Lessons From A Fat Cat

      175 Comments on Lessons From A Fat Cat

Our cat’s official name is Rascal, but we usually refer to him as Little Man. I gave him that name at some point after his successful campaign to convert me into a person who likes cats – at least one cat, anyway.

I’m pretty sure after he joined the family two years ago, he evaluated us all and figured out I was the only one who wasn’t delighted by his presence. Okay, he said to himself, I’ll work on him. He took to jumping on my lap when I was watching TV late at night – which scared me out of my skin the first few times – and settling down for a long purr.

Later, he decided to make me his sparring partner. Whenever he gets the chance, he jumps onto my office chair and adopts a fighting pose he probably imagines is intimidating. If I walk near the chair, he swipes at me, and the sparring is on. I try to poke him in various places, while he swipes at my hand and tries to catch a finger in his teeth. If he does catch a finger, he gives it an oh-so-gentle nip to let me know he won the round. I call this game of his En Garde, Mister!


(Little Man playing En Garde, Mister! with my hand.)

A couple of months before the cruise, Little Man and I were engaged in a spirited round of En Garde, Mister! when he rolled onto his back as part of some fancy martial-arts move. I poked him in the belly and was surprised at how big and soft it had become.

What the …?

Little Man had become Tubby Man.

Up until a month or two earlier, he’d been living on canned cat food that’s primarily meat and organ meat. There’s rice in some of the flavors, but not much. For variety, Chareva also fed him sardines, mackerel and tuna.

Then she found a brand of dry cat food that brags No Corn, Wheat or Soy, No Artificial Colors, Flavors or Ingredients on the label. Little Man liked the stuff, so she put it out along with the canned food. Over time, he ate less of the canned food and more of the dry food.

So when I found myself poking a newly-rotund cat belly, I checked the ingredients on the bag of dry food. The first ingredient listed is chicken. That’s good. The next three ingredients are pea powder, barley and brown rice. Well, I wouldn’t call those bad, but it’s clear the dry cat food is considerably more carb-laden than the canned stuff.

I wondered to myself, Did Little Man become Tubby Man because we inadvertently jacked up the carbohydrate content of his diet?

Naaaawww, that can’t be. Legions of internet cowboys have informed me (and everyone on the Fat Head Facebook group) that macronutrients are irrelevant. If you get fat, it’s because you eat too @#$%ing much, too @#$%ing often, period. It’s a simple matter of ingesting too many calories.

Therefore, it was obvious that our Little Man – who for nearly two years had exercised the willpower to limit his calories and maintained a sleek, feline body as a result – was developing a serious flaw in his character. He’d become a glutton without any of us noticing until it was too late. I don’t track his daily activity, but I’ll bet he was also getting lazy and moving less … fewer unexplained mad-dashes around the house and across the top of all the furniture, perhaps.

Anyway, despite being assured by legions of internet cowboys that macronutrients have nothing to do with weight gain, we put the dry food back in the pantry and started feeding him the canned meat again. A month later, he was looking sleek. Had to be a coincidence, of course.  I can only guess that somewhere around the time we put the pea-barley-rice dry food away, he happened to recognize himself in a mirror, was disgusted by his tubby appearance, and put himself on a diet.

When we went on the low-carb cruise, we boarded the dogs at a kennel but let Little Man stay at home. Chareva filled a big dispenser with the dry cat food and put out several dishes of water. A friend of Chareva’s also dropped by a couple of times to check on him after feeding our chickens.

Well, wouldn’t you know it … when we returned home eight days later, Little Man was turning into Tubby Man again. I’m not going to chalk it up to a character flaw, since he’d been disciplined enough to eat less and lose weight before we left for the cruise. The obvious explanation this time was emotional eating. The poor cat probably felt abandoned and unloved when we left him home alone, so he comforted himself by eating too much. As Dr. Oz once said about Oprah, “She isn’t really craving food; she’s craving love.” If Little Man had opposable thumbs, he probably would have picked up the TV remote and spent hours watching chick flicks while stuffing himself with the pea-barley-rice food.

