Deflating the Fat Cats

This is not a rant about the influence of money in politics, corporate greed, or the destruction of our nation at the hands of the ultra-rich. Surprisingly, this is also not a story about self-indulgence or over-consumption. No, this is quite literally a tale about two fat cats and the journey they have embarked on to become two average sized cats.

Please allow me to introduce you to the Fat Cats.

This is Briggs:

Brigadier General; 18.6 lbs.

This is his brother,  Jeter:

Jeter Scott; 19.1 lbs.

Briggs and Jeter were not always obese. I can attest to this because I met them when they were but a week old and have known them ever since. They were born on my sister-in-law’s porch in March 2005 and came to live us three months later at our apartment in Urbandale, IA. Don’t believe me?  Here’s proof that these gargantuan beasts were actually once tiny:

Briggs and Jeter; 3 months of age

Pretty much since birth, these two guys have done everything together. They play together, eat together and sleep together. If you ever see one without the other outside of the litter box, it usually means someone has gotten locked in a closet. Unfortunately, this also means that they also got fat together.

Now, I told you already that this was not a story about over-consumption. In fact, until fairly recently, we were completely baffled as to how they managed to become so rotund. We are very aware of the dangers of obesity for cats, especially feline diabetes. Jill and I dealt with twice a day insulin shots and regulated feeding schedules for over five years with our previous cat B.J. and we were determined to never have go through that again. So from day one, Briggs and Jeter have only been fed quality cat food in carefully measured portions. Well, what we thought was quality food any how…

Shortly after moving to Philadelphia, Jeter (and Jeter alone) had surgery to remove a bladder stone. As part of his recovery and to prevent future stones, he was put on Hill’s Science Diet KD – a special diet for cats with a predisposition to the type of stone he had. Yes, there are different types of bladder stones.

Since they are from the same litter, and because it would be impossible to separate their food, the vet told us it would be fine to feed Briggs this same prescription food. At that point in time, they each weighed about 13 pounds. Within a year, they were each pushing 20. As it turns out, while KD is great for preventing stones, it’s not great for maintaining healthy weight. After a couple years on this food, a vet finally made the connection and had us switch up their diets.

In the time since, we’ve bounced around between a number of different foods. Each vet at our clinic has had a different recommendation, from grain free dry kibble to a mix of moist and dry food, to (most recently) canned food only. There was no consensus on what the best course of action was, and we were pretty much told to limit their intake (which we already did) and make sure they excercise (really? Have you ever tried to make a cat excercise? We even got a dog to help with this).

While we saw some moderate success after discontinuing the “bladder stone” food (they dropped a pound or two from their 22 pound peak weight), their weight loss seemed to plateau. We tried combinations of a few different foods during this period of time, finally settling on 1/4 cup of EVO Weight Loss and a packet of Wellness “Healthy Indulgences” per day. Neither cat has ever been too fond of canned food, so this was the first wet food that they really took to, so we went with it.

Throughout all of this I’d read a ton about how terrible dry food is for cats because 1) cats are carnivores and their digestive systems aren’t designed to handle carbs, especially at the levels found in dry food due to the grain fillers used and 2) cats don’t naturally drink enough water to stay hydrated. For some reason, when they get thirsty, there first instinct is not to drink water. As I mentioned though, they never really liked canned food so going to an all “wet” diet seemed impossible.

That all changed two weeks ago. Briggs had to go to the vet for a bowel issue, and the new vet we were assigned really stressed that they should only be fed wet food to help B get through his current issues which she attributed to dehydration. To make a long story slightly less long, they’ve now been on Wellness canned food (we transitioned successfully from the more expensive packets) exclusively for two weeks (1/2 can each, twice a day)…and we’re already seeing results. They went in for their annual exam this weekend and they are at their lowest weights in three years. On top of that, I’d swear they have a little more pep in their steps.

It’s entirely possible that they will once again plateau and the overall loss will be less thrilling than the initial results, but for now we couldn’t be happier. My goal is to eventually get them down to a normal cat weight of 13 pounds (Jill thinks 15 would be just fine). It’s going to be hard for them, and they’re going to be hungry…but lucky for them, they have each other.

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