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Hi everyone! This is the main reason I joined this forum. I've tried other forums but I only got uneducated responses about how I should be putting him on "diet food" so hopefully you guys can give me some valid ideas and advice :).

So here's the story: Fred is almost 2 years old now and has had his share of upsetting health problems. When I first got him he was full of worms and loaded with fleas. So after getting him all fixed up and healthy again I began noticing other problems. He was quite lethargic for a kitten and didn't seem to like moving much. I figured he was just a mellow cat. But when he was about 8 months old he fell off the counter and developed a bad limp. So I brought him to the vet and had x-rays which showed nothing out of the ordinary. He was given anti-inflammatory and sent on his way. When the limp didn't go away and he got less active and brought him back again. This is when we discovered that he had arthritis of all of his small joints. After a myriad of tests with no definitive results he was put on a broad spectrum antibiotic for a possible infection, which helped significantly. He's been much more active and playful since. It's awesome.

So there's the background and now the current problem. Due to all that time of inactivity (I'm assuming) he gained quite a bit of weight. He's topping the scales around 16 pounds. According to the vet he needs to lose about 2 pounds. He currently eats a mix of wellness core and evo weight management food. Both exceptional diets. For both of my cats (the other is a 5 year old 10lb, healthy weighted female) I give them a cup of food to free feed on for a day. This is actually less than the recommended amount for both of my cats. They are indoor cats but I do occasionally take them outside on harnesses to get some fresh air. I have been struggling with Fred's weight for 8 months or so and have seen no change what so ever. So I am left with two possible reasons:
1. I am doing something wrong and need to make some changes.
2. There is something medically wrong with him that needs to be figured out. I am amazed to discover that when I look through his vet records thyroid disease was not something that was tested for.

Sorry for the long post, but I'm at a loss as to what to do at this point and I really need some advice.
 

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I assume by free feed you mean dry food? I would eliminate the dry food entirely. They don't need it.

Does he play if you play WITH him? Like Da Bird or with a laser light?

What is he on to help his arthritis pain?
 

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Welcome to you and Fred! Poor guy--he's had a rough time!
He's topping the scales around 16 pounds. According to the vet he needs to lose about 2 pounds.
He needs to lose more than that. Very few cats are at good weight over 11 pounds or so. The problem is that vets don't seem to understand that cats aren't made like dogs--they are slabsided and aren't supposed to bulge in the midsection. I would make 11-12 pounds Fred's goal if I were you.
He currently eats a mix of wellness core and evo weight management food. Both exceptional diets. For both of my cats (the other is a 5 year old 10lb, healthy weighted female) I give them a cup of food to free feed on for a day. This is actually less than the recommended amount for both of my cats.
This is your problem. (1) Dry food causes overweight; (2) Free feeding causes overweight; (3) 1 cup of dry food is a LOT for 2 cats--kibble is concentrated b/c of having no water. Ignore the instructions on the bag (the manufacturer just wants you to feed a lot of food b/c that will make them more money).

I recommend that you read this entire site carefully: Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition :: healthy cat diet, making cat food, litter box, cat food, cat nutrition, cat urinary tract health . It's by one of the few vets out there who is actually educated about nutrition (most vets learn very little about it and all of that is courtesy of Hills (the Science Diet people), so vets aren't usually your go-to people on nutrition. But Dr. Pierson went out ofher way to educate herself and this is a GREAT site.

You will see why dry food of ANY variety is a poor choice, for lots of reasons other than just obesity.

Converting kibble-heads to canned food (or, even better, to raw) takes a little time and energy, but it is well worth it! We're here to help! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
After he took the antibiotics the arthritis went away. Well okay, it didn't "go away" because the damage is still there. But since the infection is gone, no further damage is being done and he doesn't seem to have much pain. He will occasionally get a little sore but it doesn't seem to affect him much. I do give him "healthy" treats that contain glucosamine in them (they are dehydrated chicken, so no grains). I don't give him pain medication ever due to the damaging effects they have.

And yes, I can get him to play with a laser light. He has a very extreme obsession with any kind of shining light. It borders on neurotic lol. But after a few minutes he decides he's done running after it and he'll intently watch it instead. The best results tend to come from him chasing a ball around. I throw it for him and that gets him going. I don't play with him with anything like Da Bird because I don't like to encourage too much jumping due to his sensitive joints.