But we’ve been back for more than a week, and he’s not engaging in emotional over-eating anymore. He’s even trimmed down noticeably. It has to be because he feels loved and supported again now that we’re home. It can’t have anything to do with the fact that he’s back to a meat-and-fish diet … because as legions of internet cowboys have assured me, macronutrient ratios don’t have anything to do with gaining or losing weight.

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175 thoughts on “Lessons From A Fat Cat

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I’ll pluck some peas from the garden and see if Rascal shows any interest in them. My guess is he won’t.

      Reply
    2. Walter Bushell

      Our family cat when i was a child, would gleefully eat corn off the cob. I don’t remember if he would actually take down a stalk, but if offered would gladly accept.

      Reply
  1. Kathy from Maine

    OK. I’m convinced. I’m going to try switching my 4 cats over to a canned food with the fewest carbs I can find.

    The thing I’m concerned about is that at least 2 or 3 of them have lost their taste for meat. I’ve tried giving them small pieces of various meat and poultry, but they turn up their noses. Same for cream and butter. I have one cat that I swear is vegan because instead of hunting mice and bringing them home to us, she hunts “mulch mice” (the larger pieces of mulch from the garden). She’ll find a nice fat mulch mouse and bring it up on the porch, singing the “death song” all the while.

    So, my question is this. I suppose I can mix the dry food into the canned food and over time increase the proportion of the canned food. But, how do I ensure that all four cats get their fair share? Or do you think they’ll work it out on their own? I’d obviously need four plates. Anyone have any advice?

    Tom, this was an excellent post, by the way! I got some good laughs out of all the advice you and the people commenting gave for methods of weight loss.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      People who own more than one cat will have to weigh in (no pun intended) on how to ensure they get a fair share.

      My guess is that cats are like kids: they may turn up their noses at real food when they’d rather have treats, but when they get hungry enough, they’ll eat.

      Reply
      1. Kathy from Maine

        I found a source online that lists a gazillion different canned cat foods and provides percentages of protein, fat, and carbs. It said cats need about 50% of their diet in protein, and less than 10% in carbs. It was virtually impossible to find a cat food that fit the bill. Oddly enough, Fancy Feast came about the closest. A vet once told me that they recommend Fancy Feast for people with diabetic cats because it has the highest protein content of the grocery store brands.

        Anyway, today I bought a smattering of flavors of Fancy Feast, picked one at random, and put it in a bowl. Three out of the four went right for it (the fourth is still outside). Granted, it took 3 of them to polish off the one can (and those FF cans are TINY). Still, it gave me hope that I can switch them over.

        Since the cans are not 50% protein, though, I think I might just mix some Evo dry into it to up the protein content a bit (the Evo is 50% protein, 27% fat, and 23% carbs).

        I’m very particular in what I feed my pets. All my cats seem to be long lived (the oldest was 21 when he passed), but the first 5 we had all became hyperthyroid by the time they were about 14 years old. The vet was stunned when I told him. He said he’d never seen so many cats with it and asked if they were all from the same litter. Nope, they were acquired years apart and even from different states.

        There’s just got to be something in the food that is causing the hyperthyroidism, the diabestes, and also all the cancers and tumors and lipomas in dogs. We just lost a dog to mast cell cancer. It just seems like the number of cases of such diseases and disorders is increasing exponentially.

        Reply
        1. Karen Anderson

          Kathy, I don’t know if this will help you or not. When I was a kid (40 yrs ago), mom changed our cat’s feed from canned to dry for budget reasons.

          Mixing canned with dry helped the transition, but what cleaned the bowl in an instant, was draining a can of tuna fish packed in oil onto a bowl of dry food. So, maybe some good oil could help them transition?

          They also lost all cat manners when mom fried chicken (tried to get on the table or raid trash if we stepped out of the kitchen). We had to always take the trash out immediately or risk a bone in the throat. So, if there is a trigger food you could mix with the new food, that might help as well.

