When was the last time you
saw an obese lion? How about a chubby cheetah? Or a fat
tiger? Have you ever seen an overweight leopard or panther?
If you have ever watched nature programs on TV, I am sure that you know
the answer to the questions just posed.
The answer is "never".
The next questions are also
easy ones to answer - even if you are like me and turn your head when
these scenes pop up on the screen!
Do these wild cats eat a dryfood diet that is full of starchy carbohydrates in the form of
grains? Do they eat a water-depleted diet in the form of
dry kibble? Is their diet one that derives much of its protein
from plants (versus meat) as is true of many dry food diets?
The answers are, again,
simple: "no", "no", and "no".
There was a wonderful program
on the TLC channel a few years ago entitled Honey We're Killing the Kids.
This program addressed the obesity epidemic in this country - starting
with what we are feeding to our children. Americans are eating
themselves right into an early grave but that is their choice. Our
cats, on the other hand, do not have a choice and are stuck with
whatever their human caregiver decides to put on their dinner plate and
we owe it to them to feed a healthy diet.
This webpage could be aptly named Honey, We're Killing our Pets.
If you have not read
my article entitled Feeding Your Cat: Know the
Basics of Feline Nutrition, I urge you to do so now and then come
back to this page. In order for you to understand how to tackle
feline obesity, you must first understand how to properly feed a cat.
After all, cats, like humans, do not become obese if they are eating a
healthy, species-appropriate diet with their caloric intake properly balanced with
their caloric expenditure.
Please note that I used the
word "healthy" in the above statement. People and animals can,
indeed, maintain an appropriate weight even when eating an unhealthy
diet. So, to that end, it is very important to understand that
even if you have a cat that is at an appropriate weight, this does not
necessarily mean that he is eating a healthy diet.
As outlined in my
Feeding Your Cat article, your cat has a much
better chance of optimal health if he is fed a canned food
diet instead of dry kibble.
Dry food is not a healthy diet for any cat because it is:
Obligate carnivores are
designed to meet their energy needs with calories supplied by protein
and fat - not by carbohydrates. The average prey (birds, mice,
rabbits, etc.) of
a wild cat is made up of only 3 - 5% of calories from carbohydrates. Now
consider that dry kibble diets generally range from 35% - 50%
carbohydrate calories and you will see a serious disconnect between what the cat is designed
to eat and what Man insists on feeding to them. Dry foods flood the cat's system with
5-10 times (500% - 1,000%) more calories from carbohydrates than what would be found in
a wild cat's prey.
According to Dr. Zoran's paper
The Carnivore Connection to Nutrition in
Cats, carbohydrates are minimally used for energy
by the cat and those that are not
used are converted to, and stored as, fat. The so-called “light” diets
that are on the market have targeted the fat content as the nutrient to
be decreased but, in doing so, the pet food manufacturers have increased
the grain fraction (because grains are always cheaper than meat), leading to a higher level of carbohydrates.
Hence, many overweight cats eating these diets are still obese. These "light" products are among the most species-inappropriate,
available to cat caretakers. Many caretakers feed very small
amounts of these diets hoping that their cat will lose weight but
feeding a small amount of a diet that is inappropriate for the species
is not the answer! The caretaker
usually just ends up with a crabby cat that is often still overweight.
Why are dry foods so high in
carbohydrates? Think 'profit margin'. Grains are cheap.
Meat is expensive.
Why are dry
foods so popular? Because they are cheap and convenient.
Our cats are a 'captive
audience'. They depend on us, with our opposable thumbs and the
common sense part of our brains engaged, to feed
them a diet that promotes health - one that they would be eating if left
to their own devices in a natural setting - not one that is just cheap
Important note:Feeding the least expensive canned food is far
better than feeding the most expensive dry food.
When considering the issue of
obesity, consider that dry food
is only 10% water and canned food is 78% water. Therefore, dry
foods are more calorie-dense than canned food.
Method of feeding
Another very significant
issue contributing to the obesity epidemic is the method in which dry
food is often fed. Many people free-feed their cats. However,
think about what your human
child's waistline would look like if you put out a bowl of very palatable
high carb food for them to eat whenever they wanted to!
Some cats will properly
regulate their intake when dry food is free-fed but many will not.
There are three main reasons
why cats tend to overeat when free-fed high carb dry food. The
first reason is because the pet food manufacturers do not play fair when
manufacturing dry food. They coat the kibble with extremely
enticing animal digests which makes this inferior source of food very
palatable to the target animal. (Think about the last time you
sat down with a very tasty meal or snack. Did you eat well past
the point that your stomach was satisfied in terms of 'fullness'?
We all keep eating when we shouldn't.......simply because it tastes
The second reason that some
cats tend to consume too many calories when eating dry food is because
an obligate carnivore is designed to be satiated when he has consumed an
adequate amount of protein and fat. Carbohydrates do not seem to send the "I'm full and can
now stop eating" signal to a cat's brain like protein and fat do.
The third reason why some
cats overeat is boredom. This is especially true for
Of course there are many cats
that are free-fed high carb dry food that do not gain an excessive
amount of weight. This variability exists in the human population
also. Some living beings are simply more food-oriented than others. Unfortunately,
even these cats - regardless of their weight - are still being fed an
An indoor-only cat will usually not burn off as many
calories as an outdoor cat. Also, as mentioned above, indoor cats often eat out of
boredom (just like humans) and end up overweight. Of course, the
safest place for a cat is indoors but just because a cat lives its life
inside, this does not mean that he has to be overweight.
Interact with your cat as
much as possible using tassel toys, etc. This will not only burn
off calories but will also alleviate boredom. Many people use laser
lights but I always feel sorry for the cat since they are never able to
actually catch their 'prey'! Some people hide small bowls of
canned food around the house to make their cats roam around looking for
their 'prey meal'.
Here is a
video of Bennie running back
and forth in chasing 20-25 pieces of dry food (EVO grain-free) that he is getting as a
treat. This game allows for 20-25 calories out of his 180 calorie
Please do not fall for the
marketing gimmick of the "Indoor Cat" formulas of food. Cats did
not suddenly stop being obligate carnivores just because they stepped
inside under a roof. These diets often have an atrocious list of
ingredients and are usually loaded with high carb grains.
Here are two pictures of a
cat that, on the outside, appeared to be at an acceptable weight - even
on the thin side. He was being fed a high carbohydrate dry food
diet and you can see what his insides looked like. All of the
light colored tissue is fat. There is so much fat inside of this
cat that his kidneys (oval, pink organs) are barely visible. Some
of you may also have heard of 'omental fat' that human
nutritionists and doctors talk about when discussing risk factors for
death in overweight humans. On the left side of the top picture
and the right side of the bottom picture - you will see omental fat.
You may be wondering if your
cat really is overweight. Generally speaking, I find that humans
tend to think that a chubby cat is 'cute' and 'healthy' when, in
reality, the cat is carrying around too much fat.
Note that you should be able
to easily feel the ribs with just a slight fat pad over them.
Cats should also have a waist when viewed from above. They should
not have any fat pads over their shoulders and if you pick up their
skin, you should not feel thick fat underneath.
Their top line
(backbone and back of the head) should be well-muscled and not terribly prominent (too thin)
or hard to feel (too fat).
line is the preferred area to assess/monitor during a weight loss
program or as the cat ages. This part of the body gives a very good
indication of the overall body weight/condition of the cat.
I do not consider loose skin on the underside of the cat's abdomen to be a
sign of being overweight. Many cats (males and females) have this
'doolap' and if it is just loose skin - and not fat - this is nothing to
be concerned about. (My Amber - sporting her new 'lion cut' hairdo - gave
me permission to post her doolap for the world to see. She is
well-muscled and not overweight.......but could use a tummy tuck.)
Regarding feline diabetes,
the links between dry food and this serious disease are two-fold:
Excess carbohydrates wreak
havoc on many cats' glycemic (blood sugar) balance.
Cats on dry food are much
more apt to be overweight or obese. Fat cells secrete a substance
that can cause insulin resistance - leading to a diabetic state.
Most people are familiar with
the Atkins diet which is based on a high protein/moderate fat/low
Personally, I think that this diet is a bit extreme for humans since we
are designed to consume carbohydrates in the form of vegetables and
whole grains. However, the cat is definitely designed to eat an Atkins-type of
diet due to their metabolic make up that defines them as obligate
This status is reflected by their lack of enzymatic
pathways to efficiently utilize high levels of dietary carbohydrates. This is why the feline species-appropriate diet is often
referred to as the "Catkins Diet".
It is important to understand
the basic three elements of food/calories:
It is best to list foods in
terms of caloric composition which reflects the percentage of
total calories that come from protein, fat, and carbohydrate.
breakdown of these three nutrient classes must add up to 100% of total
Therefore, if one class of nutrient is decreased, one, or both, of the
other two must increase.
important note about protein: Not all proteins are created
equal. Proteins can either be from animals or plants.
What defines cats as obligate (strict) carnivores is their need to
consume protein from other animals - not plants.
Protein derived from animal
tissues has a complete amino acid profile. (Amino acids are the building
blocks of proteins. Think of them as pieces of a puzzle.) Plant-based
protein does not contain the full compliment (puzzle pieces) of the
critical amino acids required by an obligate carnivore. The quality and
composition of a protein (are all of the puzzle pieces present?) is also
referred to as its biological value.
