how do I de-fatstinkybutt my cat
August 30, 2012 10:13 PM   Subscribe

My cat is fat, lazy and does not groom nearly as much as she should. How do I remedy this?

In ~2008 my dad adopted a 1 year old thin longhair calico cutie

I'm not sure exactly how her first year was but we do know that basically, some poo-head people moved and abandoned pregnant ms. cutie in their apartment. landlord took her to the humane society and now she is our baby. And yes, she is currently spayed.

My questions are this:

1. Kitty is fat. she weighs 16+ lb. records indicate she used to weigh under 8lb - pregnant (granted, she may have been underfed by her previous owners but still). I think my dad just overfed her and combined with inactivity, she just gained and gained and gained.

She gets kibble twice a day, and we limit how much she gets. we're almost out of the (low quality) food we have for her, so i'll do what i can about switching her to a better food. What should i be looking for?

Also, she is not very active. She is primarily indoor but she is allowed in the backyard to do sit in the sun and eat grass and do other cat things. She has never had any interest in toys, but this has gotten a little better. If she's in the mood and a throw an item down the hallway she may chase after it (and fast!).

She likes hunting. If she sees any sort of insect, she will chase after it (and eat it!). My plan is to get her some toys that are more engaging than just basic balls. I praise her if/after she plays but she mostly has little interest in it. Anyway, other cat toys could easily fail.

Are there other ways to get her to exercise more? Besides maybe just like chasing her around a bit (not something i really do because she's timid enough as it is)? Can I get a small remote controlled car - are they fast enough and will they work on carpet? After all, she is usually very interested in fast moving objects that are apparently out of out control.

My other question is: kitty has a stinky stinky butt and just ... badly kept fur. We get that having so much fur is hard to clean all by herself so she gets the lion cut. this helps lots and lots, but she still does not groom very much herself. I think the weight problem may be a contributing factor, so we can wait around until she does lose some weight. But as it is, she does not groom very much, I think it may be because she never really learned because she has always been like this.

I try to brush her but it's not her favorite thing in the world. Usually I just wait until she's sleeping and just wake her up and start brushing her and she's cool with it. otherwise she'll just leave. I will usually give her a treat after she sits through a good brushing session.

My other issue is her butt. I don't think she can reach it, so she can't clean it. As her hair grows, poop gets caked in her fur around her butt and gets matted and stays there until her next haircut. Is there a way to get it out? If I distract her with treats, she will tolerate me taking a damp cloth to her butt. She is generally super passive and quite timid and has never ever scratched or bitten anybody and if she really doesn't like something she will run anyway and is ok with you once you stop the offending action.

So basically, is there a good way to encourage her to groom more and how the hell do i clean my cats butt? And how do i get the cat to play? or move ..more?
posted by electriic to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Switching to wet food helped a lot with our younger, overweight cat, although he's still tubbier than I'd like.

As for cleaning her stinky butt, I HIGHLY recommend unscented baby wipes. Our elderly cat stopped grooming himself properly for a few months, and the wipes helped with the stinkiness a great deal.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:20 PM on August 30, 2012

If she's overweight cut her food in half until she's an appropriate weight. Honestly, its as simple as that.
posted by fshgrl at 10:26 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't speak to activity (cats really mystify me!) but I know a bit about pet food and grooming:

I use unscented baby wipes on my fluffy Corgi's butt. Sometimes she is a brat about it so I try to do it often. Try wiping daily so you can attempt to keep it from building up. Maybe have the groomer bathe her occasionally?

What kind of brush do you use? The Furminator works wonders on long-haired pets.

In terms of food (and there have been other threads about this on the Green), look for something that lists real meat/fish as the main ingredients. A good rule of thumb is that if you can buy it at the grocery store, don't feed it to your pet. I imagine that upgrading her food will help her coat. Make sure to transition slowly so that she doesn't get an upset tummy. I don't have cats, but I feed my dog Nature's Recipe, which has a cat formula as well. I feel like it's a good quality food without being ridiculously expensive like Blue Buffalo.
posted by radioamy at 10:31 PM on August 30, 2012

My cat is now 21lbs despite my best efforts. When he gets stinky I get him with a damp washcloth. He hates it but it is necessary. If its the long hair that makes it worse, give a bit of a trim back there so there is less to catch on.

My vet recommended Fancy Feast as an affordable but surprisingly good quality food. Don't just cut the food, taper down so your cat doesn't panic. Also, ask your vet for an estimated ideal calorie range. My cat should be getting about 300 calories a day for weight loss. So we are working to get him in that range. If a cat loses weight too fast they can have some serious health consequences.

