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Changing how I feed my cats

Bionic MonkeyBionic Monkey Registered User, ClubPA
edited March 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
I have two cats, one a 6 year old maine coon, and the other an 2 year old tabby.

Primarily, the wife and I have just let them eat from one of those trough type dishes, where you fill the reservoir, and don't have to fill it again for a week or so until they've eaten through it all.

Lately though, they've been overeating something fierce. Now if they were just getting fat from this, that wouldn't be that big a deal. What is becoming a big deal is that they're eating so damn much that they're vomiting. At least once a week, I've been finding myself having to clean up kitty vomit from several spots around the house when I get up some mornings.

As such, I want to move them to a set feeding schedule, and control how much they're allowed to eat. What I'd like to know, from other people that feed their cats this way, is what kind of schedule is best to feed them? I'm thinking once in the morning, when we get up, and then again in the evening when we get home from work. The absolute longest they'd ever be alone under this schedule is 13 or so hours, but the more typical would be around 9-10 hours.

Second thing I'd like to know is how much do I actually feed them? The Maine Coon is probably somewhere between 15-20 pounds, or more, so he'd obviously need more food. The tabby, on the other hand, is actually kind of small, and can't weight more than maybe 5 pounds.

I've done some cursory research online, but so far, the only information I've found has been about what kind of food to feed your cat, not really how much of it. However, I did read that some vets are saying a dry-food-only diet is bad for cats? Any truth to this?

Bionic Monkey on
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Posts

  • Bionic MonkeyBionic Monkey Registered User, ClubPA
    edited February 2011
    Oh yeah, per the forum rules:
    Spoiler:

    The picture is from when the tabby was still a kitten, but she hasn't gotten much bigger than that in the year or so since the picture was taken.

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  • DisrupterDisrupter Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    That kitten is a badass.

    Me and my wife have a schedule of feeding our cat and dog in the morning when leave for work (approx 7), and then when we get home from work (approx 6). Seems to work pretty well. We throw in a 4th of a can of wet food for the kitty a the dinner feeding.

    The only downside to this is the cat KNOWS when its food time. And he will not let us sleep in. Or, he eventually does give up waking us up, and then at like 10 i look and their foot is completely empty and I feel like the worst person.

    The dog doesnt seem to care much either way.

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  • RadicalTurnipRadicalTurnip Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    let them eat as much as they want to for a week more, but monitor how much they eat (measure how much you give them/how much is left). If you want to put them on a "diet" per se, you can cut that amount to 2/3s (so if they eat 3 cups a day, start giving them 2). This will have them complaining and change the way they think about food, however...so be careful with it. If you don't want to be so strict, you could cut it by 3/4ths or so.

  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Spending too much money eating out. That's about it. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Read the bag. It will tell you the proper amount for their body weights. Or, ask their vet.

    "At first he thought it might be a natural occurrence - maybe a rabbit. But upon closer inspection, it was clear a knife had been used. And rabbits don't carry knives."

    Final Fantasy XIV:Lilja Sunblade
  • KatoKato Registered User
    edited February 2011
    I have a cat and a dog...they both are fed their own little bowl of hard food in the morning when the family eats breakfast. Then they get soft food when we eat supper and that is it. Seems to work pretty good and they both know the routine very well.

    Signature??
  • BlochWaveBlochWave Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    I used to free feed my cats until my orange one started getting obese as all hell, so now I feed them a can each three times a day, and am trying to slowly ratchet it down.

    Lots of people do just fine feeding their cats dry-only, but if your cat gets diabetes (my cousin's did) that's a contributing factor. He had to give his cat a couple of insulin injections a day. His vet gave him awful advice about switching to a dry food that was for diabetes cat, he did his own research, switched them to wet food, and now his cat's glucose stays stabilized and he rarely needs insulin anymore.

    On that note, I don't trust vet food suggestions anymore, and I sure as hell don't trust the amounts written on the cans or bags. Pet food has about as much regulation in the US as cock fighting.

  • NeylaNeyla Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    From what I understand, wet cat is preferred since it's "un-natural" for cats to drink water. Their main source of fluids is from meat (canned food) not dried. But dried food is a hard habit to kick, apperantly it is coated with a scent that lures cats (or in my one cat's case, drives him insane!). Though, dry food shouldn't be an issue as long as your cats are getting plenty of water or have access to fresh water.

    I have 2 kitties. One recently had to have surgery because he couldn't poop properly, and long story short, he can't have dry food since he shows no interest to drink water. My other kitty is fine on dry food (refuses to eat wet) but drinks from the cat fountine. Both have been doing fine according to the vet.

    As Disrupter said, once they have a set routine. They always freaking know. So weekends they will want to be fed the sametime as weekdays, and if your kitties are like mine...I swear it's starting to get earlier and earlier....

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  • BlochWaveBlochWave Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Another issue with dry food is all that dryness comes from carbs. You know how cat foods will be like "omg yahhhhz we are totes loaded with like veggies and beans and stuff" ?

