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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Why Most Fat Cats Stay Happy, Fat Cats

Feeding the overweight cat is, at the same time, both the easiest and the most complex task. With few exceptions — like the Maine Coon at the large end and the emaciated looking Siamese at the small end — the ideal target weight for most cats is approximately ten pounds.


Unlike with dogs, we know the exact size of the thin cat inside Garfield and how many calories he needs. But administering that feeding program is nearly impossible. Cat eating behavior makes scheduled feedings very difficult, especially for working owners. The unique carnivorous feline metabolism can put a dieting cat at risk for potentially fatal liver problems. The multi-cat household adds even more challenge and frustration.


The Easy Part: How Many Calories to Feed the Overweight Cat


No matter which of the many calculations we use to determine how much to feed the dieting cat, they all yield virtually the same number of calories: 200-225 calories, or kcal. This starting number can be reduced to as low as 150 if necessary. Remember to consult your vet before restricting your cat’s calories.


Cats Eat Small Amounts Frequently


If only these creatures ate like dogs and we could schedule their feedings and monitor their food intake. But they don’t. Cats are more content eating small meals, 6-8 times a day, at about 30 calories at a time. Ancestral meals were around the same size; a mouse contains just about 30 calories!


Modern cats eat like their ancestors, but without the hunt. Few owners have time to supervise 6-8 meals a day, and imposing 2-3 scheduled feedings is likely to result in inadequate food intake. As all cat owners know, offering a cat dry, crusted canned food from the last feeding will result in litter burying behavior rather than eating behavior. And few cats will eat 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dry food at one time.


Carnivores Ask More from the Liver to Metabolize Food


As obligatory carnivores, cat metabolism required unique evolutionary development. The cat liver processes the protein in meals into energy, glucose (body sugar), and the amino acids and proteins their bodies require. This processing requires a store of fat from the meal, or from other body fat. The normal cat liver contains very high levels of working fat.


Cats will decrease their food intake because of the stress created by boarding, new pet sitters, moving to a new location, the turmoil of special family events or construction, and most importantly, changes in feeding practices and food quantities — i.e., changes to the diet, especially for weight loss. Decreased food intake results in fat recruitment to the liver to process the amino acids recruited from muscles. The liver becomes even more fatty than normal.


As this vicious cycle continues, a fatty liver, or hepatic lipidosis can occur. Without timely treatment, this condition is often fatal. Again, consult your vet before putting your cat on a weight loss diet.


The Multi-Cat Household Gambit


The feeding routine in multi-cat households can be daunting. The complex social structure, with its sometimes invisible dominance/subordinate interactions, dictates the feeding routine. Changing the routine to limit the food intake of the overweight pet can put pressure on this setting. Feeding the overweight cat separately often means isolating them or remodeling the living arrangement to allow only some of the cats access to certain areas (doors with electronic or magnetic responders). These solutions often influence the delicate social structure and cause disputes and other disruptive behavior. Generally, two to three scheduled feedings of canned food go well, but regulating the other dry food meals, especially in the owner’s absence, is difficult.


Multiple food stations or food puzzles are one solution. Two to three more feeding stations than the number of cats, each containing 25-30 calories, work for many households. For other households, the results are dismal and can result in decreased food consumption for all cats, putting all of them at risk of hepatic lipidosis.


I Sound Like Danny Downer


This was not meant to discourage, but only highlight some of the realities facing those who are seeking weight loss solutions for their overweight cats, and to illustrate why so many cats stay fat and happy … and eventually diabetic. My own thirty pound diabetic tabby is testimony to these realities.


Next week I will present a specific diet program for both single and multi-cat households.



Dr. Ken Tudor



Image: Nailia Schwarz / via Shutterstock

Comments  26

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  • Spot On!
    03/15/2012 09:44am

    This post was spot on!

    Multiple feline critters with different feeding needs is indeed a challenge. It's such a delicate balance between a perfect-weight kitty and a happy kitty.

    "My own thirty pound diabetic tabby is testimony to these realities."

    Yup, you certainly know the challenges involved! It's nice to know that we're not alone in these challenges - even doctors fight the same problems!

    Is your kitty's diabetes regulated? What insulin are you using? Assuming you have a multi-cat household, how are you handling feedings?

