How to feed a cat with multiple serious health issues?

NilaJonesMarch 20, 2014

Hi folks --

Long time cat owner, rescue person, and gardenwebber, first time in this forum :).

I hoping you folks can help me figure out this puzzle.

I've got a kitty with a partial cleft palate. This gives him some issues with eating. After a lifetime of practice, he does ok with dry food as long as it is one of the brands with the biggest kibble sizes. When he was younger he used to gag and choke every time he ate, but now that is pretty rare.

He recently developed pemphigus.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pemphigus
There are some dietary limitations with that but not too severe.

The prednisilone he took for the pemphigus gave him diabetes. Now dry food is a problem due to the carbs.

Wet food, homemade or canned, is a problem with the cleft palate. It has to be 100% smooth (no chunks, especially small ones), and diluted with watery so it is like broth. And it still goes up in his sinuses, 10 or more times per day. For a cat on immune suppressants, this is not safe, And it hurts him.

He has lost weight precipitously, because nothing is working.

What can I do?

Have any of you tried this food? Does it have large kibbles?
http://www.sahjasiamese.com/index_files/orderyoungagaincatfood.htm

I have an email in to my vet, but thought crowdsourcing a solution might be good too :). Any ideas are welcome!

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zackey

My cat loves Sheba salmon pate. No chunks. I mix it with water and his medicines. It sounds like you might have to wrap your kitty in a towel and force fed it. Sorry I know no better way. We just bought a bag of big kibble cat food at Tractor Supply. It's called Paws and Claws--Delicious Mix. He devours it. Good luck with your kitty. You are both in my prayers.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 11:56PM
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laurief_gw

Innova EVO is about the lowest carb kibble made, but the kibbles are very small. Wellness CORE is another low-carb kibble, but I don't know about the size of the kibbles. I've never seen them.

Have you considered feeding your boy a Raw Prey Model diet? You could cut the meat/organs/bones into whatever size chunks would work best for him. And it would eliminate carbs from his diet, which would be best for his diabetes.

Laurie

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 9:43PM
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NilaJones

Thank you, Laurie and zackey!

That's too bad about the Evo's small kibbles. I was thinking it looked like a good candidate :(. I found a photo of the Young Again food, and it is tiny -- def not going to work for him.

This chart say that Wellness Core has 15% carbs. That's better than a lot of foods, but I have read that under 10% is important for diabetic cats, and far under is best. The homemade food I am giving him is around 2%.

He's doing a lot less choking today. I wonder if he will just figure out how to safely swallow wet food, like he did with the large-kibble dry?

The vet, though, says she thinks food gets up there even if he is not gagging. I don't know :(.

A raw diet is impractical for me due to my own health issues. (Of course, all options are impractical at this point.) The vet also STRONGLY advised against it due to the immunosuppressant drugs he is on, which made sense to me.

I am very much interested in hearing anyone's thoughts on all this. I love my little guy.

Here is a link that might be useful: Carbs Chart

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 10:16PM
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laurief_gw

Well, maybe in order to address your health issues and his immunocompromised state, you could create a cooked meat diet for him. You could use a good powdered supplement to make up for the nutrients lost in cooking, as well as food grade bone meal to replace raw bones. That would eliminate concerns over bacteria in raw meat (assuming you could safely handle raw meat with rubber gloves on), and it would allow you to cut the meat pieces into whatever size would work best for him.

Laurie

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 10:48PM
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laurief_gw

I just had another thought. Is there any way you could get him to a university vet school clinic to see if any of the surgical specialists there could repair his cleft palate? If that could be done, that would seem to eliminate much of the difficulty in feeding him an appropriate diet.

Laurie

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 10:55PM
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NilaJones

Thank you Laurie :).

I did bring him to a surgeon for consultation. It would cast about $1600, and because the gap in his palate is a triangular shape, the surgery might not work. It might tear open again. (Ow!)

I called the veterinary school too, but they would be more expensive. And they strongly recommended the surgeon I consulted -- also my main vet went to school with him. Everyone says he is very good.

I have been a vegetarian most of my life and don't know a lot about cooking meat :). What I have been doing is using liver (and a tested recipe, with supplements and bone meal and stuff) because it blenders up smoothly.

Can you suggest something that I can cut in chunks that won't crumble when bitten (like liver) or shred (like beef stew meat)? Kidneys, maybe? They are kind of tough, right, and would hold together? Or pork chops? Would chicken work?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 11:54AM
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laurief_gw

Nila, I'm afraid I'm not the best person to ask about cooking meat because I, too, am vegetarian. I have, however, been feeding Raw Prey Model to my cats and dogs for the last several years, so I've gotten a crash course in certain aspects of a meat-based diet for cats.

First, I need to caution you against feeding too much liver. Although liver is an essential element in the RPM that I feed, it must be used in very limited quantity. Liver is high in both Vitamin A and iron, both of which can cause toxicity if fed in excess. Liver should not make up more than 5% of a feline or canine diet. The same 5% rule holds true for most organ meats (kidney, spleen, pancreas, testicle, etc.)

Heart and gizzards, however, are considered muscle meat, and muscle meats make up approx. 80% of the RPM diet.

