Sunday, March 14, 2010

Arthur Eating a Bit, But Very Difficult to Measure How Much

What a weekend it has been! I won't bore you with my non-cat life, but I had to take a business trip to Philadelphia this weekend while Liz stayed home with the boys. I tried to get home Saturday night, but the weather was a disaster. I bought an Amtrak ticket for a train at Philadelphia's 30th street station at 7:30 pm on Saturday and was stuck on the train (and another they made us change to) for over 10 hours, getting home at 6 a.m. I am wiped and so is Liz from caring for the boys by herself while waiting for me to get home. Meanwhile, I have a ton of work to do for Monday morning.

Anyhow, Arthur's still eating in small fits and starts, but here's the rub: he really wants dry food rather than wet! I feel like all of the feeding sins we committed with Arthur and Beowulf are coming back to haunt us.

For those unfamiliar with our whole cat life, I'll list the sins:

  • Feeding Mostly Dry Food: We used to feed wet food a lot, honest! For the time Arthur and Beowulf were kittens until they were about 3 years old, our feeding schedule was to open up a 3 oz can of wet food in the morning, wait 30 min for them to eat (or not eat) some, then put down a couple of 1/4 cup scoops of dry food that would sit there all day for them, and then do the same can + dry food routine in the evening.

    Where did we go wrong? Over time, they slowly stopped having any interest at all in the wet food so we were basically throwing out a couple of cans of food a day. We tried every type of canned food you can imagine: Wellness, Merrick, Weruva, California Natural, Newman's Own, Spot's Stew, Blue Buffalo, Abady, Felidae, Eagle Pack, Evolve, Wysong, Fromm, Innova, Nature's Variety, and many more. We tried THEM ALL, almost every flavor. The only food they would sometimes eat was Solid Gold Blended tuna.

    I suppose we could have refused to feed them dry food at all, but our worry was that they would just stop eating and end up sick (like Arthur is now).

    So after a while, we cut back on the wet food cans they were refusing to eat and we started to just feed dry food, but a high-quality, high-protein type. We alternated between Solid Gold Indigo Moon and California Natural Chicken and Brown Rice. Solid Gold Tuna cans became a once-a-week treat.
  • Free Feeding: So the other problem, even with the dry food, was that they never ate it all at once. Arthur and Beowulf would eat a little bit of their portion and then leave some. We would let it sit in the bowls as they would come back again and again at random throughout the day to eat.

    In Beowulf's case, we would always see him eat a good portion of his food at the time we put it in the bowl, but in Arthur's case, he would often eat later when nobody was watching. In fact, if we walked into the kitchen while he was eating, he might stop what he was doing and want to rub up against us instead of eating.
  • Feeding on-demand: We have a rough schedule of feeding at 7 am and 7 pm (give or take an hour), but throughout the evening, Beowulf frequently demands fresh food. How does he demand it? He'll start meowing at us very loudly and the more we ignore him, the more wild he gets. He'll start jumping on the dining room table he knows he's not allowed on and he'll escalate to attempting to knock over a lamp. The way to silence him? Go in the kitchen and dispense food for him.

    The problem here: We completely LOST TRACK of how much Beowulf was eating and Arthur was eating. A lot of dry food was/is actually wasted b/c they don't eat it all and demand we give "fresh from the bag" food

    The strange thing about Beowulf's behavior is that there might be plenty of food in the bowl, but he wants me (primarily me, not Liz) to come into the kitchen and dispense fresh kibble for him straight from the bag. The bowl could be filled up, but he only wants the freshly dispensed kibble. One exception: sometimes, all he wants is for me to follow him into the kitchen (where the bowls are) and watch him eat the kibble that is already there. The key element,I guess, is my watching.

    Unlike Beowulf, Arthur rarely asks for food on his own, e
    ven when he is healthy. When he was healthy, he would follow Beowulf into the kitchen when I do a scheduled (morning or evening) feeding and he might have a few bites of kibble then or he might just walk away and come back later to eat when nobody was looking.

So what's happening now? I think Arthur wants a return to normalcy, the normalcy where he sneaks in there and eats dry food and we have no idea how much or little he is eating. That's not good.

When we first got the tube put in the other week, he had no interest in the dry food we left for his brother and we got him to eat an ounce here and there of wet food (usually Solid Gold Tuna). Now, he is opposed to the wet food (won't eat it) and is sneaking in and grabbing some kibble and eating it, but we're having a hard time measuring the calories and knowing how much he ate versus how much Beowulf ate and, considering we never knew the exact amount they were fed, now we're really confused.

I tried on-schedule feeding Arthur 1/4 cup of dry food (an ounce) today and he was very interested in eating it, but in the end, had maybe 1/8 of an ounce of food, not enough to count against his tube feeding. And for him to eat that, I had to drop some bonito flakes in the bowl.

The irony of all this is that Arthur is now becoming assertive about leading us into the kitchen and "asking" for food, but in the end, he is primarily rubbing his cheeks on the bowl and rolling over for a belly rub (for some reason, he has always liked to be petted and rubbed in front of the food bowls). So the tube feeding continues, but we're confused.