    In my opinion, there's a quality of life issue. Is it worth perhaps shortening the kitty's life due to weight and having them be happy all the time versus a longer life span, but the kitty isn't as happy because they're on a diet?

    What do you think?

  • 04/06/2012 02:42pm

    I don't think cats will live a miserable life because they are 'on a diet'. It is our responsibility as pet parents to protect our furry kids from health hazards.
    Not to mention that I don't want to be chasing my babies with insulin needles because they now have diabetes because of being overweight........

    Purreverly, Judy

  • 03/15/2012 03:12pm

    I have a Russian Blue her name is Bluberry,she had her 20th bday this year,and she has been overweight for the last ten,but in the last year she has started to drink more water which can be a sign of diabetes,she gets very agitated when i dont get to feeding her when she wants,its like she in going through a withdrawal,she will quiver meow constantly,and run through the house like it was on fire,the minute she eats she settles down and then goes back to sleep,now cane this be because her blood sugar is low,its like this all day up and down,i will bring her to the vet next week and see,and she weighs 20 lb,i feed her mostly holistic food she has not eaten commercial pet foods for years,as we know what is in them.

  • 03/15/2012 03:25pm

    Yes, you are correct to take her to the vet. Let them do some blood and urine tests. If all is well, talk to your vet about a possible weight loss program, especially if you are a single cat household. Weight loss is much more successful in those situations.
    Dr. T

  • 03/18/2012 01:49am

    Today i got Blueberry to the vet,we did blood work and urine,because she is urinating so much he thinks it could be her kidneys he pulled urine from her bladder and it was very clear so being thats is why he figures that is what it could be,and the sugar was checked and it looked good so now because we live on an island and the blood has to be sent to Vancouver i wont find out for sure if it is her kidneys for a week,poor thing six months ago she had 10 teeth out,she recovered very well from that,i will just hope for the best,we have been together a long time,i hope that it can continue.thank you DR. Ken Tudor for your help.

  • 03/18/2012 03:09am

    I am so pleased you sought veterinary care for Blueberry. My thoughts are with you as you await the results of the blood tests. Thank you for your kind words.
    Dr. T

  • TheOldBroad
    03/15/2012 03:17pm

    Unfortunately, my 30lb cat, "Archie", is deceased. I was able to keep him regulated on Humulin Ultra-Lente. That was before glargine, which is my choice in practice these days. I have had great success with attaining remission using glargine.
    Your comments on quality of life are an important consideration. That is why I am more easy going about meeting target weights in my feline weight loss patients. In multi-cat households preventing more weight gain is more important than significant weight loss for exactly the reasons you mention. My emphasis for cats is generally prevention in multi-cat households. This doesn't mean I am not mindful of the hazards of the overweight condition, but simply aware of the difficulty in these situations and work toward what is achievable.
    Dr. T

  • 03/15/2012 11:12pm

    I'm terribly sorry you lost Archie. As much as we love them, unfortunately we'll ultimately lose them - even if they stay healthy.

    I'm a fan of the "new" PZI. I had a CRF kitty on Ultra-Lente who reverted as soon as she was switched to PZI. Happy Days! She was my first reversion; two others stayed diabetic. Of course, those two had multiple other health problems which might have factored into it.

    If any of the current critters become diabetic, I'll start with the PZI and see if it makes a difference.

    Another cat food thought: I'd rather have them eat the wrong thing than "no-thing". It's almost embarrassing to remember some of the smelly, nasty stuff I gave my really sick kitties just to get them to eat. And if they won't eat the first offering, open another can. And so on. If they eat and keep it down, that's success.

  • 12/14/2012 04:22pm

    I know this thread is a bit old now, but I really wanted to reply. I'd like to preface by saying I'm NOT being judgmental, I promise! I'm just making an observation.

    I've had close to two dozen cats thus far in my life (I'm 43), and I've always had a multi-cat household, usually no fewer than 4 cats at a time (and I have 9 currently!). Many of my kitties have lived into their late teens and early 20s. To date, NONE of my cats has EVER been diabetic. Perhaps I've just been lucky... I don't know. (Or it could be that the vast majority of my kitties have been strays, cast-offs, or feral kittens. I think purebreds often have more health problems in general, than "mutt" cats.)