Humans and dogs can take the
pieces of the puzzle in the plant protein and, from those, make the
missing pieces. Cats cannot do this. This is why humans and dogs can
live on a vegetarian diet but cats cannot. (Note that I do not recommend
vegetarian diets for dogs.)
(corn, wheat, soy, rice, etc.) are made up of proteins
(plant-based - poor biological value) and carbohydrates.
Most dry foods are heavily
grain-based but it is important to recognize that pet food
companies are sneaky. Many of them put "grain-free" on the label
but then fill up the food (and increase their profit margin) with peas
and potatoes which are high in carbohydrates and are plant-based protein
sources but are not technically "grains."
Because the protein in dry food is often
heavily plant-based, the overall protein content in this type of food earns a
lower biological value score when compared to the protein in canned
foods which is usually animal (meat)-based.
And, the grains/potatoes/peas in dry food also
contribute a high carbohydrate load to your obligate carnivore's body.
Because plant proteins are cheaper than meat proteins, pet food
companies will have a higher profit margin when using these ingredients.
addicts: Unfortunately, many cats have
been fed dry food for their entire lives. It is no wonder
that they are conditioned to eat this unhealthy diet. If I had a dime
for every time I have heard someone say
"but my cat really....reallylikes his
dry food" I would be wealthy.
People like cookies and
potato chips but that does not mean that these food items constitute a
Cats that have grown up on dry food find the
consistency of canned food very foreign and often refuse to even give it
My cats had been fed a 100%
dry food diet for their entire lives. When I started introducing
canned food to them in December of 2002, their ages ranged from 2 to 10
years. They all looked at me like I had rocks for
brains.....wondering what in the world that wet stuff was in their food
bowls. It took a very frustrating, three month-long period of time
to get them off of dry food and eating canned food. After
transitioning to canned food, I took it one step further. In March of
2003, I transitioned them to a balanced homemade raw or
semi-cooked meat diet and I could not be happier with their health.
Low carbohydrate dry foods: There are three dry foods on the
market that are lower in carbs than most dry foods but please do not
think that these foods are a healthy option to low-carb canned food.
Three lower-carb dry foods
on the market are Innova
EVO, Wellness CORE, and Young Again. While these
foods do address the high carb issue, they are still
diets that should not be fed to a species that has an inherently low
thirst drive. Dry food sets your cat up for serious urinary tract
Cats are designed to obtain water with
their food since their normal prey contains approximately 75% water. Dry foods only
contain 10% water whereas canned foods contain approximately 78% water. Canned
foods therefore more closely approximate the natural diet of the cat and
are better suited to meet the cat’s water needs.
often say "but my cat drinks a lot of water so he must be getting
Because cats have a low thirst drive,
they do not make up the hydration deficit at the water bowl when
consuming a dry food diet.
has been shown that cats on canned food - when compared to dry food-fed
cats - consume double the amount of water when all sources (from
the food and the water bowl) are considered. This also means that
their urine output is increased significantly which promotes urinary tract health by
frequently 'hosing out' your cat's bladder of crystals and any
understand that this necessitates
more frequently cleaning of their litter box or the addition of more
litter boxes in the home.
We need to always be respectful of the cat's fastidiously clean nature
and and have a clean litter box available for them at all times.
In addition to being
water-depleted, these grain-free dry foods are high in phosphorus which is
not a good mineral to have in abundance -
especially for senior cats that may have marginal kidney function.
A third - and very important
- issue is that these three dry foods are very calorie-dense.
For instance, dry EVO contains a whopping 612 calories/cup. Most
dry foods are ~400 calories/cup or less.
Considering that the average 10 pound cat only needs about 200 calories
per day to maintain their weight, you can see that 1/3 of a cup of EVO
meets these caloric needs yet many people feed far more of this diet
than 1/3 of a cup.
Combine a very palatable diet with high caloric density and throw in the
fact that many people free-feed their cats dry food and you have a
perfect recipe for obesity when these dry foods are fed. You can use these products as
transition foods in order to cut the carbs in the diet but you must be
very aware that these diets are very calorie dense and a 'little
bit goes a long way'. Portion control of these diets is a must!
A fourth issue is that these
diets, like all dry foods, are cooked for a very long time at very
high temperatures. Many vital nutrients are damaged or
destroyed by this harsh cooking process and then Man has to guess which
ingredients, and in what form and amount, will need to be added to restore
the health of the diet. Man is just not as smart as nature which
makes it impossible to know exactly
what has been damaged and how to restore the food to an optimal level of
"Do I look thinner in this dress?"
Ok.....we have discussed the
fact that canned food is better for cats than dry food so the question
is......what do we look for in a canned food?
Ideally, for an otherwise
healthy cat, we want to feed a high protein/moderate fat/low
carbohydrate canned food. In other words, a mouse.
In terms of caloric breakdown
that means approximately:
45% protein (or more)
45% fat (or less)
10% carbohydrate (or less)
Keep in mind that when you
are reading the Cat
Food Composition chart, the protein, fat, and, carbohydrate calories
(the first three columns) must add up to
commercial cats foods that fit the above criteria contain fish. As is common knowledge, fish
can be contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury. Also, research has shown that fire retardant
chemicals (PBDEs) are more highly concentrated in fish and there is a strong
link between these chemicals and hyperthyroidism. As well, fish is
one of the most common hyperallergenic proteins for cats.
When choosing a canned
food, think 'feathers and long ears'....ie...poultry and rabbit and not
so much fish. Fish-based cat foods can be used to help transition
dry food addicts to canned food but cats tend to get fixated on it and
then will not eat a more suitable diet of poultry or rabbit.
Therefore, try to wean your cats off of fish as soon as possible.
Some cats do fine with beef
but this protein source also tends to be hyperallergenic in some cats so I
recommend staying away from beef if your cat has any gastrointestinal
problems such as vomiting or diarrhea.
We have established the fact
that canned is
better than dry for overall health but........ can a cat get fat on high
protein/low-carb canned food?
You bet he can!
Even though high
protein/moderate fat/low-carb canned food is a
much more species-appropriate diet that is muchless apt to
cause obesity, a cat that eats more calories than he is burning off
will end up with too much fat on his body.
However, most cats - especially those
that were never overweight - can maintain a nice weight on free-fed
canned food but portion control may be needed for some cats that
need to lose weight. Some
cats that have lost weight with portion control can then switch over to
free-fed canned food but most of these once-chubby cats cannot and will
need portion control for life.
Many veterinarians recommend
Hill's Prescription r/d but I would never feed this diet in either the
canned or dry form to any cat in my care. Both forms are low quality diets and are too
high in carbohydrates. Canned r/d = 37% carbs and the dry = 36%.
These foods also contain a list of ingredients that are not
Note that dry r/d was
the diet that Molly had been on when she came to me
- in horrible shape. It is an atrocious diet.
I recently heard a
rescuer proudly comment that two of her foster cats had become "beefy"
as if this was a favorable condition. Unfortunately, she was
missing the concept of what constitutes a healthy weight gain.
These cats had put on fat - not muscle so there was now nothing "beefy"
about them. They were soft as marshmellows......far too fat.
This person also fell into the all-too-common trap of not recognizing
that these cats were actually at a healthy (lean) weight when they came
into her foster care and were now overweight and not as healthy.
This foster person was
feeding a high carb, dry food diet.
The lack of recognition of
fat versus muscle is a very common problem
that I see. People must understand that there is a big difference
between lean muscle mass and fat. I often hear about people
feeding dry food to "fatten" their cats up. And, unfortunately,
that is exactly what high carb food does - it adds too much fat to
the body. These cats would be much better off on a
moderate fat, low carbohydrate canned food which would promote lean
muscle mass instead of fat deposits.
Unfortunately, many humans
end up 'killing them with kindness' and feed their pets right into
Remember.....think 'Catkins diet' for your obligate carnivore -
high protein (animal-based - not plant-based), moderate fat, low carbohydrate.
Please pay close
attention to the area around your cat's backbone and the back of his
head. Establish a baseline 'feel' for this top line area
before you start his weight loss program. If these areas
become excessively prominent, this is a sign of muscle mass loss
which can be an indication of protein malnutrition.
The key is to go
slowly with a goal of no more than 1-2% weight loss per week.
The biggest hurdle to
overcome on the way to a svelte body for your cat is their fixation on
dry food. Please see
Tips for Transitioning Dry Food Addicts
pay special attention to the statements regarding Hepatic Lipidosis (fatty
lipidosis (HL) is a life-threatening condition that can occur when a
cat is either completely anorexic (not eating anything) for 48 hours or more
or is consuming less than 50-75% of his daily caloric needs over
several/many days. It more commonly occurs when overweight cats
are not consuming enough calories but cats that are carrying a proper
amount of weight can also end up with HL.
These 'calorie starved'
cats end up with fat deposition in their liver which destroys the liver cells.
