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Obesity Issues Even When Following Suggestions.

Discussion in 'Cat Nutrition' started by Dargo, Mar 13, 2019.

  1. Dargo

    Dargo Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Mar 13, 2019
    New York
    I'm not actually "new" here, been lurking for a couple years, finally felt the need to register / post and get some feedback. I'll try to make this as short as I can but that's a bit of a challenge... this is a long post in order to give a good representation of background and environment.

    We have two adult mackerel tabbies 10 years old, adopted them from rescue at 8 weeks in 2008. They're supposed to be "brothers" but look and at quite different from each other, and could have been born to feral mom for all we know.

    100% indoor kitties, paws have never touched the ground outdoors. (We live in a wooded area with lots of predators and one main street, and have seen too many neighbors lose their furbabies to street crossing and preds). No kids in the house, no other animals, and a "no shoes" clean carpet environment. Basically we do everything we can to assure the best health environment we can afford. We do use tidy cats clumping litter, unscented though. Litter is meticulously maintained, scooped at least once daily, and they have a lot of roaming / running space along with their own "cat room" with kitty condo, several scratching posts in several rooms, plenty of toys and love them like they're the human babies we never had.

    We were very naive about nutrition, brands, ingredients etc... for the first 7 years, so for the first 7 years we fed a combination of friskies wet and kibbles. They weren't exactly "free feeding" during those earlier years, but we did have an automated kibble dispenser that would dispense 1/4 cup every 12 hours, and they'd each get a 3oz can of wet in the morning and a 3oz can of wet in the evening.

    A few years ago it became obvious that they were overweight. They were already big cats to begin with, but did not appear overweight until around age 7 approx. We knew we had to do / change something. One of the boys was up to almost 20lbs and the other up to almost 17lbs.

    So a few years ago I began reading through the plethora of online info / forums like this one, and I noticed the pattern of "don't feed kibble, only wet, and only grain-free, and only high quality".

    So based on all the reading, starting back in 2017 we slowly transitioned them away from the friskies wet / kibble mixed diet to the expensive (out of our budget, but for their sake) grain-free wets such as Blue Buffalo, Wellness, Fussie, Weruva, Soup for Soul, etc... of wet (3oz each, twice a day) all of which were very difficult gradual transitions, taking away the automated kibble dispenser and only providing a small amount (about 1/8 cup each at night as a treat) and a LOT of "refusal" on their part. A lot of money went down the drain as we stood there coaxing them through the transitions.

    Within the first couple months of switching them to grain-free expensive primarily wet food (still 3oz can each, once in morning, once in evening) and even ditching the friskies kibbles in favor of Wellness kibbles only given as an evening "treat" (1/8 cup each) constipation problems began. One of the poor guys had to go to ER Vet at midnight for enema and clearing because he could not "go" and was going from room to room, struggling to "go" ... it was clearly painful and problematic. The only common connection we could make between the sudden constipation issues was the switch to grain-free expensive brands.

    So in late 2017 after basically going bankrupt over high-end cat food experiments and seeing the ER vet, we decided to go with something "in between" the high / low end, and switched to Purina One Vibrant Maturity for the kibble and Purina One True Instinct / Ideal Weight wet food combos (still 3oz each in morning, 3oz each evening, and 1/8 cup kibble at night, despite the begging... oh the mewing and begging was so hard to endure) it seemed we'd found something that agreed with them. Didn't have to "coax" them so much on the wet, and of course the kibble was immediately accepted. That lasted over a year, but still no real weight loss. However, we didn't rock the boat because they seemed happy, the brand was affordable enough, no constipation. But then recently Purina One changed it's wet food formula and they flat-out would not eat any of the new formula wet food.

    As a result of all that, we tried a few other brands / foods and settled on Sheba Perfect Portions Pates. Not perfect portions for our guys, since Sheba Pate is in little 1.3oz plastics, so they each get two in the morning (total 2.6oz wet each) and two in evening (2.6oz wet each) and then kibble treat at night (Purina One Vibrant Maturity, bit less than 1/8 cup each around 9pm).

    So while they seem happier and the transition to Sheba Grain-Free Pate was much easier then all previous transitions, and things like hairballs / pukes are very rare now, there's still one big issue - they're not losing any weight.

    These are not tiny cats, never have been. They've always been big and by that I do not mean fat - they're long, tall, stocky naturally (I'm guessing some mixed breeding from feral parents). But still, I'd really like to see the 19lb guy get down to 16lb and the 17lb guy get down to 13lb, especially since they're approaching 11 years old and the bigger one clearly struggles a bit with his size.

