How to feed overweight and underweight cats together

MichfanJuly 15, 2011

My old cat is very thin and underweight. I've just adopted a cat that could stand to lose a few (he has always been fed as much as he wanted at all times). How am I going to feed both, enough so the old cat still gets enough and in hopes of minimizing how much the overweight cat eats?

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When you find out let me know. I have two cats 21 pounds and 19 pounds and then two normal weight ones , one a bit underweight.It's a problem because the 21 pound one lives to eat. When they get their morning wet food it's distributed in decreasing quantities from obese to skinny but the dry food is the problem.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 2:05PM
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I brought all of my cats into healthy weight ranges by stopping dry food entirely. Skinny cats bulked up, fatty catties slimmed down. Something about the carbohydrates in dry food-think of empty calories and what they do to people. I've ranted about cereals in cat foods for years but now think that any carbs are very bad when too much are fed. Since dry foods need carbohydrates to hold the kibbles together, they're automatically high carb. It may not be horribly high but still is too high.

Another problem is the portion sizes given by the cat food makers. It's always been far too much for my own cats.

If you can visualise this, it helps to find the proper portion size for your cats, no matter how fat or thin they are: A cat's comfortably full stomach is about half the size of its head. So, a half-head-sized portion is about right for two or three feeds daily. Maybe try to slip in a dab more for the thin cat and a dab less for the heavy cat. My cats' vets thought this was hilarious when I told them about it. They'd been working with me on fat and skinny cats for some time before I stopped feeding dry food and started the tinned food. It took weeks to hit on the half head portions.

Besides accomplishing proper weight, my cats shone with healthier coats, more energy and general good nature.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 4:12PM
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The only way to adjust weight is to adjust caloric intake. Simple in theory, a bit more complicated in practice. I absolutely agree with minimizing or eliminating kibble and feeding canned food (or a homemade or raw diet) instead. Even the low-carb kibbles like EVO and CORE have a much higher carb content than most canned foods, and EVO and CORE are very high in both calories and fat. It will not be easy - and perhaps not even possible - to take weight off of your fatty as long as you free-feed him. Put him on three small meals a day, and cut back to two meals a day after a week. Believe me, he'll adjust to the portioned, scheduled meals just fine. I took a houseful of fat cats who were raised on free-choice kibble and switched them to portioned, scheduled meals with very little fussing on their behalfs. It took about 18 mos to bring them gradually down to optimal weights, but they all look great now. I weigh them all every two weeks and make slight adjustments to their individual food portions, if necessary, to maintain proper weights. Most of them are fed 1/8 c. of EVO kibble for one meal and between 2.2-3.8 oz of Raw Prey Model (a homemade raw diet) for the other meal. The RPM meal could just as easily be swapped for commercial canned, as far as quantity is concerned.

While all of my other cats were needing to lose weight, my oldest was needing to gain. I just fed him under my watchful eye as many times a day as I could convince him to eat. If I couldn't supervise while he ate (to keep the other cats from bothering him), I just put him in a separate room to eat behind a closed door. I also fed him whatever he was willing to eat, even if it was low quality, "junk" canned food brands.

If you haven't done so already, I strongly recommend you take your elderly cat to the vet for a full blood panel and Total T4 test to check his kidney, liver, and thyroid function, among other things. Skinny old cats often have diseased kidneys and/or thyroid glands, which can be treated and/or managed with proper care and medication. If your old cat has uncontrolled hyperthyroidism, you could feed him everything in your fridge without putting an ounce on him.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 12:13AM
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If you want to free-feed the skinnier cat and give the heavier cat scheduled meals, I read something that may be helpful on another forum a week or so ago.

Find or build a square enclosure for the food bowl similar to a milk crate. It should be totally enclosed on the top and three sides. The fourth side should have vertical wooden slats nailed to it. The space between the slats should be wide enough for your older cat to get in but too narrow for the heavier cat to do so.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 8:07PM
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Sophie Wheeler

For my fosters, I just feed them 2x a day in separate bathrooms with the door closed until they've finished. Underweight kitties also get some NutriCal squeezed on their paws to lick off to increase their calorie content. Overweight kitties get individualized laser tag time until they are panting good and heavy. Just like humans, it's much harder to turn fat cats into svelte cats than it is to make skinny cats gain some chub. And, just like humans, the added exercise is they key to making it work.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 1:20PM
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it was easy for me...a friend got me started on feeding the cats wet food to supplement the dry. My larger cat doesn't even touch it, the smaller cat gobbles it up. Strange.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 7:18PM
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You can also do what some of my clients have done, as this is a pretty common situation. one method that works well is to get a durable cardboard box (large, like what a dishwasher might come in) and put the food dishes in there. Lid on it if fat cat can jump high... (but few cats, no well how good a jumpers they are, will purposely jump into a tall box without being able to see what's on the other side). Cut a small hole just large enough for the skinny cats to easily go through and get to the food, but way too small for the fat cat to get through. Feed the fat cat outside the box (as he is likely to gobble his/her food up immediately and then try to get to everyone else's). If you have a particulary determined fat cat, you can reinforce the hole with duct tape to increase the time the fat cat takes to actually tear its way into the food box. My sister did this and got her fat male cat to lose a lot of weight while her two skinny females maintained their slim figures. Worked perfectly. But ditto on the canned food idea, too, as canned food (high protein, lower carb) can 'normalize' a lot of cats that are not the proper weight.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 10:33AM
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Both my fat cats lost weight when I switched from Science Diet dry food to Wellness canned food. I now give the oldest one (15) some EVO dry too because he lost too much.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 2:03PM
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I have seven cats - too expensive to feed canned.

I adopted an obese cat off the e-list at the shelter. She's a black tortie/declawed in front. Sweetheart.

Long story short, i now am giving two meals of kibble a day. I put down lots of food and let them eat what they will until they are full. This takes maybe 15 minutes and they all walk away from the food. Again at 5 PM. I know they are hungry because they all meow at meals now. They didn't meow before on my previous system which was a failure. I think that cat GAINED weight.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 2:31PM
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