Because HL can become an
issue if weight loss occurs too rapidly in cats, I strongly urge you to invest in a
scale - preferably a digital one that weighs to the nearest
ounce or half ounce. It is always a good idea to weigh all cats several
times each year regardless of whether they are on a weight loss program or not. Weight loss can be an early
sign of disease so it is always helpful to monitor all cats' weight on a
For skittish cats, go slowly with the
introduction of the scale. You do not want them to be afraid of
it! Take a week or so to just feed them treats on the scale so
they see it as a good thing. My cats are trained to get on the
scale when I just put it on the floor and say "scale" because they know
they will get a treat if they do so.
If you decide to put the scale on the
floor, make sure that it is a hard floor and not carpet.
See Bennie's movie
here which shows him getting on the
Important: Note that many human baby scales
have a base that is narrower than the tray and may tip if the cat steps on the
end of the scale versus closer to the middle. This will scare the cat
and damage the scale.
Also, do not let your cat leave the scale
on their own unless you have given them permission to do so. (Don't
laugh...some cats can be trained....sort of....) If they
are allowed to leave on their own, make sure you hold down the opposite
end so they do not tip the scale.
Red Cross Baby Scale weighs to the nearest 1/2 ounce and has a
wide base so it won't tip if your cat is trained to walk onto it.
Please understand that your
overweight cat took months to get into his current condition and that it
will take months to safely lose the weight. This is not a race but
it is critical for you to stay the course and not give up.
A safe rate of weight loss is
1 - 2% of their current body weight per week.
For example, if your cat
weighs 20 pounds, he can safely lose up to ~6 ounces per week. (20
pounds X16 ounces/pound = 320 ounces. 2% of 320 = ~ 6 ounces.)
1% would be 3 ounces per
week - or 3/4 pound/month.
As your cat loses weight, the
amount of weight that he should lose each week will decrease.
For example, if your cat is
down to 16 pounds, his weight loss should slow to ~2.5 -5 ounces each week
which represents 1-2% of 16 pounds.
I cannot stress this enough -
I can give you a formula that will provide an approximation of the
optimal caloric intake for a safe weight-loss program but the bottom
line is that you need to weigh your cat every 3-4 days to make
sure that he is not losing weight too rapidly - or not losing weight at
Why is weighing your cat so important?
Every cat is different in terms of how they metabolize food and their
We have no way of knowing if the calorie information given out by the
pet food companies is accurate.
Also, as stated above, it is
very important to pay
attention to your cat's top line (back bone area) and the back of his head for
signs of excessive loss of muscle mass.
There are three ways to arrive
at a starting figure for the amount of calories to be fed.
The most accurate way is to
calculate how many calories your cat is currently eating to maintain his
not-so-svelte figure. Then take 80% of those calories as a
starting point. Check the bag of dry food that you are feeding and
see if it lists the calories/cup. Most dry foods do list the
calorie content on the bag but canned foods do not. See the
Cat Food Composition
see if the canned food that you are currently feeding is listed.
Since most people free-feed
dry food, the amount of calories consumed in a day is not known. In this
case, figure out what you think your cat *should* weigh and plug that
number into this formula:
Most female cats should weigh
a nice, lean 10 -11 pounds. Most male cats should fall into the 11
-13 pound range.
Using an optimal body weight
of 12 pounds as an example, we come up with 233 calories/day as a
[13.6 X 12 pounds] + 70 = 233
This formula provides a very
generous starting point (usually far too generous) so be aware that some
(most) cats will not lose weight
when eating the number of calories generated by this formula. I
would suggest feeding according to this formula for 10--14 days (or
less) and then
re-evaluating the caloric needs based on the cat's weight loss, or lack
Of course, if during that period of time your cat is
losing weight too rapidly, you will need to increase his calorie intake
immediately but I can't imagine any cat losing too much weight on the
amount of calories that this formula generates.
If he is maintaining his
weight on the number of calories provided by the above formula,
reduce the amount by 20%.
General comment: In my experience, I
need to get patients down to ~180 calories/day, or even less,
before they lose weight.
Third method (the 'keep it simple'
Too fat? Feed less than what you are
feeding. Too thin? Feed more than what you are feeding.
Just right? You are feeding the correct amount.
An average canned food
contains ~30 calories/ounce. The plain chicken and plain turkey
Wellness products contain ~40 calories/ounce. Some of the lower
quality canned foods only contain ~20 calories/ounce. So you can
see by this wide range that you need to pay attention to calories - not
just ounces of food.
For high protein/low fat
snacks you can offer small pieces of chicken but remember that you are
feeding a small cat, not a human. A little bit of food can be
significant in terms of calories.
Getting a single cat to lose
weight in a
multiple-cat household can be a challenge especially in a house like
mine where the cats are free-fed.
Fortunately, many cats lose
weight successfully even when they are free-fed canned food. For this
reason, I would suggest simply getting all cats in the house to
transition to a 100% canned food diet (free-fed or meal-fed) and then monitoring your
overweight cat. In most cases you will see a nice weight loss for
the chubby cat and the other cats may lose a bit of weight but usually
do not become too thin. Of course, every cat is different and must
be monitored individually.
If after a few weeks of the
new diet for all of the cats, your chubby cat has not lost any weight, you will then have to
figure out how to implement portion control.
If your cats are used to
being free-fed, they can get used to being meal-fed. This will
make it much easier to deal with a feline obesity
It has been shown in humans
eating small meals more frequently keeps the metabolism 'reved-up' and
helps with weight loss. Given that small cats in the wild eat 8-10
(or more) small meals each day, it is also beneficial for your
cat (both mentally and physically) to eat smaller meals more frequently. If you
work a regular job, then feed
in the morning....again when
you get home from work....and then before you go to bed. This last
feeding is especially important if you want to sleep through the night!
Even though most cats will
adapt well to meal-feeding by increasing their calorie consumption at
each feeding so that their total daily intake remains the same, there
are some cats that do better when food is available to them more
frequently than 3 times per day.
Bennie and Molly were two
sweet obesity projects that were housed with my foster kittens.
This presented a dilemma with respect to Bennie because the kittens were
being free-fed canned food and he needed portion control.
Molly, on the other hand,
lost weight nicely even when there was canned food in front of her at
To remedy the problem with
Bennie, I set up a cage so that the kittens could go inside and eat at
any time but Bennie could not enter the cage because the opening was too
small. I used a notched piece of PVC pipe as a rigid spacer to
hold the door open the right amount. I then used velcro strips to
hold the door closed against the pipe. This cage happened to have a
convenient feature in that the top opened so that could access the cage
without having to open the door.
I covered the cage with
towels so that Bennie could not see the food inside which would have
been hard on him mentally.
Kitten leaving the creep cage after eating.
If you have a thin cat that
does not eat very much at one sitting and is a die-hard 'grazer',
then you can use a creep cage (if there is enough size difference
between the thin and chubby cat) or you can leave canned food
(please....no dry food....) out some place high up but only if your fat
cat cannot jump up to get the food. Be aware that once your chubby
cat loses some weight, they will be able to jump up on just about
anything if they smell food.
Some people have cut holes in
boxes/crates that will allow a thinner cat to enter while not allowing a
larger cat to gain access.
Other people have figured out
ways to prop a door so that it is barely open.....just enough for a thin
cat to enter the room where food is kept.
The problem with these
methods - the cage, box/crate, room, or putting food up high - is that
you really need a significant size disparity or a cat that can't jump
high. Unless a cat is extremely obese like Molly and Bennie were,
most cats can squeeze through an opening or muster up enough energy to
jump up to get food.
Another option is
MeowSpace. This is a feeder
system that can be programmed to work (open) off of a cat's microchip.
As mentioned above, Bennie
was living in my foster room with other adults and kittens. All
were being free-fed canned Wellness (chicken or turkey). This
feeding protocol left me unable to monitor Bennie's calorie intake so I
had to be extra vigilant in monitoring his weight.
For the first few weeks,
Bennie lost just a bit over 2% of his body weight per week. He was
bright, alert, and playful. He continued along at this rate but 2
months into his program, he was approaching a 3% loss per week and I
noticed a loss of muscle mass along his top line.
The problem was two-fold:
Bennie clearly was not consuming enough calories but the other issue was
that Wellness is low in protein (30% of total calories) when compared to
a cat's normal prey of mice and birds (~50%, or more, of total calories) and that, coupled with his low
food intake, combined to cause overall protein malnutrition which
resulted in the loss of muscle mass.
This is a very important
point! The goal of weight loss for any
living being is loss of fat while maintaining, or even building, muscle
mass. However, since our cats are not going to the gym,
we aim for simply a maintenance of muscle mass.
As soon as I switched Bennie to
my favorite commercial diet -
- the change in his body was incredible. This high protein (~45%
of total calories), high
quality diet provided Bennie with the needed protein to quickly (within
3-4 weeks) regained much of his lost muscle mass along his head and
backbone (top line).
Once Bennie's top line filled
back in, portion control of Feline's Pride enabled Bennie to
start to lose fat again while he maintained his muscle mass.
Cats definitely can lose weight safely on Wellness (see Molly's
story below) but I would prefer using a higher protein diet or
supplementing a lower protein diet (like Wellness) with some muscle meat
By adding lean muscle meat to
a lower protein/higher fat diet like Wellness, you will increase the
protein calories and 'dilute out' the fat calories.