I also have one of those feeder balls that I fill with kibble. He gets wet in the morning, the feeder ball to nibble on during the day and wet at night. That way I don't get pestered about an empty bowl and he stays within his calorie requirements. Unfortunately, most cats are not good free-feeders and have to have meal-times. I also try to get him a little more active. His food is served off the floor so he has to jump to get to it, we play fetch daily and he's got toys galore. He'll probably never be an active cat, or particularly svelte, but I'm optimistic that now that he's the only cat in the household and I'm not having to make sure his sister gets enough food that he'll be slimming down.
posted by gilsonal at 10:48 PM on August 30, 2012

Laser pointer. Haven't met a cat yet that won't chase it for hours.

Less food although I found with my long hair, if we gave him Temptations treats* in addition to his dry food, his hair was much softer and he was better groomed. He used to get all knotted up almost with dreads.

*One flavor indicates good for cat's coat or something.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:54 PM on August 30, 2012

If that is a recent picture, that cat isn't fat enough to be unable to clean itself. Some cats are just bad at grooming themselves and it's harder for long haired cats. The poop just clings to the fur. I actually have a short haired fat cat who physically cannot groom her butt and even poop doesn't cake to her butt.

Try to keep the area around the butt shaved (if you can) or trimmed and buy some baby wipes to routinely keep the stink at bay. The wipes you buy at the pet store are so much more expensive than just the regular human baby wipes and it's the same product.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:55 PM on August 30, 2012

She likes hunting. If she sees any sort of insect, she will chase after it (and eat it!). My plan is to get her some toys that are more engaging than just basic balls. I praise her if/after she plays but she mostly has little interest in it. Anyway, other cat toys could easily fail.

Here's a few suggestions:

- They make plastic wind-up insects that are powered by watch batteries. They move kind of erratically, like insects, and our cat goes nuts over them. The problem with them, at least with the kind we had, is that cat hair gets stuck in the axles, and you periodically have to clean them, kind of like Roombas.

- This stupid thing is nice in that it requires just a few flicks of the wrist to get it to move around enough to make a cat scramble. Again, I think the erratic movement may be the key.

- Re: Erratic movement - whatever the object is, cats are far more likely to charge after them if you first drag them back and forth across the floor, sort of twitchily, before tossing it. There's something of an art to it (when my wife does it, our cat is usually far more rapt than I am), but any attempt at this will attract a lot more attention from that cat than just chucking the object down the hall right away, as you'd throw it for a dog.

- Cat toys that have feathers also seem to be very chase-worthy.

- Small, ping pong-sized balls seem to be more chase-worthy than big tennis ball-sized balls.

- If she likes hunting, but is somewhat timid right now, cardboard boxes on their sides and cat tunnels may encourage pouncing. My guess is that being in the tunnel makes them feel like they have some sort of tactical advantage. If it's within sight, our cat will always head for cover before jumping on a thing being waved around, even if it's out of the way.

- If you don't mind being pounced on, you can try crouching down behind a corner in such a way that she knows you're there, but you are not completely visible. Something about that seems to signal vulnerability to cat. When I do this, our cat will creep up, then either jump around the corner or decide that the tide is against him or whatever and run away.

We have a cat that is inclined to be active, but some things will make him run around more than others, so hopefully some of these things will apply to your cat.
posted by ignignokt at 11:15 PM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Will she eat wet food? Cats are natural carnivores and most kibble have far too many fattening grains and fillers. Reducing the grains in her diet by switching from dry kibble to higher protein wet canned food should help with the weight loss.
posted by platinum at 12:33 AM on August 31, 2012

Better quality food, and less of it. Give her a mix of kibble and wet food.

Get that kitty hungry! Then play the game I mentioned on another post: Piece by piece take part of your kitteh's kibble dinner and toss it out in front of her. Once she figures out this game of "catch my dinner" you can shot kibble across the floor and really make her exercise for each bite. Finish off with a dab of wet food in her dish, and she'll love you forever.

Some cats just aren't good at grooming, and they're stinky. We adopted an abandoned kitten once who hadn't had a mom to teach him to groom himself. He learned to groom by our taking a small damp rag and wiping him in little 'licks', but he still wasn't the best groomed cat of the bunch. Wiping your girl's bum might be the only way to keep her up to your standard of clean. Between clippings, get a pair of safety scissors and trim her up behind, then keep her wiped down.