    Anyway my first thought when reading your post, Judy, was: you either have REALLY bad luck, and it's an unfortunate coincidence that you've now had 3 cats who developed diabetes; OR there's something going on with the diet you're giving them. Again, not judging, just observing! (Not knowing your situation, I grant that it's also possible that you knowingly took in special needs kitties, and that's why you have such experience with feline diabetes! Or maybe you're a vet? I just don't know from the posts, sorry.)

    After about two weeks of research, I am beginning raw "whole prey" model with my four dogs in the next week or so. (I have to stock up on meats, etc., and figure out the logistics of where they'll all eat in my small house!)

    I would love to do the same thing for my cats, but with 9 cats, it'd be a full-time job to convert everyone. Finding them all at feeding time would be the worst part! Then there's monitoring their poop to see how the diet's working during the tweaking stages.... Unless I feed them all a different color food coloring in their food, I don't know how I'd tell their pee/poop apart! LOL I have also recently learned that cats are somewhat imprint feeders (like ferrets). That means that whatever type of food they've grown up on (kibble, for example) is what they tend to prefer. Some of my 9 give me "that look" when I offer them real meat, like I've just put a lump of coal in their food bowl. LOL

    Anyway, I digressed terribly. Sorry! I'm no vet, but if you tend to have a lot of cats developing diabetes, I would look to the diet you give them, and alter it if it's possible to do so (both financially and logistically). In the wild, cats are obligate carnivores, which means they get ALL the nutrition and MOST of the water they need from their raw juicy prey (including muscle meat, bones, and organs)... no corn, no wheat, no soy, no whatever else is in the commercial food we tend to feed. They also don't have the thirst drive that dogs (and humans) do, so most pet cats are chronically dehydrated, which I'm certain contributes to the high prevalence of kidney disease in older cats.

    If you're not comfortable "going raw," go "cooked." I.e. get real meat and organs and cook them for Fluffy, and maybe supplement to compensate for lack of bone. Though it should be noted that cooking changes the composition of the food, so they're not getting quite the nutrition from cooked as they would from raw. Vary their diet... not just chicken 24/7 for the rest of their lives. Try lamb, pork, venison, whatever. And above all, they don't need rice or any other grains or starches. Cats and dogs have very short intestinal tracts and can't process grains like people or herbivores can. Additionally, grain proteins are often allergens and can cause skin, coat, and digestive problems.

    If you can't afford to feed your cats "people food," give them high quality canned food (no wheat, corn, soy, by-products). At least that way, they're getting more water in their diets.

    I've even read many natural/holistic vets on the web advocating "crappy" canned food (like what you get at the grocery store) if that's all you can afford. It's still better than kibble.

    Unfortunately, even knowing all this, I still feed my 9 kibble. =( I just don't have the time or financial resources to feed them better at this point. But I would if I could!

    You may have a hard time with your personal vet when it comes to raw food. "Too dangerous," "not necessary," "this brand we sell here at our office is so much better," blah, blah,blah. But this is how they eat when left to their own devices. It is, in fact, NATURAL for them!

    Google "cats raw whole prey model" (or something similar) for more information if this interests you. There are a TON of resources out there, including groups and forums of other owners successfully feeding raw who can help you transition your furkids. These group members are usually REALLY supportive and helpful.

    Thanks for listening!

  • 12/14/2012 11:55pm

    Thanks for the reply, Lovejoy444.

    One of my diabetic kitties was a spontaneous diabetic while she was being treated for Chronic Kidney Failure. She was the one that reverted when we switched to PZI.

    The other two were steroid-induced diabetics. Unfortunately, neither could be taken off the steroids. One had lymphocytic lymphoma and wouldn't eat without 10 mg of Prednisolone every day. The vet and I made a choice to keep him on the steroids and eating. I just dealt with the diabetes.

    The other was on 2 mg Prednisolone per day for about 5 years (for a chronic eye inflammation) before she turned diabetic. The ophthalmologist and I were pretty sure she would lose her eye if we took her off the steroids.

    None of these kitties were overweight when they became diabetic and they all tolerated the glucometer testing and insulin injections quite well.

    So far (knock on wood), I haven't had an obesity-induced diabetic.

  • 04/06/2012 02:52pm

    I agree that prevention is key. Putting anyone, human or furry friend, on a diet is not easy. My rather large maine coon was the impetus for my patenting an affordable, pet friendly, in-home pet scale. He was getting larger and larger and I knew I had to do something about it and there was nothing on the market to assist me in my home. I am hopeful that this product will be on the shelves soon so that we can start being proactive in maintaining our beloved furry friend's health! Purreverly, Judy

  • Surprising
    03/15/2012 08:50pm

    Some of the statements were surprising to me!

