Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fat Possum! Or, The Quest for the Ideal Cat Food, Part 2

The boys went to the vet tonight. Harris voluntarily climbed into his carrier; like Goldilocks, he checked out all three before choosing his favorite. He is an exceptional kitten. Toffee didn't object to being zipped into his carrier, either, although he cried plaintively in the car, no doubt remembering the horrors of his recent trip to the emergency center at Angell.

Possum resisted. Possum is large and strong, and he did not go gently. I seldom pick him up; I'm no fool. We rarely have disagreements — only about trimming his claws, and only then until my husband finds a way to hold him that he approves. But he wanted to stay home tonight, so it was hard work getting his big head and substantial rump down into the carrier, which is barely big enough to hold him. Once inside, he can easily roll it over. He tried to bite his way to freedom.

We ran into a neighbor, sitting by himself, in the vet's waiting room. I love Boston; in many ways, it's a small town, and our neighborhood really is a village. This neighbor happens to work at the museum where I freelance. He told me he'd put my 1099 Form in the mail today. See, Boston really is a small town.

Toffee's paws are healing; he got his FVRCP booster shot. Harris got his rabies shot, the annual vaccine that's thought to be the safest one for rabies. Both kittens are growing nicely; Harris is 6.2 pounds and Toffee is 6.8.

We'd brought Possum along just to be weighed. I had tried it this afternoon on our digital scale, which read 6.8 pounds. Ha. I don't want to imagine the lies it's been telling me about MY weight.

I was sorry to learn that Possum weighs 16 pounds. He hasn't lost any weight since we stopped free-feeding him kibble (grain-free) along with Natural Balance canned (with grain) in early November and switched him to a high-protein, all-canned diet. (As you can see, I'm a very new convert to the Anti-Kibble/Pro-Canned/Pro-Raw theories of feline nutrition, so judge my zeal accordingly.)

They say, "Stout has more to offer," and Possum is proof of that. 
Here, little Harris submits to a bath.

Poor Possum. He's still 1-1/2 pounds overweight, as I suspected. I suppose it's good news that he hasn't gained weight, and that he isn't considered "obese." It seems he was obese when he was 17.5 pounds a little over a year ago. In those days, I was feeding him a "light" formula of kibble that was loaded with grains, because it was supposed to help him lose weight. But he gained weight instead. This happens to lots of cats on "diet" food because it's full of carbohydrates, which they can't metabolize as efficiently as protein, and even fat.

Live, learn. We thought Possum's new diet would reduce his weight easily. But it didn't.

So, what are we going to do now? It will be hard to feed Possum less food because he already acts hungry much of the time, putting on a pathetic, melodramatic act that includes licking the floor. Each cat gets the equivalent of one 5.5-ounce can of food per day, about 225 calories. It doesn't seem like much. The kittens and Wendy seem to be fine with that much food although they'd certainly welcome more. But Possum is already getting far fewer calories than he's supposed to, given his size.

My theory is that his metabolism was wrecked because he was neutered at just a few weeks old. Having a theory does nothing to solve his problem, however. Finding even healthier food, feeding less of it, and giving him more frequent but smaller meals are three potential solutions.

I'm still researching canned and raw foods. I've gotten deeply mired in too much information. I have tied my brain in knots on the subject. Yet I'm unhappy with my current choices every single day (although all the cats chow them down). We feed Nature's Variety Instinct Duck and Lamb flavors (the cats rejected their Chicken flavor). This brand is widely considered to be safe and healthy, but these flavors still have a small percentage of "silly" vegetables, like artichokes, cranberries, tomatoes, and pumpkin. They are probably added to appeal to our human taste buds, not to nourish our cats; cats apparently lack the enzymes to metabolize any remaining nutrients in such vegetables. I will continue to put up with them until I can find some simpler foods that they'll eat. We're also feeding Wellness Core Chicken, although we're stopping as soon as the last can is gone (or well before that if I can find a replacement) because it contains carrageenan,* a potentially dangerous ingredient that you'll find in many premium "natural" foods.

I need to get busy tomorrow and find some new foods that I can test with a few meals and then buy in bulk. And that includes raw food, which is looking better and better. I've decided I will work from this rather excellent list at The Natural Cat Care Blog, since its author, Liz Eastwood, seems to have done much of the research homework I'd assigned myself. Many of the foods I researched and liked are on her list, too. I will keep you posted about the foods I find in local shops and how my cats are liking them. They've been willing to try new things so far. Wish us luck.

*Susan Thixton of TruthaboutPetFood is doing important, frustrating work to improve the pet food industry — her goals include more transparency and honesty to "petsumers" as well as safer and healthier ingredients. I subscribe to her newsletter and pay to read her pet food reviews. If you're interested in pet food, do check out her website.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. I've relaxed my vigilance a bit about my sweet Lyra's diet. I just eliminated carageenan from my own diet - it hadn't yet occurred to me to check hers. And although I've been careful to feed her high-end grain-free canned food - there it is on the ingredient list.

    My vet is a HUGE promoter of raw diets, and recommended Stella & Chewy's to me recently as an easy alternative to feeding raw. (Although we have a convenient nearby source.) I know it's just a matter of trying some different things with Lyra and easing into it.


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