Not Sure About the “Quality” Foods

As per this post, I’m keen to make sure Pete eats reasonably quality, high protein food. Lots of people swear by the Royal Canin/Hill’s Science Plan type foods, so I thought I’d give them a go. They are eye-wateringly expensive compared to Tesco/Whiskas/Kitekat/Felix, and the nutritional information on the packs and on the websites is astonishingly poor.

I got him Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition wet food, the Hairball Care and the Ultra Light in jelly (which states it has a 19% calorie reduction). The nutritional information for the Ultra Light says

COMPOSITION: meat and animal derivatives, vegetable protein extracts, derivatives of vegetable origin, minerals, cereals,various sugars.

ADDITIVES (per kg): Nutritional additives: Vitamin D3: 55 IU, E1 (Iron): 0.4 mg, E2 (Iodine): 0.1 mg, E4 (Copper): 0.9 mg, E5 (Manganese): 0.11 mg, E6 (Zinc): 1.1 mg, L-carnitine: 35 mg.

ANALYTICAL CONSTITUENTS: Protein: 11% – Fat content: 2% – Crude ash: 1.4% – Crude fibres: 1.2% – Moisture: 82.5%.

It doesn’t specify what the meat is, or what the vegetables and cereals are, and the protein content is very low, so I assume the carb content is high. They tag it as having a high protein content, but it’s only 11%. They say it has a 19% calorie reduction, but compared to what?

The Hairball Care variety gives the nutritional info as

COMPOSITION: meat and animal derivatives, cereals, vegetable protein extracts, derivatives of vegetable origin, minerals, oils and fats, various sugars, yeasts.

ADDITIVES (per kg): Nutritional additives: Vitamin D3: 82 IU, E1 (Iron): 3 mg, E2 (Iodine): 0.12 mg, E4 (Copper): 1 mg, E5 (Manganese): 1 mg, E6 (Zinc): 10 mg – Technological additives: Clinoptilolite of sedimentary origin: 0.4 g.

ANALYTICAL CONSTITUENTS: Protein: 7% – Fat content: 2.7% – Crude ash: 1.3% – Crude fiber: 1% – Moisture: 82%.

so it’s even lower in protein (cats are obligate carnivores, remember) and presumably even higher in carbs. Again, no calorie content.

I have emailed Royal Canin to ask for more info, so we will see what they say.

The Hill’s Science Plan I got is the urinary health & hairball control type, and again, there is very little nutritional info on the packaging. I can’t even find it on the website to look for more details, but looking at some of the other foods, they do have good nutritional information on the site.

It seems very strange to me that brands which a) cost a lot of money and b) promote themselves as being very high quality, aren’t prepared to back that up by being open about what goes into them. I’m looking at you, Royal Canin.

Fat Cat with a Stinky Bum

Pete and I went to the vet yesterday for his annual checkup and booster jags. I’m pretty skint this month and didn’t want to pay £15-20 for taxis there and back, so we got the bus. Getting him to the bus stop was the most difficult bit because he’s heavy and what is usually a 5 minute walk took nearly 15. He was really good on the bus though, a bit anxious to start with but once he’d realised there was nothing scary happening, he settled down and lay down in his carrier and just looked around quite calmly.

The vet (Edinburgh Cat Clinic) gave him a good checkup and said his heart and lungs are fine and his teeth are in good condition. The main issue is his weight. Although I haven’t increased his food, he’s put on about a pound in the last five months and he’s now 2lb overweight, which is a lot for a cat. He is a big cat, and we think about 6kg would be right for him, but he’s currently just over 7kg. I don’t know what else to do to reduce it – he gets on pouch of wet food in the morning, usually the 100g pouches but I mix in some of the 85g a couple of times a week, and he gets 30g of Thrive dry food which is 90% meat and about 190kCal per 100g. So he’s on a maximum of about 170kCal per day, and all the research I can find says to get him to 6kg he needs to be on about 200 per day! The vet says I’m doing all the right things, putting his dry food around the flat on the windowsills, on his platforms and in his activity feeders, so he has to go and look for it if he wants it, so the only thing I can try now is reducing his intake even further. I’m really worried he’ll eat my face in the night. We are wondering if he’s getting food elsewhere, but he doesn’t go out very often, and although the neighbours have been known to sneak him bits of steak bake (!) and the odd dish of milk, I don’t think they do it regularly. Because he’s so fat, the vet couldn’t examine his abdomen, but he seems healthy and happy so we’re assuming he’s ok.

The other issue is that after he’s used his litter tray, he often has a stinky mess down “the back of his trousers.” (Is it just me who loves cats’ fluffy britches?) So I asked Simon to check his anal glands. Pete did not enjoy having his glands checked and was quite happy to say so, but it didn’t take long. The right one was fine, but the left one has some infection in it, so Simon got it all out, and we’re going back in 4 weeks for another check, and I will keep an eye on it meantime. Simon does think though that some of the mess is because of Pete’s size, making it difficult for him to poo cleanly or wash himself properly afterwards. I think it’s all about his glands, his poo is firm and seems to come out cleanly, and the mess on the back of his legs is greeny and stinky, so I’m sure it’s exudate/secretions. While he was giving the injection, Simon found a lump on Pete’s back, which he thinks is just a lipoma, but we’ll keep an eye on it.

The other thing we did was a nail trim, to blunt his scimitar-like claws and protect my legs a bit. I try to do it at home but I only ever manage one claw, then he wakes up and attacks the clippers.

