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Trying To Keep Older Cat Weight Up...

Discussion in 'Cat Nutrition' started by dkperez, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. dkperez

    dkperez Thread Starter TCS Member Adult Cat

    Jun 9, 2008
    Northfield, MN
    Yup, another question about getting the cat to eat more.

    We've had our 11-year-old indoor cat for at least 10 years. Early on, we fed wet food twice/day and kept dry food available all the time. Worked fine.

    A couple years ago our vet commented that she was slowly losing weight so we tried some higher-calorie wet foods and different dry foods, but continued feeding twice/day. Not long after that our vet recommended we feed wet food more frequently (morning, noon, evening), so we tried a bunch of canned foods from local pet suppliers that carry a variety of standard wet foods.

    We usually mix a small amount of slightly diluted chicken broth with the wet food (vet recommended this to provide additional moisture), and warm the food slightly so it's at least room temperature.

    Some she ate, though grudgingly, most she wouldn't even touch. Beef, chicken, turkey, didn't seem to matter. Then we found the individual servings for Iams and Crave and switched to those. This way there's no old food sitting in the fridge and we know how much we're feeding. Continued to use the broth.

    Cat appeared to like the Iam's pate, Crave pate' and especially like the Crave Chicken in Gravy and Crave Turkey in Gravy.

    In general, she's a nibbler, not a gobbler, and she would eat the broth and some of the food from each feeding. But she rarely finished the whole serving and we'd remove it prior to the next feeding to avoid having old food sitting out.

    We also tried several different dry foods since she has never been much of a dry food eater, and she SEEMED to prefer one of the Fromm's dry. She occasionally nibbles a little dry food, but seems to MUCH prefer the wet food to the dry.

    At her checkup last year (year and a half ago?) the vet found some tooth issues, and the cat had x-rays, a couple bad teeth pulled, and other vet oral care things. Recovered fine, vet says she's fine...

    At her most recent checkup, earlier this year, she was pronounced healthy, with no oral problems. But, her weight is still lower than it was a couple years ago.

    But, even with the recommendation to add a "treat" like Meow Mix prior to bed-time, she's still not gaining any weight. She's active when she wants to be, appears happy and healthy, and doesn't show any signs of discomfort, but she's only eating a portion, sometimes half, sometimes most, of the 1.3 oz individual portions we're feeding her four times/day. This is still LESS wet food than was recommended in our Internet search that seemed to think this 10 pound cat should be served about 6 oz/day.

    And, she's not gaining any weight. I'm not sure if she's LOSING, but she's not gaining.

    We don't feed beef as every time we do, the cat gets sick and vomits up the food. We feed exclusively chicken and turkey. We tried a couple varieties of seafood, but found bones in them so we have not been feeding any seafood.

    Most recently she's decided she likes the turkey in gravy but DOESN'T like the chicken in gravy.

    SO, long, boring way to get to the question...

    Am I correct that wet food should NOT be left out for long periods?

    Is there something we can put on/in the wet food that will encourage her to eat more of it? Are there wet foods that come in individual servings that are better or worse than others? Our research led us to the foods we've been service as they have less ash than some others, more protein than some, and so on. Are there other things we can we do to induce her to eat more?
    PushPurrCatPaws purraised this.

  2. FeebysOwner

    FeebysOwner TCS Member Top Cat

    Jun 13, 2018
    Central FL (Born in OH)
    Hi. I feed Feeby (14+ yo) 1/3 can of wet food daily, and dry the rest of the day. She is a grazer and I have trouble getting her to eat 1/3 can in less than 2-3 hours. I have to continually scoop it up, and call her back to eat more, throughout the entire time until she is finally done. The remainder of the can is covered and put in the fridge and used over the course of two more days. It seems fine. Feeby is so 'unpicky' that she will eat the other portions of the can cold - right from the fridge. But, others on this site have actually warmed up refrigerator food via warm water or microwave.

    Since my girl is overweight, it probably is because she gets a bite (or two) of human chicken, turkey, or fish daily. I have even given her bites of hamburger, and filet mignon (left over from dinner out at a restaurant). I don't think it is unhealthy, and it is not her sole source of food. So, you might want to start adding a few bites of human foods here and there!