I have a friend whose cat isn't super clean. He fights terribly when she tries to bathe him, so she resorts to spraying him with a water bottle when he's not paying attention. He then licks himself and gets a bit cleaner. She feels guilty, like she's punishing him, but he does get wiffy and it helps.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:26 AM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had the same problem with Bailey, who had short little legs and a fat tummy, so she had difficulty reaching her butt. My vet said that dirty butts was a very common problem with chubby cats and that it's extremely difficult to get cats to lose weight because they'll only take the exercise they want to. The only solution for me was a quick swipe with a baby wipe, as well as keeping her fur trimmed around her bum. It was a struggle sometimes, and I wish I'd known about the back-of-the-neck clip method of immobilisation which I only recently learned about.
posted by essexjan at 2:35 AM on August 31, 2012

I think you need veterinary advice. We had a cat with a thyroid condition. She was not fat but she was very heavy, very densely built somehow. She stopped grooming towards the end of her life and we were told that that was part of the course of her disease.

Also, all the cats I've ever had have been demand-fed, and not one of them has ever gotten fat. They just stop eating when they've had enough. I think a vet needs to tell you if there's some other reason for the weight gain.
posted by tel3path at 4:34 AM on August 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

I suspect you're going to look at that FURminator link that radioamy posted and think, "There's no way a comb is worth $50" and pass it up. My cat does not like being brushed at all. She loves being combed with the FURminator. And that photo on their website, with the pets surrounded by fur -- that's exactly correct, it is not an exaggeration. I highly recommend it. It's amazing.

For toys/exercise, I've had more luck with random things in the house than most expensive toys. A wine cork irresistibly bounces on tile. A paper towel dragged slowly on the carpet can be chased and then viciously torn into shreds. My cat taught me that a (please, unused) tampon is a fantastic mouse-replacement with its wonderful tail, to the point that I have to put these in a cabinet with child locks. An old sock makes a great game of tug-of-war. A laser pointer from the office is a well-known delight. A feather duster tickles the nose and then when held just above reach it must be jumped for to be swatted. A ping-pong ball wants to be carried in the mouth, but doesn't quite fit so it skitters away to be chased endlessly.

This does mean that one day, you will have friends over and the cat will drag a tampon out from under the couch and present it to you because it wants to play, but it's kinda worth it to have an active, happy cat. Start looking around your house from the cat's perspective and find all the neat things to play with.
posted by Houstonian at 5:02 AM on August 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm ignignokt's wife and can attest to having all of those toys (and more) and sometimes having to parade them out in succession until our cat figures out what he wants to play with. The key is to get a variety of shapes and weights: little mice that the cat can easily bat around and that lend themselves well to throwing, bigger ones for wrestling with, floppy ones that you can wiggle or dangle, and on and on. With enough patience you can find something to get her attention. You will likely have to cycle through different toys periodically, and you will have to engage her by moving the toys around.

Different cats prefer different styles of play: some are pouncers, some are jumpers, and some (especially fat lazy ones) just lie down and frantically swipe at whatever comes into reach. Even if she's a lazy swiper, this is still exercise, and might spur her into getting up eventually. Dangly fishing-pole-style toys are great for lazy swipers.

My last cat was superfat, fluffy, and crusty-assed (and lived to 15), so I have experience with that, too. One major takeaway: cats don't know what diets are. If you cut back too quickly or too much, she might get really whiny in the hour before mealtime, or go looking for other sources. They also tend to think "aw yeah food" at the presence of food, whether or not they're actually hungry. Make sure all the human food is securely stored, and that the kitchen trash is out of reach and non-stinky.

For the crusties, I followed that guy around with a warm, damp washcloth. Every now and then, I'd give him a warm bath in the tub - only fill it three or four inches, and run it before you get the cat in the room. Some cats tolerate baths grudgingly, some won't. If she goes Tasmanian Devil on you when bathtime comes, best to just stick to the washcloths/wipes for everyone's safety.

It helps a ton that you're getting her trimmed regularly! Probably a good idea to tip exceptionally well, if you can afford it.

Finally, if you don't do this already, trim her front and back claws regularly, every week or two as needed. (Some cats will tolerate a paw or two before they bolt, so this may be an ongoing project.) If she misses the mouse and gets your hand instead, or if she's all DO NOT WANT about the tub, at least she won't wound you.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:04 AM on August 31, 2012

We've free fed our kitties dry kibble since they've been babies and they seem to have a "meh" attitude towards it. They nom if they're hungry, but they don't pig out on it. We have a dispenser thing so I can fill it at the beginning of the week and as they munch, the bowl refills.