    I guess the thing I don't quite understand is this - it doesn't seem to me that we're over-feeding. A 3oz wet in the morning, a 3oz wet in the evening, and less then 1/8 cup kibble at night is all they get. No actual "treats" or "snacks". So aside from them being indoor-only and not getting the kind of exercise that outdoor cats do (we have playtime with some catnip and toys a few nights a week, all we can manage with our work schedules) , I don't understand why they remain heavy. I see people posting that they feed nearly twice the amount that we do, and some of their cats are the ideal approx 12lb holy grail of cat weight for mixed tabbies this size.

    We just want to do right by them and help them lose weight in a healthy way, and while Sheba Grain-Free Pate might not be something some would consider here, it's not a bad food and they could certainly do worse. Likewise, Purina One Vibrant Maturity kibbles are not horrible, and we don't allow them much of the dry... it's more of a "treat" part of their routine.

    So... 3oz wet twice a day, less than 1/8 dry twice a day, and still overweight cats.

    When I took the bigger guy to the vet not long ago because he had some urinary irritation, the vet's comments regarding my weight inquiries were very off-putting. He literally said "ya don't get fat without eating" , to which I re-explained "6oz wet / 1/8 cup dry total per day" and his response was a shrug and another "well, like I said, can't get fat without eating". It seemed obnoxious and like getting mugged.

    I'm open to any / all opinions, even if the truth hurts. Our boys are doing OK, I just want them to lose a couple pounds, literally. Finally have food they don't fuss over or puke over or get constipated over, but no weight loss.

    Thank you to anyone who took the time to read all that. I really appreciate it, and any advice you'd like to give.

  2. LTS3

    LTS3 TCS Member Staff Member Forum Helper

    Aug 29, 2014
    A single portion of Sheba is like 32 calories. Two portions a day plus a small amount of dry food isn't enough for a cat to live on:eek: I'm surprised your cats aren't losing weight drastically and screaming for more food or have fatty liver disease.

    Here's a chart with calorie content of many canned foods:


    Generally you feed around 20 to 25 calories per pound of ideal body weight daily. See if there are any weight loss suggestions here: Feline Obesity: An Epidemic of Fat Cats

    Could the cats have some large breed in their genetics which means they're on the large big boned side?
    Kflowers and rubysmama purraised this.

  3. rubysmama

    rubysmama Forum Helper Staff Member Forum Helper

    Nov 25, 2013
    Hello and welcome to TCS. I read your whole post, and your love for your cats shone though in every word. :redheartpump:

    Sorry your vet was so dismissive and obnoxious about your concerns. :sigh: Maybe see another vet? Are there cat only vets in your area?
    Find a Veterinarian and Practice | The Cat Community

    About them not losing weight, and after just reading @LTS3's reply, I wonder if they aren't getting enough calories a day, and their bodies have gone into "starvation mode". I don't know if that can happen with felines, but I have heard that it happens when humans put themselves on a too restrictive calorie diet.

    Here's a very short TCS article on Is Your Cat Overweight?

    Plus, here's a LONG thread that covers Mickey, my 27 lbs foster and his journey back to a healthy weight that you might find helpful.

    Plus a recent thread: Cosmo: Weight Loss Journey For A 22.2 Lb Kitty Man

    As well, here are some additional TCS articles on food:
    How Much Food Should I Feed My Cat?
    How To Choose The Right Food For Your Cat
    Choosing The Right Food For Your Cat - Part 2
    Transitioning Your Cat From Kibble To A New Type Of Food (canned, Raw, Or Homemade)

    Good luck with them. Do you have pictures you can share? :camera:
    How To Add A Picture To Your Forum Post

  4. Dargo

    Dargo Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Mar 13, 2019
    New York
    @LTS3 - Thank you for the response, even if it sounds a bit alarming. To address a couple points you brought up:

    - There is a definite possibility of mixed / large breed genetics. These were rescue babies that we adopted at 8 weeks, and while they definitely look mackerel tabbie by their stripe patterns, they're a bit bigger than average domestics in general. In fact, the bigger one as a very wide rib cage bone structure / very wide skull. We think it's possible that they had mixed feral parents.

    - We've been feeding that same amount - 3oz wet 5:00am / 3oz wet 5:00pm / 1/8 cup kibble 9:00pm (each) daily for years now.

    - Most recent labs were last year and included basic tests, including fecal, and according to vet all tests normal.

    - I'll read through the links you provided to see what I can glean / comprehend.

    - Although I know that the amount we feed isn't anything that should be enough to cause obesity, I'm afraid to feed them more. Definitely overweight.

    Thank you for taking the time to read and respond, I really do appreciate it very much!

