Tucker's Story

Tucker at his heaviest - a whopping 21 pounds! The goal is to get him down to 16 pounds, and we're slowly getting there.

Check out Tucker's weight loss photo gallery!

Tucker's weight loss woes
Our story of trying to lose weight

By Rene Schweitzer

I've had Tucker since he was four months old. He was a large kitten, so I knew he'd grow up to be a sizable cat. As a kitten, I fed him dry Nutro Max cat food. Before the age of two, he started to gain weight, so I switched him to Science Diet Light dry food. At the age of three, he was still gaining weight on the SD Light, even with carefully measured portions and no treats. My vet suggested trying Hills r/d, a weight-reducing dry food. I fed this food exclusively for an entire year, carefully measured, and brought Tucker to the vet every few months to be weighed. He lost a total of one ounce; I nearly lost my mind. He was constantly hungry and would run to the food bowl, looking for any scrap of kibble.

I finally talked to my vet and we agreed this food wasn't working. She suggested Hills m/d, a (then) relatively new food similar in make up to the Atkins diet for humans. I bought a bag and when I asked how much to feed (he was getting 3/4 c. of the r/d), they said 3/4 c. was fine, and if I had questions to "read the bag."

Everything seemed to be going great. Tucker loved the food and wasn't begging anymore. But something didn't seem right. He wasn't as playful anymore, slept a lot more, and his harness wasn't fitting right.

I took him to the vet again, eight months after starting the m/d diet, and to my horror, discovered he had gained five pounds! (He now weighed 21 pounds.) Since the weight gain happened so gradually, I didn't realize it was happening at all until I got him on the scale! My vet said that "sometimes the food works, and sometimes it doesn't." She suggested that perhaps he had an underactive thyroid. He had a full blood panel done, and everything came back clear. All they could suggest was (you guessed it) ANOTHER dry food, this time Walthams Calorie Control.

I was at my wit's end, and felt like a horrible cat mom. I was paying a lot of money for prescription food, and he was GAINING weight? What was wrong? Out of frustration, I posted a note on a cat-related internet group. One morning, I received an email from Megan, who had seen my message, and suggested that I try him on a canned-food diet. I responded negatively, because my vet had told me that canned food was "bad" for cats. She persisted, and I finally agreed to give it a try.

I was pretty nervous about this. Was going against my vet's advice the right thing to do? After six years of mostly dry food, would he eat the canned? These thoughts were with me even after I had a long conversation with Megan and we had come up with a diet plan using Wellness canned food, which I then purchased at the local pet store.

The first few days were slow going. Tucker had been fed four times per day, but was only getting two feedings with the canned. He would nibble the canned, then walk away and beg for dry. It was tough going, but I kept at it. I would literally follow him around the kitchen with the food bowl, sweet talking him into eating the food. After a few days, the begging during previous mealtimes stopped, and he started to run into the kitchen when I prepared his meal.

After 10 days of the new diet, I weighed him. Success! He had lost 14 oz.! This amount was more weight than he should have lost, but was due to the change in diet and him initially not eating his entire portion. Another factor was that there was most likely some variances in the scale at the vet's and the post office (where I initially weighed him until I bought my own).

It's important for a cat to not to lose weight too quickly so great care must be taken to make sure the cat eats enough of the new food. With this in mind, we're continuing the diet, adjusting the food quantities as he loses weight. He now eats his entire portion within an hour, and gets excited when it's mealtime. He does not beg for additional food. As a bonus, he's more active and he's starting to play with toys which were previously neglected.

I have purchased an affordable postage scale to weigh him weekly and monitor his progress. The scale costs $40, and is a digital postal scale. A description of the Escali scale can be found here I purchased the scale for a good price from Top Line Digital Scales I had great service at this company and received the scale within three days of placing my order.

Buying my own scale for home use was a great investment, and it's already paid for itself. I don't have to stress Tucker out by bringing him to the vets (or other locale) every week. And, I have the convenience of weighing him whenever I'd like (believe me, the temptation is there to weigh him every day!) To weigh Tucker, I place a lightweight cat-sized box on top of the scale, use the tare function to zero out the weight of the box, and then place him in the box. This gives an accurate weight without having to fit him on the small platform. I keep a simple spreadsheet on my computer to track Tucker's weight loss.