When supplementing a
commercial food with plain chunks of meat (chicken or turkey thigh or
breast meat, for example) you must understand that meat is not balanced
with respect to calcium levels. When a cat eats his prey, he is
consuming meat and bones. The bones supply the necessary
calcium in the diet. Meat, alone, contains very little calcium.
Do not feed any more than
~15% of the total diet as plain meat. For example, if you are
feeding 6 ounces of canned food, you can replace 1 ounce of canned food
with 1 ounce of meat so that you will be feeding 5 ounces of canned food
+ 1 ounce of meat for a total of 6 ounces of food. The added meat is now
~16% of the diet (1/6 = ~16%)
If your cat will eat this
meat in chunk form, this will have the added benefit of promoting dental
health. Leave the meat in a large enough piece (or pieces) so
that he has to chew it with his molars.
Chicken gizzards are also
good for promoting dental health because they are more tough/fibrous
than muscle meat in the form of thigh or breast meat.
I prefer to feed this meat
raw because raw meat is tougher to chew than cooked meat. You can
rinse the meat off with water of if you are worried about the raw issue,
you can par boil the meat so that the surface bacteria are killed.
Aim for just the outside ~10% to be cooked.
Let's start with Molly's
story and see how she got to be obese on Hill's Science Diet Light
dry food - a diet that is atrocious in terms of quality and one that
is inappropriate to be feeding to any cat.
Molly was adopted as a kitten
from TLC Adoptions in 1997. She was
fed a diet of dry food only. When her owners noticed that she was
getting too heavy, they started feeding her Science Diet Light dry food.
She continued on her path to obesity and ill-health. Molly was
returned to the adoption agency in 2004 - terribly obese and limping
from carrying around so much fat. If she laid down on her side, it
was very difficult for her to get up. Molly's coat was a mess -
oily and full of dandruff.
Her obesity prevented her
from being able to clean herself properly and the result of this was a
painful skin inflammation and infection around her anus and vulva -
extending to her lower abdomen.
Unfortunately, I do not have
a picture of her at her worst but see
below for a picture of
Bennie's rear end/abdomen to get an idea of what Molly looked like.
Here is a picture of the 'sanitary shave' that I did for Molly.
Hair traps urine, feces and heat making the area harder to keep clean
and more susceptible to infection and inflammation.
One thing that this picture
does not show is the skin fold dermatitis within the folds of her vulva.
There was a large fat layer on either side of her vulva that trapped
moisture and bacteria. Since she was unable to clean herself, this
resulted in a painful inflammation and infection.
After Molly was returned to
TLC Adoptions, she was adopted to a man who ended up feeding her another
very inappropriate and unhealthy diet that was prescribed by a
veterinarian. The diet was Hill's r/d in the dry form.
Molly was fed a small amount
of this food in a separate room twice daily. This man then put a
shock collar on her and put the transmitting wires around the food bowls
(filled with an inappropriate diet of dry food) that were being left out
for his other cats - all of which who were terribly overweight also.
Unfortunately for Molly, she was the one being focused on.
At this point, Molly was in
great danger of developing hepatic
lipidosis ("fatty liver")which can be fatal if not treated in time.
Molly did not like the Hill's
r/d and was now being shocked every time she tried to squelch her hunger
pains when going toward the food bowls filled with what she had been
eating her entire life.
wonderful, sweet cat was very depressed, confused, jumpy (from the shock
collar) and in grave danger of becoming fatally ill.
Within hours of hearing of
Molly's horrible situation, I called the man to discuss having her
returned to TLC Adoptions. She would then be placed in my home for
careful monitoring - both medically and nutritionally.
He agreed, saying that he was
"tired of the mess that she was leaving around the house".
Molly's rear end was so sore
and itchy from her lack of ability to groom herself, that she was
dragging her rear-end on the floor and furniture in an attempt to clean
herself and to relieve her discomfort. The discharge from around
her vulva was black and messy.
If you cringe at the above
comments, just think how poor Molly felt! Cats, by nature, are
very clean/fastidious creatures and when they can't clean themselves
properly, it becomes a very stressful situation for them.
The First Day of
the Rest of Molly's Life.....
......and the beginning of a
VERY frustrating time for me!
Molly is a horrible Kibble Addict and needs a 12-step program in the
worst way. I have said many, many times on various internet groups
and during my consulting work that *all* cats *can* be switched to a proper
diet of high protein/low-carb canned food and NO DRY FOOD, if the human is patient
enough and tries enough
can tell that Molly is going to be a tough one.
Molly is fed dry food on arrival. Trying to force a diet change
on a stressed animal is never a good idea. A few more days on
a lousy diet is not going to matter but I will continue to offer canned
Wellness, Fancy Feast, and lower quality canned foods like Friskies.
Unfortunately, she will not have any part of this healthier diet.
Molly is a pretty laid-back cat...not terribly stressed and she has had
a couple of days to acclimate to her new surroundings. I would
give her more time on dry food if she was a nervous type of cat but
since she is not......it is time to get serious. I am starting to
syringe-feed her *pureed canned chicken Wellness. This is done
very gently and slowly so as to not create a food aversion.
Interestingly, Molly does not fight the syringe-feeding so I am not too
worried about a food aversion resulting from this feeding method
although I will keep it in mind as a possibility.
*I puree the Wellness in a blender - one 5.5 ounce can with about 4-5
TBS of water added. Important: Run it through a wire
strainer! If you don't do this, your syringe will clog.
(The food is thick - even with the added water - but if you bang the strainer
on your bowl repeatedly, the food will flow through it.)
Amount fed: Using the
formula above to arrive at an approximate figure for needed
calories, I make sure that Molly consumes 180
calories/day (one 5.5 ounce can of Wellness chicken) as a starting
level. Adjustments will be made based on her weight loss progress,
or lack thereof.
Molly will be weighed every 2-3 days.
One 5.5 ounce can + 4 TBS of water is ~150 cc. Molly had no
trouble taking 50 cc at each meal. She was fed 50 cc 3x/day.
I have switched many kibble addicts to canned food and have never lost a
battle but Molly is my toughest patient yet. I have actually ended
up in tears on more than one occasion out of utter frustration. I
know that the only hope for Molly to lead a normal 'cat life'....one
where she can run, jump and play - and clean herself properly... is for
her to get off of dry food and start eating a proper diet of high
canned food or a balanced homemade diet.......but she has other ideas.
I have tried many tricks with her. Tuna, crumbling dry food or parmesan
cheese on top of
the canned food, dipping the dry food in a tiny bit of canned or even
just the juice from the canned. I have tried cooked and raw chicken and
cooked fish. I put a bit of canned food on her paw to see if she
would clean it off. No way. Molly will not even eat a piece
of dry food that has so much as touched any part of canned food!
In a nutshell, Molly does not recognize anything but dry kibble as
(Since Molly will be put back up for adoption, I want to get her on a
commercial canned food instead of the homemade diet that I feed to my
own cats. Most people are not prepared to
Make Cat Food and so switching her to a
canned food is more appropriate.)
Now....before you get too discouraged by the above
'frustration' narrative, please understand that I was being a bit
impatient with regard to Molly's diet change. She was a foster cat
that needed to eventually find a loving home of her own and so I wanted
things to move along a bit more quickly than was realistic for Molly.
PLEASE do not rush the diet transition.
PLEASE be patient and do not give up. And be sure to read
section regarding transitioning stubborn kibble addicts and pay close attention to the comments about Hepatic
To give you an example of the timeframe that I am talking about, my own
herd of kibble addicts (yes....I fed a 100% dry food diet for ten long
years before I saw the error of my ways.....) took 3 months to switch
from dry to canned. And, yes, I was frustrated by the slow process
but my cats were going to be with me for life and I was committed to the
long, slow battle of wits and tricks. It really is not a race - but
you do need to get to the finish line.
Molly goes to the clinic for a dental cleaning and ends up needing a
couple of teeth extracted. Because of her reluctance to eat canned
food on her own, a feeding tube is put in
which makes both of our lives MUCH...much easier!! I can now feed
her with much less stress to both of us and in much less time. We
are both very relieved.
Thanks for the new dress but does
it come in a darker, more slimming color?
2.5 weeks after the feeding
tube was put in, Molly returns to her carnivorous roots and starts
licking the pureed Wellness from the syringe and eating canned food from
a plate. She is living in my foster room with other cats and
kittens and I think that it is helping her to watch them eat their
canned food. I will not remove the tube until she proves to me that she
will consume enough calories by eating canned food on her own.
The feeding tube is removed
since Molly is eating on her own.
finally gets it!!
- 5/10/04 = 43 days => 30 ounce weight loss.
lost per week
weight was 20.5 lbs or 328 ounces.
5 ounces is
1.5% of 328.
Molly's BIG DAY!!!!
Molly gets to go to her
forever home! (Thank you, Maurine....)
Molly's Weight Loss Progression on 5
ounces/day of canned Wellness
Molly's new mom was removing
about 1 heaping tsp from the 5.5 ounce can of Wellness leaving 5 ounces
as Molly's daily intake. This resulted in a nice
weight loss pace.
