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Poor, pitiful, pudgy puddy. Stressed feline dieting nightmare.

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Old 09-28-2009, 12:20 PM   #1
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Default Poor, pitiful, pudgy puddy. Stressed feline dieting nightmare.

How's that for a tongue twister?

We have a very fat middle-aged cat. When we brought her home from the Humane Society, about a year and a half ago she weighed 18 lbs. She is a big cat, not just a fat cat, so her health weight could be 12 lbs or more. She currently weighs about 16 lbs.

As much as I knew about human dieting, I thought putting a cat on a diet would be a breeze -after all, a cat can't raid the fridge.

One of the first things we did was get her a lower calorie "senior formula" cat food. She didn't like it, but being the only option, she did eventually get used to it.

However, we also discovered that the fewer calories you feed this cat, the less she moves.

Instead of free-feeding here, or feeding her twice a day, we started giving her frequent, but very tiny meals throughout the day. This backfired, as she began begging constantly.

We tried returning her to two larger meals, but when she has more than a smidge of food in her bowl, she'll scarf it so fast she throws up.

We've got her down to 3 or 4 meals, but the begging is horrible. She's got a lot of tricks to get extra food. She'll try to fool us into thinking the other hasn't fed her (so we're always yelling across the apartment whether she's been fed yet or not, because she puts on quite an impressive performance).

We've got our routine down fairly well, but in the past month we've been preparing for a move, packing and cleaning (Move day is Thursday), and our cat, like many, HATES change. She's been extremely annoyed, agitated, and disturbed by all of the changes in the house, and her food begging has become relentless and completely maddening.

She's always begging, and even though we give her her same sized meals at about the same time every day, since we've started the move process, she's constantly crying at her food bowl (and chewing on the cardboard packing boxes in frustration). Every morning, she seems to be waking me earlier and earlier for breakfast.

Today it was 5:00 am (or earlier, as I got the sense that she'd been trying to wake me for a while, before I noticed). Breakfast isn't until 8:30, so she usually doesn't start trying to wake me up until about 8:00. She has learned that "crabby, demanding kitty," earns her a time out in the bathroom, so she usually starts out being all lovey, hoping we'll get the hint and give her breakfast. Then, when she gets desperate she starts being a nuissance (then she'll get a time out in the bathroom, but when she comes out breakfast is usually ready).

It's so much like human dieting, that I can't help but sympathize. With all of the changes in the house, kitty is responding to the stress by begging for more food. It just hit home to me how stress-eating isn't always a reflection of deep-rooted emotional trauma. It's completely natural for a food-restricted creature to seek out food in stressful situations (I recently read that rat and primate studies have concluded the same thing).

I can't wait until we've moved and settled in, because it's hard enough to control my own food issues, without having to deal with the cat's.
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Old 09-28-2009, 12:28 PM   #2
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Poor widdle kitty.

I don't have much to say on the topic of a dieting cat, but I heard at a conference that one possible reason that humans (so maybe other mammals) turn to food in times of stress is because throughout time, the most common chronic stressful situation has been lack of a reliable food source. It made a lot of sense to me. Perhaps our bodies respond to stress the way mammals have for many many years....seeking out and partaking of any nutrition available.
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Old 09-28-2009, 12:45 PM   #3
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There's a lot of interesting research that sheds light on why it's so difficult to maintain a healthy weight, especially in our modern culture.

The social stuff makes sense to me. I think I've been taught to think of dieting as a mostly mental thing. I'm learning, though that there are a whole lot more physiological things going on, than I've ever imagined. Some people argue that such information leads to excuse making (I can't help it I'm fat, it's in my genes), but I think knowledge is power, and the more you know the more tools you have to change (Knowing that I'm not "crazy" to feel hungry under stress, helps me deal with stress more productively).

A recent study found that restricting calories (even healthy dieting) suppresses immunity, at least temporary (whether or not the person is overweight). So while weight loss (assuming you need to lose) is healthy in the long-run, your resistance to germs can be reduced.

That could be another way that eating in response to stress could actually have survival value in "the wild" - in that eating can shore up the immune system, at least in the short-run. There are so many ways that we humans have removed ourselves from the "natural" world, it seems we have to go to very unnatural measures to compensate for the differences between a natural and modern lifestyle - not that natural is always better. In "the wild" and even today in many tribal societies today, old age is not a common cause of death.
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Old 09-28-2009, 02:17 PM   #4
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Have you tried canned food, or a higher protein/lower carb food? They find more cats are lower weight and more satisfied on on these. Of course, it's still a diet, and there's no magic wand!
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Old 09-28-2009, 05:16 PM   #5
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Yes, we've tried canned foods, but we haven't found one yet that she will eat that doesn't make her sick. She'll either ignore it, lick off the "gravy" and leave the solids, or she'll wolf it down and then vomit it back up. We've tried changing gradually (adding more and more wet food), but she'll pick out the kibble and leave the wet food behind (or scarf and barf). We've tried to ride it out, figuring she'd eventually get hungry enough to eat it, but we've given in every time by about the third or fourth day. She's also very weird about her food and food bowl. If food falls on the floor around her bowl, she won't eat it. This morning when she woke me at 5:00, there was quite a bit of food that had fallen out of her bowl, but she won't eat those. Once it falls onto the floor, she no longer recognizes it as food. She'll only eat it if it's in her bowl - except wet food. Even the canned food she would eat, couldn't be placed in her bowl - she wouldn't even sample it unless it was either on a paper plate or in those individual cups that some brands come in.