    That's some BS. Cats are obligate carnivores; anything that isn't protein or a select few amino acids are useless to them at best, detrimental at worst (and dry cat food can have a lot of the worst)

  • JadedJaded Registered User regular
    edited February 2011
    Neyla wrote: »
    As Disrupter said, once they have a set routine. They always freaking know. So weekends they will want to be fed the sametime as weekdays, and if your kitties are like mine...I swear it's starting to get earlier and earlier....

    At least your not the one who gets up at 5am and feeds them!

    But this is true... terribly true.
    Cats KNOW...
    I swear to god Salem and Alias can tell friggen time.
    The look we get (Neyla and I) if we are home late is the look of death...

    I can't think of anything clever.
  • oncelingonceling Registered User
    edited February 2011
    Primarily I would try to be certain that the vomiting is not another, underlying condition before being concerned about feeding schedules and so on.

    Assuming other problems have been ruled out.

    1. You don't need to feed more than once a day, unless you have a food that will go bad during the day. Starting with 2 feedings might cause the cats to scoff everything down so the bowls are empty come second feeding, sometimes it is best to feed a set amount and they can work out how to ration it until the next day. You'll have to work out what works for your cats, they might need it split in 2, only you will know.

    2. With a single feed, I would feed at night before bed so they don't bother you in the mornings when you are sleeping in. Dry food and canned wet food won't go stale or bad in a single 24 hour period.

    3. You need to know if your cats are an appropriate weight for their body before you can decide on how much to feed them. Using this chart:

    http://media.marketwire.com/attachments/200802/MOD-402887_weight-chart1.jpg

    Figure out if your cats are on target or not. For the maine coone, you'll probably want to stand over him and pet his fur down to get a good look. Can you feel the ribs with minimal pressure? You should be able to. As you run your hand over the cats side, with a slight pressure, you should feel each individual rib with a small amount of fat over the ribs between the skin and ribcage. If you can't feel the ribs distinctly or with light pressure only, the cat is overweight.

    You should also be able to easily see both from above and from the side view, the hip of your cat. As shown on the chart, the cat should have from above, a definite dip inwards behind the ribcage and from the side, an upwards turn before their backlegs.

    A vet can help if you are not sure.

    From there, I personally read the bag, reduce by about 20% and start there. If you are feeding a high quality dry food, a half cup or so per animal is usually about right, so a little more for your coone and a little less for the tiny guy. If you are looking to diet the cat(s) first worry about the schedule change. Once you have the new schedule down, then reduce the food by 10% for 4 weeks to start. Assess any weight loss, if none, reduce by another 5-10% and assess over 2-3 weeks to see when you hit the sweet spot.

    Weight loss for cats should be extremely gradual.

    4. As for the question about dry vs wet. Cats often don't drink enough, so they get urinary tract problems. If your cats drink a lot of fresh water all the time, you can probably just keep going as you are.

    If the cats don't drink a lot, or are having hairball coughups and so on, you might find some benefits with introducing canned food (a lot of people are fans of raw food diets too, but they are quite high maintenance to do so you know, thats your call). If you provide canned, you might want to do just a spoonful to test the cats interest. If they are happy with it, reduce the dry slowly as you ramp up the wet food.

    If you are concerned about the cats water intake and they shun the wet food, it can be a long hard road, but there are some websites out there that get even stubborn cats onto wet diets so don't be discouraged.

    EDIT: I forgot to say, if you're feeding a low quality food, the vomiting is probably going to continue. You might need to change it if the ingredients are basically junk food for cats.

  • Bionic MonkeyBionic Monkey Registered User, ClubPA
    edited February 2011
    The food they're eating right now is the Purina Cat Chow: Indoor Formula. I know it's not the greatest food, but I honestly have no idea how it stacks up.

    They're both currently lounging, so I can't check visually how fat they are, but I just checked their ribs, and aside from the fur on the Maine Coon, the ribs were fairly easily felt on both of them.

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  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Spending too much money eating out. That's about it. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited February 2011
    The food they're eating right now is the Purina Cat Chow: Indoor Formula. I know it's not the greatest food, but I honestly have no idea how it stacks up.

    They're both currently lounging, so I can't check visually how fat they are, but I just checked their ribs, and aside from the fur on the Maine Coon, the ribs were fairly easily felt on both of them.

    You should go to a dedicated pet store to buy your food. You know they make food specifically for Maine Coons as well? Royal Canin is the company.

    If you're going to buy from the grocery store, at least buy Iams or Wellness if they have it. That Purina shit is terrible for your cats.

    "At first he thought it might be a natural occurrence - maybe a rabbit. But upon closer inspection, it was clear a knife had been used. And rabbits don't carry knives."

    Final Fantasy XIV:Lilja Sunblade
  • oncelingonceling Registered User
    edited February 2011
    What does the Purina bag say to feed per lb of cat? (Like how much in cups or whatever).

  • Bionic MonkeyBionic Monkey Registered User, ClubPA
    edited February 2011
    The bag says for cats at 5-9 lbs, they should get 1/2 to 3/4 a cup per day, and cats 10-14 lbs should get 3/4 to 1 1/4 cups.

