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Too Skinny to Fix

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi all. It's been a while since I've posted here. This is quite long: skip down to the last paragraph if you've not got the time to read. My two cats are indoor cats, doing really well, and eating Iams dry food (original: first five ingredients are Chicken, Corn meal, Chicken By-product Meal, Corn Grits and Poultry By-Product Meal). I've read a lot of the general advice here that wet is better than dry, and that By-Product is bad, but Chicken is the first ingredient, and they have been happy on it, so I haven't changed their food.

However, my spouse (S) is currently running his crazy (C) mother's rural disaster area as she's recovering from an operation. C has horses, goats, a bull (wandered on from neighbor's yard and they are co-owning, for no discernible reason), dogs, and, of course, cats. S loves cats, and can't stand to see them living brutal and unhappy short lives. C says she spays and neuters (when she has the money), but the age structure there is that the majority of cats are under one year old, so she's obviously failed at keeping the cats fixed. In order to make the place sustainable and eventually cut down on cat numbers, S decided to pay for spaying and neutering himself. On Friday he got four cats fixed: two females and two males. One of the newly neutered males declined in health after the surgery and crashed Monday night. S got him back to the vet, where they put him in an incubator and on IV fluids. It now appears that the cat simply wasn't healthy enough to withstand the neuter. The other three cats are doing very well. C brought in four more cats to be fixed today, and the vets did it, but when he picked up the four newly fixed cats and talked about the sick cat (still at the vet, might survive, might not), the vets told him that he needed to get the cats healthier before bringing in any more to fix. The cats are too skinny and just not generally healthy enough to fix.

S is buying food tomorrow, and wants to know what food to buy. There are probably something like 40 cats on the property, including 11 kittens. S really doesn't have a lot of money, and he needs to set up a sustainable system where these cats will be healthy after he leaves. He claims that C is not capable of feeding wet food without letting it go bad. (There are rusting cat food cans all over the property, both still full and empty.) C buys whatever food is cheapest, changing foods and giving all of the cats diarrhea to save less than a dollar on 20 lb bags of food.

Right now S is mixing the two brands of dry cat food on the property. S has been setting up better systems of feeding (two goat-free areas for cat food instead of just letting cats tear into 20 lb bags of food themselves), and might be able to make some rooms in the house safe and healthy enough to put cats in. S is the reason that I feed our two indoor, well-loved cats Iams and is planning on simply buying Iams kitten and adult food. He called me and asked me to figure out where he can buy Iams cheapest, or if there is a better food for his purposes. S will be paying the vet to continue to take care of these cats, and might be able to set up a system where his brother will buy cat food and deliver it to the property, but even this might encourage bad behavior on the part of C. (The fact that S is paying for cats to be fixed has caused C to refuse to pay for hay and oats because S must have money, if he's got money to fix cats.) Giving C money, even expressly for cat food, will result in it being spent on horses and goats and other things, and will not improve the cat's lives.

So, I need to find 1) a healthy but affordable as possible dry cat food and, 2) a healthy but affordable wet food to supplement, if I can convince him that this will help. Any advice on specific foods and whether or not to feed everybody kitten food? Any specific reputable sources for nutrition and foods in an "owned colony" sort of situation? How do I figure out if the problem is the food or how it is fed to the cats?
post #2 of 15
Sportmix is a low cost decent farm option... I think a 33 or 35lb bag is about 19$

Chicken soup for the cat lovers soul ( who ever named the food should be ) is a VERY decent food and usually about 1 a lb

Kirkland s 25 lb maintenance is 16$ at Costco( if you have one near great option)

Diamond naturals and Precise are also decent foods at a little over 1$ a lb

Purina natural s is another decent

If you need really cheap most feed stores have 40-50lb bags of diamonds not naturals line and something called Farm style .. ie this is likely corn and by products
These are mostly avail at a feed store ...

as for chicken being good , it is BUT ( yes most of the time I have a but) it is 66% water and falls to 5th or 6th ingredient after cooking .. So your food is truly mainly corn and by product
post #3 of 15
This is a DUMB ??? but how much does a kitten need to weigh at the vet by you to get fixed ?? some will as little as 2 lbs ( though that is a healthy 8 week old wt roughly
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for that list of possible foods, sharky! It will be really helpful.

The vet doesn't like to do pediatric spays and neuters for owned cats, but does have some practice in doing so because of her interest in adopting out found kittens. I think this vet does have experience with fixing kittens from 2 lbs, but considers it riskier than fixing older cats. The vet had previously said that she might be willing to fix the kittens before S leaves (mid-July), but I don't know what this new realization about the generally health of this owned colony does to that suggestion. It's possible that the kittens are the healthiest cats on the property, and will get fixed soon. I'm on the other side of the country, and there is no internet access on the property, so all I know is what S tells me (which, yesterday, was something like 6 hours of anger and tears). S has been taking lots of pictures, though, so, at some point, I might get to see what they all look like.
post #5 of 15
Kirkland (Costco's) cat food made by the Diamond company is decent. But its only in the adult version. I would get a bag of that and mix with some high quality/calorie kitten food. The kitten food will give them extra nutrients and calories and hopefully he can get them to gain some weight so they can be fixed before they breed again.

