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Feeding lard to skinny ferals?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I recently began feeding a group of feral cats living in town, and many of them are very, very thin -- and pregnant or nursing. I'm talking with a couple local groups that rent out traps and s/n ferals, but in the meantime I'd really like to fatten these girls up.

I'm only able to feed them once a day because it's downtown in a very busy public area with tons of cars and people. I've been going at 5:30-6:30am each morning for the last week and a half. I'm currently feeding them a mix of dry Orijen with water added and canned food (EVO, Chicken Soup, Evolve, PetGuard, Felidae, and miscellaneous others). I'm feeding them what I have for my cats.

So my question is is this: can I add small amounts of pure lard to the mix to increase the calories?

I called my vet, but the substitute is in today and she apparently was very alarmed, and said that it could cause pancreatitis (at least I think that's what she warned about). But I don't know her, and she could be one of those Science Diet-touting, brainwashed vets that's against any supplementation.

I'm wondering -- how could natural animal fat really be that bad? I mean, they're carnivores. They eat animal fat in every meal. Is a little more really going to be unsafe for them? And if not, what is the appropriate amount?

On the other hand, I really don't want to make these kitties sick. They simply can't afford even a minor bout of diarrhea.

Would it be wrong to try a little with my healthy house-cats first, to see if it causes diarrhea? I was thinking that I could try adding one level tablespoon split three ways over the course of the day (which would be a larger amount than I would ideally want to feed the ferals) and monitor their stool to see what happens.

What do you guys think?
post #2 of 20
That simply doesn't sound healthy, as you want to at least stay within a reasonable realm of protein to fat calorie ratio and that just sounds like a lot of cholesterol.

If your goal is to increase the calories and can only feed once a day, ditch the canned food and stick with a very rich dry food (not wetted). Its far more calorie dense for how much they can eat in a sitting before feeling stuffed, and you can allow them to gorge themselves with the bit left over along with some water with no major concern for going bad very quickly.
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ducman69 View Post
That simply doesn't sound healthy, as you want to at least stay within a reasonable realm of protein to fat calorie ratio and that just sounds like a lot of cholesterol.

If your goal is to increase the calories and can only feed once a day, ditch the canned food and stick with a very rich dry food (not wetted). Its far more calorie dense for how much they can eat in a sitting before feeling stuffed, and you can allow them to gorge themselves with the bit left over along with some water with no major concern for going bad very quickly.
I can't leave any food or water out because it's wide-open public property. Right now I primarily feed a mix of dry and wet, and then when a lot of cats show up I also add separate bowls of dry and wet to the area. The cats universally prefer the wet food, and eat more of it in a sitting. I also need wet because the odor attracts the cats.

However, if you could show me evidence that dry has more calories per serving then I would definitely increase the dry-to-wet ratio. My whole goal is more calories.

Regarding fat and cholesterol, is high cholesterol a problem in cats? I wasn't aware that that could be an issue. Keep in mind that I'm already feeding mostly very high-protein foods. I'm talking about adding a small amount of lard to that, which would increase the fat content -- but from reading the cans, I'm pretty sure there would still be more protein than fat.

Right now these cats are skinny and sick (URI's). My main goal is to get them fatter. Adding lard wouldn't a long term strategy. Perspective is important here -- I'm not talking about feeding endless lard to my pampered house-cats for no reason. My primary concern is improving their short term health without fallout (like diarrhea).
post #4 of 20
If you look at the food you are feeding you will see a kcal/lb or kcal/kg stat on the back. The caloric density of dry is typically about three times higher due to a combination of generally slightly higher fat content and of course less water (usually 10% vs 80%), and thus occupies less space in their tummies. Take a head of lettuce for example, you'd never be able to finish one in a sitting, but its almost no calories since its 95% water by weight. BTW, fun fact: lettuce is a negative calorie food (takes more energy to digest than it gives).

If they like the wet much better, and you can't leave the food out though, that doesn't sound like a good plan after all then. Unless of course you switched to a more palatable dry food, in which case they might come running from afar from the sound of shaking the bag. I know that's what my neighbor does with her dry treats to get Precious to run home every evening... so annoying, lol!
post #5 of 20
The main problem I can see is that, unless you feed each cat his/her serving individually, one cat might eat too much and get sick, and another cat might not get any at all. If you can feed it individually, I think a teaspoon each would be fine. I give my kitties butter (for hairballs) sometimes, and lard is pretty much the same.