On the way home, partly because he’s heavy to carry, and partly to give him a bit more exercise, I let him out of his carrier as we got to the police station instead of waiting till we got in the stair, and he trotted along behind me quite happily. He had a bit of a run around in the evening as well, scampering up and down the stairs, and I took him over the road to see if he would romp in the grass, but a seagull swooped on us, and it got very windy, and he really wasn’t keen so we came back in.

He was very sleepy last night and still this morning, and not pestering for food quite as much, which I think is a reaction to the vaccination. He was the same after his first ones last year.

7th of July was the first anniversary of Pete coming to live with me. I’m so glad he picked me.

What to Feed Cats

I’ve just read Your Cat by Elizabeth Hodgkins who is an American vet who specialised in treating cats before she retired, particularly seriously overweight and/or diabetic cats. She’s not advocating raw food, although she says it’s good for cats, but she is advocating wet food.

Her reasoning is that the majority of dry food is made predominantly of carbohydrate, plant sources coated in fat and flavour to make it palatable to cats. But cats’ natural diet is protein and fat from killed animals, with very little plant material or other carbs, and dry food doesn’t replicate it at all. She says that wet food is much more suitable for cats and replicates their natural diet better.

She gives multiple case studies throughout the book of overweight and/or diabetic cats who were fed predominantly on dry food, including “diet” or “light” food. She reports that switching the cats to wet food facilitated much better weight loss and in most cases, got their diabetes under control so well the cats no longer needed insulin, and when they did still need it, their blood sugars were more stable and they needed lower doses.

I’ve lent the book to a friend so I can’t give more detail, but it’s worth a read if you’re interested in cat diets. It’s convinced me to switch Pete from dry breakfasts and wet dinners to two wet meals with a small amount of high protein dry food in his activity feeder.

It’s also worth looking at the calorie and nutritional content of dry food compared to wet. I emailed Iams, Purina, Pets at Home and Go Cat about the calorie content of their food (which isn’t on the packaging) and even the diet stuff is over 300 kcal per 100g, with protein content of under 30% for most of them. On the other hand, Thrive 90% chicken dry food is 186 kcal per 100g and has a protein content of over 80%. The wet foods I’ve investigated – Felix, Kitekat, Iams, Whiskas and Tesco – are all between 70-95 kcal per 100g pouch, with well over 80% protein.

As far as raw food goes, she says that many people worry about food poisoning for cats who eat raw diets, but she points out that cats who would otherwise be killing live prey and eating it, perhaps caching a large kill and eating it over several days, are unlikely to get food poisoning from meat.

The book made sense to me, and I’m comfortable that a wet food diet with a small amount of dry, and raw meat with the bone in once or twice a week is the right thing for Pete. I’ve also scrapped the Dreamies after I saw him gagging on the dryness of one but still desperately trying to eat it, and his treats now are Thrive freeze-dried meat and fish pieces.

Pete’s On A Diet

For the first few months I had Pete, I gave him a wet pouch night and morning and let him have free access to dried food, hoping he would get used to regular food, feel more secure, and eventually learn to regulate his intake.

Didn’t happen.

When we went to the vet the other week for his split ear, the vet weighed him. From the healthy 5.8kg he was in July, he’s now hovering around 7kg, which is too much for him. So he’s on a diet. I’m still giving him two wet pouches a day, but I’ve decreased his biscuits gradually to 10g, at bedtime. I was worried he’d be really hungry, but he tells me he’s hungry all the time anyway, so it’s hard to tell. Even after he’s just eaten a pouch and he’s having a snooze and digesting it, if I make the slightest move towards the kitchen he follows me and begs for food. He still does it, but not any more than before diet started.

The hardest thing has been working out how much to feed him. He gets a mixture of Felix, Kitekat, Whiskas and Tesco pouches, but only the Kitekat has the calorie content on the packaging. (And once a week I replace a pouch with a raw chicken wing or drumstick with the bone in, to give his teeth and jaws a workout). By the power of the internet I worked out that to get him down to 6kg, he needs 200-220kcal per day. So I emailed Felix, Whiskas and Tesco to find out their cat food calories. Felix and Whiskas have got back to me – Felix is 70-75kcal per 100g pouch, and Whiskas is 80-85kcal per 100g. So he’s getting 150-170kcal from wet food every day, and has 30-50kcal left over for dry food. Again, the dry food manufacturers don’t put the calorie content on their packaging, not even on the diet food. So I used this site to work it out. This one does it too. I give him a mixture of biscuits – diet, hairball and normal ones all mixed together in a tupperware, in a ratio of about 3:1:1, so I’m basing the calculations on the diet food and then adding a little bit. So he can have 10-15 grams of biscuits per day, which is less than half of what he was eating when he had free access. No wonder he’s put weight on!

It’s important that cats don’t get too fat. Apart from the risk of heart disease and diabetes, carrying extra weight can damage their joints when they’re running and jumping, and in extreme cases they can get too fat to groom and clean themselves and can end up with nasty urine sores.

So I’m going to keep him on 2 pouches and 10 grams of food, plus the occasional treat, for a couple of months and see how he goes. If he hasn’t lost any weight by the new year, then I’ll think about taking him to the fat club his vet runs for cats.

It’s interesting that all the cat food packaging says a 4kg cat should have 3-4 pouches per day which is more calories than even a 6kg cat needs to maintain a healthy weight.