    With my own cat, whose ideal weight seems to be right around 14.5 lbs (he is a big cat), I feed a commercially prepared ground raw diet. I don't know the calories he's getting from that, but I measure each of his two daily servings (in grams) on the kitchen scale to make sure I don't gradually give him more and more, or not enough.

    If his weight seems to be rising, I reduce the food by about 10 grams per meal until I see and feel him getting back to normal ... and vise versa if he seems to be getting a bit too thin.

    Lately, his weight is mysteriously going up, even though his quantity of food is currently lower than usual. It's making me wonder if he's getting food elsewhere (he's indoor/outdoor), or if something has gone wrong metabolically. Time for a trip to the vet, I guess!

  • Chubby Cats
    03/15/2012 09:40pm

    I notice that one of my local animal shelters is offering a special on the adoption fee for overweight cats:

    "Chubby Cats, Petite Prices: $1 per pound discount on Adult Cats during March"

    Well, I hope these cats find loving homes that will help them lose their excess weight!

  • Surprising, indeed!
    03/16/2012 09:32pm

    Dr. Tudor,

    You state, “Modern cats eat like their ancestors, but without the hunt. Few owners have time to supervise 6-8 meals a day, and imposing 2-3 scheduled feedings is likely to result in inadequate food intake. As all cat owners know, offering a cat dry, crusted canned food from the last feeding will result in litter burying behavior rather than eating behavior. And few cats will eat 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dry food at one time.” Yet in the next sentence, you point out that “As obligatory carnivores, cat metabolism required unique evolutionary development.”

    I expect you’re familiar with the Scientific American article of 2009, “The Evolution of House Cats,” a piece that reviews the work of Driscoll et al. (2007). Their work on the evolution of domestic cats found that at a genetic level today’s house cat is virtually indistinguishable from its African Wild Cat ancestor. With this knowledge, and understanding that cats are obligate carnivores, why do vets continue to promote kibble as an appropriate food for cats? I realize that vets typically receive little nutritional training in University or thereafter (outside of training seminars by Hill's Pet or Royal Canin). But it doesn’t take a D.V.M. to “get” that cats, as obligate carnivores, have zero nutritional requirement for carbohydrates. So why do we feed them cooked or extruded foods with corn, wheat, or peas as primary sources of protein when it is so clear that their digestive systems are designed to derive all of their nutritional requirement from the raw meat of other animals? If we feed kibble or canned food, our cats most certainly do not eat like their ancestors. Feral cats and African Wild Cats are not out there raiding the garden. Scarecrows are not put up in corn fields to deter our cats from eating the corn. But our cats do NEED to eat like their ancestors. Their bodies are designed to thrive on an all-meat, no vegetable, no starch, no grain diet.

    With obesity in our cats at epidemic proportions, it is only responsible to recommend a species-appropriate diet. Frozen raw food in meal-sized portions takes just a few minutes to dethaw: no dry, crusted canned food required. Further, it only takes a small bit of creativity to work with our cats to properly eat 3 meals a day. I transitioned my cats from free feeding kibble to eating three timed raw meals a day (before work, after work, and before bed). If there is no one home to feed multiple small meals a day, it is still possible to slowly reduce the number of meals and increase the amount of intake per meal with the use commercial freeze-dried food and timed feeders. It’s not rocket science. Thankfully, my vets understand the benefit of an all raw diet and supported our decision to transition.

    Why not feed cats the food they are so perfectly designed to eat? Meat, small bones, and organs. Control the portions. The weight will come off at the pace you set. Further, the reduced stress on their bodies from constantly working to digest foods they were not meant to eat will improve their overall health and quality of life.

  • SaveSamoa
    03/17/2012 03:44am

    You are looking for controversy where none exist. I absolutely agree that cats are obligatory carnivores. I personally advocate all wet or homemade diets for cats because of this fact. However, I do not share your zeal for raw, but that is immaterial. I am a practitioner who participates in the real world where clients have economic realities that results in their feeding dry kibble so I offer advice to help them achieve goals with their choices without chastising them for their situation . I do not impose my beliefs, but try to respect other realities and offer solutions that may achieve the ultimate end - a healthy life style for cats.
    There is no Rosetta Stone by which we can judge all those who own cats. Relax, life ain't that intense.
    Dr. T

  • 03/22/2012 07:15am

    I also agree with Save Samoa, on all points.

