6.5 month old kittens --> neutering --> ravenous beasties
September 21, 2019 12:47 PM   Subscribe

It's been just over 3 weeks since they got neutered but the hunger shenanigans have only ramped up in the past few days. The internet says that neutering will increase appetite and decrease caloric needs. The internet also says that growth spurts in kittens might result in them being extra hungry.

I'm so susceptible to the desperate yowling and frantic weaving in and out of my legs that I have been feeding them probably about 33% extra the last few days. Are growth spurts a thing? Will they calm down and stop demanding so much food? One is being very very demanding about it, I got gnawed on two mornings in a row as a wake up reminder. This feels like a bad trend. Of relevance perhaps is that the other human in the household is currently on a trip and they have only me for scritches and snuggles. Cat tax and name update hint - we named them after cultural studies scholars but I think I used one of their names as a recent password so won't write it down here.
posted by spamandkimchi to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
Response by poster: P.S. They were 8.1 lbs and 8.3 lbs when they went for their post-surgery check-up a week ago and are most likely 7 months old.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:48 PM on September 21, 2019

Best answer: Pretty sure growth spurts are a thing. I wouldn't worry too much about over-feeding at that age, but I would resist feeding them outside normal feeding time. That is going to reinforce unwanted behavior. (I cannot promise that not feeding will reduce demanding behavior, but I can promise that reinforcing demanding behavior will ensure they keep doing it.)

They will probably calm down, though I've known cats that were just always very food motivated no matter how consistently they were fed. Had a friend who took in a kitten that was maybe 4 months old that had been wild and underfed. That cat was always thinking about its next meal, we presumed because it had been food insecure as a kitten it was just highly motivated by food.

Sounds like they're going to be big kitties. My tuxedo cat was six or seven months when I got her, she kept growing until about the one year mark IIRC. I would pile on the food at food time, but not feed them outside of that. Now's the time to set those habits.
posted by jzb at 12:58 PM on September 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

Yeah, at that age I'd just feed them whatever they want at their regularly scheduled feeding times. And if you're feeding dry, definitely add some canned food for more filling protein and less empty carbs.
posted by cgg at 2:37 PM on September 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Was feeding them a 3oz can of kitten food each for meals, plus kitten kibble as dessert (usually a spoonful each on their plates and then another spoonful or two each in homemade food puzzles). Was also feeding them twice a day (due to work schedule the morning meal has been now linked with me getting up in the morning). They gained weight probably at a rate of one pound per 3 weeks, not the usual(?) one pound per month.

Now I am giving an extra wet food snack (splitting a 3 oz can usually) an hour or two after their meal. I will stop doing that since it's reinforcing the demanding behavior! I am so susceptible to their demands though, and if they are in the sharks circling for prey mood it's almost impossible for me to eat my meals and so I tend to give extra snack kibble when I eat.

OK no more threadsitting. (But seriously, how do you fend off their desperate scrabblings and harden your heart to their piteous yowls? I might just have to flee the apartment.)
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:47 PM on September 21, 2019

Best answer: You could get into teaching them tricks. Sounds like they have a lot of energy and food-seeking brainpower to spare that you could make use of.
posted by bleep at 3:31 PM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Can you make them work for it? Get one of those food dispensers like the ones they roll or bat and put kibble in it. Keeps the kittenbeasten busy.

My vet said to let them have what they wanted as kittens and then a few years later was nagging me about their weight so you can't win.
posted by kitten magic at 3:35 PM on September 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think it is super helpful for everyone who has cats to understand how to maintain a healthy weight through feeding them in a way that helps them self-regulate their nutrition through trickle feeding and nutritional intelligence.
posted by nanook at 4:19 PM on September 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

I would try to avoid them getting desperately hungry. I don't know for sure that it could lead to food issues later, but it seems reasonable that it might. If they're young and growing they might genuinely need a lot of food.

If they feel like they live in a land of reasonable abundance, I think they'll be less determined to elicit food from you at inopportune times and quantities when they're older.

