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The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

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The Vine: June 18, 2010

Submitted by on June 18, 2010 – 9:07 AM75 Comments

Hi Sars,

I have a perfect birthday gift idea for my sister. At least, two-thirds of a perfect birthday gift. I'm hoping you or your readers can help me find the final third.

My sister loves gardens, and she also has three kids. I'd love to combine the two and give her plants that have names in common with her children. I've been able to find a flower with the same name as my niece (Miss Lucy oriental lily), and a vegetable with the same name as one nephew (Jacob's cattle beans). I'd love to find a plant that shares my other nephew's name — Samuel. Or Sam. Or James, his middle name, will do in a pinch.

It can be any sort of plant — flower, shrub, tree, vegetable — it doesn't matter. She lives in growing zone 5, but has enough of a green thumb that she could make most North American plants grow. I'm going to get each kid to decorate the pot for their own plant, so they can be indoor or outdoor plants.

I've searched quite a few online seed catalogs, and haven't found anything. Would you or any of your readers be able to help me find my elusive Sam plant?

Thanks for your help!

If my sister reads this, I'm the aunt of a different Lucy, Jacob, and Sam who live in zone 5…



Seeing all the "help me find this book" requests has inspired me to finally send in my own. I'm a librarian and usually pretty good about finding books from obscure clues, but all my Google search skills have failed me. I hope the talented Tomato Nation readers can help!

I'm trying to track down a couple of juvenile mystery books that I read in the early '80s. I don't think they were that old then, so they probably date from the '70s or later.

The first book was set in England. In it, several kids (siblings and/or friends) find a girl in a boat. The mystery revolves around who she is; she refuses to say, and seems to be hiding for some reason. I think she turns out to be wealthy when they finally find out her identity. The cover may have shown the back of a red-haired girl's head, but that could be a complete fabulation.

In the second book, the same kids take a trip to Scotland. In the course of solving the mystery, one of them winds up being trapped in the dungeon or oubliette of a Scottish castle. The cover may have featured a grassy hillside?

I don't particularly want to read these books again, but the fact that I can't find them is driving me crazy! I know I didn't make them up, but I can't find anything that matches. I've posted on BookSleuth, and nobody there had any suggestions, either.

Any ideas?



Hello Sars,

I have a huge cat problem. By "huge" I mean a cat who keep gaining weight despite having been on a diet. My cat Boris is a real sweetheart of a kitty, but he's packed on the pounds the past couple of years. When we began seeing our current vet in 2008, he weighed 12.5 lbs. Not a small kitty, but not huge. The vet was very alarmed that in a year and a half he gained over 2 lbs. So she exhorted me to cut down on his dry food, and up his intake of wet food, believing that less carbs would result in some weight loss over time.

Well, I did everything the vet said. We cut down both cats' dry food (the girly cat also had somewhat of a portly figure, so I figured, why not?), and added some grain-free wet food to their diet. Everything is portioned out, so that they split half of a 5.5 oz can of food, and get about 1/3 of a cup of dry food. This is a far cry from their portions in the past (I've never free-fed them).

Both cats love their new food. But apparently Boris loves it a little too much. After 4 months of this diet, I found out that he gained a whopping 1.6 lbs. The vet nurse GASPED at that. Then she suggested we switch to all wet, or to a diet food for Boris (yeah right, as if he wouldn't go and eat the other cat's food in retaliation), and if that doesn't work, testing to rule out health issues (he appears in good health, but apparently stuff like a thyroid condition or diabetes in cats can often have no symptoms other than excessive weight gain or weight loss as a first stage).

We're going to try the changes the vet nurse suggested. We'll try all wet food first, and if that doesn't seem to work, we'll go with diet food (I am not enthused about that: most cat diet food is full of carbs…how could carbs help a cat lose weight?). But I'm really worried. I thought we were doing well, and initially, Boris had visibly lost some weight the first month in (he looked slightly leaner), but somehow that must have lulled me into a false sense of safety such that I didn't notice how he gained it all back and then some.

We decided to also make getting at food more work by setting meals out on top of a bookcase. Boris is not happy about it, but after 5 minutes of loud complaining, he does climb the bookcase (did I mention that cat loves food?).

