Thursday, April 01, 2010

The official Jenny Craig weigh-In

When I found out that Blake had slowly, surprisingly, crept up to twenty-five pounds, I decided something had to be done.  I didn't know what, but we had to take him to the vet for vomiting and if ever there was a red flag, it was the sight of his greasy, dandruffy coat in the harsh light of the vet's office.

The poor guy could not reach his back to keep himself clean.

That was too much.  I felt horrible.  How did this happen?  How did I let this happen?  And how dark is our house?

It is my fault, obviously.  I know it is.  But when exactly did Blake make the transformation from "big-boned" to behemoth?  I can't seem to recall.

On the one hand, I have excuses.  In any small animal, a seemingly modest amount of weight can have a huge impact.  The line between beauty and beast is thinly drawn at best.  And also perforated like a coupon.  So we probably did wake up one day and the line was crossed at some point during the night.

On another hand, I have angles.  Yes, this should have been a red flag:

BUT!!! This is Blake at the same weight:

To me, he looks pretty good in the second picture.  Big yes, but sleek coat, proportioned body, and alert (obviously alert, since he's looking out the window).

True, we should have see this coming.  Blake has always been big-boned.  He is a big cat.  I need to measure him from nose to tail and compare to the average length I found on Wikipedia:  18.1" (not including tail).  I am certain Blake is larger than that . . . I just don't know by how much.  The dog crate in the background is 42 inches wide:

Even though his tail is cut out of the picture, just his body appears about the same length as the dog crate.  That darn angle thing again makes it hard to tell.  But this is a good news post, so moving on . . .

Blake has--officially--been on our version of a Kitty Jenny-Craig-esque diet since March 2, 2010.  That was about two weeks after the first visit to the vet (for vomiting).  The laxative pills ("kitty fiber") did not seem to be working, so I took him back to the vet and and they suggested a special food.

Side note and major ugh-o-rama, the special food is a pain in the ass.  It's a canned cat food, and it costs $1.80 a can.  And, to make matters worse, Blake does not seem to think it's the kitty equivalent of caviar.
If $1.80 a can doesn't seem excessively expensive, wait until I tell you how much he's supposed to have per day:  2 cans.  That's over $25 a week.  That's over $1,300 a yearI love my pets, and I'm willing to spend money on them, but Blake is only 6 years old.  Seems to me that 14 is a pretty average age for a cat . . . if you tally up eight more years of this special food it would end up costing us over ten thousand dollars!  No matter how you slice it, that's a lot of money.
I think it's okay to admit that I wasn't exactly thrilled at that prospect.  But for now, to get his stomach straightened out, the cost is acceptable to us.  For a few weeks, even a few months, it's not a big deal.
Blake doesn't seem to like it especially, so he is eating quite a bit less than the recommended 2 cans a day.  I'm doing my best to make sure he doesn't go too far the other way (toward starvation), which can be just as dangerous as obesity.  So I'm feeding him three times a day and I'm encouraging him to eat by giving him lots of pressure-free chances to eat. I'm also heating it up in the microwave because he doesn't eat as much when it's cold.  I think he's slowly aquiring a taste for it because lately he's been eating a little more at each feeding.
The up-side of the special food is--and this is partly due to the expense and not wanting the other two cats to eat his food--we have been keeping Blake separated at mealtimes.  That is when the light bulb illuminated.

Blake does not over-eat when he is uninterrupted and has a quiet space in which to eat.  Cue:  music.

Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah, hallelujah, hall-ay'ay-loo-yah!

It's been--forgive the repetition, but no other word will do--illuminating.  I guess we never noticed how much Blake is capable of eating when the other 2 other cats were thrown in the mix.  Our routine was that the cats had dry kibble out 24/7 (measured daily and given in portions, but still . . . it was pretty much always out).  I think Blake must have been eating when he was bored.  Pair that with the fact that he's a typical lazy cat and he's living indoors (which for cats is the least favorable situation with odds stacked against weight loss and healthy living), and . . . really, you're surprised that we get what we got?  A twenty-five pound monster.  It is what it is.

But then one unsuspecting day I read an article that had nothing to do with anything.  Nothing to do with cats or healthy living or weight loss or dry food versus canned food.  It was an article about keeping your house clean and there was a line in it that changed my world (and Blake's too, I suppose).  Unfortunately I forgot where I found the article and I don't remember the exact quote, so this is me paraphrasing:

If you don't have time to do it RIGHT . . . it's okay to do it WRONG.

Amen, said Blake of the Leviathan Proportions.  It was another illumination.