  5. Dargo

    Dargo Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Mar 13, 2019
    New York
    @rubysmama - thank you so much for reading and responding. One thing that you brought up, I have pondered many times - when humans don't eat right, our bodies store everything as fat to "live on", and i too wondered if the same might apply to felines. But my fear of over-feeding based on what the vet said and the fact that they are "obese" in cat terms has me afraid to give them more. I'm not opposed to giving them more food, I simply don't want to compound the issue by getting them used to having more food if it's not necessary or not good for them. But between your thoughts and @LTS3 comments, I may consider giving them more food. It just seems very odd... giving fat cats more food. They don't act like they're in "starve mode" as they only pine for kibbles and are quite content with feeding times. They wake us at 5am to say "breakfast wet food" , they mew at us at 5pm for "dinner wet food", and around 7pm - 9pm they beg for their "kibbles snack". I definitely love them like they're my own babies (even at 10 years old) and will do just about anything to help bring their weight down. The leaner guy is more content, but also has occasional constipation issues (for which I mix a very small amount of miralax into his wet food with some extra water every few days). One major difference since we switched to Sheba Pate - they used to throw up hairball & undigested food fairly frequent, and since the switch their "presents" are much less / more rare.
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  6. Kieka

    Kieka Snowshoe Servant Staff Member Forum Helper

    Sep 6, 2016
    Southern California
    Can you share a photo of your crew so we can see how they look?

    There really isn't an ideal weight for cats. They can range drastically. For example my girl is 7.5 to 8 pounds. Anything below 7.5 and she is downright skeletal and anything above 8 she's chunky. My boy is 13.5 - 14 pounds and could probably gain or lose a pound with no noticable difference. My Mom's cat is 9.5 pounds. They are all healthy and at a good weight for their individual bodies. So there is not a magical Grail of 12 pounds.

    As to feeding, can you clarify? You said you feed 3oz of Sheba twice a day. Sheba switched to the perfect portion trays that are 1.2oz each about a year ago. Do they get multiple small trays for a total for 3oz? Or do they get three trays or two trays that you are rounding to 3oz? Which variety? Pate tends to be in the low 40 calories while cuts are mid 30s. Also, specifically what dry food? Do you measure the portion or estimate?
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
    lalagimp purraised this.

  7. Norachan

    Norachan Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    May 27, 2013
    Mount Fuji, Japan
    Hi @Dargo Welcome to TCS.

    First of all, almost all domestic cats are mixed breed. There are very few pure bred cats around, so even if your cat were born to a feral mom they're not going to be much different to any other domestic cat.

    Having said that most of my cats were feral born and some of my boys are huge. Big paws, long tall frames and very solid. I guess not all feral born kittens in a litter survive so it's often the larger, stronger kittens that make it. Just a theory, anyway.

    There is no ideal weight for a cat, as Kieka said, but if your cats are having trouble moving around they could be too heavy. At 19lb and 17lb they should be getting between 400 and 350 calories a day.

    As a general rule higher protein/lower carb foods are better for cats. Could you try giving them some high protein freeze dried food as a snack instead of the kibble? How about making snack time play time as well? Something like a puzzle snack dispenser, which means they have to work a little to get the food.

    Rolling Puzzles - Food Puzzles for Cats

    I'd love to see some pictures of your boys too.

  8. Dargo

    Dargo Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Mar 13, 2019
    New York
    @Kieka - thank you for reading and responding!

    As for the pics, I'll work on snapping a couple current ones tonight and post them here.

    As for the Sheba Perfect Portions - they come in split packs of 1.3oz each, and I feed each cat both packs, for a total of 2.6oz per cat each morning, and 2.6oz per cat each evening, to be more precise. They are the plastic split packs that Sheba switched to a couple years ago. I primarily feed chicken / turkey, but since one brat is a seafood snob, they do get the signature seafood for breakfast most days. I'm working on slowly reducing seafood and going primarily with chicken / turkey. All Sheba Perfect Portions pate.

    (And for the evening feed, I add a teaspoon or so of water because one of the boys is too stubborn to drink water... fountain is on my Amazon wish list, hoping to be able to get one soon). They have a dedicated water bowl, which is meticulously kept clean of bio-film / washed / rinsed / wipe every 2 to 3 days, and replenished with fresh water daily (to keep it clean from fur and keep it oxiginated).

    As for the kibbles - I don't exactly measure anymore because I have a scoop that' approx 1/8th cup (just a little less), and they each get one scoop at night, and if they get real antsy, they get an extra sprinkle late at night, so it works out to about 1.8th cup per cat per night. The kibble is Purina One Vibrant Maturity (for 7+ older cats).