Although I don't eat meat myself, I am aware that most meats (esp. red meats and, I believe, pork) can be cooked just enough to kill bacteria without substantially changing the texture of the meat. If you cook beef or other red meats to medium or less, they will retain a firm, connected texture that won't shred as the cat chews it.

But to be honest, my cats often swallow LARGE chunks of meat without much chewing at all. In fact, the chunks they swallow are sometimes so large that the cat has to vomit it back up and chew it a little more just to get it to stay down (gross but true).

I'm sorry that I can't be more specific about cooked meats, but I just don't have much experience with them. If I were you, I would cook meats according to the following chart (use a meat thermometer) to kill bacteria:

http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html

Then cool the meat and cut into whatever size chunks you think will work for your boy. Don't overcook the meat beyond the temps recommended at that link, or the meat may start falling apart and shredding, rather than holding together in chewable chunks.

Laurie

This post was edited by laurief on Mon, Mar 24, 14 at 19:17

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 6:19PM
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NilaJones

Thank you, Laurie! I will try that!

(And yes, I AM concerned about the too much liver. I didn't know about the imbalances you mention, but I do know, for ex, that liver is very high in copper -- so I add oysters to balance that with zinc.)

I will try him on some chunks of lightly-cooked meat, maybe with thinned canned cat food as a sauce, so it won't be too weird for him.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 11:25PM
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NilaJones

Tonight, though, he is refusing even his new favorite canned kitten food, and I don't know why. He seems to feel pretty well, at least...

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 11:26PM
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laurief_gw

If he continues not to want to eat, it might be a good idea to have some bloodwork run to check for the dietary toxicities I mentioned earlier. Of course, I don't know how much liver you've been feeding him or for how long.

Laurie

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 4:40PM
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NilaJones

It was about a month, and the food was about 50% liver. I've now got him on half proplan kitten food and half fancyfeast, both extremely low carb, and I will start trying to incorporate some chunks of meat. I've been putting silverware in the food bowl to make him eat more slowly, and that helps.

Tuesday evening he had a 2 inch blade of grass that went up through his cleft palate, into his sinuses, and out his nose. Poor guy! For all I know, it could have been in there for several days and been the cause of the increased food aspiration and not wanting to eat :(. It is out now. If only cats could talk and tell us these things!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 12:38PM
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sarah_socal

Wow! And I thought I had it bad with my almost 19 year old blind, high blood pressure, renal failure cat and my 11 year old diabetic hyperthyroid!

I would encourage both the EVO and getting him to learn to eat wet. Transition to the EVO and then to pretty much all wet (Fancy Feast) got my boy off of insulin.

Poor baby. I am happy to hear there is someone else as crazy as me who is willing to try just about anything!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 1:04PM
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NilaJones

Woohoo! This was it! I tried him on some chunks of pork chop today, first with commercial wet food as a sauce, then, after he got used to that, plain. He ate them! And with no choking after the first piece. It seems like big chunks, swallowed mostly whole, are going to work well for him :).

He is a fairly picky eater and has never been willing to eat plain meat before. He seemed to describe the taste as, 'Interesting..but not bad.' I ate the rest of the chop for dinner and thought it was delicious :).

Thank you sooooo much, folks, and especially Laurie, for helping me think through this! I never would have got there on my own.

@sarah_socal: We can be crazy together :).

I am so glad the diet changes have helped your guy! I assume you know to be careful with the FF with chunks, as it has more carbs than the smooth? And that, with the renal failure, you want low protein first and then more protein again as it gets more advanced?

Soy helps, too. I had a kitty who liked fried tempeh a lot when she had kidney disease. Now, SHE was not a picky eater ;)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 11:21PM
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laurief_gw

So, both you and your boy found your inner carnivores tonight, eh? I'm so glad that the cooked pork worked so well for him. Now don't forget that he needs a little food grade bone meal, cooked organ meats (liver, kidney, spleen, pancreas, testicle, brain, etc.), and a good vitamin/mineral supplement containing taurine to make the diet nutritionally complete. It also helps balance the diet by feeding as many different types of meat as possible (each meat has a little different nutrient profile).

If you have an Asian market within driving distance, that's where you'll be most likely to find "unusual" organ meats. Or if you live in or near a farming community, you may be able to find someone who does slaughtering and is willing to sell or even give you leftover organ meats.

It is important to supplement a cooked diet with taurine, since heat destroys taurine (along with some other essential nutrients). Taurine deficiency can lead to blindness and/or heart disease in cats.

I assume I don't have to tell you this, but I'm going to, anyway. Do not use seasoned or salted meats like hot dogs, sausage, brats, ham, or bacon; and don't use any seasonings when cooking meat.

Laurie

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:21AM
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mdln

There is low carb dry food - Hill's m/d and Purina DM. Both are prescription but most vets stock them due to the epidemic of diabetes in cats.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:36AM
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sarah_socal

I am happy your kitty was willing to eat!

Thanks for your tips. I stalk the various food charts for both the diabetic and the renal failure kitty. It is quite a challenge at times!!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 3:15PM
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