    Others on this site will come along with ways to keep wet food out longer, using ice packs, etc. Some will tell you they keep it out for up to 8 hours (I wouldn't). There will be some suggestions, I am sure, for individual type servings that might even offer a few extra calories. And, I have heard of over the counter food stimulants, that some on this site will likely advise you about as well. I hope you from them soon!!

  3. mrsgreenjeens

    mrsgreenjeens Every Life Should Have Nine Cats Staff Member Advisor

    Aug 13, 2009
    You can try adding egg yolks to her food, although some cats won't eat them. Cooked or raw, doesn't matter. But if raw, don't add in any of the whites. Egg yolks are great protein and a good source of calories as long as long s she doesn't have kidney disease, which she shouldn't since your Vet pronounced her in good healthy. You could also see if she'll drink raw goat's milk or KMR, which, again, some cats love and others don't. But it has calories, which is what you're looking for. For treats, try giving her some PureBites turkey or chicken. It's 100% pure meat, nothing else. It's been freeze dried and is fairly calories if you give enough. I use it as toppers when my guys are being picky, but also as treats. Then there is always Nutrical, which comes in a tube. Some cats will lick it right off your finger, others not so much. And do look at the calories in whatever cat food you feed. There is actually a vast difference from can to can, depending on the food. Some 3 oz cans have only 40 calories, and others have 110! Makes a big difference.
    m3rma1d and PushPurrCatPaws purraised this.

  4. lisahe

    lisahe TCS Member Top Cat

    Mar 23, 2014
    These recommendations and suggestions from mrsgreenjeens are pretty close to what I'd suggest, too, with the addition that you can buy powdered egg yolk, too: our cats like it! (I buy it online from Food Fur Life.)

    Checking the calorie counts is a great reminder, though if a cat would eat two 40-calorie cans and won't touch something at 100, I'd go to the two 40s. ;) The chart on this vet page is a great place to compare calories.

    I know you said the vet gave your cat -- by the way, what is her name, @dkperez? -- a clean bill of health, but if she has a tendency to vomit beef whenever you feed it to her, that makes me suspicious about a food sensitivity or inflammatory bowel disease. (Here's a page from the Cornell University Vet School.) Of course if you've already recognized the problem and taken beef out of your cat's diet, that's half the battle, but even so, the disease can be mysterious and the symptoms can come and go. (Our previous cat most likely had IBD -- her symptoms were initially very infrequent.)

    As for the original question, we've left food out overnight for our cats -- I wouldn't do that in the summer but during a northern winter I certainly don't think it's a problem. The main thing is whether a cat will eat the slightly dried food. (Ours will and one even seems to enjoy it that way!)
    PushPurrCatPaws and mrsgreenjeens purraised this.

  5. dkperez

    dkperez Thread Starter TCS Member Adult Cat

    Jun 9, 2008
    Northfield, MN
    Thanks for the replies...

    We’ve been told, by the various cat sites as well as our vet, that wet food is preferable to dry since it contains more moisture and if I recall correctly, had more calories per volume. So, we’ve been feeding wet, which the cat seems to prefer, though we keep dry in a bowl for her to nibble.

    The cat’s name is Brownie, which was the name she had when we adopted her from the rescue shelter years ago. She’s a normal domestic short-hair with a calm and friendly disposition, and she spends much of her time curled in one of the heated cat beds next to my workspace.

    I looked at the food chart, and I’ll have to look more to figure out what’s in there that may be useful to me (as near as I could tell it didn’t show any of the single-serving foods), but we’ve done the cans in the past and didn’t much like having the food sitting around in the fridge, having to reheat and so on. Which is why we went to single serving foods. They’re also handy when we’re traveling in the RV.

    It sounds like many people in here feed one food, and only once or maybe twice/day. We’re currently feeding a couple different foods, and feeding several times/day. Is feeding a larger amount, less frequently, and leaving the food out longer, better than what we’re doing (feeding smaller 1.3 oz servings 3 – 4 times/day?

    We can certainly go back to the small cans and continue to feed several times a day if this is a method more likely to keep her weight up.

    I’m sure most everyone in here has their preferred food, but is there a widely acceptable BRAND of chicken and/or turkey that’s readily available, reasonably priced, has a reasonably high calorie content with low ash? Are there other things I should be looking for in the food?