    So in total per day - each cat gets 5.2oz Sheba Pate wet food, added water in the dinner feed, and each gets 1/8th cup of Purina One Vibrant Maturity kibble.

    Thank you guys so much for your responses and for reading my long posts. Maybe I worry too much, but as you know with cats, can never be too cautious.

  9. Kieka

    Kieka Snowshoe Servant Staff Member Forum Helper

    Sep 6, 2016
    Southern California
    AM - 2 trays Seafood = 90 calories
    PM - 2 trays turkey = 90 calories
    Dry - 1/8 cup = 48 calories
    Daily total = 228 calories

    Assuming stable weight
    20 pound cat = 11.4 calories per pound
    17 pound cat = 13.4 calories per pound

    Both are already on the low side for daily calories assuming their weights are stable. The 20 calories per pound is an average. Individual cats can vary and it may be that your boys are at the lower end of calories required. Especially with them being indoor, if their activity level is low to begin with then the calorie per pound is accurate. Which would mean that if they are truly overweight you would want to reduce calories to reduce weight. However, I'd really want to see photos of them before assuming overweight.

    Weights are just too subjective when we are talking small scale of cats. These two cats are 14 pounds (standing) and 9 pounds (black one drinking) but that 5 pound difference is just not evident because of position and body type differences.


    She on the other hand is the 7.5 to 8 pound cat I mentioned. But her short squat body makes her look rounder even though I can feel every bone petting her and my vet has absolutely insisted she not drop below 7.25 pounds ever.

    Here are all three in a row, Rocket (7.5 pounds), Link (14 pounds) and Nightfury (9 pounds).


    Which isn't to say photos don't help. In my first photo you can see the hip pinch on Link, standing, which is a sign of good body weight. It's usually fairly obvious when a cat is significantly over or under weight. I would just really rather see a photo before discussing how to reduce calories more with how low they are already.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
    rubysmama purraised this.

  10. lalagimp

    lalagimp TCS Member Top Cat

    Mar 7, 2017
    Your vet is right, but your vet is dumb, and had no real information to give.
    getting these guys to lose weight was a process
    Tom took 4 years to lose 8 lbs and Stewart took 2 years to lose 4 lbs, but it started at the vet's office. While Hills has questionable ingredients, they had a prescription program that was a good fit. Metabolic formula provided the vet's office with the tools that all I did was meet with a tech, they measured my boys, they entered it into the program, and I got a chart that told me what they should weigh and what we could hope to see over time with their food, at a specific calorie intake for each. They were very spot on, but it took longer than they boasted. When they got closer to their goal weight and I got the hang of it, I moved them to a better diet formula, but it meant giving them less food because the fillers were missing.
    Tommy started at 21 lbs with a goal weight of 13.1 lbs, and apprx 230 calories per day.
    Stewart started at 16.7 lbs with a goal weight of 11.8, and appx 200 calories per day.

    We try to keep Tommy at least at 12.5, but he burns through calories because of his parkour skills and whimsy. He eats a ton of raw food a day I make myself so I can afford to feed him.
    We keep Stewart around 12.5 because his dad doesn't like him quite to svelte and it turns out he eats about half the raw food Tommy does.

    We also started all this out with five scheduled feedings through the day and have done this for almost 6 years.
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  11. She's a witch

    She's a witch TCS Member Alpha Cat

    Feb 21, 2018
    Europe/WA, USA
    Have you thought of changing their last dry meal to another portion of wet? It would increase the calories but these are calories from wet after all. Maybe for a few weeks at least to see if that would work.
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  12. GingerBear

    GingerBear TCS Member Kitten

    Jan 11, 2019
    My experience with weight loss was that I really had to go ALL IN. Just trying to feed smaller portions wasn't working out. Also, my vet told me to feed less wet and more dry! I did the opposite and cut the kibble entirely, if you think that's something you could try. I started with the 20 calories/lb as a guide and tracked the calories she was getting. I bought a baby scale for weekly weighing to make sure she was losing and at a safe rate. I even had a spreadsheet, lol. :geekcat:I think we finally landed on 1.75 cans Fancy Feast daily, plus a few Temptations treats. It took about a year for her to lose 2 lbs.

  13. Dargo

    Dargo Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Mar 13, 2019
    New York
    Everyone - I'm SO grateful for your replies and insight and sharing your experiences / knowledge. It's been a hectic few days but I managed to get some new photos of our boys and I'm working on cropping them (I know nothing is truly private on the web, but I don't need the world to see pics of my entire home, so I'm cropping them down to just the kitties). As some of you already know, some cats are hard to photograph because when they're "around" for a photo they're in motion, so I'm weeding-out the blurry photos etc... and trying to narrow it down to just a few relevant photos of each displaying their body form.