And I understand why dry food would be deemed "unnecessary" but both of these foods are grain-free and extremely low on carbohydrates. When you figure out the percentages of protein and carbs and take moisture out of consideration, they are both on par with most canned foods. And as I said, I have a water fountain for them that encourages water consumption and really seems to work. Now, if I could afford it, they would be on an entirely raw diet. But instead of rationing out their portions for the entire day would it be better to do actually meals twice a day?
 

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And I understand why dry food would be deemed "unnecessary" but both of these foods are grain-free and extremely low on carbohydrates. When you figure out the percentages of protein and carbs and take moisture out of consideration, they are both on par with most canned foods. And as I said, I have a water fountain for them that encourages water consumption and really seems to work. Now, if I could afford it, they would be on an entirely raw diet. But instead of rationing out their portions for the entire day would it be better to do actually meals twice a day?
Did you read the site? Domestic cats are descended from desert cats and hence, have a very low thirst drive. They should not HAVE to drink much water--the reason why it's hard to get cats to drink enough is b/c mother nature isn't telling them to do it. So pretty much all kibble-fed cats are clinically dehydrated. That's a whole other problem from obesity, but it's a serious one that eventually rears its head in many cats.

Any amount of carbs is bad for cats. Read Dr. Pierson's site--it's all there so I'm not going to repeat it all. :)

Feeding raw isn't anywhere near as expensive as you think (unless you buy commercial "raw" food which I heartily recommend against). Prey model raw costs about what premium canned costs. Whole prey raw is a little more expensive (but well worth it IMO).

I recommend that you read the site carefully and think about it. Kibble is your problem, IMO, and it may well cause additional problems (on top of the obesity) down the line for both cats.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Welcome to you and Fred! Poor guy--he's had a rough time!
He needs to lose more than that. Very few cats are at good weight over 11 pounds or so. The problem is that vets don't seem to understand that cats aren't made like dogs--they are slabsided and aren't supposed to bulge in the midsection. I would make 11-12 pounds Fred's goal if I were you.

Fred is actually a pretty big cat, weight aside. 2 Pounds was the vet's "reasonable" goal but she said losing 3 pounds would be ideal. If he weighed 11 pounds he would be skin and bones lol. When he was 5 months old and not at all overweight (well defined waistline, no tummy baggage, ribs were easily felt) he weight 7lbs! 8O


And I guess I just don't understand why a dry food diet is so bad when the nutrients in the dry food I'm feeding are the same as in canned food? I understand the urinary part and that's what the fountain is for. But I've read A LOT of why canned is better and used the formula used to calculate dry protein and carb amounts and they really are comparable. Maybe there's some important info I'm missing? My other cat has never been even slightly overweight. She has maintained the same 10lbs since she's been 18 months old. I don't mean to sound stubborn or unwilling to heed advice I just want to understand why everyone is so adamant about not feeding dry?
 

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The nutrition part of Dr. Pierson's site is 18 dense pages, so I'm guessing you haven't read it. Could you please do that? And come back later w/ questions? B/c honestly, she will answer most of yours.
 

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Any amount of carbs is bad for cats. Read Dr. Pierson's site--it's all there so I'm not going to repeat it all. :)
What brands of canned do you suggest? Nearly every canned food I see contains carbs. Pretty much every commercial diet contains carbs actually. It's very frustrating to me.

I have actually considered trying those frozen feeder mice you can get at pet stores for reptiles but it's nearly impossible to find information on how many they need to eat and how nutritionally complete that is.
 

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The nutrition part of Dr. Pierson's site is 18 dense pages, so I'm guessing you haven't read it. Could you please do that? And come back later w/ questions? B/c honestly, she will answer most of yours.
Sorry we keep posting at the same times I think. I have actually read the entire website before. This was one of the ones that I found while doing research. And yes I understand the dehydration part. I have also read from a lot of sources that encouraging water drinking with a fountain is an okay alternative, albeit not completely ideal. They seem to enjoy drinking from it quite a lot and since I've had it I've noticed Honey (my non-fat cat) went from peeing very little to actually producing a healthy amount of urine. So I definitely see where dry food can dehydrate a cat.