I'm also going to try to structure more exercise in his day if it kills me: I used to play with the cats twice a day, but since becoming pregnant and starting a new job almost simultaneously a couple of months ago, I have been too fatigued to do it every day. I have asked my husband to do it, but since he already has to do litter all the time, he grumbles that he doesn't have the energy to do so either after a long day at work, and I've let it slide because he's already had to take over a lot of other household chores due my constant fatigue. I realize that we do have to work on that, so we've already had the talk (that this is a serious problem that we have to work as a team to tackle).

Honestly, I'd get a dog to chase him around the apartment if only we were not at our lease's limit insofar as domestic companions. Our other kitty is younger and was supposed to help in that respect, but as it turns out she's even lazier than he is, so when he does get exercise, it's of the chasing her, causing her to hide under the bed (which she knows will work because he's too fat to chase her under there), and Boris spending the next five minutes going "MOOOOOM! MOOOM! The other cat won't play with me! Make her come out of the bed!" variety.

I was wondering if your readers had any wisdom about managing one cat's weight in a multiple-cat household (Gracie, the other kitty, has definitely and visibly lost weight and is keeping it off, so I am not as worried about her). I'm really worried that this will start to affect Boris' health, and since he's the worst cat to pill, I do not want to have to manage a lifestyle illness for him down the line (I'm pretty sure hubby would be no help here…he loves our cats, but he hates pilling them even more than I do).

So what else has the TN readership tried aside from the aforementioned "more exercise built in, more low-cal food"? I'm really getting desperate here.

My Husband Thought The Weight Gain Was Funny, Until I Burst Into Tears About It

Dear Gain,

Little Joe has lost a goodly amount of weight since we moved into a house with a flight of stairs in it; I also changed their food to a super-fancy brand in which you can see the chunks of seafood and vegetables.

If you don't have the budget to buy real estate and/or food that's better than what you eat yourself — and I don't either, really, but here we all are, somehow — then you may take comfort from what my own vet told me a couple of years ago, when Joe bent the scales at over 18 pounds.

Dr. Tom reminded me that, despite millennia of living with humans and relying on them at least in part for food, cats' systems are designed for a feast-or-famine hunter lifestyle. It's why they do all that sleeping: either they're resting up for a burst of chasing, catching, mauling, and devouring; or they're digesting after a burst of chasing, catching et al. We human companions, in the process of assigning them various human qualities, also sometimes mistakenly assume that what works for upright omnivores like us — lower calorie intake; regular cardio — will be effective on the feline system.

And it's not totally useless, obvi, but it doesn't have the same results that it would with us. Boris is designed to 1) eat an elk in one sitting, and then 2) conserve that protein by napping in a sunbeam, regardless of his provenance as a domesticated animal who, if he's anything like Little Joe, couldn't catch a cab at a cab stand, much less a gazelle.

Try tweaking the food, for starters. Do you feed half a 5.5-oz can twice a day? That sounds like a lot; mine get a quarter of a can that size twice a day, and free-feed hairball-control kibble. You might try changing to a kibble with big chunky pieces, like Science Diet's hairball formula, that takes them longer to eat.

Observe how they eat for a few days — do they both wolf? Do they both graze? One of each? I couldn't do the "pick up the bowls after five minutes" thing with mine, because Hobey is a grazer, and only he ended up losing any weight. If Boris is a wolfer, cut his wet-food portion in half and feed him in another room, and see if that has any effect.

Not every cat puts on a ton of weight from free-fed kibble. A lot of cats do; with mine, that wasn't the issue. You may want to tweak the feeding regime from month to month and see what results you get. But the thing to keep in mind is that cats are built to conserve energy and meals for long stretches, so 1) restricting their food sometimes will make them eat more/faster, because their systems see it as future privation; and 2) it just takes a really long time for a cat diet to work. And "working" can mean a teeny victory like "0.8 pounds in a year." Been there.

But if Boris isn't super-lethargic or super-thirsty, you're probably okay. Keep an eye on it like you have been, and don't beat yourself up if he's not starlet-thin in three months.

Readers, anything to add?

