Cat. Wet food. Nothing is easy.
September 3, 2013 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Pumpernickel is having UTI issues and needs to go on a strict wet-food-only diet. After buying more brands and flavors than I can count, I think we've found some he likes. BUT, he never eats enough of the wet stuff and at this point supplementing with dry needs to stop. How do I help this cat!

We've reached an understanding between "Don't fuck with me this isn't food," "I'll push this goo around but then give me the real stuff," and "I guess this isn't poison after all." At the end of the day he enjoys some Merrick's and Weruva flavors and I'm pretty happy with that.

He's only eating 1/2 of a 3oz can/pouch at each meal though, 4 times a day. No matter how much or little is piled on his dish (no matter what kind of dish, raised or not, or if the food is warmed up or not), I can't get more into him. So at the end of the day he's eaten maybe 140 calories of the wet food, and I've been giving him a measured portion of omgomg-Orijen-crunch-particles before bed, to get that number closer to 230. (He's 12lb and calculators I've used pointed to roughly this amount.)

Is the problem that I still haven't found his Holy Grail of wet food? We really need to stop feeding dry, but I'm worried about him not eating enough if we just cut him off. For the record he'll happily gorge himself to death on Orijen alone, and he's never been a grazer.

(Turns out our younger cat will eat any wet food you put in front of him, beyond his needs even. We just need both cats like that!)

What can I do to up Nickel's wet food intake? Am I going about this the wrong way maybe? It's my first experience with cans and pouches as well, so everything is new!
posted by Tequila Mockingbird to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to his vet about other options? There are other ways to increase water intake and reduce crystal formation, like a water fountain or prescription dry food. See if they have any ideas.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:54 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would approach this the same way you'd approach a fussy kid refusing to eat supper. Either they eat what you give them, or they go hungry. Right now your kitty knows that it'll get crunchies if it doesn't finish the wet food. If you take away the option of the crunchies I can pretty much guarantee you that they will eat the wet if they get hungry enough. Your cat may be hungry for a day or two, but that won't kill them. I say this speaking from experience. I had a cat that went on a hunger strike when I switched her to wet food. A day or so later she gave up and ate her wet food without a fuss.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:56 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

He's probably not eating so much of the wet food because his favorite will always be given. Would you eat the cabbage if you knew you'd get to have ice cream if you waited long enough?

Stop all dry food completely. If he doesn't eat his wet food in two days.. give him a tiny small (couple of crunches) of dry food. Repeat, stretching the days between wet food and dry.

Also talk to your vet and make sure that if he does only eat 140 calories of wet food that it will be enough temporarily in order to make him understand that he isn't getting happy crunchies anymore.
posted by royalsong at 9:57 AM on September 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

What royalsong said. This was the situation with our darling cat, who lived a good many years longer after we made him go cold turkey on dry food, his favorite, favorite thing.
posted by bearwife at 10:03 AM on September 3, 2013

When my lovely little Binky refused to eat wet food after feasting on all-you-can-eat crunchies at the Shelter, we started her on wet food with gravy first which she learnt to like. She would start off licking all of the gravy up and then eat the wet food that was left. We gradually started combining gravy wet food and non-gravy wet food after a while and now she's on normal pate type wet food (no gravy) and gobbles it up without any fuss. I feed Wellness Brand and there are many options of Wellness wet food with gravy out there.

Other things that can help include warming up the cat food in the microwave for a few seconds to make it extra stinky, or putting some tuna juice on top.... although this should really be a last resort as NOTHING tastes better than tuna after all!!!!

Now my kitty gets one crunchy at the end of her meal and ONLY if she's eaten it all up (which honestly isn't even a problem any more), but I fear your lovely Pumpernickel may keep turning down the wet food if you are consistently offering dry.

Good luck with it though and your cats are delightful! (Black cats are super under-rated!!)
posted by JenThePro at 10:09 AM on September 3, 2013

We've got a super duper drinking fountain that he doesn't shy away from, so that's pretty great. I've been reading so much on this recently and a lot of resources are all "LIVER FAILURE! FEED YOUR CAT!!" without discussing what the threshold for it might be. As long as we can go a few days without giving in to him, I guess we'll be in a better position. Feeling good already!
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 10:11 AM on September 3, 2013

Cats are picky, weird beasts.

One possibility I can sometimes use to wheedle them into eating less-preferred flavors is to liven it up by sprinkling it with some freeze-dried chicken treats, broken up into little bits. Sometimes they are little monsters and pick the chicken treats out, but sometimes it works to get them eating at least more of the wet than they otherwise would. Possibly you could mix the crunchies (or something else like chicken treats) right in with the wet, and then dial back the percentages of wet-to-crunchy?
posted by Stacey at 10:19 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Have you tried mixing butter or olive oil into the wet food? That helped my cat get over herself and eat
posted by spunweb at 10:21 AM on September 3, 2013

Also, for her it was a matter of texture; she likes the pate kind, instead of chunks with gravyl
posted by spunweb at 10:23 AM on September 3, 2013

I would just caution you about not giving him the crunchy food. Fatty liver failure is real, and cats WILL NOT eat what they don't want to eat. They absolutely, positively, will starve themselves sick. Cats are like 2 year olds in this regard. There is no threshold for this as it depends on your cat and its weight, but onset can be quick.