I will go through the website again though since it has been quite a while since I've read it. I'll see if there's anything in there to answer my questions I had forgotten about :)
 

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In addition to the nutrition page, be sure to check out Dr. Pierson's obesity page:

Feline Obesity: An Epidemic of Fat Cats by Lisa A. Pierson, DVM :: cat weight management, obese cat, cat weight loss

What brands of canned do you suggest? Nearly every canned food I see contains carbs. Pretty much every commercial diet contains carbs actually. It's very frustrating to me.
A canned food w/ carbs is better than a dry food w/ fewer carbs. Moisture is JUST THAT IMPORTANT. Again, Dr. Pierson discusses all this, as well as brands, etc. If I were still feeding commercial food I would feed Evo 95% meat formulae. It's one of the only ones w/ no carbs. But Friskies is better than dry food.
I have actually considered trying those frozen feeder mice you can get at pet stores for reptiles but it's nearly impossible to find information on how many they need to eat and how nutritionally complete that is.
Au contraire! We have a raw feeding forum on this board --just go there and ask. There is also a very active raw feeding yahoo group for cats which is full of good info. I can hook you up with feeder mice at much lower prices than the pet shop (I have them shipped to me monthly). It takes a little work to get up to speed on raw feeding at the outset, but it's worth it.

I recommend this site: Raw Fed Cats . If you have questions about raw feeding, though, you should take them to the raw forum (subset of this forum). :)
 

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OK, let's see if I can connect a few dots for you. Regarding dry vs. canned/raw -

Canned food (and natural prey) is approximately 78% water. Kibble is around 8% water. Cats are physiologically designed to get most of their water from their food. As a result, they naturally have a low thirst drive. When you see a cat drinking water, it is because the cat is trying to make up a moisture deficit present in its diet. Few cats can or will make up the huge moisture disparity between canned and kibble foods by drinking water ... even if you give them a fountain that they enjoy using. This leaves kibble-fed cats chronically dehydrated to some degree, and chronic dehydration can have devastating effects on the cat's internal and external systems over time.

I feed most of my cats 1/8 c EVO kibble in the morning and either raw prey model or commercial canned (2-4.5 oz, depending on the cat) in the evening. Because my cats eat primarily raw/canned, I seldom see any of my healthy cats drink water more than once a day, and I often don't see them drink at all. The only cats in my house who drink repeatedly during the day are those with diseases such as chronic renal failure or hyperthyroidism. FYI, my CRF and hyperT cats were free-fed kibble for most of their lives before I learned better, but by then, I believe the stage had already been set for these diseases to occur. I can't prove that, of course. In any event, I am extremely cognizant of the dehydrating effects of a kibble diet.

About your boy's weight - I have a cat who is at an ideal, lean weight between 16.5-17 lbs. He spent most of his life, however, morbidly obese at 26.5 lbs before I got serious about taking off his extra weight. Not all cats can or should be maintained at an 11 lb weight. The ideal goal for your cat's weight is whatever weight will give him a slight waist when viewed from above, and just enough fat cover over his ribs to make his ribs palpable but not visible. In your boy's case, with his early-onset arthritis, you definitely want to get him and keep him lean to reduce stress on his joints.

Here are my recommendations based on my experience returning a houseful of fat cats to healthy, lean weights:

1) Replace free-feeding with portioned, scheduled meals. If your cats typically graze throughout the day, start with three meals a day, then prune it down to two meals a day after a week or two. As hoofmaiden advised, ignore the feeding guidelines on commercial pet food packaging. They are usually dramatically and dangerously inflated. Start with 1/2-2/3 of the recommended amount, and adjust portions as guided in #3 below.

2) Separate the cats behind closed doors at mealtimes so that they don't steal each other's food.

3) Weigh the cats every two weeks (a digital baby scale is good for this) and adjust food portions as necessary to produce and maintain slow, safe, and steady weight loss. I liked to see weight loss of between .2-.4 lb every two weeks. Cats who lost less than .2 lb in two weeks had their food portions decreased a little. Cats who lost more than .4 lb in two weeks had their food portions increased a little. I've been weighing my cats and tweaking their food portions every two weeks for the last five years to maintain their hard-earned ideal weights.

4) Gradually switch all or most of the diet to canned or raw food. I typically mix canned food with warm water to make "canned food soup" that they can lap up to further improve hydration and make up for the small amount of kibble that I still feed in the morning.

Weight loss in otherwise healthy cats is all about caloric balance. If your boy takes in more calories than his body burns off, he's going to get fatter. Once you reduce his calories below his body's current need, he'll lose weight. Just remember that weight loss in cats must be done slowly to protect the liver.

Laurie
 

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Thank you so much. This was extremely helpful. I've been wanting to get a scale to weigh them on for a while. When I lived closer to a vet I was taking Fred in for regular weigh-ins. But now I've been searching for a new vet and the one I liked is just too far to go ever couple weeks. I'm thinking a large food scale might be cheaper than a baby scale? I'll look into it.

I see I'll have my work cut out for me though. I have two very different objectives for each cat. With Honey I need to maintain healthy weight and I'll probably have to work harder to get her to accept a change in diet and with Fred I need to convince him that extra food is not necessary (already battling this lol).