But I'm not so sure it'll help them gain weight. Fat doesn't necessarily make cats fatter (paradoxically ). Although it will add some calories, lard and butter really don't have that many calories per teaspoon (around 30-40).

And, yes, dry food is much more calorically dense. Most dry foods have around 350-550 kcals per cup (of those you listed, Felidae is the highest at 521. . .this site has some good charts: http://www.petobesityprevention.com/), and most canned foods have about 150-200 kcals per 5.5 oz can. So for better weight gain, more dry will help.

But it's also very hard to keep any kind of condition on an unspayed female. Constantly being in heat, pregnant, or nursing really takes a toll. Sometime you just have to spay them even if you think they're too skinny, because otherwise they'll just keep getting skinnier.
post #6 of 20
A high amount of fat can certainly lead to pancreatitis, a painful and possibly fatal disease if not treated. Feeding lard would not add to the nutrition. Just give them more dry as it is more calorie dense, nutrient dense and less apt to spoil. Or give them more wet food. You'll just have to give more to increase the calories. Just because a vet pushes science diet doesn't mean he or she is totally ignorant about nutrition and health basics. My vet is but I trust her with my pets. It is good of you to feed these cats, takes a very special person to do that.
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ducman69 View Post
If you look at the food you are feeding you will see a kcal/lb or kcal/kg stat on the back. The caloric density of dry is typically about three times higher due to a combination of generally slightly higher fat content and of course less water (usually 10% vs 80%), and thus occupies less space in their tummies. Take a head of lettuce for example, you'd never be able to finish one in a sitting, but its almost no calories since its 95% water by weight. BTW, fun fact: lettuce is a negative calorie food (takes more energy to digest than it gives).

If they like the wet much better, and you can't leave the food out though, that doesn't sound like a good plan after all then. Unless of course you switched to a more palatable dry food, in which case they might come running from afar from the sound of shaking the bag. I know that's what my neighbor does with her dry treats to get Precious to run home every evening... so annoying, lol!
These are feral cats, they don't know about things like shaking bags.

(Although, on a side note, I have been considering using some kind of noise as a food marker so they could learn to associate that sound with me arriving to feed them. That way, if I came at a different time I could still get their attention. But I can't figure out what to use -- it has to be loud enough them to hear, but not attract human attention.)

I think the Orijen is quite palatable; my three love it, anyway. It's just that the ferals seem to instinctively prefer and go for the wet food. I do want to keep feeding them dry with water, mixed in with the wet, however, partly to save money. But I would also be concerned about a primarily dry diet since my efforts to stealthily leave hidden bowls of water around have failed. It's just not enough moisture for them.

A quarter cup of Orijen dry food (a meal for my cats) has 120 kcal. Interestingly, according to their website 39% of the calories come from protein and 44% from fat -- which would mean that it's okay for them to have more fat than protein.

A third of a can of EVO wet food (a meal for my cats) has 160 kcal. So it seems that in this case, wet food definitely has more calories than dry. (I chose these two to compare because they are pretty characteristic of what I like to feed, and are both grain free and high in protein. But I haven't done the math for any others, so maybe it's not representative?)
post #8 of 20
I suppose it would depend on how much is in a serving. I would think most hungry ferals would eat more than 1/4 cup of dry in a sitting, and less than 4 1/2 ounces of wet. But if those are the amounts they're eating, then you are correct.

You could maybe try to mix the wet and dry together, with some extra water added. Since you aren't leaving it out that should be a good compromise of price and water intake.
post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willowy View Post
The main problem I can see is that, unless you feed each cat his/her serving individually, one cat might eat too much and get sick, and another cat might not get any at all. If you can feed it individually, I think a teaspoon each would be fine. I give my kitties butter (for hairballs) sometimes, and lard is pretty much the same.
This is a concern... I suppose I was hoping that if I kept the amount really low it would be okay. My thought was that at most I would add a tablespoon of lard (115 calories) to one can of wet food and about 1.5 cups of dry, plus water, and mix the whole thing up. What do you think of that?