Talk to your vet about ways to get him eating more food, or food that is better for his health. We feed 1 can of food per cat, per day, and we do it in four feedings, using pop-open feeders. They tend to do fine eating 1/4 can at a time. Good luck.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:23 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm dealing with this right now.

Have had a lot of luck with: wrapping kibbles in a towel; using a hammer to break them up into small fragments; putting a little in a bowl or on a plate and adding water.

The taste is familiar, it smells good, Collie the cat eats it (although she looks at me a lot first and hopes for solid kibbles). You could even start by adding a little water, then gradually increase wetness. Maybe garnish with a couple of hard-kibble appetizers (this actually seems to help).

I've put this on a plate with a side of regular moist food, and the association seems to help her gradually regard regular moist food as "less gross".

Obviously this isn't sustainable forever (the hammer thing takes forever and the towel is super gross afterward), but after 2 days she's liking the regular moist food more.

I'm considering trying whole kibbles soaked in water, but I'm not sure that will be better.

Also, tuna. Tuna water. (Make sure your tuna isn't packed in "vegetable broth" - onion is poisonous to cats, and onion is usually present in vegetable broth or gravy intended for humans)
posted by amtho at 10:24 AM on September 3, 2013

Did you try moving the bowl? (new place might motivate eating, most in cats with territorial behavior)
Did you try successive feeding? (offer small amount, cat eats, repeat the "feeding routine" so cat gets excited again and offer another small amount)
Did you try meat (raw/cooked)? (just simply cut up a piece of chicken, turkey or beef as is)

With time Pumpernickel should get used to it. Usually not eating is dangerous territory for cats, but even a 12-24 hours fast won't cause liver issues. He is eating 140 kcal a day, so worst thing he'll lose some weight.
Good luck.
posted by travelwithcats at 10:30 AM on September 3, 2013

Have you tried mixing the dry food in with the wet? Slowly increasing the proportions of wet food to dry until it is nothing but a piece or 2 on top. Soak the dry food in water first. Also I have yet to meet a cat that won't eat tinned tuna (with water though some oil doesn't hurt and can help with hairballs), so maybe mixing some of that through the wet food and then decreasing the amounts might help too. Also warming the wet food can help, it makes it smell more, which is bad for us smell wise, but attractive to cats.
posted by wwax at 10:32 AM on September 3, 2013

Medieval Maven: I would just caution you about not giving him the crunchy food. Fatty liver failure is real, and cats WILL NOT eat what they don't want to eat. They absolutely, positively, will starve themselves sick. Cats are like 2 year olds in this regard. There is no threshold for this as it depends on your cat and its weight, but onset can be quick.

Just wanted to emphasize this point and mention that this is another reason why your vet should be involved in this situation. They can use their knowledge of Pumpernickel and his history to give you a sense of what you should be watching for and how comfortable you should be with him not eating for a day or two.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:35 AM on September 3, 2013

It sucks, but one possible option is that you can give your kitty subcutaneous fluids at home. I had to do that with my fella to get him back on track, and it was absolutely no fun. If you do go this route, you can remove the dry food completely because he won't starve or have organ failure. It's a way to address the renal issues and reset kitty's eating routine without harming him - but it's not pleasant at all. You should ask your vet about it and see if it is an option.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:46 AM on September 3, 2013

Talk with your vet about supplementing the wet food with plain cooked chicken or baby food to add flavor. There are natural baby foods—I think Beechnut is one—that contain only meat.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:56 AM on September 3, 2013

Another thing to discuss with your vet: Are you sure that Pumpernickel is under-eating, even though he's eating less? In my experience cats are usually satiated with a smaller amount of wet food than dry food. Or it's possible his recent illness has reduced Pumpernickel's appetite. Perhaps Pumpernickel feels full with the small amount of wet food he eats, but he'll magically produce extra stomach space to eat dry kibble if available, like a kid who is always hungry enough to eat dessert.

However if your vet is also concerned that Pumpernickel is eating too little, then of course you should continue to try raising his intake.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:10 AM on September 3, 2013

Re: crushing kibble, instead of a hammer and a towel, try a food processor, a coffee grinder or a plastic bag/rolling pin or hammer approach for easier clean-up.
posted by MySockyWocky at 11:29 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

This isn't what you asked but I wanted to give you a heads up -- when my former cat Caddy had chronic UTIs, we learned that a sure way to bring on an episode was to feed her anything with tuna in it (Considering that my current set of cats won't eat anything that doesn't have tuna in it, I don't know what I would do if they turned out to have UTI problems). But rather than have you learn by trial and error, I wanted to mention it.
posted by janey47 at 11:36 AM on September 3, 2013

posted by superfille at 12:48 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

For lots of help, I recommend the resources of the Yahoo Feline Assisted Feeding group. But as long as you get at least half of his usual calories into him, your cat shouldn't be in danger of Hepatic Lipidosis.