    I have six cats, all fed a raw, home-prepared frankenprey diet, three meals a day. My costs are fully *half* what they used to be when I was feeding canned, and all six are in perfect physical condition. My own vet, who runs a feline-only practice, is consistently impressed with their health, but especially with their strong, athletic body condition.

    Two of my cats put weight on very easily, and two shed it too easily. While on canned (the "best" canned: Evo, Nature's Variety Instinct, Wellness Core, etc.), the former two were chunky and gaining fast, and the later two were borderline for being clinically underweight. Once put on raw, all six dropped fat and gained muscle!

    Dr. Tudor, if you are already recommending home-prepared diets, you have to be aware of the harm kibble causes. And knowing, as you clearly do, that cats obtain their energy, growth and maintenance needs through animal-based protein and fat, and that carbs/starches - such as those found in *all* kibble products - are converted almost directly into body fat, any discussion involving feline nutrition, and especially involving weight, should include a clear caution against feeding kibble.

    I mean no respect to you personally, I am - like SS - just surprised to see a post on obesity that doesn't mention that kibble is a primary cause of overweight cats. Thank you for all that you do in your practice!

    Best regards.

    Tracy Dion

  • 03/23/2012 05:10am

    Yes cats are obligatory carnivores and that is why I formulate homemade diets. However there is no scientific evidence that kibble causes obesity. Owner feeding habits causes obesity. Not counting calories causes obesity. Lack of exercise causes obesity. Social interactions among pets and humans causes obesity. Feeding excessive amounts of raw diets can also cause obesity. You have your agenda and no matter what I say will sway you but it is the quantity of food not the type of food that causes obesity. Whether to feed cats kibble for health reasons is a separate issue that has nothing to do with obesity.
    Dr. T

  • 03/23/2012 06:09am

    Why the hostility, Dr. Tudor? I was respectful and polite and asked a courteous and important question. Rather than answer it, you come back at me with accusations of some mysterious and obviously nefarious "agenda"... not what I expected from this discourse.

    My only "agenda" is healthy cats, and I earn nothing from my efforts. Nor would I be gauche enough to mention the profit you earn on every bag of kibble you sell.

    As for the obesity issue, here are several sites for your leisurely review: Dr. Pierson's CatInfo.org, Dr. Hofve's LittleBigCat.com, and the Feline Nutrition Education Society's Feline-Nutrition.org. All have articles illustrating the link between kibble and obesity.

    In addition, Dr. Peterson, a well-respected endocrinologist, wrote a nice little piece explaining the difference in the manner cats - because of their status as obligate carnivores - process calories from animal protein and fat into the energy they need to grow, repair and maintain their systems, and convert calories from carbs (which they are not designed to eat) into sugars and body fat: http://endocrinevet.blogspot.com/2011/12/can-increasing-amount-of-fat-or.html

    For you and I, it may be a fairly simple calories in / calories expended ratio that determines our weight, but for cats, it's a little more complex - *where* those calories come from matters a great deal.

    Again, I wish you well and thank you for the good you do in caring for cats.

    Best regards.

    Tracy Dion

  • 03/23/2012 06:24am

    I disagree that there was hostility in Dr. Tudor's response.

    Just sayin'.

  • Dr. Tudor
    03/17/2012 06:43pm

    Looking for controversy, no. Zeal, yes. Being rather new to reading the Daily Vet, I wasn’t aware you advocate all wet or homemade diets: that’s great to know.

    I, too, live in the real world with its economic realities. Economics and the desire to feed a healthy diet were the deciding factors in our transition to raw homemade food for our cats.