    In the meantime while I get the photos ready, a few things I can respond to:

    - We did try to cut kibbles out but they were already kibble-addicted due to our own lack of knowledge and letting them have almost whatever they wanted for the first 6 or 7 years. However, starting about 20 months ago we began gradually reducing kibbles in favors of more wet food. Now dry food is considered a once (sometimes twice) per day "treat" so to speak, and we keep it to 1/8th cup per cat per day limit, whereas years ago they used to get probably twice that. We didn't start reducing dry food until we noticed weight gain. I realize our mistake, and gradually corrected that over the past few years. (Or at least based on what I've read on sites like this and things vets have said, we're doing better by them by keeping the dry to a minimum and having the wet as their primary source for the past few years). When we've tried cutting the kibble down to none, one of them goes absolutely insane. Constant begging. We've even put up a little curtain at times near the food dish so as to not have the staring / yowling / begging so prevalent, but due to the fact that they were used to getting kibbles when they wanted for the first 7 years, it doesn't quite seem feasible to completely stop the kibbles entirely at their age (almost 11 now). We started trying that at around age 9, by gradually cutting kibble portions, an even tried switching to an expensive grain-free one entirely (Wellness and Blue were ones we tried) and it did not go well. So instead of switching back to the cheapest kibbles, a couple years ago we switched them to Purina One Vibrant Maturity - a "happy medium" so to speak.

    - Before I took on this journey of trying to help them with weight control, I did a lot of reading and so I knew that changes had to be gradual, and that's how we've done every transition - gradually - so as not to try for rapid weight loss, but rather, health gradual adjustment.

    - Yes, we have tried replacing their evening kibble with wet instead, but it caused them stress and as above, one of them is very kibble-addicted, and at this stage in life it's trying to tell a 65 year old farmer they he can't eat steak anymore. They're not OK with it. So, they get just enough to say "here buddy, here's your kibble fix, but it's not a lot".

    - The most recent vet that I consulted with (Emergency vet, one night when one of the boys was so constipated we had to bring him to ER in the middle of the night and have them clear him / enema... she said there was enough poop backed-up in him to match a medium to large dog) , and she said that we shouldn't feel bad about going back to less expensive non-grain-free kibbles, and that her cats get ONLY dry food and they're healthy / perfect weight. She said that she thinks we're doing the right thing, which was encouraging, but we would still like to see them healthier. One of the boys in particular is very affected by his size - trouble getting out of soft pillow chairs, signs of hip pain on occasion.

    I think the rest will make more sense and will make it easier for all of you to comment on once I post photos, hopefully tonight I'll be able to post them.

    Thank you again, I'm truly grateful for the replies!
    rubysmama and Kieka purraised this.

  14. Kflowers

    Kflowers TCS Member Top Cat

    Jul 28, 2018
    I think you might want to consider joint medicine - arthritis which can happen at any age. We use dasuquin and it made a world of difference for our cat. We get it from Chewy, inexpensive. If cats hurt they won't exercise which slows their metabolisms.

    there's also a chance that you've cut their calories to the point where their bodies are conserving everything - starvation mode - no weight loss. It also makes it where they aren't inclined to move. Same thing happens to people. Count calories, go high protein, low carbs. But feed them enough that they are comfortable exercising. You don't want them to lose muscle mass, that's very bad.

  15. ailish

    ailish TCS Member Alpha Cat

    Nov 7, 2016
    My suggestion is to feed calories, not cans or cups. Cat food varies widely by how many calories are in a can or cup. Figure out how many calories you want to feed based on weight maintenance/loss/gain and then look at your foods and determine what volume of each food you need per meal to get to your daily calorie count. An additional advantage to this is that when a cat comes to you with the age old feline song and dance about how they haven't been fed in the past week you know exactly how much they have been fed and won't get guilted into extra food.

    For example, my Ailish is 8 lbs, which is a good weight for her. At 20 calories per pound per day that's 160 cals per day. I want to feed her four times a day, so that's 40 calories per meal. So I make up a chart of how much of each food by weight equals 40 calories. So if we're eating Weruva Mideast Feast, we look at the chart and see that 40 calories of that will be 1.6 ozs (made up number, I don't have this memorized). So I dish out 1.6 ozs and we are good. Just to illustrate how different cat food can be, of the foods I feed, 40 calories can be anywhere from 1.1 to 2.5 ozs of food. This isn't really a lot of work once you get your frequently used food charted. People in my family think I'm nuts, but whatever. I know exactly what my cat is getting, so if I need to make adjustments I can.

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