7/18/04 (16 weeks)
20.5 pounds =>
17.1 pounds =
a loss of 3 pounds, 5 ounces ---- 3.3 ounces/week = 1% of her body
9/1/04 (22.5 weeks)
20.5 pounds =>
16.25 pounds =
a loss of 4 pounds, 4 ounces ---- 3.0 ounces/week
12/22/04 (38.5 weeks)
20.5 pounds =>
14.8 pounds =
a loss of 5 pounds, 10 ounces --- 2.3 ounces/week
Well.....sometime in early
2005, Molly conned her mom into feeding her more than the 5 ounces.
Her intake was increased to 7-7.5 ounces/day which was a 40 - 50%
increase over the amount that she was losing nicely on. To us
humans, a 2 ounce portion of food does not seem like a lot but you can
see that jumping from 5 ounces to 7 ounces is a huge increase (40%!) in her
16 pounds - a
gain of 1.2 pounds in 5 months!
at this weight, however, there is a noticeable difference in how she
moves. She walks much better and no longer limps.....but.....she
still cannot clean her rear end.
Her intake is reduced to 6
ounces/day is proving to be too much for Molly. Back to 5
=> A loss of 1.1
pounds in 6 months. She has a nice waist but still has a lot of
fat around her shoulders. She is active and running around and
It has now been 1 1/2 years
since I have weighed Molly. (I think that Molly has breathed a
sigh of relief since she has not seen me walking up her
driveway....scale in hand.....for her Jenny Craig weigh-in.) On a good note, she now has a good
looking, thin, boy-kitty friend named Pablo, also rescued by
TLC Adoptions. Molly and Pablo have
actually been chasing each other around - pretty good for a chubby 10
year old girl and a 9 year old boy! This sure makes me smile
considering that Molly could barely walk when she first came to me.
She now runs and jumps and plays like a normal cat!
I am ecstatic.......I just visited Molly and she looks fantastic! Her coat is incredibly shiny....no more of her former
greasy coat loaded with dandruff. Molly is very active and
happy.....she now runs and jumps and plays like a normal cat.
Her backbone and head are well-muscled which means that she has lost a
great deal of fat while maintaining great muscle tone.
She has been on 5.5 ounces of
Wellness Chicken and Herring canned food per day and I could not be
happier with the way that she looks. She is still carrying a bit
of fat (I am still thinking that there is a 10-11# kitty in there
somewhere) but, overall, I am extremely happy with the way that she
Molly, Pablo, and their mom
are all moving to Arizona soon so, sadly, I had to kiss Molly goodbye.
It has been a wonderful 4 year journey to get Molly back to being an
active, healthy cat......an experience that I will truly treasure for
As you can see by her weight,
she has lost more fat and looks great. She has been eating the
same amount but the key to her weight loss has been an increase in
exercise in her new, very large home.
However, this is a very sad
update......Molly has been extremely active and playful up until today.
It appears that she has had a stroke and it is doubtful that she is
going to survive.
It is with great sadness that
I announce the passing of our sweet Molly. Molly was a very
special girl. She was incredibly kind, affectionate and very
gentle. Molly was a wonderful companion to Maurine's 90+ year old mother
- providing Mrs. H with great comfort in her remaining days as the
elderly woman dealt with advancing Alzheimer's disease. I know
that Maurine will always be grateful for the comfort that Molly provided
for her mother.
Thank you, Molly, for all
that you taught me during our journey to find your inner svelt and
Bennie (see his full story
below) went to live with Maurine on 7/9/08. Although no kitty can
ever replace our sweet Molly, Bennie is doing a great job of earning the
Bennie was dumped at a city
dog/cat 'pound'. His owners cited "health issues" as the reason
for abandoning Bennie. What fate were they expecting for him?
Did they really think that cats like Bennie get adopted? Sadly,
the 'fate' in my neck of the woods is euthanasia for cats like Bennie.
Bennie is only 4 years old.
A shelter volunteer sends me
an email wanting to know if there is any room at Dr. Pierson's Fat Camp
for Obese Felines.....knowing what a sucker I am for nutrition 'projects'.
I cringe....wanting another foster cat like want a hole in my head.
But....then I start praying that Bennie is not a diabetic and I know
that I cannot just delete the email and continue on with my day.
(Diabetes is not an uncommon illness that plagues cats that eat an
inappropriate diet of dry food. Add in the issue of obesity and
the chances rise significantly. See
diabetes for more information.)
I break down and go to the
shelter to meet Bennie. I review his lab work and there are no
abnormal values. Hopefully, he will dodge the diabetes 'bullet' since he
is still young and will spend the rest of his life on an appropriate
Bennie was such a good boy
for his bath. He just plopped over on his side and seemed to really
enjoy it when I gently washed his horrible skin condition and
trimmed all of his overgrown claws.
There is a question as to
just how much Bennie weighed when he entered the shelter. The
technician recorded 30 pounds on 7/30/07 but I question the accuracy of
that value since only 8 days later, he weighed 26.5 pounds. I really
hope that he did not weigh 30 pounds on the impound day because that
would represent a very drastic and unhealthy rate of weight loss and
fluid loss. (Dehydration will also result in weight loss.)
I am going to use
as a starting weight for Bennie as of the day that he was turned into
the pound - 7/30/07. I will use 26.5
pounds as his starting weight on the day that he came
into my care which was 8/7/07.
Bennie will be weighed
every 2-3 days.
dermatitis/scalding will being treated with Preparation H until the
scabs and loose skin comes off:
I observe what may be one of the
"health issues" that his owners were referring to when they abandoned
Bennie. He is going in and out of his litter box up to 3 times
within 30 minutes. He is passing small amounts of urine each time.
This scenario illustrates why it is so important to use a
clumping litter (always UNscented) for all
cats. Clumping litter allowed me to appreciate the following
Bennie was able to pass some
urine and was not completely blocked which would have been a
His urine balls were very
small - grape size - indicating cystitis (bladder inflammation).
Many people make the big
mistake of jumping to conclusions that the above signs are due to an
infection and automatically think that antibiotics are warranted.
At least 95% of cats under 10 years of age that are not diabetic, in kidney failure,
or have hyperthyroidism but are showing these signs have sterile cystitis
- NOT an infection. "Sterile" means
that the inflammation is *not* due to an infection and antibiotics are
In order to diagnose a
bladder infection properly, a cystocentesis must be done. This is
a procedure that involves putting a needle directly into the
bladder through the abdominal wall. It is not painful for the cat
and it ensures that a clean sample is obtained for a culture and
sensitivity. A C & S tells us if there actually is an infection
present and which antibiotic to use on the bacteria that was grown in
But.....Bennie is too fat to
easily perform a cystocentesis on so I had to do what I could to help
make the decision to put him on antibiotics or not.
Bennie urinated in an empty
litter box that was near his regular litter box and I could see that the
urine contained blood. The urine specific gravity (urine
concentration) was high (1.050)
which told me that the probability of an infection causing his cystitis
is extremely low. He is only 4 years old and is not diabetic, nor
in kidney failure. Therefore, he will not be put on antibiotics.
Important note: The
presence of blood does not necessarily mean that an infection is
present. We must stop abusing antibiotics in these cases.
I will count on a high
moisture diet of all canned food (with added water if he will accept it)
to help keep his bladder flushed out and I will monitor his clinical
signs. I will also give him a bit of Buprinex for the pain
since cystitis can be painful. Cystitis is thought to be highly
linked to stress and Bennie has been under tremendous stress lately.
Also, Pain => Stress. Therefore, pain management is very
important in moderate to severe cases of cystitis.
=26 pounds, 4
Bennie is losing ~1
ounce/day which is just under the 2% per week rate that is
considered to be a safe rate of weight loss.
He is being free-fed canned
Wellness with some meals of the raw rabbit diet that I make for my own
cats thrown into the mix. (See Making Cat
Food.) I either feed it raw or lightly cooked depending on his
mood. I do this in order to increase the protein in the diet and
decrease the fat. (Wellness is a good commercial food but it is
lower in protein calories than I would like for a weight loss diet.)
That said, I did not
add any extra meat to Molly's Wellness and she lost weight at a nice
rate and maintained her muscle mass.
Please do not add more
than ~15% (by weight) plain meat to any commercial food.
Otherwise, you will risk feeding an unbalanced diet since there is no
calcium in plain meat. (I feed a raw meat and bones diet to my
cats. The ground bone provides the necessary calcium.)
Bennie is not exactly a big
eater. I am lucky to get him to eat 5 ounces/day of the
Wellness/rabbit mix for a total of ~180 calories/day. Some days he
eats even less - closer to 140 calories/day. I am happy with the
daily intake of 180 calories but 140 calories is
less than his calculated needs for a safe weight loss. He is not acting hungry and is not begging for food and is
bright and alert and seems perfectly happy but given his very low
caloric intake, I am worried about malnutrition.
Keep in mind that Bennie is just one individual cat and that his lack of
caloric intake illustrates just how *very* important it is to have an accurate
scale during this process to ensure that the patient is not losing
weight too quickly! Please error on the side of caution with
your own cats and work with your veterinarian during the implemented
weight-loss program to ensure that hepatic lipidosis does not set in and
a safe rate of weight loss is maintained.
days of using only Preparation H, I switched to corn starch to
keep the area dry. I still applied a bit of Prep H to the few
remaining scabs to soften them in order to facilitate removal.
Weight = 26 pounds, 2.5
Weight = 25 pounds, 15.5 ounces
Weight = 25 pounds, 13.0
Bennie is now
trained to get on the scale when I ask him to!