I don't want either of the boys to stay on an all-dry, free-feeding diet, but I don't want to do anything that discourages Arthur (or even Beowulf) from eating. Advice please.


Anonymous said...

Well Avram ... I hope you have read the last post on your previous message (just posted today, listing all the meds the cat needed for Fatty Liver). My suggestion is... relax!!!! Give them both a cup or so (each, in separate bowls if you have been doing this, in the same bowl if that's your habit) of the dry food. Leave it there!! My two cats ALWAYS have dry food in their bowls, always. I let them eat it at will. No problems! My cats only get wet food ("treats") twice a day, just a couple spooonfuls each. I don't see any problem leaving the dry food out all the time. Cats love to eat at will and, as you say, Arthur especially seems to prefer eating when nobody's watching. So, let him! No problems! (from socidoc) BE SURE TO LEAVE THEM FRESH WATER at all times, as they need lots when they eat lots of dry food.

Anonymous said...

P.S. (from socidoc) my cats' all-time favorite canned/wet food is called "Instinct" (brand) Chicken formula. It's wet, juicy and they love it (it's not cheap, lol).

The Creek Cats said...

We wish we had some advice. We are so glad to hear Arthur is eating a little! That's good news!

Poppy Q said...

Poppy Q was a bit of a finicky eater, and lots of dry food and wet stuff was getting left in her bowl. I did find then that other cats snuck in and ate it (she has a catdoor). The last few months I have been putting out a lot less food, and now she eats more. I don't know if that helps you. Maybe when there is a beg for dry food, you could try just giving them a very little amount.

Our old cat Puss angel had renal failure and when her appetitie diminshed, I would try her on yoghurt or melted icecream which the vet said was ok, as it was high calorie, and getting her to eat anything was a miracle. Sometimes I would smear a little bit around her lips, and that would get her licking it up.

Good luck with your two,although it is difficult I am sure you are doing a good job. Sometimes you just have to keep trying to find the right answer for your cats.

Julie and Poppy Q

Amy and The House of Cats said...

We did all dry most of the cats lives, until I added wet as a way to get the oldest to take his meds - then they all wanted it, so we do both now. We have problems because of picky eaters - Floyd was that way and so is Virgil (the others can be but not to the same extent). The problem we have is that they don't like the super heatlthy grain free stuff I want them to eat - they like the less healthy stuff (for canned at least). So we do both wet twice a day (depending on can size either 1/2 a can or 1/4 can twice a day), which I try with the really healthy sometimes, but then alternate with the less healthy stuff (which is still ok because we had 2 cats when I was growing up live 20+ years on the same stuff), but we do have the dry food out all the time - and that is always premium, usually grain free (though I did get tarter control that has grains but one of the cats really needs it). They graze on the dry through the day.

When they have been sick, we have mixed a high quality food with baby food - the cats go crazy over that stuff. We have also used ground dry food in with it (and a bit of water to keep it thin) - we got that idea from when we got Virgil, who was 4 weeks old. He couldn't eat kibble yet (too big) so we would grind it in a coffe grinder to a powder and mix it either with kitten milk or a bit of wet food. We also will mix in a bit of dried kitten milk powder if they need to get a little more nutrition, like they are sick and eating less or things like that. We are trying to get Kirzon (who is now the oldest since Floyd passed) to gain a bit of weight because he lost a bit recently due to mouth issues, so we are giving him an extra snack of baby food (people baby food by the way - in case you are thinking kitten food) and as long as it is a meat with no onions or garlic (which are horrible for cats) it is a good addition - not an alternative because it doesn't have all the nutrients, but it is a nice high calorie treat.

We also have lots of water bowls around for them - because they go through phases where they prefer the dry, they need a lot of water too.

I know that a lot of cats like the crunchy texture of the dry and so you could look at that as "treats" for Arthur. I know they checked his mouth and gave him the anti-nausea stuff, maybe he just needs a couple days to start feeling like eating. As long as you know he is getting enough through the tube don't worry too much. I hope he gets his appetite back soon but it could be a while, and the tube is really going to be a good thing for him to have. I know that saying don't worry doesn't help (heck, I just started following you guys and even I worry about him!) so I know you will worry, but you are doing everything you can for him - he is getting excellent care and is getting the nutrition he needs. We are sending over lots of purrs and prayers for him to get his appetitite back soon.

Leslie said...

Don't be so hard on yourselves! You are so attentive to your cats' needs and behaviors. Arthur will fully recover, I know he will. I know how difficult and frustrating this has been, but you guys have been wonderful! I will come back as a cat to your home anytime!

The Island Cats said...

We don't have much advice to give...we get both canned and dry foods...most times our mom mixes them together and we love it! We're glad Arthur is doing better.

Aileen said...

Hi! I'm completely new to your blog, but am going through the same thing with my kitty right now, so am reading EVERYTHING I can.
I am also learning so much from many of the comments.

Thank you very much for taking the time to maintain this blog.