Our weight-loss journey has only begun. Tucker has a lot of weight to lose, but is well on his way to being a thinner (and healthier) kitty, while still being satisfied. If I can do it, anyone can. Just give it a try and be patient. In the long run, your cat will thank you.

Rene's tips:

*Hide or remove all dry food. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes.

*Pound some dry food into a powder and sprinkle it on top of the canned to help with the transition.

*Make a big fuss when you're preparing the food, so he'll think it's something special.

*Be tough; don't give in and offer dry after the first day. However, make sure your cat is eating a majority of the food. It's not good for them to eat too little of the new food and lose weight too quickly.

*Praise your cat when he eats the canned food, or goes back to the bowl/plate to eat more.

#UPDATE 12-28-04

Tucker's been on his Wellness diet for four months now and is doing great. He's lost three pounds and is looking much thinner. (Visit his photo gallery to see his progress). I can definitely tell the difference when I pick him up.

Last week, Tucker had his annual checkup with his (new) vet. I printed out his weight loss log and talked to the doctor about the diet. She was very impressed about everything I was doing, and especially impressed with weighing him at home on a digital scale. She agreed that a canned diet is a good idea. I think we're going to like this vet a lot better.

#UPDATE 2-15-05
Last week, Tucker reached 17 pounds! Only one more pound to go! He definitely feels lighter to me, and if you look at his 17 lb. top-view photo, has a more "normal" cat physique. He's had days of begging for food--attacking a bag of Cheetos, for instance, and he sometimes knocks over the garbage can. However, he's always had more of an appetite in the winter (cold weather?), so once spring comes I'm hoping things will return to normal.
To help his cravings, I give him fresh, frozen catnip, which he enjoys eating (and so does his kitty-brother, Benny!). I'm so proud of him and am happy that things have progressed so well.

#UPDATE 04-08-05

It's an exciting day! Tucker weighed in at exactly 16 lbs--his goal weight. (I gave him a big hug and a "Rosie the rat" toy for making weight!) We are now going to work on adjusting his food slightly so he can maintain his weight. I will continue to weigh him every week so I can keep his weight in check.

He is looking great, as you can see by looking at the photo gallery. When you look down at him, his sides go *in*. I can feel his ribs when I pet him, and picking him up is much easier. When I put his harness on for an outside "walk" last week, I had to tighten it up!

It's been a long and trying eight months in some days, but we made it! Don't worry, I'll still check in here and send new pics so you can see how he's doing.

#UPDATE: 08-09-05

Tucker continues to do well on the Wellness food. In fact, he's lost a few ounces more than I'd planned, so I'm now (slowly) increasing the amount of food to help maintain his weight. I still weigh him each week. It only takes a couple of minutes, and after all the time I've spent on him thus far, it's a small price to pay. He enjoys treats of canned (unsalted) beans and fresh catnip. He can also have a few dry cat treats each day now, too. When I look back at his "fat" pictures, I can hardly believe he's the same cat!

#UPDATE: 1-19-06

Tucker and I have had a tough month. One day, when he started vomiting a bright blue color, I realized he had eaten an entire fur-mouse toy! As the toy traveled his digestive tract, it irritated his intestines and he developed pancreatitis. His intestine showed inflammation in one area, which is likely due to irritation from the toy he swallowed, but could have possibly been IBD. Luckily, since he was at an ideal weight, he was not as serious of a case as overweight kitties and did not develop secondary hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease.) This commonly happens to obese cats that get ill and as a result lose weight quickly and is yet another reason to keep your kitty at a safe weight! You never know when something like this might happen.

The emergency clinic sent him home with a food that included corn in it, something his body does not tolerate (and is not an ingredient in the Wellness food,) so he vomited it and then wouldn't eat it. I went back to using Wellness along with fluids and pain medication ( the cornerstones of treating pancreatitis) and he started to get better.