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  • Sus says:

    Zone 5,
    I'd recommend querying the gardeners at Garden Web ( Both avid amateurs and professionals chat there all day and year long.

  • Rachel says:

    Dear Other Aunt (hee!):

    There's a great database of plants (primarily North American) called Dave's Garden. Unfortunately, I think you have to have paid access to get search access. But! Google is helpful. Go to Google and type in the search box:


    Sorry – it's an ugly URL, but I think it will get you what you need. Obviously, you can switch out Sam for Samuel or James for more options.

    (Note that the first plant result is a brugmansia, or angel's trumpet – a gorgeous plant, but highly poisonous, so maybe not the best gift for a mom of small children.)

  • MC says:

    I did a search on and found a sedum named ‘Samuel Oliphant’ and a shrub rose named "the Captain Samuel Holland variety", but I don't know what their availability. I then looked at the (printed) catalog for Shady Acres Perennial Nursery near Milwaukee, and found a daylily named 'James Marsh'. If you are in the southeastern Wisconsin area, you can try there, or try a nursery near you.

  • Kristin says:

    There is a rose variety called "Mrs. Sam McGredy".

  • Margaret in CO says:

    Awesome sister, how about an elderberry?
    Sambucus canadensis, American elderberry
    Sambucus canadensis, American elderberry
    Sambucus nigra, European elderberry
    Sambucus pubens, Red elderberry; Scarlet elder
    Sambucus pubens, Red elderberry; Scarlet elderberry

  • Kristin says:

    Also one called "Captain Sam Holland" or "Captain Samuel Holland." Google "rose varieties sam" or "rose varieties samuel' and I bet you could find others.

  • Vic says:

    Gain. No advice on the diet, but a fun way to squeeze in some exercise might be a laser pointer. It's great for when you're feeling lazy because you can just sit on the couch and point the thing at the wall or the floor and make your kitties chase the red dot. My two will follow that thing back and forth for hours trying to get it. Just make sure you get a low power one so it doesn't hurt their eyes.

  • Cath in Canada says:

    I don't know a lot about plants–I'm just googling. :)

    Some Samuel ideas:

    The Samuel Sommer magnolia, is zone 7-10:

    Samuel Arnott snowdrop looks like it's zone 4-8:

    These seem to be the cultivar name–I don't know if that's close enough for being a named plant.

    (I've also never used a tiny url before–I hope those work too)

  • Megan in Seattle says:

    Zone 5: googling "zone 5 plant samuel" brought back a torchlily called Kniphofia 'Samuel's Sensation' on If that plant doesn't seem to be to your sister's taste, the same site has some other options for James.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    Oh, I had a little premature communication. Sorry.
    Meant to add that elderberries smell fantastic and thrive in zone five.

    Just a PSA for Boris' mom – let him rest after he eats, though.

    Cat stomachs are not attatched to the torso wall and a full tummy can flip over & cause bloat & no one wants that. It's a painful way to go. I'm concerned that Boris gained while Gracie lost weight on the same diet. Maybe he ate her food, and that's all it is, but has his thyroid been tested? (It was just a blood test when they did mine…)I'd have it looked at just for your peace of mind, and see where the new diet takes you. Wishing you best of luck & congratulations too!

  • Janna says:

    @Zone 5,

    Off the top of my head, there is a rose variety called Samuel Champlain, it's part of the Explorer Series of roses and is a rich red. They're a hardy variety developed specifically for surviving colder seasons in Canada, but that might work, if you can find it.

    Closer to home (I suspect), I understand there is a Sam Houston shrub rose that is for Zone 5-ish areas. I don't know anything more about it, but it looks nice in the photos!

  • Megan in Seattle says:

    Interestingly, that same google search now brings back…this Vine!

  • Lisa (42MainSt) says:

    Oh, here's one I can answer! There's a hosta called Big Sam! We just got one for our garden, as our 5-month-old son's name is Samson and we call him Sam. (And we are also zone 5.)

  • lizgwiz says:

    I'd go ahead and get blood sugar and thyroid tests done now, if it were me. Just to rule that out. Neither of those conditions gets any better with time.