Bennie's cystitis seems to be
clearing on its own as is the usual course for sterile cystitis.
The urine balls are getting bigger and less in number and I do not see
him going to the litter box frequently when I am with him. I have
not been able to observe his urine directly since he is going to the
litter box every time.
There is a joke in veterinary
medicine that says most cases of cystitis get better in 7-10 days with
antibiotics and in a 1 - 1.5 weeks without antibiotics.
Antibiotics need to stop being overused for this condition (sterile
Up to this point, Bennie has
been eating 4-5.5 ounces of Wellness per day. Sometimes I do mix
in some Fancy Feast Chicken Feast to get him to eat more but from here
on out, he is on his own with 100% Wellness available at all times.
He is now running (well....I wish that he was "running") with my other
foster cats (1 adult and 2 kittens) and so I will not be able to monitor
his intake but will keep a very close eye on his weight and his top
Weight = 25 pounds, 5.5
Bennie has lost too much
weight (7.5 ounces) in the past 4 days but he is acting like he feels
great! He is starting to play with Penny:
Even though the introduction
to the other cat and kittens was done slowly (they were in separate
rooms with a screen door between them for almost 2 weeks), Bennie may
have eaten less over these past few days due to
the stress of being in a new environment with new roommates.
8/22/07 = 15 days......18.5 ounces lost = 8.6 ounces/week = a little
over 2% per week.
Weight = 25 pounds, 5.5 ounces
Weight = 25 pounds, 5.5 ounces
It is odd that he has weighed
the same for the past 3 days but I am relieved that the rapid weight
loss has stopped.
He had 2 golf ball-size urine
balls in his litter box within 12 hours. This is a vast
improvement from 8/8/07 when he was urinating very small amounts
Weight = 25 pounds, 5.0 ounces
Weight = 25 pounds, 4.5 ounces
Weight = 25 pounds, 1.5 ounces
month of eating a species-appropriate diet of canned food and no dry
food.....and losing 2.5 pounds, Bennie finally feels like playing!
Now that he is down to 24.75
pounds, 2% of his current weight is ~8 ounces. So Bennie should not lose anymore than ~
8 ounces/week...... or ~1 ounce/day.
24 pounds, 8.25 ounces
24 pounds, 2.0 ounces
23 pounds, 15.5 ounces
Weekly progress report:
9/10/07 = 1 week.....8.75 ounces lost this past week
9/10/07 = 34 days.....lost 2.5 pounds (40 ounces) = average of 8.2
ounces/week. This represents a total weight loss of 9.4%.
This is *much* faster
than I had planned for his weight loss program but he is becoming more
active and playful each day and is still very bright and alert. He
is still being free-fed canned Wellness - only the grain-free ones.
There is food available to him 24/7.
Not yet, Bennie,
but you're getting there!
23 pounds, 12 ounces
Bright, alert and playful -
interacting with the other cats. I am still concerned that he is
losing weight too fast and I hope that he is not quietly working on a
case of hepatic lipidosis - or becoming malnourished.
Even though I am not a fan of
Fancy Feast, I fed him some today....... but he really is only slightly
more interested in FF than he is in Wellness.
23 pounds, 9 ounces
Even though Bennie is losing
weight a bit more rapidly than I had planned for him, he is becoming
more active and appears to be feeling great every day. However,
please do not allow your cat to lose weight this quickly. Please stick to the 2% per week
weight loss as a maximum.
I am continuing
to free-feed him canned Wellness with a bit of Fancy Feast thrown in.
The Fancy Feast does not make up more than ~10 -15% of his diet.
Fancy Feast has always bothered me in terms of quality since it is a bit
like "kitty crack"......meaning that most cats just love it and I have a
jaded eye regarding the ingredient(s) that are contributing to this
tremendous palatability. I have no idea what is in the "artificial
flavors" and prefer not to feed a lot of this food. There is also
the issue of by-products. You will find my views on that issue
Bennie tried to run up some
stairs - the same stairs that he would only slowly lumber up a few weeks ago. He
actually sort of jumped up them! Ok....it was not terribly
graceful but it was a start.
9/19/07 weekly progress report:
lost 10 ounces this past week. That is 2.6% of his body weight.
(10 ounces is 2.6% of 23 pounds, 12 ounces......or stated another
way.......23 pounds, 12 ounces is 380 ounces. 10 divided by 380 =
Bennie is becoming more
active each day. He used to slowly lumber across the room when I
would call him...or he would just lie around and not move. Now he
is walking briskly in order to follow me around the room.
9/19/07 - 9/29/07 progress report:
He has lost 1 pound in 10 days. This works out to be ~3% of his
body weight per week. He is losing weight too quickly.
I need to find a diet that he
likes better so that he consumes more calories/nutrients.
Bennie has lost 7 ounces in
the past 7 days which represents just under 2% of his body weight.
He is becoming even more affectionate than he already was.....if that is
even possible! Bennie is a very affectionate cat but, in the past,
he would tend to wait for me to come to him. He was so large that
he did not want to move around much. Now I am tripping over him!!
He is constantly underfoot gazing up at me begging to be acknowledged
I am also happy to report
that he actually broke out in to a run....ok...a medium trot.....to go
after Dexter in play! He is also running up a couple of steps in
the foster room versus just lumbering up them.
One issue that makes me a bit
sad, however, is that Bennie really wants to be with humans. I am
not able to spend much time with him and I am really looking forward to
getting him adopted into a loving home with people who will appreciate
his great personality and who will also feed him correctly.
Bennie will be available
for adoption after he loses a bit more weight.......but good homes
are so hard to find.
lost 10 ounces in 7 days. This represents a 2.9% loss this week
and is not a safe rate of weight loss. Even though he is becoming more active and playful each day,
I am concerned about him. I recently had to bring in 2 new foster
cats and while Bennie is very good with other cats, I feel that this has
stressed him to the point that he has decreased his calorie intake to a
dangerous level. I will be moving him to another room to see if
that results in an improved appetite.
I am not
happy with the way that Bennie's body looks. He is
losing too much muscle mass along his backbone and over the top of his
head which is due to inadequate protein intake - ie - proteinmalnutrition. Also, he stands a very good chance of not
consuming enough essential vitamins and minerals with such a low food
intake which will result in overall malnutrition.
Since he has been in
with other foster cats, I have no idea how much he has been eating. He
is not thrilled with Fancy Feast anymore and will not eat plain meat
baby food (supplemented with calcium and taurine) or any of the rabbit
diet that I make for my cats. I
will start supplementing a small amount of EVO dry food - even as
much as I hate dry food. He will get 1/2 ounce (75 pieces) each
day which will add 65 calories to his total caloric intake.
turn the EVO feeding into a game where I throw the pieces - one at a
time - around the room so that he runs for them and gets some exercise.
21 pounds, 0.0 ounces
a mouse toy.
a bit quiet today and would only eat 25 of his 75 pieces of EVO. I
am worried about hepatic lipidosis.
been confined to an adjoining room so that I can monitor his food
intake. He is separated from the other foster cats by a screen
door (so he does not get too bored) and he likes to lie by the door and
ate 4 ounces of Fancy Feast today for a total of 110 calories.
That is not enough food for him. He would not eat EVO today.
not eating very well. He is still very affectionate but is not as
active as he usually is. I have started to syringe-feed him pureed
canned Wellness. (12 ounce can of Wellness + 3 TBS water.
Puree in blender, then run through a strainer.)
for CBC and panel.
enzymes are normal except for one that is very slightly elevated.
An ultrasound of his liver showed no abnormalities but with his decrease
in appetite, he runs the risk of developing hepatic lipidosis. I
will continue to syringe-feed him until I can put a feeding tube in him.
not happy about the syringe feeding and neither am I. He is trying
very hard to be good but it is very stressful for both of us. The
stress involved with syringe-feeding can cause a food aversion but more
importantly, it is impossible to get enough calories into him via this
method. He will have a feeding tube put in tomorrow.
well with the general anesthesia. While he was under, he got his
teeth examined and cleaned. (Anytime any of my cats go under
anesthesia, they get a thorough dental exam and cleaning.)
feeding him pureed Wellness - Turkey and Salmon since it is lower in fat
and higher in protein than the plain Chicken or Turkey. I am
adding in chicken baby food (meat only - no grains, no corn starch and
no vegetables) to increase the protein calories and lower the fat
content of his diet. The food is being supplemented with vitamin
E, B-complex, taurine, and calcium. Meat baby food -
without supplementation - is a very unbalanced
feeling much better this evening since he has been fed several meals
through the tube. He is purring up a storm and rolling over for
belly rubs. He will stay in his own room for most of the day, for now, so that he is not
stressed by the other cats and I will feed him 4-6 small meals/day via
the feeding tube. I will let him out with the other cats for a
couple of hours/day as long as he does not seem too stressed.
He is not
being fed anymore dry EVO unless it is during a play session where I
throw 25 pieces for him one at a time.
Video of feeding Bennie via his
This is not the best
video....but it does show how relaxed Bennie is during his feeding.
I am feeding him ~60 cc at a time -
filling two 30 cc syringes before getting started. It takes me
about 7-8 minutes to slowly inject the food through the tube. If I
go any faster, I see him swallowing as if the food is coming back up his
The food is always 'chased'
with about 5-7 cc of water to keep the tube flushed.