    Like many, we used to let our cats free-feed dry food and provided one meal of wet food a daily. This was based on, as you say, their natural eating patterns. And it was on the advice of one of our vets. The boys blocked, so again, on the advice of the vet, we switched to Hill’s Pet c/d and bumped the wet meals to two per day. We rescue, and unable to place an FIV+ cat, we adopted him. Traditional medicine was unable to control his chronic diarrhea. We sought out a holistic D.V.M., trained in Chinese Medicine and Nutrition. We were fortunate to find one in our area. She advocated raw, and scared the wits out of us regarding how kibble was/is/could impact the health of our cats. We switched to a grain-free all wet diet. That’s when I began independently researching cat food choices. And I discovered that the grains in the formulas were often replaced with other forms of carbohydrates, IMO, with the goal of cheap(er) protein. Commercial cat food companies are, after all, in the business to earn a profit.

    On a cat health forum, I argued against raw, likely for the same reasons you “do not share [my] zeal for raw.” But the more research I did on the ingredients in our commercially available cat food, the less willing I became to feed it to my cats. Ultimately, it was the knowledge I gained arguing against feeding homemade raw and analysis of the cost of feeding it that caused me to change my mind about feeding just that.

    Your readers, if anyone sees this, may be surprised to learn of the economics of feeding their cats. When it comes to cooked homemade food, I don’t know what supplementation would be required, so can’t include that in the comparison. Based on the feeding instructions for a 10-pound cat (using the low end when there’s a range), and assuming 5.5 ounce cans are purchased when feeding wet food (and that one tin can be used for more than one meal), the cost per day to feed (using lowest price found online today and assuming no shipping charge) is:

    9 Lives Dry Essentials $0.27 per day
    Friskies Indoor formula Dry $0.28 per day
    Purina One Dry $0.30 per day
    Purina Pro Plan Weight Management Formula Dry $0.31 per day
    Hill’s Pet Prescription Weight Management w/d Dry $0.50 per day
    Wellness Core Original Formula Dry $0.59 per day

    9 Lives canned $1.62 per day
    Fancy Feast (classic) 3 oz cans (5.5 oz cans not available) $1.43 per day
    Wellness grain-free chicken $1.79 per day
    EVO 95% chicken & turkey $1.96 per day

    Prey-model raw: assumes 4 oz required per day (2.5% body weight).
    At $1.00 per pound for meat/bones/organs the cost is $0.25 per day
    At $2.00 per pound the cost is $0.50 per day
    At $3.00 per pound the cost is $0.75 per day
    At $4.00 per pound the cost is $1.00 per day
    At $5.00 per pound the cost is $1.25 per day

    Basically, you can feed organic, humanely raised, grass-fed red meats and pasture-raised/vegetarian supplemented poultry for less than a “quality” commercial canned food diet. And you can feed bulk purchased homemade for the same cost as a "high-end" dry food diet. I understand people also have to make lifestyle and convenience choices. But on an economics basis, the reality is that feeding homemade raw is extremely cost-competitive. It may not be as convenient to feed as kibbles or cans, but it most certainly is affordable, even for those of us that lost our jobs.

    As the cost can be ruled out as a factor in the choice to feed homemade, I’m still left with the question, why would any vet recommend kibble of any kind? If an M.D. recommended someone feed their child a diet of highly processed macaroni and cheese, donuts, and the occasional hot dog and fries, I highly doubt most other Doctors would endorse that diet. Bump that up to macaroni and cheese made with whole wheat pasta and real cheese, substitute the donuts for oatmeal raisin cookies, and “improve” the diet with a daily meal of canned chicken stew. Day-in, Day-out, every day, for years. Someone shouldn’t say, “Hey, wait a minute. People need fresh fruits and vegetables.” ? Well, I’m one of those “someones,” and I’m saying, “Hey, wait a minute. Our cats don’t need ANY fruits or vegetables.”

    …And I’m really disappointed that this was never discussed with me in the course of one of many vet visits in my 10 years of cat rescue. After the point was raised by our holistic vet, when I subsequently asked the other vets with whom we work, they all concurred: a raw, prey-model diet is the healthiest diet we can feed a cat. Yes, there are risks. But has anyone looked at the list of recalls of commercial foods for salmonella or aflatoxin?

    I don’t know when this awareness by my long-standing vets occurred. But I wonder why it was never mentioned when we reviewed their diet at each annual check-up. Never once was there a "Did you know?" or "Have you considered?"

    Life may not be "that intense," but passion is a motivator. And with my cancer survivor, Lazlo, I'm left wondering if he would have needed to go through all of that had he been fed a species-appropriate diet the first nine years of his life...