If possible, try to isolate the females to prevent them from getting pregnant.
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Apparently there isn't a nearby CostCo (and no-one in the family has a membership) so the CostCo food is out.

I've been trying to figure out what foods are available in stores near him, and it's not really working, east-cost stores being closed for the evening and all. I think I've sold him on the "look for cheapest brand in store that has meat ingredients and no by-products" methodology. Also, I apparently sold him on the "wet food is good" with our last conversation (something I wasn't aware of), and I simply I told him to use the same methodology to find wet food as with dry food.

He's gotten a convalescent room set up, which bodes very well for being able to isolate the remaining un-spayed females, assuming, of course, that he can catch them. Tuna as bait has been working for him, and they are much more owned-and-poorly-cared for than feral, so, hopefully, that will work.

I don't think I need any more dry food suggestions: thanks so much for that, Sharky and GoldenKitty45. I'd still be very grateful for specific information and experiences with feeding/rescuing owned colonies, especially strategies to incorporate wet food in an affordable way.
post #7 of 15
I am not loaded with experience but I tried to help with the feral s at one pt in my own neighborhood... I used what was recommended the cheapest wet I could find ( my normally by product hating vet okayed the plan) ... Here we have store brands with less junk than friskies and fancy feast ... the plus was 22 oz cans were just over a 1$... 9 lives tuna based foods are decent and reasonable
post #8 of 15
I found in the speutering of our farm cats (some were semi-feral & in similar condition), it helped to give them canned in their diet also - dehydration makes the speutering much harder on them - and the canned helps prevent dehydration. Honestly, any kind of kitten food (or something like Diamond Naturals Active Cat) would help a lot here.
post #9 of 15
Purina Cat Chow has always done fine for me for keeping weight on any cat (TOO well for housecats....fat fat!). It's not really that much lower-quality than Iams, and Iams is awfully expensive for the quality. Purina ONE or Purina Naturals would be better, but cost more. My ferals get Purina Cat Chow.

The grocery-store/feed-store generics and Special Kitty are pretty junky and most cats I know that eat them look pretty bad. The BEST food I've found for putting weight on cats is Maxximum Kitten food (sold at Wal-Mart, purple bag)......but it's not cheap (about the same as Iams). Regular Maxximum (blue bag) might work, too.

BTW---I'd recommend having the lady cats spayed first. That way if he doesn't get around to all of them, only toms will be left. And they can't do too much damage if all the ladies are fixed . If there's a barn or other usable outbuilding, he can try to confine the breeding-age females until they're healthy enough to be fixed so they don't get pregnant again.
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
Very sad news: the sick cat died today. This was a friendly happy male cat that S got neutered on Friday, took in for an emergency vet visit on Monday night, got surgery Tuesday morning to remove maggots and infected tissue and was waiting in an incubator with an IV to get healthy enough for a second surgery to remove necrotic tissue. He didn't make it.

Unfortunately, S has given up on trying to make the disaster area work. He has successfully spayed 6 cats, neutered one, and caused the above mentioned cat to die in an attempt to neuter him. Right now S will continue to feed the cats on the property wet food and cheap kitten food in an attempt to make them as healthy as possible to give them a better chance for well-being for as long as possible. With the death of the cat and the complete unwillingness of C to alter her life and routine to keep cats healthy, S has decided that he will never see C or the property again: that he can't fix the situation and therefore is going to step out of it completely. S isn't particularly happy with the vet office (which C uses because it is the cheapest vet in the area), and doesn't plan on paying for future spays and neuters from C's colony. S will be there for about one more month, but is no longer trying to make the situation work long term. It is still possible that, given the advantage of an improved property and increased mobility after the surgery, C will actually give good care to these cats and have them all fixed, but, given past patterns, it is not likely, and it is no longer something I have any influence on.

Because of these long phone conversations about taking care of the cats on C's property, I have realized how little S really knows about cats (he loves them as individual people but never learned how to provide them with good care). S was the one who decided that we should feed our two house cats Iams cat food, and I have realized that I have absolutely no reason to continue to do so, seeing as he's so ignorant about cat health and nutrition. I'm going to keep Artemis and Athena on Iams for the next three months or so, because I'm moving to another part of the country, but when we get moved and settled in, I will see what high quality cat foods the local stores carry, and I plan on transitioning these cats to better quality food.

Because I've never met nor even seen a picture of the nameless cat who died (and because the idea of a rainbow bridge in an afterlife really, really bothers me), I'm not going to make a post for this cat in the Crossing the Bridge forum.