The collar that I made for
him is a safe collar. It is a strip of elastikon tape folded
lengthwise on itself so that it is not sticky. I cut two slits in
it on the left and right side of center for the tube to feed in and out
of. The two ends of the collar are taped together. This
collar would break apart if he ever got it caught on anything.
I added a strip of elastikon
tape to the tube itself just to provide more bulk/friction so that it
does not back itself out of the holes in the collar.
0.0 ounces (the same as he weighed on 10/17/07)
I am feeding Bennie enough
via his feeding tube to maintain his weight. I do not want to see him in
a negative energy balance for weight loss at this time. For the
first week of feeding him with the tube, he was getting 60 cc of food 4
times/day for a total of 240 calories. The food that I am feeding
is still a mixture of Wellness Turkey and Salmon with chicken baby food
mixed in with added supplements for balance.
Feeding Bennie 4 times/day is
a bit of a hardship with my busy schedule so he is now being fed 70 cc 3
times/day and he has canned Wellness available at all times if he
chooses to eat on his own. He is back out in the large foster room
with the rest of the cats and seems to be doing well. He is very
happy to see me when I come into the room and he rubs around my legs.
Bennie is feeling great and
so I will start to cut back on his calories to get him back on the road
to a thin body. I will be feeding him 200 calories/day.
loss of 0.9% per week.
I removed Bennie's feeding
tube today. He had the tube in for 5 weeks but I really only used
it for the first 2-3 weeks. For the past ~2+ weeks, he has only
received a few meals via the tube while I monitored his food intake. I
probably could have removed it 2 weeks ago but wanted to play it safe.
pounds, 3.5 ounces
Bennie is playing really well
these days and he actually ran after another foster cat and tackled him
in play. They were grooming each other afterward. This is
quite a breakthrough for Bennie. I have never seen him move so
fast! I also saw him roll over today like a normal cat. He
was not able to do that when he was so obese.
Bennie finally broke
through the 20 pound barrier! And.....he can even jump up on
this very high bed effortlessly! Once I knew that he was jumping
up onto the bed, I put a carrier there for him to use to get down.
A cat as large as Bennie
should not be jumping down on his little legs. If he were to do
so, he could injure his joints and other soft tissues (tendons and
ligaments). In fact, he
jumped out of my lap a few days ago when I was sitting on a low step.
He then limped off on his right front leg. He needs to lose a few
more pounds before it will be safe for him to jump down off of anything.
Damage to joints and soft tissues......a sad reality of obesity.....
Bennie is currently eating 5
ounces of canned Wellness - either plain Chicken or plain Turkey.
I am not happy with Bennie's
topline. He is losing too much muscle mass around his back bone
While Molly maintained her muscle mass when losing weight on Wellness,
this diet is a proving to be too low in protein for an optimal weight
loss program for Bennie.
must have ESP because Bennie just received a very generous donation of
Feline's Pride's finest food! Bennie will now be switched from
Wellness canned food to a very high quality, balanced diet of ground raw
chicken and bones. I can't thank Shelby enough for his
thoughtfulness in providing a top-of-the-line diet for The Bennie
Feline's Pride chicken is
listed at 36 calories/ounce but, of course, that number will vary a bit
as it would with any food since the fat levels of meat will vary.
I will start him off with 5.5 ounces/day (200 calories) and see how he does on that
of Bennie playing:
I am cutting back to 5 ounces
of Feline's Pride/day and will try to spend more time running him
around with a toy. I have not been spending as much time playing
with him as I should be. As with all diets.....it is calories in
and calories out and Bennie needs to burn off more calories. The
exercise will not only help him to lose weight but it will also build muscle. Hopefully, he is gaining muscle mass due to the fact that he
is now on a higher protein diet.
I will be cutting him back to
5 ounces/day and
exercising him twice daily for at least 10 minutes each time - or until
he chooses to stop.
Bennie is feeling great and
is playing well and for a longer period of time each day. Just
like with humans, cats need to exercise! And.....just like
with humans, their level of fitness will increase as time goes on.
I am very happy with Bennie's
top line after only 18 days on Feline's Pride. His backbone has filled in with muscle and it is not
prominent like it was a month ago. Feline's Pride is a more
species-appropriate diet than Wellness is. Wellness Chicken and
Turkey canned foods derive only ~30% of their calories from protein.
The Wellness Turkey & Salmon provides ~37% of its calories in the form
of protein. Feline's Pride provides ~45% of its calories in the
form of protein making it a superior diet to Wellness.
Feline's Pride is expensive
but remember - you get what you pay for and nutrition is definitely a
'pay me now or pay me later' issue.
loss this week
Bennie has lost ~8 ounces in
the past month. He is currently eating 2 3/8 ounces of Feline's
Pride twice daily. I am also trying to run him around with a
tassle toy twice daily - if my schedule permits it.
The muscle around his
backbone and head is much greater since I switched his diet to Feline's
Pride 1 month ago.
Bennie's weight loss seems to
have stalled a bit but that is actually a good thing. He has been
putting the muscle back on that he lost when he was not consuming
He has been eating 2.5 ounces of Feline's
Pride twice daily.
Bennie has been on 2.4 ounces
of Feline's Pride twice daily. (I purchased a new food
scale that is measuring in 1/10 ounce increments.)
This is about 180
Here is a
video of Bennie jumping up onto the bed. He flies now!!
It has taken Bennie almost 3
months to lose this last ONE pound but that is just fine.
I am keeping a close eye on
Bennie's backbone and head area. Both of these areas are filling
in very nicely.
He ran really fast today when
chasing his tassel toy!
Bennie's muscle mass
continues to improve on Feline's Pride. The back of his head is
still filling in and is close to being normal now. His top line is
also normal with plenty of muscle around this backbone.
I go out to dinner with my
rescue buddies once a week. I always get the same thing.....a
salad with 3.5 ounces of grilled chicken on the top. Since I am not
a fan of eating meat, I bring it home to Bennie for great high protein
snacks for the next 3 - 4 days. I leave it in large chunks for his
Bennie was a bit clueless
when I first put the chunks of meat in his bowl. He had that look
on his face that my own cats get...."Mommy....please cut my meat for
me." My cats are horrible about eating chunks of meat and their
teeth are suffering for it. I told Bennie to "tap into your inner
carnivore and chew it!" He figured it out because it was gone when
I came back to his room.
Bennie has lost 4 ounces (1/4
pound) in the past 20 days. I wish that I could have been
following him with a body composition score to see how much fat he has
lost and how much muscle he has gained since eating Feline's Pride.
Bennie has lost 6 ounces in 2
weeks. This is just shy of 1% per week which I am very happy with.
He is still eating 2.4 ounces of Feline's Pride twice daily (~180
calories/day) with 3.5
ounces of chicken split up into small snacks from Fridays through
Mondays. (Left-overs from my Friday night dinners out.)
My only regret is that I did
not start Bennie on Feline's Pride at the beginning of this program.
Bennie did not get any cooked
chicken this weekend but he has been getting 22 pieces of dry EVO (20
calories) daily (or ever other day) that I throw (one at a time) around
the room for him to run after. I told him that I am not trying to
tease him but, instead, I want to make him work a bit for his food!
Plus, it is a bit of a game for him.
So with the 4.8 ounces of
Feline's Pride + 22 pieces of dry EVO = 200 calories/day.
Bennie has lost 4.5 ounces in
2 weeks. He is on target for losing 1/2 pound/month.
I would like to see him at
~14 pounds (I reserve the right to revise that....) so that means he
needs to lose another ~4 pounds which may take another ~ 8 months.
I think that Bennie is
getting a few too many 'sprinkles' of EVO.....
His topline is now
well-muscled and he is thriving on Feline's Pride. He is also very
energetic when he plays and can run fast , turn on a dime and easily
jump up on things ....just like a cat should be able to do.
For comparison - Day 1 picture....pre-8.5 pound loss:
Bennie and his buddy, Beau
I recently rescued a litter
of kittens that are in an adjoining room to my foster room where Bennie
is. They are being free-fed canned (adult) Wellness but if their
bowls are empty, it is hard for me to feed them and not give Bennie a
tiny bit (less than a teaspoon) so he has been consuming a bit more than
his usual 2.4 ounces of Feline's Pride twice daily.
I don't like to see Bennie
get frustrated when he sees me feeding the kittens so his weight loss
has stalled a bit (for the past 2 weeks) but we will get back on track
soon. It won't hurt him to be on a bit of a 'break' from his
weight loss - as long as he is not gaining weight. I knew that
this would be a marathon - not a sprint - when we started down this road
9 months ago.
I really am anxious to find
Bennie a home of his own but it is going to be hard to find someone to
stay the course with his 'program'. We have come so far and it
would kill me to see someone adopt him who will not be committed to
keeping him on track for at least another 2 pound weight loss. Or
worse.....adopt him to someone who will allow him to become obese again.
Bennie broke through another
barrier! It is so nice to see the '17 pounds' above.
He ran like crazy today for
his tassel toy. It is a joy to see him act more and more like a
real cat every day.