Tucker is recovering nicely now, and ironically, I need him to gain some weight! After a lot of reading and discussing, and because there was a possibility there might be some IBD involved (although Tucker has never shown any symptoms) I am switching him over to Nature's Variety, a commercially-prepared raw diet. The switch is going well; he's eating it heartily. If he indeed has IBD, it will be good for that condition too. To read more about raw diets, visit http://www.catnutrition.org

One final note: please regularly check your cat toys! THROW AWAY anything that is broken or possibly damaged, and inspect the toys for chew marks. Tucker has had these toy mice since he was a kitten, and I never expected him to eat one after 7 years. When you purchase a new cat toy, please remove any strings, eyeballs, ribbons, etc. that could come off and be ingested during play. You can never be too careful!

#UPDATE: 2-18-06
Tucker is now doing great. He had a checkup at a new vet's office, and his bloodwork came back as normal. His weight is back to a healthy number, and he's happily eating the raw diet. The only remaining signs of his illness are the shaven areas where he had blood drawn. They are slowly filling in with fur, but for now I call him my "poodle kitty."

#UPDATE: 1-15-07

It's been about a year since Tucker's pancreatitis, and he's doing great! He had a full blood panel done in December and his creatinine was slightly elevated, but we will take another panel in May and keep an eye on it. (It's possible he was slightly dehydrated or stressed, which can elevate these levels.) His weight is right on the money at 14 lb. 10 oz. I believe the raw diet is increasing his metabolism, as I can give him a few treats each day and he isn't gaining weight. He gets weighed every 2-3 weeks. Buying the postal scale was one of the best investments I've made for my cats. If you are on the fence about buying one, I highly recommend it.

#UPDATE: 9-18-07

Tucker continues to thrive. His blood panel in May showed that his creatinine was back to normal. The only thing I did differently was to feed him half a portion of food before leaving for the vet's office.

If your cat needs to lose weight, playtime is an important factor in helping raise the metabolism (not to mention it's an excellent way to bond with your cat). I wanted to share a few toys that my cats enjoy. A collapsible cat tunnel is a fun toy that doesn't take up a lot of room. They are made with crinkle fabric and cost under $10 for the ones that are available in the cat toy section at Target. An example of a similar, very cool and more expensive longer version is here:

Collapsible cat cubes are also super fun. My other cat, Benny, loves to play in them. Dangle a wand toy inside them and watch the fun begin! Amazon carries several colors, and Target stocks them as well: http://www.amazon.com/Set-Cat-Cubes-%2596-Red/dp/B000ACR18C/ref=pd_sim_k_1/103-5264233-5490269

Tucker's weight loss diary (updated weekly):

Date        weight        comments

8-26-04    21 lb            weighed at vets; first learned of extreme weight gain

9-11-04    20 lb 2.4 oz  after 9 days of feeding Wellness

9-17-04    20 lb .8 oz    getting more used to canned; eating all of portion

9-22-04    19 lb 15 oz    right after eating, may not be totally accurate (just got scale and wanted to try it out)

9-24-04    19 lb 15 oz    reduced portions a little

10-01-04    19 lb 10 oz

10-08-04    19 lb 6 oz

10-15-04___19 lb 5 oz___ cats, like people, can hit a plateau- keep food intake the same, increase activity level and reassess next week 

10-22-04___19 lb 5 oz___decreased food intake by 20 calories

10-29-04___19 lb 3 oz

11-05-04___19 lb 1 oz____decreased food slightly-add a little water to keep volume the same

11-12-04___18 lb 14 oz

11-19-04___18 lb 10 oz

11-26-04___18 lb 10 oz___no weight loss as petsitter fed a little extra while owner was out of town

12-03-04___18 lb 6 oz

12-10-04___18 lb 2 oz

12-17-04___18 lb 2 oz

12-24-04___18 lb 1 oz

12-31-04___18 lb

01-07-05___17 lb 14 oz

01-14-05___17 lb 11 oz

01-21-05___17 lb 7 oz

01-28-05___17 lb 3 oz

02-04-05___17 lb 2 oz__snuck Benny's food once and attacked a bag of Cheetos

02-11-05___17 lb

02-18-05___16 lb 14oz

02-25-05___16 lb 11 oz

03-04-05___16 lb 10 oz

03-11-05___16 lb 9 oz

03-18-05___16 lb 6 oz

03-25-05___16 lb 4 oz

04-01-05___16 lb 3 oz

04-08-05___16 lb !!!!! We made our goal !!!!!!

04-15-05___15 lb 10 oz

04-29-05___15 lb 8 oz

05-06-05___15 lb 6 oz