So how do I know how much canned/raw to feed each of them? Thanks ag)
 

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Au contraire! We have a raw feeding forum on this board --just go there and ask. There is also a very active raw feeding yahoo group for cats which is full of good info. I can hook you up with feeder mice at much lower prices than the pet shop (I have them shipped to me monthly). It takes a little work to get up to speed on raw feeding at the outset, but it's worth it.

I recommend this site: Raw Fed Cats . If you have questions about raw feeding, though, you should take them to the raw forum (subset of this forum). :)
Thank you! I will definitely check those out :)
 

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I'm thinking a large food scale might be cheaper than a baby scale?
I bought my baby scale on eBay. If I remember correctly, it was less than $50, shipping included. I'm not sure how much a large food scale might cost.

With Honey I need to maintain healthy weight and I'll probably have to work harder to get her to accept a change in diet
Just make any food changes gradually so that you don't trigger digestive upset.

with Fred I need to convince him that extra food is not necessary (already battling this lol).
I thought that was going to be a major issue with my cats, too, but it really wasn't. They adjusted surprisingly quickly to scheduled, portioned meals ... and they'd been free-fed kibble for a decade before that.

So how do I know how much canned/raw to feed each of them? Thanks ag)
By the time you get them switched to canned/raw entirely (if that's your goal), you'll have done it so gradually that you'll already have a pretty good handle on how much they need to achieve their dietary goals. And remember, food portions are variable. You'll likely be adjusting them a little after every weigh-in. To give you a ball park starting point, an average 10 lb cat at proper weight needs about 5.5-6 oz of canned food a day, if that's all the cat is eating.

Laurie
 

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If you can, feed 3-4 SMALL canned meals a day, at least to start. That eases the transition for free-fed cats and makes it less likely that Fred will go into hepatic lipidosis (a risk when obese cats lose weight-you do NOT want him to lose too quickly). Feeding 3 a day is easy even if you work--once in the a.m., once when you get home, one just before bed. That also helps ensure that you get a good night's sleep. ;) My cats get 2 meals a day--in a.m. 1 hour after I get up and in p.m. just b/f bed.

Ditto Laurie on amounts. It will look like more food than you've fed in the past, but it's got water in it is so it SHOULD. I would plan to split a 13 oz can between the 2 cats a day. And it is really important for all cats, but esp. in this situation, to feed them separately. Otherwise Fred might steal the other's food and you MUST know what he is taking in. Feed one in the bathroom, for instance. My cats learned very quickly who gets fed where and they run ahead of me to their spot. :)
 

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The 95% meat cans will have the fewest carbs as they usually don't put in any grains or starch (potato, peas, tapioca). So check out EVO, By Nature, Nature's Variety Instinct (although that does have veggies and peas) and Before Grain. Look for the ones that say they are 95% meat.
 

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Thank you all for your advice. I tried feeding my cats the thawed mice they sell at the pet store for reptiles and they had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Fred showed quite a bit of interest and even licked it but in the end decided it wasn't food. So I suppose I would have to start with "frankenprey". But I'm not quite ready to start them on raw yet. I'll start with canned maybe and work up. But until their dry food is gone I think I'll add warm water to it for them.
 

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Be careful adding water to dry food. It's not meant to be served that way and if it sits for any length of time it becomes packed with bacteria. Better to leave it dry.
 

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Be careful adding water to dry food. It's not meant to be served that way and if it sits for any length of time it becomes packed with bacteria. Better to leave it dry.
I've never understood this caution. Anything to back it up? I wouldn't necessarily recommend it b/c it's still carb-laden dry food, but (1) I don't see why more bacteria would grow on it than on canned food and (2) cats' GI tracts handle bacteria very well. I don't think it's anything to be worried about.
 

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Thank you all for your advice. I tried feeding my cats the thawed mice they sell at the pet store for reptiles and they had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Fred showed quite a bit of interest and even licked it but in the end decided it wasn't food. So I suppose I would have to start with "frankenprey". But I'm not quite ready to start them on raw yet. I'll start with canned maybe and work up. But until their dry food is gone I think I'll add warm water to it for them.
Raw food doesn't smell anywhere near as much as canned or kibble-that's why. Cats fed commercial food also have weak jaws. Chopping the mouse into 2-3 pieces (I know, ewwww) helps them see that it's food. You'll also likely find that when there is no food available 24/7 and when the cats are separated for feeding that Fred will be hungrier at his meals and hence, more willing to try new things. ;)
 
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