    We can certainly supplement with some human food, adding a little chicken or some such on occasion. I'll look for the powdered egg yokes to see if they may be a good addition.

  6. LTS3

    LTS3 TCS Member Staff Member Forum Helper

    Aug 29, 2014
    Did the vet check B12 levels? Low B12 levels can result in weight loss even though the cat is otherwise healthy.

    Try toppers to entice the cat to eat: crushed up treats, FortiFlora, tuna juice, etc.

    Sheba makes those little trays of food that are essentially single servings.

  7. di and bob

    di and bob TCS Member Top Cat

    Dec 12, 2012
    Nebraska, USA
    Have you tried kitten food,m either dry or wet? it is higher in nutrition and calories. My older cat loved kitten chow. Turkey/chicken Gerber baby food could be tried too. When my Burt became way too thin at 16 and was at the end of his life, he got what he would eat, including bacon, Arby's roast beef, and deli fried chicken. I just wanted to make sure he ate, and the nutrition wasn't watched as close, just getting him to eat anything was top priority.
    I would think feeding smaller meals several times daily is better for a geriatric cat and their system, then leaving food out. single servings are perfect for that. It's just a lot of work to try all the different brands and see what they will eat, but very satisfying when you find one!
    Docs Mom, m3rma1d and Kflowers purraised this.

  8. mrsgreenjeens

    mrsgreenjeens Every Life Should Have Nine Cats Staff Member Advisor

    Aug 13, 2009
    I believe that wet food is better. This is simply (IMHO) because cats don't really drink that much so if they don't get quite a bit of moisture in their food, then I feel their bodies are just too dry. That's why so many of them have kidney problems and chronic constipation as they get older. Again, this is just my opinion, no science behind it as far as I know. Not only do I feed wet food, I even add extra filtered water to their food.

    Personally, I feed at least 3 times per day, sometimes more, depending on what my day looks like. But I'm retired so am usually home. One of my cats prefers to eat pretty much the same thing day in and day out. I am constantly trying to get him to eat other cat food though, just in case of recalls, etc. Every once in awhile I find something he'll eat, but as soon as I buy a case of it, he stops :rolleyes2: He likes his Nutro Chicken Loaf, and I actually prefer it in the 3 oz can vs those new single serve containers. Seems like every time I pull back the tops of those new containers, half of the gel stuff pops out all over me :nervous:. So with the small can, I just dish up half of it and put a lid on it and stick it in the fridge. About an hour before the next meal, I take it out of the fridge to reach room temp. Our other guy likes variety, but he also eats raw, so no cans or packets for him. I pull out some freeze dried raw and rehydrate it for him in warm water and we're good to go.

    Oh, BTW, I just looked up the egg yolk powder since I use it to prevent hairballs and need to order more, and the caloric value is much less than using actual egg yolks. Not sure why, but a whole egg yolk contains around 55 calories, and a teaspoon of the powder is only 16 calories. Quite a difference.

    As far as wet food goes, maybe this article will help: What Makes The Best Canned Cat Food?
    PushPurrCatPaws purraised this.

  9. daftcat75

    daftcat75 TCS Member Top Cat

    Sep 7, 2018
    Older cats have slower digestion just like older people which means it can take more food, more often to keep their weight up.

    My Krista, 14 years young, has well-managed IBD. It stripped her of 1/3 of her weight (down from 9 lbs to 6 at her lowest.) B-12 was essential for her recovery. She now bounces between 7.5 and 8 lbs. Some of that is because my scale is unreliable but some of that was a stubborn hairball problem that only recently has started to come under control. She eats 2 oz meals, 4 times a day for anywhere from 210-240 calories, on average. No dry food for her. She cleans her plate every time.

    Maybe Brownie just needs food that excites her?

    Krista didn't like leftovers either. She would reject or regurgitate them until I discovered her two largest objections with leftovers: old food and cold food. For old food, I dump the unused portion after 48 hours. A Monday can is dumped on Wednesday before a new can is opened. I'll even write Mon-Tues on a sticker and put it on the can or the can cover to remind myself how long I can feed from that can. For cold food, I have a food scale and weigh her portion into a plastic baggie. I set my kitchen sink faucet to body temperature (approximately 100F.) I have this measured and marked off but you can estimate this as slightly cooler than how you like your bath water. Run the food in the baggie under the body temperature water until no chill remains. Don't microwave her leftovers. Not only does it destroy nutrients, but it can change the texture of the food making it potentially less appetizing.