We give them a can of Fancy Feast in the evening (we call it Fancy Crack, because they absolutely LOVE it) which they share. Our cats are normal weight.

I too will add my voice to the Furrminator crowd, it's an awesome tool. One of my cats tolerates it, the other down-right hates it. Either way, it will help a lot with the fur situation.

Do you think your kitty would enjoy a warm bath? That might help with the stink-butt situation.

The other thing I might recommend is a friend-cat. They can groom each other, chase each other, run around together. Our two cats get a lot of exercise just being cats together. Also, they are very clean and smell delicious.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:26 AM on August 31, 2012

I'll chip in suggesting you get veterinary advice. I had a cat that was poor at grooming and when she was checked over, the vet found mouth ulcers and a bad tooth. She had the dental work done and once recovered went back to grooming herself properly.
posted by merocet at 6:33 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's tons of good advice in this thread about food and feeding. With food change comes different poop, which may help with the stinky butt.
posted by patheral at 6:51 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Echoing patheral. See that thread and my veterinary gf's post particularly and manage any dietary change *gradually*.
posted by idb at 6:53 AM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Change the food gradually for a higher quality one, that usually helps make poops smaller and firmer which might help. Change it by mixing it with the old food in slow ever increasing concentrations. Keeping the cats butt trimmed is the best way to keep it poop free, you can get curved blunt ended scissors for trimming people hair, these work great as they make it a lot harder to accidentally poke or cut your pet. Also useful for trimming out the big poop clumps.

If your cat is bad at grooming itself generally it may have been taken from it's mother too early. I had a cat that was removed from his mum at 4 weeks and it took him a couple of years to really get the whole grooming himself idea. We finally helped him by getting him damp, not wet just damp with a squirt of water or a swipe with a cloth so that he would lick the dampness of himself.

Not sure how old that photo is but if that's near his current weight he should be able to clean his butt just fine and might just be having troubles due to fur and laziness.
posted by wwax at 7:29 AM on August 31, 2012

I have dissenting anecdata re: the Furminator. My brush-resistant cat, Umaibo, hates it, so I've switched back to a regular curry comb for him. It seems like most cats like the Furminator, but ones with more sensitive skin won't so much. Umaibo tends to get clumps of matted fur on his butt as his fur felts really easily, and it's much better just to carefully trim those away before curry combing. My mom has a long haired cat and, especially in the summer, takes Bony to a groomer for a buzz cut. She looks funny and adorable (lion cuts with the little fur booties are totally cute) and seems way, way happier, and it lasts for a couple of months.

Seconding that you will want to get a vet to rule out any medical disorders. You might need special food that manages a medical condition. On the other hand, your cat might just be a fat guy. I've had a fat cat, Orestes, for years, switched him to different food for a year or so and he stayed fat. I free-feed now: living alone with multiple cats and a full time job, scheduled, portioned meals are not really an option but as far as I've observed Orestes doesn't eat more than the other two, and he isn't really less active either. Some cats are fatter than other cats, just like some people are fatter than other people.
posted by Kurichina at 7:51 AM on August 31, 2012

I actually use just a regular thick/wide toothed comb for people on my long hair cat. It's purple and does not have a brand on it.

I normally take the poop on her ass as a sign I need to bath her. Honestly, her not grooming thoroughly probably has less to do with her weight, and more to do with her being confused as heck about what's going on with her fur. She's adorable but my groomer, at least, says the lion cut for long hairs is really disorienting for them and makes the cat not WANT to groom itself because its fur is pointy feeling on its tongue, like how a buzz cut would feel on the palm of your hand. Anyways, I use Hartz long hair cat shampoo on my fluffy monster about once a month.
posted by spunweb at 8:16 AM on August 31, 2012

Also, about her weight. Keep the same number of feedings, but try going for less/better quality food. I really recommend Natural Balance, both their wet and dry.
posted by spunweb at 8:17 AM on August 31, 2012

I have a longhaired Ragdoll cat who came to us overweight. He also had poo problems at first, that we directly correlated to wheat / wheat gluten in his food. He also had severe periodontal disease (at only 18 months!) that necessitated removal of 8 of his adult teeth.

We (gradually, over a period of months) switched him over to a raw diet, and I also taught him to accept being bathed.

Since completely swapping him to a quality raw diet (we feed him exclusively on RadCat as it has no additives and the correct ash/taurine balance) we have had no further weight, dental, or hygeine issues from him. The vet pronounced him "ridiculously healthy" at his last visit - he is at a stable 15 pounds of lean, active, healthy, HUGE Ragdoll cat.