Quote:
But it's also very hard to keep any kind of condition on an unspayed female. Constantly being in heat, pregnant, or nursing really takes a toll. Sometime you just have to spay them even if you think they're too skinny, because otherwise they'll just keep getting skinnier.
I'm definitely going to do what I can to get them spayed. I'm on a one month waiting list with one group that will lend me the traps and do all the medical stuff for $50/cat, and I'm also talking to another group that I'm hoping will do it for $30/cat.
post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willowy View Post
I suppose it would depend on how much is in a serving. I would think most hungry ferals would eat more than 1/4 cup of dry in a sitting, and less than 4 1/2 ounces of wet. But if those are the amounts they're eating, then you are correct.
You're right about the dry, but I've definitely seen them wolf down more than that of wet, too. I used those amounts because that's what my guys eat for meals, but you're right, it might not be an accurate comparison.

Quote:
You could maybe try to mix the wet and dry together, with some extra water added. Since you aren't leaving it out that should be a good compromise of price and water intake.
That's actually exactly what I'm doing right now. Do you think I should nix the whole adding lard idea? Or just go with fish oil and olive oil, maybe? And/or egg yolk?
post #11 of 20
I'd probably go with fish oil and egg yolk over lard. Just seems more digestible somehow.
post #12 of 20
Instead of lard, why not get some NutriCal and add to their food, it was made for this very purpose.
You could also switch them to kitten food.
post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arlyn View Post
Instead of lard, why not get some NutriCal and add to their food, it was made for this very purpose.
You could also switch them to kitten food.
Switching them to kitten canned would be the great solution to your need, Begemot. They'll eat more calories per bite in a form that's already attractive to them as well as good for them.

Something else you might try is to add some real meat (non-enhanced chicken, etc.) to their canned foods. It'll be both cheaper (per pound) and more nutritious. FurryFriends does this with her ferals and has had very good results.

AC
post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Begemot View Post
These are feral cats, they don't know about things like shaking bags.
They learn fast, trust me! My foodie Wesley was able to identify Greenies by the sight or sound of the bag after the second time.

But you could use anything really, just bring a whistle if it wouldn't annoy people nearby, and if you blow it before you feed each time they'll figure it out pretty quick. Hungry kitties are very motivated learners.
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
Regarding the use of kitten food, the foods I'm giving them are mostly all-life-stages (though one I've been giving them is Evolve's kitten turkey formula), and their brands don't make a special kitten food. I think they are all generally higher in calories than the brands that make different adult and kitten formulas (with the exception of the grain-free felidae, which is notably low in calories, so I'm not going to give it to them anymore). I'm going to go to the pet store and go through all the different brands, though, looking for high calorie formulas. I'll pay special attention to the kitten ones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Auntie Crazy View Post
Something else you might try is to add some real meat (non-enhanced chicken, etc.) to their canned foods. It'll be both cheaper (per pound) and more nutritious. FurryFriends does this with her ferals and has had very good results.
Yes, I'm considering this too. I've been adding canned fish stuff (tuna, sardines, and salmon) to some of their meals to make it stinkier and attract more cats from further away. What I need to do is figure out a really cheap way to get meat. I don't eat it myself, so I'm not familiar with pricing, but when I looked at meats and lard at the supermarket on Wednesday there was an overwhelming number of different products to price-check, and I was surprised at how expensive meat is in general. The lard, by comparison, was only $1.99 for a big tub. If anyone has any tips for buying cheap meat, please let me know!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arlyn View Post
Instead of lard, why not get some NutriCal and add to their food, it was made for this very purpose.
That was actually the first thing that I considered, and I might still do it temporarily just to get the calories up. The reason I switched to the lard idea was because the ingredients in nutrical just seemed shockingly bad (Corn Syrup, Soybean Oil, Malt Syrup, Cod Liver Oil, Cane Molasses, etc.) and I thought that for cats lard would be a healthier option. It seems like other people don't really think so, though. Right now I'm thinking that maybe I should go back to the nutrical idea, because however bad it looks at least it's apparently been deemed safe by veterinarians. And, apparently, most people here don't seem to think that lard is safe.
post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willowy View Post
I'd probably go with fish oil and egg yolk over lard. Just seems more digestible somehow.
I used a lot of fish oil this morning, which I assume is pretty high calorie. I'm going to try egg yolks in coming days, as well. Two of my three will eat them but not the third, so I was thinking that I would put some yolks (mixed with a little bit of canned) in a separate dish for the ferals, so the taste doesn't put any of them off the food.