Thank you so much for everyone's help, and I'm sorry I don't have better news about the long-term prospects for the cats I've talked about. I'm also very sorry I don't need any more advice.
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Good news: feeding cheap wet food has done wonders in just two days. S is teaching the cats the (6:30 am and pm) wet food feeding schedule, and moving their feeding stations to more sustainable locations. All of the surviving newly fixed cats (five females and a male) are doing really well. I think I simply didn't understand how bad off these cats were, and with the impression I'm getting, I'm kinda shocked that the vet actually fixed them when they showed up for their appointments. While S is no longer planning on bankrolling this place as a feline paradise, it looks like he might be able to get some female cats up to a healthy weight and spayed before he leaves.

There are also six kittens who are somewhere around 8-9 weeks of age, who are the kittens of a very pregnant one-eyed mommy cat that C adopted out of pity in the recent past. They are healthy and cute and S is going to try to find homes for them. He already has one home lined up.

I'm still feeding my cats dry food, and my cats are pretty healthy, but I simply didn't know how malnourished and dehydrated these farm cats were and how much cheap wet food can improve things very quickly.

So, what I've learned so far: 1) don't depend on a vet to tell you that a cat you're bringing in just to get fixed is too skinny/unhealthy to fix and 2) wet food is the answer.

I guess I'm re-opening this thread to any advice anyone has: but, this time, it's advice for a short-term caretaker of farm colony, not advice for someone trying to turn a disaster of an owned colony into a feline paradise. One of the cats somehow got out of the convalescent room S had set up, so it's clearly not good enough to isolate female cats yet. S's brother is coming by today to fix up the house, so it's still possible that a feline-proof safe room will eventually exist, and female cats will be isolated there. Right now, though, there simply isn't a place capable of isolating cats.

The current system: kitten food and yummy fresh water at two goat-proof feeding stations 24/7. Wet food twice a day.
post #12 of 15
Originally Posted by Enuja View Post

I guess I'm re-opening this thread to any advice anyone has: but, this time, it's advice for a short-term caretaker of farm colony, not advice for someone trying to turn a disaster of an owned colony into a feline paradise.

The current system: kitten food and yummy fresh water at two goat-proof feeding stations 24/7. Wet food twice a day.
He has done an awesome job. You have too, with your help on the phone.

I can only guess at suggestions that might help. If there is an animal shelter near or in the closest city, he could call and ask if they know of any rescue groups or "crazy cat ladies". Most all understand the last term. They may know of someone close enough that would come in to help. The ideal is finding a rescue group to relocate them all to a farm where there is someone to care for the cats long term needs for food and vet care.

In Texas there is a barn relocation group that may be able to put you in touch with someone. http://www.barncats.org/index.php

He may find feral caretakers by asking at all the local and surrounding vet offices. You never know. Hugs to you both for trying so hard.
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Skimble, yes, this property is the United States. It is specifically in rural Georgia. Thank you so much for the encouragement. The suggestion to try to do a barn relocation is a good one I hadn't thought of. I'll look into it. I sent an email this morning to a cat rescue network, and we're going to try to get the kittens adopted by people who have love to give to cats that will hopefully become house cats.

Because I think I'm past the food question, because writing out all of this stuff has been emotionally helpful for me, and I seem to want to keep updating, I've made a new thread over in SOS.
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
The cats are no longer too skinny to fix! The kittens are off of the property, being fixed and de-wormed and socialized and the like, and they'll be adopted out from the vet's office. Twenty-seven adults have been fixed, there are 5 more to be caught, S has borrowed traps and has a week to get the last few cats. However, due to the poor adoption rates of adults, C's eminent return, and C's unwillingness to adopt cats out, these 32 cats will stay on the property, with some supervision.

S is planning on buying food for these cats. He makes less than $20,000 a year, and I'm about to be unemployed, so we need an affordable way to do this. With the conditions on the property, we think it makes sense to have wet-food meals with supplemental dry food out at all times. Right now S is going through 8 13-ounce cats of wet food every day, and he's emptied out 3 "local" Super Wal-Marts of their 65¢ and 70¢ 13-ounce cat food. That's 250 cans and about $200 a month. S needs to make this as easy as possible for the people in Georgia to keep up, so he's going to want this large amount of food delivered to his brother's house (so his brother can deliver and stack it where it needs to go in the house), ordered so that his brother can pick it up, or delivered to C's house.

Does anyone have resources and advice about getting very large amounts of wet food ordered or delivered as cheaply as possible? The food is going to Georgia.
post #15 of 15
I also live in rural GA (SE) and I have tried getting food shipped in but its just not cheap to do that. One thing I never bothered with but might be an option for you is with the number of cats your MIL seems to have you might be able to get a wholesale discount. Contact a few suppliers and see what they might say.
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