  • sam says:

    A cat question I can relate to.

    Growing up, I had a great cat, but at one point he tipped the scales at over 20 pounds. He wasn't even that "fat", he was just a huge tomcat, but he also became diabetic at one point, and the vet required that we feed him "prescription diet" – it's a variation of science diet (by the same people) but only available from vets (or at least it was back then). No wet food at all.

    (He had a younger sibling as well, who got the same food because it was easier than trying to separate them, and the vet said it was fine. Younger sibling eventually passed on due to other medical issues that were existent before we adopted him, but were also exacerbated by "normal" cat food, which has a lot of crap in it).

    We also put him on, essentially, an all "graze" all the time feeding schedule. He had a feeder that just pooled food at the bottom, and he ate whenever he wanted. At one point we were worried that this meant he was going to eat too much, but we tested it periodically by figuring out how much a "week" of food would be, measuring it out into the feeder, and seeing where he was at the end of the week. Surprisingly, there was plenty left over. We realized that the "grazing" meant that he became accustomed to just eating when hungry rather than feeling compelled to scarf down a bowl of food twice a day (we also had dogs, so we kept the cat feeder on a counter, so that the cat could access it without fear of the dogs getting at his food)

    But also, make sure your vet is testing for things like feline diabetes, which is fairly common.

  • smartyboots says:

    How about Sedum 'Samuel Oliphant'?

    I admit that I don't find it terribly attractive myself, but it's got the name…

    p.s. What a great birthday gift!

  • Chrissi says:

    My cat isn't even allowed to have a whole 5.5 oz can of wet food ONCE a day. She's been on Science Diet Light for a while now and although she doesn't gain weight, she also doesn't lose weight. So we're trying a prescription dry food (because she doesn't really like wet food) that is low in carbs and high in protein. The brand is Royal Canine, and I think you need a prescription to get it, and it's called something like "high protein". I can't say whether it will work, but if you're concerned about a dry food being high carb, this is an alternative. Hopefully some other posters have some good advice too because this stuff is expensive!

  • smartyboots says:

    Zone 5,

    Forgot to add that there's a Magnolia named Samuel Sommer, but it's a zone 7-9 plant.

  • Amalthea says:

    Sherry: Ack, I've read the Scotland one, I think. I can picture the grassy hillside and the Scottish castle. I think the title was something like "The Ghost of [Scottish place/castle name]" but I can't remember it or the author. There may have also been a bagpiper on the cover (maybe he was the ghost) but I might be making that up.

    At first I thought it might have been Eric Wilson, because I read a lot of his mysteries as a kid, but none of the titles seem to match this one.

    If it comes to me later I'll let you know. I can picture the book on my shelf but it's at my parents' house, which is two hours away.

  • Leah says:

    I have two cats, brothers. One is 9 lbs. the other is around 18. The fat one has also managed to gain weight on grain-free food.

    This is my next step. It'll let Skinny eat all he wants while the corpulent one is at the mercy of the scales.

  • Kristin says:

    Sherry, have you checked out Enid Blyton's "Famous Five" books? There are 21 of them and the plot points definitely sound like standard Blyton fare… you might want to look into her "Secret Seven" series as well, but the boat thing seems more Five to me.

  • Krissa says:

    @Gain – Boris can't get under the bed? Feed Gracie under there, and only put out Boris's portion where they both can get to it.

    You could also try those toys that spit out a piece of kibble when they roll it around – tap into the hunting thing, and make him work for it. :)

  • Lisa (42MainSt) says:

    There's a gorgeous new daylily called Sam Abell, but it's pretty spendy ($150) as it's a new intro. The price should come down in the future, tho. To keep in mind if this becomes a tradition.

  • MizShrew says:

    I have a portly kitty too, and just wanted to add that free-feeding doesn't work for all kitties. Portly Kitty scarfs his food down immediately and then runs to eat my other kitty's food. Even without Kitty 2, Portly Kitty will eat until he makes himself sick. Then he'll try to eat the vomit (I know, gross.) This cat really would eat an entire elk if he could find one. My husband still hasn't forgiven him for stealing an entire pork roast off the stovetop. Portly Kitty, in turn, hasn't forgiven my husband for taking the pork roast away.