          Good Luck!

          Reply
    2. Galina L.

      May be if you choose one cat (which is less picky or the leader of the pack) to feed at the beginning of the feeding time, than proceed giving food to others one by one, they would be less fussy.

      Reply
  2. JimB

    Tom,

    I’ve got a fatty feline I’d like to get slimmed down. The cat food closest to 100% meat that I found had some potato starch in it, that shouldn’t count as carbs, should it? Do cats have trouble with their gut buddies?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I don’t know if raw potato starch would count as carbs for a cat or not. On the other hand, I can’t imagine cats eating potatoes.

      Reply
      1. Michelle

        We had a cat that loved eating raw potato peelings. It would beg for them while we were peeling potatoes and eat as many as it could get.

        Reply
    2. Glorificus

      I’m really late to the party but in my opinion if it’s uncooked starch (which all potato starch is, right?) then it’s technically inedible fiber. Except that some bacteria in your cat’s large intestines will eat it and generate short-chain fatty acids, turning it into small amounts of delicious fats.
      So it’s probably ok; the only real risk is large bowel bacteria overgrowth that can creep over to small intestine but that’s unlikely as it’s a small amount and your carnivorous cat probably has a very short large intestine just meant for other things like removing water from poo and absorbing B12. Plus there’s a valve that keeps out large intestine bacteria.

      Reply
  3. Kathy from Maine

    OK. I’m convinced. I’m going to try switching my 4 cats over to a canned food with the fewest carbs I can find.

    The thing I’m concerned about is that at least 2 or 3 of them have lost their taste for meat. I’ve tried giving them small pieces of various meat and poultry, but they turn up their noses. Same for cream and butter. I have one cat that I swear is vegan because instead of hunting mice and bringing them home to us, she hunts “mulch mice” (the larger pieces of mulch from the garden). She’ll find a nice fat mulch mouse and bring it up on the porch, singing the “death song” all the while.

    So, my question is this. I suppose I can mix the dry food into the canned food and over time increase the proportion of the canned food. But, how do I ensure that all four cats get their fair share? Or do you think they’ll work it out on their own? I’d obviously need four plates. Anyone have any advice?

    Tom, this was an excellent post, by the way! I got some good laughs out of all the advice you and the people commenting gave for methods of weight loss.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      People who own more than one cat will have to weigh in (no pun intended) on how to ensure they get a fair share.

      My guess is that cats are like kids: they may turn up their noses at real food when they’d rather have treats, but when they get hungry enough, they’ll eat.

      Reply
      1. Kathy from Maine

        I found a source online that lists a gazillion different canned cat foods and provides percentages of protein, fat, and carbs. It said cats need about 50% of their diet in protein, and less than 10% in carbs. It was virtually impossible to find a cat food that fit the bill. Oddly enough, Fancy Feast came about the closest. A vet once told me that they recommend Fancy Feast for people with diabetic cats because it has the highest protein content of the grocery store brands.

        Anyway, today I bought a smattering of flavors of Fancy Feast, picked one at random, and put it in a bowl. Three out of the four went right for it (the fourth is still outside). Granted, it took 3 of them to polish off the one can (and those FF cans are TINY). Still, it gave me hope that I can switch them over.

        Since the cans are not 50% protein, though, I think I might just mix some Evo dry into it to up the protein content a bit (the Evo is 50% protein, 27% fat, and 23% carbs).

        I’m very particular in what I feed my pets. All my cats seem to be long lived (the oldest was 21 when he passed), but the first 5 we had all became hyperthyroid by the time they were about 14 years old. The vet was stunned when I told him. He said he’d never seen so many cats with it and asked if they were all from the same litter. Nope, they were acquired years apart and even from different states.

        There’s just got to be something in the food that is causing the hyperthyroidism, the diabestes, and also all the cancers and tumors and lipomas in dogs. We just lost a dog to mast cell cancer. It just seems like the number of cases of such diseases and disorders is increasing exponentially.