Ducman, because it's so early (5:30am) I think a whistle would be too loud. It's an urban area with a lot of renters sleeping in each building. Also, my concern isn't just with not bothering people, it's that I don't want to draw any attention at all. So I'm trying to think of something that, for humans, will just blend into the landscape, but will be distinctive enough for the cats that they learn it. Thanks for the idea, though! Oh, that just made me think of something: can cats hear dog whistles? Because if so, that would be perfect!
post #17 of 20
I would not use the lard. I don't know exactly what issues it might cause but it just does not sound healthy.

You can't get there more than once a day according to your post. I have not read the entire thread yet so this has probably been suggested already and I apologize in advance

I would go with as high end of a dry kibble as you can afford. Kibble is very calorie dense. If you want to fatten them up even quicker, use kitten kibble. I would not moisten it at all. Soggy kibble laying around will harbor more bacteria so don't wet it.

Bless you for taking care of these feral babies. I am sending you the best of vibes
post #18 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ducman69 View Post
They learn fast, trust me! My foodie Wesley was able to identify Greenies by the sight or sound of the bag after the second time.

But you could use anything really, just bring a whistle if it wouldn't annoy people nearby, and if you blow it before you feed each time they'll figure it out pretty quick. Hungry kitties are very motivated learners.
A friend of mine has a cat that will try to escape the confines of his house at every opportunity My friend had recorded the sound of the cat food can being opened. He looped it about 10 times. He did this because sometimes the cat would hide in the house and not come out but the cat would always come out when he heard the can opening. To cut it short, the cat got outside and would not come and could not be seen. My friend went back inside, got the recorder and brought it outside. Sure enough, after playing it a couple of times, good ole Jimmy came a running for his dinner Jimmy hasn't escaped since but at least my friend has a tool to use if he escapes again.
post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NutroMike View Post
I would not use the lard. I don't know exactly what issues it might cause but it just does not sound healthy.
I know what you mean, but I suspect that we humans might be a little biased. It's not good for us, so the word carries negative connotations. But really, it's just pure animal fat, something that's in their food already.

Quote:
You can't get there more than once a day according to your post. I have not read the entire thread yet so this has probably been suggested already and I apologize in advance
No, once a day is it. There are a lot of restaurants in the area so I think there are a lot of rodents and garbage for them to eat.

Quote:
I would go with as high end of a dry kibble as you can afford. Kibble is very calorie dense. If you want to fatten them up even quicker, use kitten kibble. I would not moisten it at all. Soggy kibble laying around will harbor more bacteria so don't wet it.
I really have to add water because they don't have a good water source. I only leave the canned/dry/water combo out while I'm there, which is usually 30-60 minutes, and it seems to stay good. (Also, if I don't add water the dry absorbs water from the canned and the whole thing gets really dried out and crusty and harder to eat.)
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 
Well, I did two things:

First I got Nutri-Cal for Cats High Calorie Dietary Supplement and Wysong PDG Food Supplement. They should get here on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, and I'm eager to try them out. I'm going to taste-test them with my three guys first, and then if they all like both, I'll mix them into the ferals' food.

Then tonight I added half a tablespoon of lard to two of my cats' food (not the third cat because he has megacolon and I don't want to mess with his digestion). That's proportionately much more than I would add to the feral cat mix, so if my cats have no problem then I'll consider it a safe short-term option. I hope the idea of trying it out on my own cats isn't too controversial here. Part of me feels like it's totally immoral, but the other part of me is like "What's the harm? It's totally natural!"

I know I'm going against the express advice of one vet, and most people here seem to think it's a bad idea, but I guess I'm hard-headed. I just don't see why it would be safe to feed cats corn syrup (main ingredient of nutri-cal), something so totally anathema to a natural feline diet, but not a little bit of pure animal fat added to their food.
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