    I have an older house with lots of doors, so basically we feed one cat on one side of the house and the other cat on the other and close the doors between them until Kitty 2 finishes his food (he's a grazer, unlike Portly Kitty, so that can take a bit.)

    Also, definitely get some things checked out (diabetes, thyroid, kidney function) before you switch their food around a lot. Some diets complicate health issues.

  • Lisa (42MainSt) says:

    P.S. Hostas are great choices for namesake plants — there are thousands of named varieties. We have a Limey Lisa too.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    My husband still hasn't forgiven him for stealing an entire pork roast off the stovetop.

    HA HA HA HA!

    …I'm sorry. (No I'm not. Not that I don't see your husband's point, but pet-vs.-meal-for-whole-household stories just make me laugh.)

  • Sherry says:

    Amalthea-I forgot to mention it, but I'm almost positive the author is a woman. Of course I can't remember what the name actually is, just that it's a woman's name.

    Kristin-It's definitely not Blyton. The impression I have is of a relatively recently published book. Well, recently published in the early 80s.

    Argh! Vague impressions, half-remembered details–this is why the memory of these books drives me crazy, because I feel like I'm so close to being able to find them, but just can't quite get there.

  • ferretrick says:

    Definitely have the sugar test done if you haven't already-and if it comes in high, diabetes and its insulin shots time! Mine needs them twice a day. I have a diabetic dog too. I knew diabetes ran in my family; I didn't know that was going to extend to my pets.

  • Deb says:

    I'm interested in trying out the feeder. Can you tell me the name, please? I am suspicious of the plastic-box suggestion, though I've considered it, because I'm worried our large cat (probably well over 21 lbs at this point) might try to get in, get stuck, and strangulate. I also would really love suggestions on diets. We have 3 including her-one skinny (fed privately, wet food, that the large cat has learned she's not allowed to eat-though at the suggestion of the vet, she once was-didn't work, gained so much more weight), one plump, but not as large as this cat, and the very large cat-who no longer can wash herself properly-we have her groomed. I've tried the prescription diet food with her, but when the pet recall began, the brand was on the list, so, no. I've tried the laser pointer with her; she'll play with it, but not so much that I think it is going to do it. I've tried just letting her graze (I think that was a very interesting point you made, Sars, about restricting diets-god knows I see it that way) and having overall less food in the bowls (3 in various places in the house) and she still wakes me up when "her" (in my room, where she sleeps) bowl is empty. Argh! I love my cat so much and I'd really like to keep her around. I'd also like her to be happy and be able to wash herself-she still tries. Of course, it doesn't help that I'm paranoid about her losing weight "too fast" and going into liver failure! Help!

  • Sherry says:


    My cats aren't overweight, and I'm trying to keep them that way, because they are indoor only, relatively sedentary cats. A few of them had started to get a little pudgy, though, so I started feeding them a low calorie food as a precautionary measure. They absolutely love Royal Canin's Indoor Light 40. I was kind of afraid that they wouldn't eat it, but I've had no problems in that area at all. And the little bit of pudge went away, so I think it actually works!

    You might want to give it a try.


  • Grainger says:

    @Gain: I mis-read the first sentence of your letter as "a cat who keeps gaining weight despite having died" and I was like "whoa, that is a problem!"

    If you're looking for toy suggestions, both of my boys LURRRRVE pipe cleaners. Drag them in a circle for Whirly Kitty Fun; wave them up and down next to a cat tree to play Ambush Paw. You should occasionally let the cat snatch the pipe cleaner and carry it around all "aw YEAH, who's the BADASS, badass HUNTER HERE bitchezzzzz"

  • Grainger says:

    Oh, addendum to the above: Pipe cleaners are most definitely a toy for supervised play ONLY. You can let it be chased around the floor, but make sure that it doesn't get swallowed!

  • Lauren says:

    Gain: I agree, get the testing done. It's not fun, and it can be expensive, but if you can rule out thyroid issues, great! And if you can't – even better. At least then you'll know what's wrong and how to treat it.