We had our neighbor down the hall come and feed her twice a day when we were out of town, and even though she beg and cry when John came in the door to feed her, she wouldn't eat

She's got a very peculiar carb-addiction. We can't leave any human food unattended, but especially carby foods. I've never seen a cat before who would steal the bread and not the meat from a sandwhich. If she hears anyone eating something crispy (like "baked" Lays potato chips), she'll come running and "beg" (like a dog, sitting on her haunches with her paws tucked to her chest).

I think the problem is that at nearly 10 years old (almost 9 when we brought her home). She's set in her ways, and wants things done the way she's used to. It's funny because we do get some insight into what her life was like before us. Soon after we got her, we found that she has a french-fry addiction. We don't eat fast food very often, so we never saw her reaction to french fries until my husband and his friend were doing some errands together and brought home lunch from McDonald's. My husband's friend set the McDonald's bag on the end table, and the cat leaped to the chair, snagged a couple french fries and took off like a rocket with her stolen treasures. It was the only thing we've ever seen her run for.

I think the new apartment will be helpful, because there's a lot of room in the apartment for us to play with her, and try to get her more active.
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Old 09-29-2009, 09:50 AM   #6
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About her eating so fast she throws up...

I have a friend who has a cat that does that and her vet suggested instead of putting her food in a bowl to spread it on the floor so she has no choice but to eat is slower. My friend didn't like putting her cats food on the floor so she puts it on a big cookie sheet and shakes it around so the food is spread out. She gives her half of the food on the cookie sheet and when kitty is almost done she spreads the other half on there.
This worked for her cat. Maybe it will work for yours.
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Old 10-06-2009, 11:43 PM   #7
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that's sad to hear she's struggling with her diet. also fascinating though to hear how cat dieting appears more challenging than human dieting! What brand of foods have you tried? You might consider Chicken soup for the cat lover's soul -- they have wet and dry formulas so you could try whichever she likes best, and see what happens. They're all natural and made with fresh ingredients and pretty affordable for a high quality food.

good luck -- hope she is feeling better and healthier soon!
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Old 10-11-2009, 03:46 PM   #8
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Thumbs up Wellness CORE brand sold by PetCo

I have a 5 year old cat who lives indoors. I keep her dry food out all day, and fill it when empty. She has stayed under 8 pounds all her life. I don't feed her any people food or snacks, and she keeps fit mostly on her own. I work full-time and play with her at night, give her lots of affection, but don't do as much exercise-play with her as I probably should

I have feed her a mix of dry foods through her life - mostly Iams Kitten formula or Purina One Kitten, but I didn't like the grain fillers used by these brands. Iams' has Corn Meal as their 3rd ingredient, after Chicken & Chicken By-Product Meal. Purina is almost the same, with Corn Gluten Meal.

Reading that cats are not designed to eat carbs (except for bits of greens and the random stomach contents of their pray in nature), like the corn/wheat/rice commonly used as fillers in dry food, I switched her to the grain-free "Wellness CORE" brand sold by PetCo. It's the highest protein dry food I could find. She started to eat much less but seemed happy and content... Plus she lost 2 pounds in 1 year, and is now at 6 pounds! The vet assured me this was fine and joked I put her on "Catkins" It is more expensive than the normal store brands, but this bag lasts her a longer time. I'd guess 3 times as long, judging by how much I fill her bowl.

I'd feed her the wet version of CORE if it was up to me (I think wet food is better for her) but she goes on a hunger strike with wet food, so I conceded to feed her the dry
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Old 10-11-2009, 06:41 PM   #9
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We do feed her dry brands that are low carb, mostly protein - but hubby has a bad habit of "sharing" his high-carb snacks with her. He's doing better.

Actually, I think the cat is going to be doing much better in the new apartment. It's weird, but in the old apartment (tiny, dark, with few windows), she slept more than not, and it was really hard to encourage her to play. She'd play for a minute or two and then go off to hide and sleep somewhere (you'd be able to track her by her loud snoring).

The new apartment is almost 1200 square feet (the old one was under 800), very open with a lot of windows. The door is even floor to ceiling window with an internal blind system.

The cat is spending alot more time exploring the new apartment, looking out the windows, playing with her toys, or with us (I even got some exercise, playing with her), and she's even eating less and begging less.

It's not a total solution, but it's a start.
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Old 10-12-2009, 10:31 PM   #10
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Great news... glad to hear that kitty is adapting... Good luck in your new place..
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Old 10-12-2009, 11:27 PM   #11
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She's acting much more like a "normal" cat. I think the brightness of the apartment, and being able to see outdoors really is helping her (it's helping me too).

We're more active in the house too - doing laundry, still unpacking, decorating, cooking more often - and the cat is following us everywhere - she's really getting quite a bit of walking done (me too), and jumping, climbing, leaping (not me there, just the cat). She's very motivated by the windows, she loves looking outside. Our last apartment had only one window that was accessible to her. In this apartment, every room except the kitchen has a bright window with a very deep sill (a slimmer cat could jump to the sill and lie in the window. The ledge is a bit too narrow for Chub Chub - but we're going to get her a cat climbing apparatus (or make one) that will take her to the window with the best view. She's also playing with her toys more.

I don't know if she's reacting to the fact that WE like the new home so much more, or whether the things that made it nice for us (lots of space, new - so no last-tenant smells to deal with, bright rooms, lots of open windows, with pretty nice views...).

We've been laughing at her antics so much, because she's so much more active here than in the old apartment. I really wonder if depression is contagious (I know it can be from human to human living with a depressed person - but I never heard of it rubbing off from a person onto a cat, but maybe).

I know I'm much happier here and so is hubby, so maybe Chub Chub senses that.
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