    Last tip, go easy on the egg yolk or egg yolk powder. Egg yolk is a powerful laxative. Start small and go slow. You can work up to a therapeutic dose over a number of weeks. But you may get loose stools if you give too much too quickly.
    m3rma1d and PushPurrCatPaws purraised this.

  10. sabrinah

    sabrinah TCS Member Super Cat

    Jun 6, 2016
    I keep my 15-year-old cat around 12ish pounds. She could stand to lose 1-1.5 lbs, but I want her to have a little wiggle room just in case she gets sick and starts dropping weight. She's pretty much sedentary so she only gets around 200 calories a day. She's fed twice a day (1.5 oz raw, 1 heaping tablespoon of dry) and gets a couple treats before bed. She's a grazer too, but she's learned to finish her raw within 2 hours. She picks at her dry throughout the day/night. When I fed canned instead of raw, I always just left it out until the next meal. Generally, she finished it within a few hours but sometimes she would be finishing her breakfast just as I was getting her dinner ready. I've never had an issue with leaving food out.

    The only topper/add-in my cat likes is Stella & Chewy freeze dried. Everything else repels her, so I can't help in that department. Fish oil (if you can find one your cat is willing to eat) is a good way to sneak in a few extra calories.

  11. kmoulus

    kmoulus TCS Member Young Cat

    Jan 15, 2016
    My cat has always been a grazer and very trim. Now that she is elderly with advanced cardiac disease, weight loss is a real issue. She is 6.2 pounds and my vet is happy if she just doesn't lose any weight. So I spend an inordinate amount of tie thinking about her diet.

    Speedy also prefers warm food, many cats do. I also use the hot water method. I fill a bowl and sit the can or pouch in a hot water bath for a few minutes.

    Speedy eats mostly Weruva puree. Weruva tens to be lower calorie, and Speedy prefers chicken which is also lower calorie. But she eats much more of this food than other brands, so she's getting at least the same number of calories or more. If Brownie cant eat beef, have you tried rabbit? That tends to be higher calorie and Speedy like the Merrick limited ingredient rabbit.

  12. daftcat75

    daftcat75 TCS Member Top Cat

    Sep 7, 2018
    I think cats who have access to food all the time are not inclined to eat large meals. Hungry cats eat large meals. If you want her to eat more, take away the dry and put her on scheduled feedings. Let her get hungry between meals so that she eagerly eats her portions when they are made available to her.

  13. lisahe

    lisahe TCS Member Top Cat

    Mar 23, 2014
    I think there's something to that.

    Our skinnier cat -- the one who's a slower, less motivated eater -- has been eating more in the last couple of weeks, ever since we reduced the cats' daily feedings from five to four. Ireland now not only gets hungrier between meals but tends to finish her meals much better than ever so the volume of food she's eating is greater than it used to be. Meanwhile, Edwina, who's always had a tendency to eat too much (we fed five meals a day because she scarfs and barfs) seems to be eating a little less over all. This is also a positive. Of course I find this weird (and don't understand why the eating habits for both cats have changed, in opposite directions) but then again, they are cats!

  14. dkperez

    dkperez Thread Starter TCS Member Adult Cat

    Jun 9, 2008
    Northfield, MN
    Sorry to be so slow getting back - things have gotten a little crazy........

    We've been feeding a variety of the single serving foods 'cause we KNOW her royal highness doesn't like leftovers OR cold food (we've been warming slightly in the microwave for years).

    And we feed a couple different ones 'cause after trying at least a dozen of the foods, these are the ones she SEEMS to like the best. At the moment we have a chicken pate, a turkey pate, and chicken Meow Mix... Sometimes she eats everything in a couple hours sometimes she eats very little.

    We still KEEP dry food out, but she RARELY eats any, and often, when she DOES eat the dry food, she throws it up. So we're pretty much feeding wet food.

    We're now supplementing with chicken or turkey baby food, and she seems to like the baby food.