        Reply
        1. Karen Anderson

          Kathy, I don’t know if this will help you or not. When I was a kid (40 yrs ago), mom changed our cat’s feed from canned to dry for budget reasons.

          Mixing canned with dry helped the transition, but what cleaned the bowl in an instant, was draining a can of tuna fish packed in oil onto a bowl of dry food. So, maybe some good oil could help them transition?

          They also lost all cat manners when mom fried chicken (tried to get on the table or raid trash if we stepped out of the kitchen). We had to always take the trash out immediately or risk a bone in the throat. So, if there is a trigger food you could mix with the new food, that might help as well.

          Good Luck!

          Reply
    2. Galina L.

      May be if you choose one cat (which is less picky or the leader of the pack) to feed at the beginning of the feeding time, than proceed giving food to others one by one, they would be less fussy.

      Reply
  4. labrat

    Not to be a contrarian or anything like that but I’m just not so picky about my cat’s diet. For the past 25 years, I’ve had self-feeding indoor/outdoor cats that have rarely had anything other than plain old Purina cat chow. I’ve had as few as one and as many as five cats at one time and my feeding regimen consists of filling the large stainless bowl when the cat(s) inform me that it’s empty. All of my cats came to me as kittens and they’ve all been on the rail thin side. Judging by the presents on the front porch, they have all been decent hunter’s (Herc nabbed a chippy right in front of me yesterday) and I have no idea how much they supplement their diet on their own, but from me – it’s crappy Cat Chow or fend for yourself.

    Reply
  5. labrat

    Not to be a contrarian or anything like that but I’m just not so picky about my cat’s diet. For the past 25 years, I’ve had self-feeding indoor/outdoor cats that have rarely had anything other than plain old Purina cat chow. I’ve had as few as one and as many as five cats at one time and my feeding regimen consists of filling the large stainless bowl when the cat(s) inform me that it’s empty. All of my cats came to me as kittens and they’ve all been on the rail thin side. Judging by the presents on the front porch, they have all been decent hunter’s (Herc nabbed a chippy right in front of me yesterday) and I have no idea how much they supplement their diet on their own, but from me – it’s crappy Cat Chow or fend for yourself.

    Reply
  6. Chareva

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned canned tuna as a convenient protein source. What did people feed their cats before the pet food industry got so huge?

    Reply
    1. Galina L.

      In Soviet Russia people indeed gave their cats canned fish, but mostly boiled small fish which used to be dirt chip and sold frozen. My friend in Russia feeds her cats ground chip organ meats like kidneys. It is also normal to give cats milk to drink.

      Reply
  7. Chareva

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned canned tuna as a convenient protein source. What did people feed their cats before the pet food industry got so huge?

    Reply
    1. Galina L.

      In Soviet Russia people indeed gave their cats canned fish, but mostly boiled small fish which used to be dirt chip and sold frozen. My friend in Russia feeds her cats ground chip organ meats like kidneys. It is also normal to give cats milk to drink.

      Reply
  8. Elle

    Keep on eye on his eating. If a cat stops eating for more than 72 hours they’re in danger of hepatic lipidosis – they can’t process they’re body fat very well and it can lead to some liver problems. This is worth a trip to the emergency vet if it happens over the weekend.

    If kitty does get hepatic lipidosis DO NOT feed them a high-protein diet. Because the liver still isn’t processing well it can cause a buildup of ammonia and put kitty in a coma. We almost lost our cat to this a few years ago.

    Reply
  9. Elle

    Keep on eye on his eating. If a cat stops eating for more than 72 hours they’re in danger of hepatic lipidosis – they can’t process they’re body fat very well and it can lead to some liver problems. This is worth a trip to the emergency vet if it happens over the weekend.

    If kitty does get hepatic lipidosis DO NOT feed them a high-protein diet. Because the liver still isn’t processing well it can cause a buildup of ammonia and put kitty in a coma. We almost lost our cat to this a few years ago.

    Reply

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