day to feed them is going to be hard so I'd like to to be as easy as possible.

5. I will ask the vet - Otto goes back sometime next week for his first set of vaccinations - and see if he's gaining. I have a regular scale, but at 1-1/2 pounds his small increments might not register.

Also, if it helps, there's no food competition even when everything is empty and I'm putting out the first bit they might have had available in a couple of hours. Baz let's Otto eat his fill of the wet food and then just finishes it. If Otto comes back and Baz is eating the wet food, he just eats the dry.
posted by marylynn at 4:24 PM on August 15, 2012

Best answer: Active cats often prefer to be lean. As long as you can't see or feel between his ribs, if he's that boingy he's probably eating as much as he needs.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:29 PM on August 15, 2012

The playing looks normal (and actually fairly low energy, based on your less calm video).

If you want to try to segregate their food a bit more, you can put Otto's food somewhere that Baz is too big to get into. I remember being shocked at how much cat food to feed a kitten -- I'm pretty sure it's actually more than an adult cat eats, not less.
posted by jeather at 4:53 PM on August 15, 2012

I have a kitten about that size and the vet wants me to feed him a can of wet food per day. He'd eat that and more, but my other cat never ate anything close to that as a kitten and was fine. You might try different wet foods to see if that helps, but I wouldn't worry too much if he's not scrawny and is able to do all that.
posted by *s at 5:15 PM on August 15, 2012

My sister's cat would rather play than eat. Part of the solution was to just lock him alone with his food for half an hour or so - shut him in the bathroom or somewhere with fewer distractions.
posted by maryr at 5:16 PM on August 15, 2012

PS: Baz seems super good with the kitten. You have a Very Good Cat there.
posted by maryr at 5:17 PM on August 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: My closest friend is a vet. Whenever I fret about animals and food consumption, she always peers at me with this sort of world-weary look on her face and says, with enormous patience, "No healthy animal has ever starved to death in the presence of good food."

Get a kitchen scale. Is he gaining weight? Then he's fine.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:27 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, as Biscotti mentions, wet food is better than dry food, especially for overweight cats. So you could try encouraging them both to eat the wet food if that helps. Its good for both of them, good for hydration, and has less carby filler for Baz.
posted by Joh at 6:36 PM on August 15, 2012

Best answer: Feed him little and often if you are worried he's not getting enough food. Offer him the food say 5 times a day or whatever fits into your schedule, just break up what you think he needs over those 5 meals. But one small tin of cat food is a lot of food for a kitten, if you get food specially made for kittens it will be more nutritionally dense too so he won't need to eat as much to get the good stuff he needs.

Also you cats are having a lovely time just playing with each other and loving on each other. Looks like a crazed tearing around the house match made in heaven. Also Otto will grow out of the must play all the time stage soon enough and it will must play most of the time instead which will help him concentrate on his eating.
posted by wwax at 6:43 PM on August 15, 2012

Seconding all the suggestions for kitten-specific wet food, it is more dense. But you probably don't need to worry, I remember being surprised too at how little my kitten seemed to eat compared to his big adopted Maine Coon mutt brother. She grew fine!

Your cats look like real pals, that's wonderful! If you'd like a comparison, here are my kitten and puff-ball playing back in February, when the little one was 5 months old.

By the way they still play like that... Miss Kitten is a bit calmer at night now, but she does bounce off the walls. Literally. She accelerates, leaps onto the bed, sproings off the mattress, twists in the air, and ricochets off the walls. She is super happy when she manages to do that and land on her dozing big brother after the ricochet. She'll be a year old in ten days. :)
posted by fraula at 2:34 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

We do kibble all day, and our kitties share a can of Fancy Crack at night. It doesn't last longer than a minute and a half.

Our kitties are on the small side, and both are at a healthy weight.

We tried doing measured feeding, but when Eartha got her head stuck in the feeding bowl when she was frantically searching for noms, we threw up our hands and went back to free feeding.

Your kitten will be more than happy to tell you when he wants more noms.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:02 PM on August 16, 2012

Response by poster: One final update: he went to the vet this morning and has gained a pound, so it looks like he's growing just fine. Thanks for all the reassurances. I wish he could stay a teeny kitten for ever but alas he'll be a large pork poin before I know it.
posted by marylynn at 11:15 AM on August 23, 2012

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