Monday, February 8, 2016

Fat Cat - Starting a Diet

For the first time, I have an obese cat. Yes, being a Maine Coon breeder, we have large cats. We have pregnant cats. We have had the occasional "beefy" spayed or neutered cat. Now having an obese cat bothers me because I have preached to my kitten buyers to keep their cats at a healthy weight. Just because you have a Maine Coon doesn't mean you should have a 30-pound cat.

I am not a feline nutritionist, but I've learned a bit over the years of being a breeder. I advise my kitten buyers that if their cat starts to become too chubby, cut back on the dry food and increase the canned. Always feed canned food, no matter how inconvenient it is for you, because cats need the extra water in their diets. Drinking water is not enough. Canned food is more meat whereas dry food is closer to cat cereal and has way more carbohydrates. Male cats in particular need the extra water content that canned food provides to prevent urinary tract blockages.

I won't get into the raw diet because I have chosen not to feed raw. I have a fear of too much familiarity with the original food source and salmonella to go there. I refuse to even strip the Thanksgiving turkey to salvage the meat; that's what husbands are for. Even though I don't feed raw, I recommend that all cat owners read Dr. Lisa Pierson's site, Cat on feline diets. She offers ways to feed your cat a healthy diet, raw or not.

My readers may remember my blog last August about Dracoonfly Cosseboom "Boom Boom" and how I had to reclaim her from my mother whose own health is failing. When I brought Boom Boom back, she was on the thin side at 15-plus pounds, covered in flea bites, missing hair from all the scratching, and needed dental work. Her diet was changed (no more Meow Mix), she had many teeth pulled, and she was put on Amitriptyline to help with her allergies and anxiety. Once her mouth healed, Boom Boom starting eating with a vengeance. She stopped scratching and her coat grew back.

Even though Boom Boom was born in my house, had a very successful show career and made some beautiful babies for her first five years, at the age of 11 she is not thrilled living with a bunch of cats and two dogs. She growls defensively at any cat she deems a threat. Hence, I hoped the Amitriptyline would have the added benefit of helping her to deal with the chaos. However, Boom Boom seemed happiest to live with Bear, one of my two breeding males, in my son's old bedroom. It seemed to be a perfect arrangement. However, Boom Boom, went from thin-ish to fat. When I weighed her about a month ago on my baby scale, it confirmed what my eyes saw; she was now 20 pounds. With her large frame, Boom Boom's ideal weight is about 17 pounds.

At 20 pounds, Boom Boom was the heaviest cat in the house. As I mentioned, I have large cats, not fat ones. Most of my cats eat canned food together twice daily and free feed on dry food. Instead of feeding her separately, my first plan of action to get her weight down was to force Boom Boom out of her Bear cave and to travel the stairs to eat. She wasn't happy with having to deal with other cats, but Boom Boom hung out mostly on our kitchen counter, arguing with Bugger occasionally over who owns that space. But rather than losing, she actually looked like she was putting on more weight.

Out came my scale again. Yikes! About a month after my tough-love-get-out-and-use-the-stairs-diet plan, Boom Boom was now 22 pounds, a two-pound gain. I guess it goes to show you how important a scale can be to keep things in perspective.

Time to get serious. Time to try out the advice I frequently gave my kitten buyers if their cat starts to get fat; cut out the dry food and increase the canned. I refreshed my memory on feline weight loss with the Cat site and put Boom Boom on a canned food only diet. I add about a teaspoon of powdered Metamucil to her food. Cats that lose weight too quickly can develop life-threatening Hepatic Lipidosis (fatty liver disease) so it's important to monitor weight loss accurately. The recommendation is have the cat lose no more than 2% of her body weight per week. At 22 pounds, that would be 7 ounces, adjusting the goal as her weight declines. I put the scale in my bathroom and made a spreadsheet to track Boom Boom's weight and remind me to weigh her every 2-3 days.

Since I do currently have two other cats who like to sleep in our room with us, I put their dry food in the bath tub. Boom Boom currently doesn't have the mobility or motivation to jump into the tub for food. She's also lost the ability to jump onto our bed.

On a hunch, I Googled side effects of Amitriptyline. Sure enough, weight gain is a side effect. I'll have to get with my vet for something else to tackle the skin allergies as the meds stop today. Amitriptyline probably isn't the sole cause of creating an obese cat in 6 months, but there must be a correlation.

So stayed tuned for the continuing saga of my big girl. If your own cat is on the plump side, take a look at his or her diet and follow along.

"I'm not fat. I can still fit in the kitchen sink."


  1. My boy is 29 lbs and chubby. He is the laziest cat and has been since he was a kitten. So play does not entice him to become active. We have him on 1 cup of "weight loss" dry food divided into two feedings. No snacks. We stopped the canned food because he refused to eat anything else and it was quite expensive. So I am following your progress with Boom Boom to see if this works for you.

  2. Boom Boom has lost 6 ounces already so I'm hopeful. Weight loss food can have the opposite intent as it contains less protein, causing the cat to eat more of it in order to get more protein. The Cat site has a section on how to get your dry food addicted cat to switch to canned. You're not alone in having a cat that only wants dry food, but it's worth it to get him to onto something healthier. 29 lbs is more than chubby, even for a Maine Coon.

  3. "I refuse to even strip the Thanksgiving turkey to salvage the meat; that's what husbands are for."

    I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. And if not all the meat makes it past the salvaging operation, then that's just a price that has to be paid.

    1. As least you're good for something around the house.