  • Kelsey says:

    Science Diet, imo, isn't a great food for cats, since it contains quite a lot of grains that cats don't typically digest well; I do grain-free kibble for the cats, myself, since cats (even more than dogs) are obligate carnivores and aren't built for eating a lot of grain, but some grains are better than others for the kitty system (corn is hard for cats, whole wheat, oats and pearled barley are better, though some cats get allergies to wheat). Mine do beautifully on grain-free: we do free-feed, which is not great, but they're still all at a good weight, even the laziest/heaviest one, have tons of energy, beautiful coats, etc. Mine eat Taste of the Wild, which is probably the least expensive of the grain-free foods, and we supplement with Merrick wet food. A friend of mine who adopted a cat with a pretty bad weight problem switched him to premade raw food (she got the duck and salmon nuggets from Primal, which pre-balance the recipe so you don't have to be stressed about meeting every nutritional need); it is SHOCKING how different he looks and acts now–lean, muscle-y, loves his food.

    As far as exercise goes, we are all about setting up situations where they'll exercise themselves. We feed a lot of the cats' meals in food-dispensing toys–we've got a bunch of sparkly balls with little holes in them that you fill up with kibble, and the cats chase them around "hunting" for their food all day. We also have a room with an empty wall, and we attached up a bunch of cheap-o shelves (the kind that are just a board and brackets, which you can get for like two bucks each) to the wall in a zig-zaggy pattern; we painted them crazy colors and put no-slip carpet pads on them, but the colors were mostly for us, and I think plain shelves would work just as well. The cats really like jumping from shelf to shelf, and they especially like looking around for hidden kitty treats or catnip that we occasionally hide there.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I third the recommendations for testing, especially for thyroid issues. If he's a middle aged kitty and you have carpeting (chemicals in carpets can exacerbate thyroid issues) you definitely want to deal stat. The bad news is it involves a pill; the good news is you can easily crush it and mix it in his food, eliminating the whole exhausting " search, wrap in towel, and force pill into kitty" routine.

  • RC says:

    We feed our one fat-scarfer and one lean-grazer cats the low-fat version of Innova (it comes in a pink bag, and isn't *too* expensive. Not as cheap as Costco, but what are you going to do). They seem to like it (especially the thin cat), and our fatass has been losing weight, so yay. Also it doesn't have corn or any of the other stuff our vet said they shouldn't have.

    @Krissa– we tried one of those rolly food balls… he managed to work it out so that it rolled directly over the hole, and he just slowly nosed it around the house eating the food as it came out. Not quite a workout. Sigh. I swear he's so smart he's stupid.

  • Susan says:

    For the fat cat … do you have any neighbor kids? Pay them a few bucks to come over and play with your cat regularly (while you're there doing something else)! I did this as a kid for a neighbor, and loved it. I couldn't have a cat of my own, their cat was bored and getting fat because they were too busy, and everyone ended up happy and fit! I would have done it for free but it was nice to earn a wee bit of money, too.

  • Salieri2 says:

    Seriously, Gain, thyroid check ASAP.

  • Betsey says:

    There's a plum (sauce or paste) tomato called Sam Marzano. (Look here under 'Paste Tomatoes')

    There is a viola cultivar named 'Hobbit Sam'

    Sam Abell isn't the only Daylily option; searching the American Hemerocallis Society cultivar database yields 21 Sams, 6 Samanthas, 6 Sammys, 1 Samson, and 3 Samuels. There's also Betty Samuel, Book of Samuel, and Prophecy of Samuel.

    There is a Campanula, or bellflower, named Samantha, which is a perennial.

    'Mrs. Samuel Doncaster' is a variety of heather (Erica carnea), cold-weather hardy with pink flowers. Here's a US nursery that sells it.

    (I also found information about a peach tree, a sweet cherry tree, and a magnolia tree, but those might be excessive. Also a ryegrass 'Grasslands Samson', which isn't ornamental, a Lantana 'Samantha' which is only hardy to USDA Zone 9, and a Hydrangea shrub/tree 'Samantha' )

  • Angharad says:

    Sherry, are you sure it isn't Blyton? The Adventure series seems quite a bit more modern than most of her stuff and there's definitely stories about Scotland, a Castle and boats and two of siblings are red-heads.

