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Fat cats are adorable, they're absolutely huggable, but it's not healthy to have an obese kitty.
I'm a crazy cat lady. My dad is a crazy cat man. However, we've taken two different paths when it comes to feeding our furry friends.
I feed my cats fresh, human-grade wet cat food, and have largely cut dry food out of their diets. I want to cut it out completely, but my little girl is very resistant to having her teeth brushed, so I still give her small amounts of oral care treats and dry food in addition to her wet food. After all, dry cat food has the nutritional value of potato chips, if we were to compare it to human food. Just imagine how you'd feel and how your health would be if all you ate all day was potato chips. If you don't believe it's that bad, read about the basics of feline nutrition from one of the few vets who went beyond the lackluster nutrition lessons given in standard veterinary school and figured out what cats really need.
Technicalities of nutrition aside, there's another problem with dry food. It's absurdly high in empty calories, and can make your cats overweight. That is, unfortunately, what has happened to my dad's two boys. Pickles and Scaredy Cat both absolutely love dry food. In fact, Scaredy Cat loves it so much, every time you pet him, he gets really happy and he decides it's time for a snack. And my father enables him by constantly giving him extra treats, never letting the food bowl go empty.
Scaredy Cat is over 25 pounds, and Pickles isn't far behind at 23.
Given their size, they should be about half that weight.
I'm trying to get my family to see the light of natural cat diets, but before my father can go through the labor of love that is switching their food, he's got to get them down to eating a reasonable amount of it.
It sounds like an easy solution, but it's not. In addition to Scaredy Cat and Pickles, my parents have Jude and Rainy, two girls who are both in perfect shape. If anything, Rainy doesn't eat quite enough. They can't put out a measured amount of food and stop refilling it when the bowl runs out, because Scaredy and Pickles will just gobble everything up before Rainy and Jude even get a bite.
The next idea might be separating the cats in different areas of the house. That's a good idea in theory, but my parents' house is only 600 square feet in size. There's barely room for all of them without portions of the home being sectioned off.
These fat cats needed a smarter solution.
A typical automatic feeder wouldn't do the job either. I needed to find something that could recognize each individual cat. That led me to the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder, which reads each cat's microchip ID and only opens for the appropriate pet. You can program up to 32 pets into the SureFeed unit—that's more than enough room for my father's four kitties.
It's perfect because after Scaredy and Pickles have had their allotted amount, my father can change the settings on the SureFeed and have it only open up for the lighter kitties, Jude and Rainy. Since it was working so well, I ended up purchasing a second unit for my father; that way, the boys could have one unit and the girls could have another.
The SureFeed is fantastic because unlike most automatic feeders, it's not just limited to the dreaded nutritional garbage that is dry cat food—you can put wet food in as well, and it actually stays fresh thanks to the seal. When cats have been raised on a diet that's an even mix of wet food and dry food, they can be pretty resistant to have exclusively wet food, especially when it sits around all day and dries out. The closing doors on the SureFeed have a twofold function with portion control and freshness preservation.
Time to put dearest chubby cats on a diet.
While I'm writing this clearly biased in favor of cats, this feeder obviously works brilliantly for small dogs as well. I'm just a total cat person, so cats are my priority. Cats tend to be shier creatures, so it did take a little time for my father's furry tribe to get used to it. Rainy and Jude were particularly hesitant when they saw the opening doors, but within a few days, they didn't mind anymore. After all, the unit is compact enough that the little piggies in the house can't cram in next to one of the girls to steal their food.
To make the transition to the new feeder easier, my father would put out a small regular bowl of food right next to the SureFeed. They'd go to the regular bowl first, typical creatures of habit, but when it ran out, they'd give up and brave the SureFeed. They stopped minding the movement of it by the third day.
Pickles and Scaredy sit near the girls' feeder, hoping for a stay piece of kibble to bounce their way, but these feeders are the absolute best way to have two cats on a diet and to keep the other two eating enough. After all, it's never fair to starve all your pets because some of them just can't control themselves around an all you can eat buffet of cat food.
Since my father got all of the feline army eating out of the SureFeeds, Pickles and Scaredy have already lost a few pounds. I feel like an infomercial telling someone to diet and exercise, but they've even been more eager to play now that they're slimming down. At the current pace they're going, the vet will be much happier next time she sees these two boys.