The one sad part for Bennie
is that his buddy, Beau, just got adopted by a wonderful family. I
need to get Bennie in a home of his own. He is really tired of
being in my foster room and cries when I leave him. Bennie LOVES
people and is a very affectionate lap cat. As soon as I sit
down......he is in my lap. He loves to be brushed and craves more
attention than I can give him.....
I can sure see why people
fail at getting their cats to lose weight in multiple cat households.
Bennie is living with 5 kittens who need to eat a lot. It is hard
to say "no" to him when he sees the kittens eating and can smell the
I have been feeding the
kittens 3-4 times/day and Bennie has to go into a large cage for about
15 minutes while they eat so instead of feeding him 2.4 ounces twice
daily, he is getting smaller portions more frequently. I never put him
into the cage without some food as I think that would be mental torture
I sometimes take 1/2 tsp of
Wellness canned food and smear into a plastic Lean Cuisine dish so that
he has to work a bit to lick it out of the corners. This keeps him
busy while the kittens are eating. It reminds me of when my mom
used to let my brother and I lick the beaters with cookie dough on them!
It has taken Bennie almost 3
months to lose just one pound. As you can see by the picture
below, Bennie is still too heavy. He still has more fat on
his frame than he should have.
I find that people allow
their cats to carry far more fat on their bodies than they should.
Bennie and I will keep moving
forward. Slowly but surely....... he will eventually end up fit and
It is with great sadness that
I announce the passing of our sweet
on 6/25/08 due
to a stroke. Even though we miss her terribly, we take comfort in
the fact that she had a wonderful 4 years with her adoptive 'mom',
Maurine. Her final days were spent watching the wildlife out the
window of their new home in Arizona and playing with her kitty friend,
When Molly first went to live
with Maurine, she was a wonderful and comforting companion to Maurine's
elderly mother who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Maurine's mother really brightened up when Molly came to live with them
and she enjoyed having Molly sleep with her and keep her company on the
couch. We all know how soothing the presence of a furry one can be
and Molly really did her 'job' well.
Now....on a happier note, in
Molly's honor, Maurine has decided that Bennie needs to move to Arizona
to keep her and Pablo company. I could not be happier....except,
of course, if we still had our Molly.....
I know that Molly would
approve of Bennie's move to Arizona....knowing that she will never be
replaced in Maurine's heart but, instead, she would be thrilled to know
that another once-obese kitty will have a chance at a healthy life with
The timing of Bennie's new
adventure into his hopefully forever home could not be better. (I say
"hopefully" because Pablo also has to approve of his new housemate....)
Bennie's weight loss has really stalled in my cat room. He is
He has not lost any weight in
the past 3 weeks. He is still on 1.5 ounces of Feline's Pride 3
times per day for a total of 4.5 ounces per day but his weight is not
budging. And....truth be told......he is also getting a tiny bit of
Wellness and a few pieces of EVO...and I think that the calories are
adding up. It is just so hard to deny him when he smells the
Wellness that the kittens are getting.
This is a picture of one of
my foster kittens coming out of their feeding cage. This is a very
large cage that I have covered with towels so that Bennie cannot see
their food. They are young and need food available to them for
most of the day....but I have to keep Bennie from getting to it.
In order to do that, I cut a short piece of PVC pipe and notched it so
that the cage bars would fit into it. I then wedged it so that the
door would not close all the way but would stay open just enough for the
kittens to squeeze through but not Bennie. I used velcro strips to
close the door against the pipe:
It has also been impossible
to exercise Bennie because there are 7 kittens living with him and they
all run for the tassel toy....and Bennie just sits back and watches.
Instead of feeding him less,
I will keep him at the same level and ask Maurine to do the same.
If I fed him less, I would worry about nutrient malnutrition so we need
to increase his exercise to burn off calories.
Since he will be going from
my foster room to a 3,000 square foot house I want to see if an increase
in activity level will cause him to drop the needed weight.
Maurine has bought tassel toys, a food scale, and a scale for Bennie so
she will keep working at his weight loss program.
I would love to see Bennie
get down to ~16 pounds, but if he never lost another ounce, he
is so much healthier than he was when he came to live with me 11 months
I can't say enough nice
things about Bennie. He has been a joy to work with....and cuddle with
for the past year. He is kind, gentle, and very affectionate and I
will truly miss him.......
I just fed Bennie a good
sized meal (4 ounces) before packing him up to make the 8 hour drive to
his new home. I rented a large SUV so that Bennie could ride in
style in a big cage with a large litter box and nice cushy bed.
Bennie is microchipped and wore a collar with 2 phone numbers on it for
17 pounds, 1.5 ounces
17 pounds, 3.0 ounces
Bennie traveled well and
settled in nicely.
Bennie and Pablo:
Wow!! I am thrilled
with the fact that Bennie has lost weight nicely in his new home.
His food amount has stayed the same or maybe increased a bit but the key
is that he is in a large home getting lots of exercise. Maurine
reports that he does run through the house!
It is so wonderful to see him
happy in his new home and he took to Maurine very quickly. He is
a lap and bed snuggler. In fact, there are times when Pablo is in
Maurine's lap and Bennie joins in. That is a lot of fur in one
lap! (Pablo usually is the gentleman and jumps down....leaving the lap
for Big Ben.)
Well.......things fell apart
a bit over the past 6 months with Bennie consuming too many calories
leading to a 1 pound, 10 ounce weight gain. Bennie has been
getting 3 meals per day and Maurine was going to cut out lunch but I
recommended to keep feeding 3 times per day but just cut the calories
down for each meal.
Maurine thinks that Bennie
was probably getting ~250 calories/day which proved to be too much for
him. Bennie needs to stay at 200 calories, or less, in order to
lose weight. 250 calories is 25% more than 200 calories so it is a
control needs to be implemented.
A loss of 8 ounces in 1 month
- now we are headed back in the right direction!
A loss of 6 ounces in 3
months. It is nice to see '17' again!
Bennie is eating Feline's
Pride - either chicken or turkey - for a total of 200 calories/day split
into 3 meals/day. Occasionally (a few times/month) he has one of his
Feline's Pride meals replaced with canned Wellness chicken.
We are going to hold him at
200 calories/day for now but will re-evaluate him in 1 month and adjust
his caloric intake from there. My biggest concern is that the
chance of developing diabetes increases significantly with every pound
of fat on any body - human or cat. Diabetes is a very serious
and complicated disease to treat. Therefore, I really do want to
see Bennie lose more weight.
When I asked Maurine if
Bennie runs around much her reply was:
"YES! He and Pablo chase each other
around the house several times a day, plus they both bat the "mousies"
around the room...plus crazy meowing Ben races around the house by
himself, chasing who-knows-what and hollering at 'it'. Sometimes Ben
thunders up and down the hall and does the 'slip and slide' thing on the
hall rug in the morning before breakfast."
Reading that report put a
huge smile on my face! To understand my elation at Bennie's
're-birth', one only has to look at Bennie's first few pictures
above.....taken when he was terribly obese.....discarded by his
thoughtless humans when they dumped him at the 'pound'.....
Bennie has lost 9 ounces
since 1/3/10. He is still eating 200 calories/day divided between
It has been awhile since
Bennie has seen the number '16' in the pound column! He is still
eating 200 calories of Feline's Pride per day divided into 3 meals.
Bennie continues to be very playful and active and he is as affectionate
Bennie has put on almost 1 pound since his
last weigh-in so Maurine is going to watch his calorie intake a bit more
He is still feeling great and is his usual
lovable furry self but I would like to see him get back to the 16 pound
Bennie continues to gain weight which is
very disappointing. I really fear that he is going to end up with
diabetes if he does not lose weight. Diabetes can be a very
difficult and time-consuming disease to manage and is highly linked to
excess body fat in both humans and animals.
pounds, 9.0 ounces
pounds, 8.0 ounces
pounds, 9.5 ounces
pounds, 12.0 ounces
pounds, 6.0 ounces
pounds, 3.0 ounces
Very sad update....We lost
Bennie to kidney cancer in the middle of 2015. He left behind many
people and "Pablo," his best fur-buddy, who miss him terrible.
As is evident by my website, cats are my
passion and my goal is to help as many as I
can before I depart this earth. To
this end, I have spent a tremendous amount
of time over the past 12 years reading and
responding to thousands of emails that have
been sent to me asking for help/advice and
"further explanation" of information on my
Unfortunately, this has resulted in a
significant sacrifice of my personal time
and I have reached a point where I can no
longer read or respond to the large volume
of emails that I receive.
On a very good
note, the emails make me smile because I
know that the message is being heard and
more cats are receiving better nutrition and
On the other
hand, the large volume of people asking for
my time has become overwhelming. Therefore,
this statement will appear throughout this
site as well as the bottom of every page:
No individual advice or further explanation, for any reason,
will be provided via email.
That said, if
you desire personalized help and would
like information regarding my phone/Skype consulting
service, please send your request to DrPierson (at) catinfo.org.
Make sure that you put "Consultation
Service" in the subject line which may
help prevent your request from ending up in
my spam folder and increase your chance of
hearing back from me.
Information on this site is for general informational purposes only
and is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. This
site is not intended to replace professional advice from your own
veterinarian and nothing on this site is intended as a medical diagnosis
or treatment. Any questions about your animal's health should be
directed to your veterinarian.