  • Jo says:

    I'm adding to the call to test your cat's thyroid. Thyroid problems can lead to kidney issues, so you should definitely get it done. My 12-year-old cat recently LOST a ton of weight (She'd always been made fun of for being fat, and then all of the sudden I noticed I could feel her butt bone), and it turned out to be an overactive thyroid. She's on medication that controls it and she's gained weight back, so if your cat has the opposite problem, he can probably lose weight with medication. My cat had to go back to the vet a few times over the last few months for more blood tests to get the dosage right, but she's great now.

  • bluechaos says:

    I swear by Innova EVO because it cured my cat's diabetes (he's since died, but not from diabetes, dammit). After being "prescribed" Royal Canin at the vet, I did some internet research and found that (as mentioned by above posters) it's still loaded with grains and carbs. The Innova is something you have to search out, and go to private pet specialty shops for, but I figure it has and will save me money in the long run (it's definitely cheaper than vet bills + prescription food + syringes + insulin). I've continued using it for my current cat as a preventative measure. They also have a wet food, but I find my cat prefers the "junk food" wet food (I was not feeding him wet food at all for a while, but he was having constipation issues, so).
    And look on the bright side, at least you cat does not weigh 32 pounds, and your vet has not shown you an X-ray of how all the fat is smooshing his internal organs– Ringo did live for years after this event, but at the time we had three cats and didn't even truly realise how much of the food he was eating until the other good eater was taken out of the equation (he's fine, if somewhat fat, in Maryland) and it was just Ringo and the pickiest picky pick pick eater ever. Feeding them in separate rooms helped (we also tried crazy-ass things, like, Ringo was terrified of helium balloons, so we had one hovering over a food bowl at the top of the stairs– all that accomplished was to help him get over his fear of helium balloons), but Ringo would always come out and eat what was left of Lady's food. Which again wound up being something where I had no conception of how little she was eating until the Ringo hoover wasn't around to suck up her leftovers anymore (I'm sure the dumpster kitties were grateful, though).

  • asiyah says:


    Could it be Requiem for Princess?

  • MizShrew says:

    Sars, there is no need to apologize — I still laugh about it too. You should have seen my orange pear-shaped beast, under the dining room table, with his entire body wrapped around the roast, gnawing on one end of it like a little (OK, not so little) maniac. Hee.

    Not only that, but he managed to steal the roast and leave the aluminum foil still tented in the pan. A masterpiece of food theft.

  • Stephanie says:

    I wanted to chime in on GET BORIS'S THYROID CHECKED ASAP! Sorry to yell, but this is something that happens to a lot of cats. Mine had overactive thyroid, and was losing weight, but that didn't seem like a big deal, because he and my chubby cat were both on a diet anyway. I didn't realize there was a problem until the projectile vomiting started. Now I have to give him a 1/4 pill twice a day, and he is totally fine. The thyroid blood panel wasn't overly expensive.

    Honestly, I'm surprised that your vet didn't push for the testing already, if a cat that is on a severe diet is gaining weight.

    If you want to keep Boris from eating Gracie's food, you could try one of those baby gates that has straight up and down bars, and block off a room with it, and feed Gracie there. As long as she can get through the gate and Boris can't, it would keep him from getting extra portions.

    As far as play, they make mice on bouncy strings that you can hang over the top of a door. My cats, including my chubby, love ours. The only hitch is that it sometimes bounces up and over the top of the door and gets stuck. Keeping the door closed helps somewhat (but it still sometimes gets wrapped around the little stick that it hangs from). Mine love it, though – as soon as I notice it is stuck and unwrap it, they usually come running to play with it again.

  • The one with the orange striped fat cat, aka "Gain" says:

    Thanks for the suggestions. Some we already tried and know they don't work (alas), and some I might consider if we get desperate and the vet doesn't find any problems.