  • 03/18/2012 11:45pm

    I agree with SaveSamoa's comments as well as those of Dr. Ken Tudor. It took me 11 years of cat "ownership" before I learned the info that SaveSamoa notes above. I haven't switched to a raw diet as I haven't yet purchased a heavy duty meat&bones grinder. SaveSamoa, are you purchasing the raw food you feed your cats? When you say "prey-model raw," are you purchasing frozen mice? Or are you feeding them a prepared frozen meat diet? I'm feeding my cats a grain-free canned food diet - Nature's Variety Instinct. Our younger cats love all the flavors. Our oldest (age 17) has always been picky and doesn't care for it; she is quite thin now which our vet attributes to reduced absorption of her food, so we feed her her favorite Fancy Feast canned foot 4x per day.

    Living in Southern California, the shipping cost for the raw food diets I've found online is prohibitive. Some of the pet stores are beginning to carry frozen raw food diets for cats; I've yet to check them out. I plan to prepare and freeze a raw diet using chicken as soon as I purchase the grinder. Per recommendation by cat breeders, I purchased Platinum Performance for cats as an additive to make sure they receive the necessary nutrients.

    I agree with Dr. Ken that the optimal frequency of feedings is problematic for those of us who work long hours outside of the house. I have cat feeder devices that open automatically at a set time, but our big and still-growing 12-lb Turkish Van will eat everyone else's food if we are not home to separate them at feeding time. For now, DH is home to feed them "lunch" but this will change soon. Not sure how we will handle this.

  • 03/19/2012 06:58pm

    DagTagg, when I say "prey model" raw, I refer to a "Frankenprey" diet. I mimic a whole prey diet by feeding my cats a diet that contains approximately 80% meat/connective tissue, 10% bones, 5% liver, and 5% other secreting organ (important to note that heart, lung, and gizzards are considered muscle organs, not secreting organs). This mimics the composition of their average prey - small rodents/rabbits.

    Today there are so many places that provide ground, you probably don't need to have it shipped to you. But to feed raw, you definitely do not need a grinder. Mine no longer even like ground food.

    I transitioned to raw using commercially prepared (frozen) ground food mixed into their wet food, simply gradually increasing the amount of raw and reducing the amount of canned. Most commercially prepared frozen raw food contains some portion of vegetables and fruit (I sought brands that limited this to just 5% of the total or had none at all), and once on 100% raw, my cats made it clear they preferred the foods with just meat and supplements. FYI, Nature's Variety makes frozen raw food, and is one of the most widely distributed. Mine no longer like it, but they did when we started.

    To find a pet store that carries frozen raw in your area, just google "holistic pet store" along with the name of your town and state.

    When preparing our meals, I began offering them slices of meat. They clearly preferred this (though we did have to start with small slices before increasing the size to chunks - they needed to learn how to chew!). I developed a menu plan that includes rabbit, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork, and duck, and includes hearts, kidney, livers, pancreas and spleen, and that is balanced over the course of a week. The menu has been reviewed by a holistic vet with certification in nutrition.

    I source from the supermarket, the local health food store (which sells locally sourced organic meats), and I order from http://www.hare-today.com. I live on the east coast, so their shipping charges are quite reasonable for me (as are those of Nature's Menu). Being on the west coast, you may need to obtain rabbit from Whole Foods for Pets. But I highly recommend joining a local B.A.R.F. yahoo group. Most members will be feeding dogs, but you will find many places or coops from which to source locally, whether it's pre-ground, organs, or meats.

    At this point, I feed three meals a day, and they do very well. It's the minimum number recommended, but it works! I feed before breakfast, around dinner time, and before bed. When we transitioned to canned from free-fed kibble, I started with numerous meals a day, and gradually reduced the number of meals, increasing the amount of food offered at each meal. I was home full time then. But with automatic feeders and the availability of freeze dried raw (many of which are in small nuggets, almost like a large kibble), automatic feeders can be employed if necessary by those who cannot be at home to provide extra meals during the transition to three meals a day (if it's necessary).

    IMO, one of the best resources on the net for raw feeding cats is http://catcentric.org. The site provides many resources other sites do not have, but also provides resource links to the most widely recognized raw feeding information sites.

    For your oldest, does the supplement include digestive enzymes? If not, have you discussed this with your vet?