On a personal note, the only way I can get pate food into my damn cat is to feed him tiny meatballs of it by hand. And he'll actually eat Tiki Cat's chicken and chicken and egg insead of just licking up the juice as he does with Weruva.
posted by monopas at 1:29 PM on September 3, 2013

our maddie has chronic utis and crystals and currently a kidney stone. we've just started trying the prescription diet, because we had to take her to the er. we'd previously scoffed. but both kitties seem to like the royal canin s/o food (even though it's not quite up to our crazy cat lady standards).

anyway. what we were doing previously was mooshing up the wet food and then adding some water to it. we told her it was EXTRA GRAVY because the gravy part is the best part. so then she was getting some more water with the food.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:43 PM on September 3, 2013

I just wanted to toss this out there - I have a cat who (prior to my adopting him) had horrible teeth/gum problems. They caused him a lot of pain, so the vet ended up removing them. In between diagnosis and procedure I tried to feed him wet food - b/c I thought "certainly dry food must hurt to crunch!". He will. Not. Eat it. The vet thinks that the wet food irritated his tender gums, and though he got (and still gets) excited when I feed it to his brothers he just couldn't bring himself to eat it. Even now that he is all better - won't eat it.
What I'm getting at is: take a peek (or have the vet take a peek) at his teeth/gums and just rule out potential mouth irritation. :)
posted by sleepykitties at 3:39 PM on September 3, 2013

I have had luck with the pate style vs chunk style. This is totally gross, but my cat would eat it only if I formed the pate into individual bite size balls lined up on a plate.
posted by dottiechang at 3:50 PM on September 3, 2013

He's only eating 1/2 of a 3oz can/pouch at each meal though, 4 times a day.

Are you sure this isn't enough? If he's eating two 3oz cans of wet food per day, it doesn't sound like he's starving. Check with your vet, but that doesn't sound like fatty liver territory to me.

Also, if you haven't already, don't be afraid to try Fancy Feast's "Classic" varieties (Tender Liver & Chicken Feast as well as Turkey & Giblets being among my cat's favorites), which are pate-style in gravy as well as being gluten-free.
posted by wondermouse at 3:53 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend paying close attention to calorie counts of wet food. For example, some tins of wet food contain way less calories than others, mainly due to proportions of meats, water, and carbs. Try to feed a higher calorie food so as to maximize your investment!

Also try fooling around with bowls - my guy likes high and wide bowls that do not crinkle his whiskers. See 'classy cat dishes' on Google.

This is all worth it by the way - saved my cat!
posted by analog at 4:56 PM on September 3, 2013

You give them the wet food only. Their choices are eat the wet food or be hungry. After a couple of days, they will eat the wet food.

I used to let my cats free feed on dry food and then feed them some wet food for breakfast and dinner because I wanted them to live like kings and they enjoyed having both.

At a recent appointment my vet said my cats were obese and suggested light wet food only. I felt bad taking away their all-you-can-eat dry food and it took me a long time to do it. Finally, I just took the dry food away. The only way they wouldn't eat it is if I didn't give it to them.

Once I put them on their diet they went from obese to normal weight. Now if only their person could do that.
posted by Rob Rockets at 7:20 PM on September 3, 2013

As a data point, my cats eat about 6oz of wet food - Wellness Core - each per day (though I'm guessing the chubby one eats slightly more and the slim one eats slightly less). They both appear to be maintaining their weight and have plenty if energy.

I would try feeding just wet food for a while and carefully monitor your cat to make sure he is maintaining his weight and his energy.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:31 PM on September 3, 2013

We blend-up a bag of freeze dried chicken treats (typically sold for dogs) with a tub of bonito flakes, rendering them finer than sand. It keeps just fine this way. This is the secret topping that gets my cat to eat her pills, or to revisit her food once she's eaten the gravy off it.
posted by mumkin at 11:20 PM on September 3, 2013

I came here to recommend Fortiflora, mentioned really briefly above. Our 20 year old cat with kidney issues was feeling poorly a few weeks ago and stopped eating almost entirely. Our vet tech gave us 2 little packets of this powdered Fortiflora, which we put on the cat's wet food and he immediately started eating more and bounced back in a couple of days.

Fortiflora is usually given to cats with digestive issues, but it also seems to have added nutrients and an apparently irresistible flavor. I think it saved my cat's life.
posted by Gortuk at 3:04 PM on September 4, 2013

« Older hurting over past relationship now more than when...   |   How to prepare for a divorce that might or might... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.