by Christina Howard
Beaver has always been a big cat. When I got him at the age of eleven months, he weighed 9.8 pounds. His legs looked double the length they should be and his paws were way too big for his body. I knew he was going to grow to be very large. Beaver had some issues with food at this point. He would eat incredibly fast whenever he was fed and then throw up. The vet suggested I feed Beaver a little bit at a time throughout the day to eliminate this issue. It worked and Beaver quit throwing up.
Eventually Beaver grew into his long legs and enormous paws. Beaver grew and grew, and by the age of two, he was significantly larger than the average cat. He was tall and long, but not overweight. He weighed 14 pounds and looked quite proportional.
Beaver began to grow pleasantly plump during his third year. It was always hard to tell though, was he really chubby, or was it just his thick, fluffy fur?
On June 11, 2004, three months before Beaver's fourth birthday, I took him to the vet to get his shots. The vet put Beaver on the scale and was shocked to see that he now weighed 18.1 pounds. She said it was time to put Beaver on a diet. She wanted to switch him from eating Royal Canin adult cat food to Science Diet R/D.
I wasn't overly excited at the prospect of putting my cat on a diet. I remember my parents struggling with "diets" for their cat, Tommy, for probably eight years. Tommy looked and behaved almost identically to my cat. Tommy just gained more and more weight, eventually ending up diabetic. From what I had seen, and considering how similar Tommy and Beaver were, this didn't look like a good idea, but I complied assuming that the vet was educated in cat nutrition and knowing that I wasn't.
It took about a month and a half before I started Beaver on his diet. I was moving right after the visit to the vet and then going on a week long vacation. I thought these two events would be upsetting enough to my cat. I didn't want to top the changes off with a new kind of food.
At the beginning of August, I started mixing Beaver's old food, Royal Canin, with the new Science Diet R/D. After about a week of the mixed food, I eased him onto a diet of pure Science Diet R/D. Per the vet's instructions I fed Beaver a cup of food a day. Beaver seemed to like his food and would gobble it up whenever I fed him.
After one week of eating purely Science Diet R/D, I started to find blood on my kitchen floor. I checked my cat over, and couldn't see anything that indicated the blood was coming from him. I finally concluded I maybe had mice. Eeek!!! This happened twice in three days.
The day after I had found the second small pool of blood, August 17, I came home from going to a movie with a friend. I walked into my apartment, and it smelled like the cat had just had a bowel movement. I looked over to the kitchen to see Beaver sitting in front of his food dish, eating. He got up to come greet me, and what I saw horrified me. There was blood on the floor where Beaver had been sitting. I ran over and sure enough, Beaver was bleeding from his rear end.
I immediately called my vet and left a message for her. The vet called me the next morning before her office had even opened and told me to bring Beaver in. I wrestled him into his cat carrier and took him to her. She examined Beaver, drew some blood and concluded that while he looked healthy, she thought he was having large, difficult bowel movements because of the bulkiness of the fiber in the Science Diet R/D. She also brought up some concerns about inflammatory bowel disease. The vet said I should feed Beaver a fifty-fifty mix of Science Diet Light and Science Diet Lamb and Rice, a hypoallergenic food. She hoped that the light food would reduce the number of calories he was eating and help him to lose weight, while the hypoallergenic food would help him to avoid developing inflammatory bowel disease, an illness sometimes caused by food allergies. The other news she gave me was that Beaver had gained weight! He weighed 18.1 pounds in June, and now in August, he weighed 18.9 pounds.
I took Beaver home and started him on his new diet right away. Over the next two months, Beaver grew sluggish. He wasn't acting like himself. He didn't play much anymore and he just seemed off. Beaver began throwing up a couple of times a week. When he threw up, only the undigested Science Diet Light food would come back up. Beaver, or the "mini-lion" as friends had now nicknamed him, wasn't bleeding anymore, but he didn't seem quite right.
On November 21, 2004, I found blood on my floor again. I called the vet and made an appointment for the next day. I was shocked when she put Beaver on the scale. He now weighed 20.4 pounds, up a pound and a half from August. I had really monitored his diet closely and hadn't given him anything extra. I felt like a failure!
The vet suggested another change in diet. She put Beaver on two thirds a cup of the Science Diet Lamb and Rice and one third a cup of Science Diet W/D, a diet food that falls somewhere in between Science Diet Light and R/D. I'm no vet, but this didn't make sense to me. If Beaver was unable to handle Science Diet Light and Science Diet R/D, why put him on another Science Diet diet food?
I was absolutely sick over what was happening.
My mom suggested looking for a different option, outside of what the vet had suggested. A friend put me in contact with Megan. Megan calculated his calorie requirements for weight loss and told me to start Beaver immediately on a can and a half of Wellness food each day divided into two meals fed 12 hours apart. I also purchased a digital postal scale so I could monitor his weight closely and accurately at home. I was nervous to go against my vet's orders, but I knew my parents had done this with their cat and it had helped.
After only two weeks of eating Wellness, Beaver is back to his old self. Even though Beaver had been eating dry food, he loved the canned Wellness from the first bite! He is incredibly energetic again and plays all the time. I could do without the noisy playing at 4:00am, but it's a small price to pay to have a happy, healthy cat!
My mom told her vet about the new approach to nutrition Megan was having me take. Mom's vet, who believes cats should eat canned food, not carbohydrate loaded cereal, was thrilled to hear what we were doing! She was the one who had suggested the similar diet (the diet that worked!) for my parent's cat. I am anxious to see how our weight loss journey will go, and I am looking forward to having a cat that is at a healthy weight once again!