  • 12/14/2012 05:51pm

    I just wanted to tack a note onto SaveSamoa's response to Dagtagg (if anyone's still reading this thread 9 months after it started!):

    It's certainly acceptable to feed GROUND raw (and definitely preferable to "regular" cat food!). They still get 100% of their actual nutrition from ground raw. But I just wanted to point out that it's the very ACT of tearing, gnashing, and chewing on WHOLE pieces of meat (not ground) that serves to keep cats' teeth cleaned. And I don't know about any of you guys, but dental problems have been the most common health issue I've faced during my lifetime of cats!

    For two weeks I have been researching raw diet for my 4 dogs. I will be converting them in the next week or so. I have read in many places that dogs switched to raw whole prey (or frankenprey, as SaveSamoa mentioned) had a complete reversal of their previous dental problems (all the brown tartar gone, shiny white teeth). Now if a tooth is already "bad" or loose or whatever, that tooth likely won't be saved. But in any case, the act of tearing into WHOLE LARGE pieces of meat cleans their teeth. Wild dogs just rarely have dental problems. The same would go for cats.

    Obviously you're not going to be able to just chuck an entire pork shoulder roast at your cat and say, "Okay, have at it, Fluffy!" "Large" is a relative term. Pick something that is large for THEM. Burying their teeth into their meals day after day is what cleans the teeth! And clean teeth lead to fewer other health problems. (See the end of my post for more information.)

    That said, SaveSamoa gave FANTASTIC advice on how to transition cats to raw in general. (I'm going to copy it into a Word document for the day I'm ready to transition my own cats. I work full-time and have two busy teenagers, so I'm working on my 4 dogs first!) You'll note that she made the switch with just tiny changes over time, to the point where her cats now PREFER whole hunks of meat -- which are better for their teeth. With dogs, it's usually advised that you just make the switch "cold turkey." Cats are usually incredibly picky, though, and transitioning them is a good idea.


    Here's some info I came across the other day:

    "Some 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society....

    In humans, researchers have documented the link between dental disease and conditions that affect the brain, heart, liver, kidney, lung, skin and joints....

    'Chronic inflammation and stress, both of which are consequences of dental disease, are two of the biggest factors in causing the insulin resistance' that leads to diabetes.... 'In quite a few cases we’ve seen pets with fetid mouths and hard-to-control diabetes. Often, once we clean up these pets’ mouths, their insulin needs go down within just a few weeks.'

    ...Although cats and dogs have evolved to be experts at masking discomfort (in the wild, any sign of weakness can lead to lower standing in the pack hierarchy or to being seen as prey, not predator), the progression of oral disease is pretty painful."

    [The above information sourced from Tufts University at: http://now.tufts.edu/articles/dental-disease-cats-dogs] The whole article is ENLIGHTENING. Please take a look at it! The fact that pets generally have a higher pain tolerance and do mask their pain well often means that they have rotten teeth and the owners don't even know. I am a pet groomer and therefore often have a lot more intimate contact with their pets than the owners do! As such, I am often the pets' first line of defense, and the first person in pet parents' lives to show owners how terrible their pets' teeth are.]

  • Thank you
    04/12/2012 02:13am

    Dr. Tudor, thank you for ... prompting me to research the cost of feeding our cats. I analyzed 48 kibbles, 40 canned foods, and 15 commercial raw foods. The analysis results and tables are available here: http://catcentric.org/nutrition-and-food/raw-feeding/how-much-does-it-cost-to-feed-my-cat-or-i-can-afford-to-feed-commercial-raw/

    As expected, cheap kibble is... cheap. But there are commercial raw options that cost less to feed than some kibble, and the cheapest non-kibble option is actually commercial raw if available locally, not a canned food! The results were quite interesting. And FYI, I included links to all the products, and included the information on carbs (on a DMB basis).

    The bottom line is that there are raw feeding options (both commercial and homemade) that are very cost competitive to feeding kibble and canned. You may be interested to learn that if you live in the U.S. and can afford to feed an inexpensive canned food or an expensive kibble, there are commercial raw feeding options. :-}

    Thanks again,


  • 04/12/2012 03:27am

    Excellent research. You have certainly given my readers some alternative options.
    Dr. T

  • electronic supervisor
    04/16/2012 10:49am

    There is a new product that is designed to help the multi-cat feeding problems. It does automatic supervised feedings and the cats can access as often as they want. It's not perfect but it's a start.


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