Prior to reading that sentence from the article, I had been of the school of thought that went like this:  Blake is not really interested in playing or exercising.  He won't do it.  There's nothing I can do.

And after reading that sentence, I realized:  something is better than nothing.  If I can force Blake to exercise (even if it's just for 30 seconds), well . . . that's better than no exercise.  Can we sing the Hallelujah Chorus again?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah, hallelujah, hall-ay'ay-loo-yah!

So that's been It.  Blake's Jenny Craig program.  Keep it simple, take what I can get, don't give up because he doesn't feel like it.  Every night before bed, we get out the laser pointer and he makes two or three running passes up and down the hallway.  Then he poops out and doesn't want to move, so I use my foot like a spatula and make him get up and move around for as long as I can (that means, eventually even my spatula can't scrape him off the floor; he's too tired).  Usually he only lasts about 5 minutes, which in the grand scheme of things and including those nights when I'm so dead tired that I don't feel like it either, is not that much.  It is do-able, and there is no excuse not to.

IT'S BEEN WORKING!  To anyone else out there that has a fat indoor cat, I beg you:  don't give up.

Erase the phrases "Go big or go home" and "overachiever" from your mind.  When I changed my way of thinking, that's when things started to turn around.  I stopped worrying about everything I'd been taught in school and at home (like "do it right or do it over"). I stopped aiming for the exceptional, and I started accepting average and below-average as acceptable terms.  It's a shock to the system, and I found that it helped to remind myself that this is not the same as school or work.

Small, pitiful, pathetic amounts of exercise are good enough.  Mediocre is okay.  It's okay if you don't shoot for the stars . . . in this case at least.  It's okay if you get a 60 percent--a D!--because that is still a passing grade.  A for Effort.

It's been over 28 days and on Tuesday Blake had his first official weigh-in.  Technically, it's been a month and a half since the first visit to the vet when he got weighed the first time, but I didn't start the exercise program until we started the new food, which is why I'm using March 2 as the official date (I only say that because I'm not sure how accurate these numbers are . . . he could have lost some weight before we officially started--remember he was vomiting a lot).

The result:  he has lost 3.2 pounds and now weighs 21.8 pounds.  My goal is to get his weight down to 18 pounds; when we reach that I'll slowly wean him off the expensive food and figure out a maintenance diet with a more economical canned cat food.  He's playing more AND is now able to clean his own bum.  Yes, gross to say it bluntly like that, but . . . who cares?  It was a proud moment all the same.  I'm like a mama with a kid who used the potty for the first time.

My analysis:  obviously my first mistake was allowing dry kibble to be out 24/7.  My stubborn attachment to the fact that I was at least administering the correct proportions for three cats was the worst offense. Blake was definitely eating more than his share.  It didn't matter that I was following the directions on the bag of food; since Blake wasn't following the directions it threw off the whole picture.  While he's been on the special food I've started the other two cats on a different (less expensive) canned cat food.  I've been leaving out some dry food and--shockingly--it's been working out great.  They don't eat the dry food when they're bored the way Blake does.

The success of feeding everyone separately and having them each eat the bulk of their meals all at once (rather than grazing throughout the day) is the main reason why I've decided to make the switch to canned food.  I've attempted to do research, read some articles about the matter, and there is so much controversy that I've concluded there is no way for the average consumer to sort through it all.  Some articles basically imply that dry cat kibble is the devil, others are a little more forgiving.  But--and here's the relief--it's consistent across the board (even from my vet) that wet/canned cat food is a good idea.  If nothing else, it should be fed in addition to dry kibble.

My second mistake was blindly feeding all the cats together . . . we're going to keep Blake separated from the other two at mealtimes from now on.  I think that innocent, simple decision will have the biggest impact of all . . . more than the dry versus canned debate and even more than his piddly amounts of exercise.

More to come!


Pat Tillett said...

Wow! that's a big boy. We also have three cats. One of them was very large when we got her. She's now about 15 pounds. It's funny how when they are done playing. The just flop down...

Life in vet school said...

I think what you're doing now sounds great -- both dogs and cats tend to stay at a lower weight (and therefore have a longer life expectancy) if fed specific meals instead of grazing all day.

And mixing canned food with kibble is probably the best food arrangement. I'm leery of a lot of canned foods since they tend to be high in sugar and other crap, but they add extra water to the diet which can help prevent urinary obstructions. And there are definitely brands that are well-formulated without bad ingredients.

And the kibble helps keep their teeth clean. So it's all good!

Related Posts with Thumbnails