Also - make sure one of them isn't getting the others' food, leading to the others being extra hungry.
posted by amtho at 6:14 PM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

How did you come up with the original food portion in the first place? I feed my adult female cat, who is a little over 8 lbs., fairly active, and has maintained a healthy weight, 2 cans of 3 oz. wet food per day, plus some treats. It sounds like you're feeding your kittens about the same amount. It does not seem at all surprising to me that they are hungry - they are growing and probably very active! You're using words like yowling and desperate scrabbling, and if they're really that hungry, I think you are not feeding them quite enough.
posted by unannihilated at 6:46 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

With our kittens the advice I got was to feed them three or four times a day, and if that wasn't feasible to leave out enough dry food that they could free feed. We did the latter, since they are small critters they need to eat more frequently than a grown cat might.
posted by Lady Li at 4:51 AM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Our kitty also free feeds on dry food (and water) and receives measured portions of wet food on a schedule, which is how all of our cats' nutritional needs have been managed and none have ever been overweight. Some of that is that most were strays we adopted and we didn't want them to feel food anxiety. Perhaps because they can, they eat a few bites here and there throughout their waking hours.
posted by carmicha at 6:49 AM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You have beautiful mackerel tabbies!!! Try doing these 2 things: switch to a larger can size in the evening, 5 oz, they both get a can if I read you correctly? In separate dishes, and separate rooms if there is competition. At the same time, make sure the morning feeding isn't right when you wake up-- if you make coffee/breakfast, etc., do that first, so they don't link 'waking you up' with 'feeding'. If they're still eating all the food in the evening and frantic in the morning, increase the can size in the morning as well. Neutering can really allow for growth, especially in males; this is why they often become obese (especially on dry food only diets, which is not good).
Best of luck with your lovely predators!
posted by twentyfeetof tacos at 8:00 AM on September 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

I just watched the video nanook linked to and wanted to raise my hand as another successful free-feeder. I initially did it because I rescued my cat directly from the street and didn't want her to start gobbling food at mealtimes, as she was exhibiting behaviors that indicated she was protective or anxious* about her food. But she's maintained a healthy weight for a year and rarely gobbles or stuff herself, even when I give her an extra rich meal as a treat. I actually feed her an all wet food diet, and it still works fine.

*One of these behaviors was that she would run to her food bowl and start eating from it whenever I was near it. I thought this was because she was afraid I was going to take the food away, but after watching the video maybe it was because she wanted some protection. :-)
posted by unannihilated at 9:04 AM on September 22, 2019

Response by poster: Thank you all. I think I was reading too much of the cat internet that was going on and on about how neutered cats who free-feed will inevitably get chonky. My schedule will only get busier, and I really wanted to make sure I didn't create potentially problematic habits, theirs or mine! It's been eons since I last helped raise a kitten... I think Netscape had just come out?

I have been feeding them more at meal time (as recommended). This seems to satisfy the one who has been the extra demanding one. They are getting 4.5 oz of wet food per meal now plus kibble dessert.

We are very vigilant about making sure each kitten gets their fair share, since for a while one of them was eating way faster than finicky fluffy face, who really only wanted to lick gravy (you betchya we switched to pate types only). I also looked up comparison nutritional tables for the different canned foods to see if what we are feeding them was too skimpy on protein. Thankfully it isn't!

unannihilated, that's helpful to know how much you feed your 8-lb cat. As for these kittens, we came up with that food portion originally because both of them drifted off and started washing their faces after a can each. They sometimes even did the pawing at the ground behavior. Mostly the pawing was by greedy-guts when he decided he needed to finish off his sibling's plate (who had drifted off to ponder life for a bit) but was so full and really why was there still food out, omg, take it away. It seemed like since kitten food is more caloric than regular cat food, they were getting the nutrition they needed? The vet and vet techs always seemed impressed at how much they grew in between appointments. But I'm happy to trust their nutritional intelligence. If they go over on the "over ideal" side of things on the cat body condition chart I will try other options.

I will also leave out some dry food in their not-really-a-puzzle anymore food cup for them to have snacks whenever they want. I taped a single-serving yogurt cup to a table leg (as visible in photo 2) and they have to paw out the kibble. One of them has almost perfected the skill of delicately transferring kibble directly from container to mouth. I had stopped putting food there for them to eat at-will because it seemed like if we hadn't just swept up/vacuumed the floor, they were also ingesting human hair. Not a ton of human hair, but enough to give one of them two dingleberries in two days. There is now a robot vacuum cleaner in the apartment and I am hopeful that will reduce the dingleberry production.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:00 AM on September 22, 2019

I also want to follow up, since you mentioned the cat body condition chart. A better method of evaluating cat weight is using the Condition Score.

Heck, you should just spend a few hours watching all of the videos from the Helpful Vancouver Vet. His focus in on cat health.
posted by nanook at 1:26 PM on September 23, 2019

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