    Are there ANY of the single serving foods that are fish that are actually safe to feed the cat? I didn't see it, but my wife tried SOMETHING that was ocean catch or tuna or something, and when she took it out of the can she could SEE fish bones as she pulled the food apart. Whatever that food was did NOT get fed. So, are there any recommended SINGLE SERVING foods that are seafood?

    We'll also see if we can find some single serving kitten foods.

    Worst case we can add tuna juice, although our vet has had us adding a small amount of diluted chicken broth to her food for a long time.

  15. daftcat75

    daftcat75 TCS Member Top Cat

    Sep 7, 2018
    How about a little raw in place of baby food or in addition to it? Since Rad Cat went out business, commercial raw is difficult to find the right one and to trust the bone content. I’m going to recommend just finding either frozen boneless cuts or game meat patties (as long as nothing else like spices was added.). Buy your meat from the frozen section. I don’t trust what they do in the refrigerated section to make the meat look better or last longer. Thaw the frozen meat in the fridge or under cold water until you can slice off a portion. Start with a tablespoon and increase per day (not per meal) if it’s well received on both ends. Take that portion into a plastic baggie and run it under body temperature water (just a bit cooler than you like your bath water) until it’s warm enough for her. Do not microwave! Plate and serve. This will be unbalanced, not a nutritionally complete food, but then neither is baby food. Feed this as a treat. If she likes it and you’re okay with the extra effort (don’t shortcut it with the microwave), you can buy supplement mixes to make it a nutritionally complete food. Otherwise, try to keep the unbalanced portions of her diet to no more than 10% of her total food intake or you risk creating deficiencies over time. I couldn’t bribe my Krista to eat enough Tiki Cat (human grade seafood cat food, there you go!) to gain weight after IBD and pancreatitis. But when we started turkey Rad Cat, it’s like she was waiting her whole life for real food. Clean plates every time and she’s been putting weight back on. I used to beg and plead with her to get her to eat 6 oz of food over six meals. Now I tell her she’s being a food-obsessed bully because she wants more than 8 oz over four meals.

    If your kitty has been losing weight or eating underweight for a long time, ask about getting her B-12 levels checked or starting the B-12 shots anyway because any excess is harmless excreted via the urine. Once B-12 deficiency sets in though, it’s too difficult to correct via diet. Subcutaenous shots will be necessary. Weight gain will be exceedingly difficult with a B-12 deficiency. I’m sure you’ll find the B-12 will perk her up and probably improve her appetite too.

    Finally, I would pick up some nutritonal gel like Cat Cal or Nutri Cal. This can be a lifesaver getting her to eat or getting extra nutrition in her. You can either put a small glob (like a pea-sized amount) on her plate or you can take that amount with a little water and make a gravy. Either way, if she’s anything like Krista, this will also perk her up and give her appetite a little boost. Not enough to beg for more food, but maybe several more bites when she’s ready to walk away early.

  16. GalaxyGirl

    GalaxyGirl TCS Member Adult Cat

    Jul 26, 2018
    Get a surefeed sealed pet bowl to keep the wet from drying out up to 12 hours. That way she est in demand.

  17. GracieAllen

    GracieAllen TCS Member Kitten

    May 22, 2019
    Thanks for all the thoughts and help...

    It's been 6 - 7 months. At the LAST vet visit they recommended we start using Mirtazapine to help her appetite. Started with the pills - NOT a great success. Switched to the liquid.

    In THEORY she should be getting about 3.88mg per dose, which in the concentration we have is .375 ml every other day.

    That gives her all the symptoms reported by other people in here. So we started reducing the dosage, and we're currently using .15ml so she's getting about 1.2mg. She sometimes still drools a drop or two (mostly none) and does some vocalizing (but she's always had opinions and was eager to share them), but overall very few symptoms...

    And she EATS! Just had a vet visit earlier this month, and she's gone from 7.2 pounds to 8.4. She looks better, fur is shinier and she has more energy.

    We recently had a problem with her expelling from both ends - food went in and came right back, along with VERY black, tarry stool that wound up everywhere she was. A visit to the vet showed some digestive bacterial issues (not enough good ones, too many bad ones) so she had a week of antibiotics and anti-nausea meds. The vet also recommended going back to the Hill's id and adding probiotics, so we've done that.

    So far it seems to be working...

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