His activity and energy levels definitely went up with better diet; also his coat quality improved quite a bit, so they're probably all somewhat interrelated.

With a cat as overweight as yours is now, you really should seek vet advice and proceed cautiously, as you should never, ever crash diet an obese cat - the danger of too quick a weight loss is them developing fatty liver disease.

obviously cats are individuals, so this as with anything, ymmv.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:00 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get a kitten!
posted by mmmmbobo at 10:34 AM on August 31, 2012

Food ball? Youtube

Perhaps move from free feeding to a can of wet and then the food ball for dry? If she wants to eat, she'll have to work a little for it. :)
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:12 AM on August 31, 2012

I would also talk to the vet about the cat's recommended weight and recommended caloric intake (they probably have a little computer program like my vet that can calculate that for you). I suspect that your cat is not super-duper overweight because those paws look pretty big, which is usually a sign of a larger breed. So yeah she probably does need to lose weight but she really doesn't look off-the-charts huge.
posted by radioamy at 2:16 PM on August 31, 2012

If she's overweight cut her food in half until she's an appropriate weight. Honestly, its as simple as that.
Er, no. Fat cats who suddenly eat less are liable to sudden hepatic lipidosis, a.k.a. fatty liver disease, a.k.a. yellow eyeballs, foamy yellow projectile vomit, and death. See BitterOldPunk's bitter testimony.
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:24 AM on September 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I should have said: who suddenly eat MUCH less. Taper carefully.

Your cat is gorgeous and adorable, by the way.

I endorse your remote-controlled car idea. We've had excellent results with a battery-operated remote-control mouse toy, and dream of upgrading to remote-controlled helicopter.

How does Kitty feel about catnip? Some cats are immune to it, but for those who aren't, it can provide a serious incentive to pursue objects. Not to mention make them STONED OUT OF THEIR TINY MINDS and hence all playful & rambunctious.

Does Kitty like feathers? Wand toys with feathers can also be insanely motivating (ANG MUST CHEW MUST BE POULTRY UNDER HERE SOMEWHERE) especially if you make them go swish-swish in the air over a susceptible cat's head.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:20 PM on September 1, 2012

Response by poster: Ok, well, that picture is from 2010 and she has gained weight since then. basically, i'd like her to lose some weight because i think it will improve her eh, ability to do things. I've noticed that when she tries to groom or like roll on her back, she clearly finds it a bit difficult and just looks really awkward.

so far I brought kitty some cat toys so far. A laser pointer, a wand thing with a rope and a bell and a feather attached and some more balls (really bouncy ones). So far, little interest in any of them. I think this is just her personality - she's just permanently passive and calm.

As for the food issue, at one point, the amount she gets fed daily was gradually reduced to the point it is at now, and she /has/ lost some weight. i'm aware she should be switched to a better food brand, but I just really wasn't sure what to look for. I will probably start introducing wet food very very soon and see how she takes to it (but I can't imagine it would be a problem because she seems to be happy to eat anything).

The brush I use is either a furmirator or a very similar one and I do agree, it works wonders. I was hoping there was a way to encourage her to groom more, but I really do think her weight is what hinders her a fair bit, as she has started grooming more recently.

I never though of unscented baby wipes though and I will be sure to get them. She really doesn't seem to mind me wiping her butt, thankfully. I may try her to get tolerant to me giving her a bath. I know she allows the groomers to give her a bath, but I think that may be enough as she goes fairly frequently
posted by electriic at 2:07 PM on September 1, 2012

One thing you might need to consider on a long hair that grooms itself more often is the dreaded hairball issue. Twice a week brushing trumps middle of the night gack on bare feet.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:32 PM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend the slimcat feeder ball. My fat cat, Mister weighed close to 25 pounds, and giving him this ball has him slim down a lot because he eats slower *and* it gives him exercise.
posted by patheral at 6:56 PM on September 1, 2012

First of all - check in with your vet to see how much she should weigh. Look for a "grain free" wet (canned) food - Orijen and Evo are frequently recommended here at AskMe. Then keep trying with the toys especially the laser pointer and the wand thing. Playing with her is good for bonding and both of those are really active toys. Get cheap baby wipes or use a warm, damp washcloth for cleaning Her Majesty's underpinnings. They actually have "pet wipes" but baby wipes are probably cheaper. She won't like it, but she'll smell better.

As she gets to a good weight for her, she'll probably want to play more and should clean herself better. But do keep in mind some cats just aren't big on grooming. You may have to keep helping her with her bum the rest of her life.
posted by deborah at 2:21 AM on September 2, 2012

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