    Food dispensing toys have been tried, but Boris just makes Gracie do the work, and then chases her away when the kibble comes out (he always was a clever cat). We already have a laser pointer and a feather wand. We just have to use them daily, which we're struggling with, but at least we're doing better (2-3 times a week of vigorous playtime). Along with that, we eliminated after play treats, and so far the cats have been okay with that (Gracie doesn't care for them anyway). Bouncy toys at the door are more of the other cat's thing, sadly (we tried putting catnip on them, still no interest: if it's not mommy powered, Boris won't have anything to do with it).

    Ultimately, we tried the diet version of our cats' favorite brand of grain-free food to see if it made a difference, but within a couple of weeks it was making one cat puke daily (despite a very slow transition: as soon as the diet food/normal food ratio would reach the 50/50 threshold, vomiting was the result) and the other one have foul smelling poo (the kind that makes you want to clear the house and never come back), which reminded us why neither cat had been on anything with grains for nearly 2 years… So we're just going to have to put our foot down about prescription diet food (which would almost certainly be less expensive than what we tried to feed, but much worse in actual content).

    We ended up with a regimen of 3 oz of wet food (that food has always been the kind made with human grade protein and veggies that looks like a human could actually eat it and not gag, BTW… the cats' food budget has always been almost as substantial as the humans') and 1/4 of a cup of grain free kibble per cat per day. That's not a whole lot of food (much lower than the recommendation on the back of the bags of food), so there's been crying and whining from the the usual suspect, but we've just toughed it out through night crying and begging, and he's just had to deal with it.

    My husband swears he does look svelter now, but said appearance has fooled us before, so we'll just see what happens at his annual checkup next month: the vet has already promised testing unless Boris' weight either stays the same or goes down a bit. Her justifications for not doing thyroid before is that Boris is still relatively young as a cat to have a thyroid problem, and at least a previous blood test (though it was done around the younger cat's arrival, and before his weight gain) was as normal as could be.

    I may end up making my own skinny cat food box if testing turns up nothing (saving it as an emergency measure, since girlie cat thinks anything that looks remotely like a carrier is evil and not to be trusted), but for now crossing our fingers that July will bring good news.

    Thanks everyone!

  • Sherry says:

    Angharad, No, it's definitely not Enid Blyton. I remember roughly where on the shelf the books were located in the library, and it was definitely past the B's. More like somewhere in the early to mid-alphabet, like F-L. So the author's last name probably falls in that range, unless I'm completely mis-remembering.

    This is why these books drive me crazy. I have all these clues, but I can't FIND them. Maybe they are just super obscure?

    Asiyah, Requiem for a Princess isn't it, but it sounds interesting. I'm going to have to check that one out from the library!

  • MizShrew says:

    Just chiming in on Stephanie's remarks to say that my beasties love the bouncy mice too… but of course Portly Kitty will eat the elastic string if you let him. (Yes, he Will. Eat. Anything. Crazy animal.) But he's not the only kitty I've had with a yen for elastic, so watch yours to see before you leave them with the elastic bouncy unsupervised.

  • Cyntada says:

    Gain, I once had a fat older dog and some premium-brand dog food really helped her. The promoter said to feed 1/3 less than the grocery-store food because it packed the same nutrition with less filler. ChunkyDog lost a bunch of weight (the vet was thrilled) and it was like having a puppy again for a couple years. I'd highly recommend some top-end food for Boris.

    You might want to check into a remote-controlled mousy toy. Sounds like that would allow you to relax on the couch twisting a knob while the cat knocks himself out chasing the mobile part of the toy. My cat likes crunched-up packing tape too. Get yourself one of those 2"-3" wide rolls from the office store, as cheap as you can get. Munch some up lightly (so the plastic can still unwrap itself a little) then toss in front of the cat. It moves slowly by itself *and* makes a crackly sound. Kitty heaven!

  • Honey Wheeler says:

    Sherry, could these books be from the Trixie Belden series? Some of the later books were written by Kathryn Kenny and were published in the late 70s/early 80s, although they were set in upstate New York, not England. (As Bob-White fans can tell by my screenname, I am a fan.) Mystery of the Queen's Necklace sort of vaguely fits the description of the second book – the gang takes a trip to England; their Scottish tour guide turns out to be a jewel thief and they are briefly trapped in Warwick Castle. I realize this is a long shot but I thought I'd throw it out there. Good luck!

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