    Esh, we still have a bag of Purina to get through, but I'll talk to my wife about switching over to something healthier for them.

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  • quietguyinthebackquietguyintheback Registered User
    edited February 2011
    I had a pretty similar problem. I have one fat cat and one normal cat. I tried the set feeding times, but the normal one was used to grazing like a normal cat does. The fat one just ended up eating both dishes, and the normal one got skinny. A friend recommended a portion control dish. There's basically a small reservoir of cat food in the center that feeds into a covered dish. The cats reach in through holes just big enough for a paw and pull out one piece at a time. The fat and lazy one couldn't be bothered to waste that much effort trying to eat and lost a few pounds in the first few weeks. The other one built some weight back up.

    One of these.

  • oncelingonceling Registered User
    edited March 2011
    I would personally go with 1.5 cups spread into 2 bowls (so 3/4 per bowl) and see how they are doing the next day, maybe do it on a weekend so you can be there at lunchtime. If the bowls are scraped clean before 24 hours is up, maybe try 2 feedings or up it to 2 cups total. This is assuming you don't want to be doing any diet control at this time.

    Once you've changed the schedule I would consider a different food. See how the vomiting goes on the new schedule, first.

    Is the vomit just full of food? No hairballs? If its just food you may need to spread the feedings to 2x a day, but you may also have to try a new food. Might want to see if they are just pigging out too fast.

    If there's hairballs I can give you some different advice.

  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    we actually have fairly similar sized cats. we put out 2/3rds of a cup dry food in the morning and 2/3 +1 small can of wet urinary food at night.

    our big guy is probably around 14 lbs and the little more is probably like 10. the dry food is a mix of purina urinary, hairball and nutro weight indoor max or something like that.

    the two purina's are pro plan. we used to feed pro plan weight food as well but the nutro has a better composition.

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  • DeathwingDeathwing Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    You know they make food specifically for Maine Coons as well? Royal Canin is the company.

    While Maine Coons are indeed awesome cats, and Royal Canin isn't too bad, saying a food is specially made for that breed is really mostly a marketing ploy. That said, it's still going to be better than the Purina.

    If you can find a dedicated pet food store, chances are they could probably recommend a better brand - the premium stuff costs more, of course, but you will get dividends in the form of better health if they're not eating junk :)

    Our cats (15 pound boy and 10 pound girl) get the Wellness Core grain-free canned food - 1 5.5oz can for each of them, split into one feeding at 6 AM and the other at 6 PM, and sometimes a small snack around 10 or so before bed. We used to also give them Wellness dry food, but our boy got a urinary blockage (and a $$$$ stay at the pet hospital) a couple summers ago thanks to pigging out on it and never drinking any water....so it's been all wet for them since then.

    There's some decent reading at http://catinfo.org/ written by a DVM, although she does get a bit preachy sometimes.

    Our two furballs:
    Spoiler:

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  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Spending too much money eating out. That's about it. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Deathwing wrote: »
    You know they make food specifically for Maine Coons as well? Royal Canin is the company.

    While Maine Coons are indeed awesome cats, and Royal Canin isn't too bad, saying a food is specially made for that breed is really mostly a marketing ploy. That said, it's still going to be better than the Purina.

    Not at all actually. The three breeds they make food specifically for (Persians, Wedge Siamese, and Maine Coon) all have different ways of ingesting than most other cats. It's one of the only foods my wedge can eat without barfing because the shape of the kibble slows down his eating speed immensely.

    "At first he thought it might be a natural occurrence - maybe a rabbit. But upon closer inspection, it was clear a knife had been used. And rabbits don't carry knives."

    Final Fantasy XIV:Lilja Sunblade
  • LadyMLadyM Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Do you have a Costco membership? Their brand of cat food, Kirklands, is excellent. Meat as the first ingredient, etc etc. You can't imagine how much less poop cats produce on a food like that compared to Purina.

    As far as feeding times go, I feed my cats in the morning. The added benefit is that even if I sleep through the alarm, they wake me up.

  • DeathwingDeathwing Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Not at all actually. The three breeds they make food specifically for (Persians, Wedge Siamese, and Maine Coon) all have different ways of ingesting than most other cats. It's one of the only foods my wedge can eat without barfing because the shape of the kibble slows down his eating speed immensely.

    Well, all I was really commenting on in particular was the Maine Coon version. If something works for you, then ignore me entirely and go with it :)

    I can't deny that if you're dealing with a cat that's eating too fast, it (again, only looking at the Maine Coon version here) does at least have a large kibble that will slow them down - but that's pretty much all it is, just an extra-large kibble with some added glucosamine and extra antioxidants that are going to be found in pretty much all high-quality foods in one form or another.

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  • EntriechEntriech Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Everyone's pretty much covered the obligate carnivore, wet vs dry thing, so I won't hammer that in any more aside from relating that we too feed our cat Wellness Core, one 6 oz can per day, half morning and half night.

    Regarding your question about schedule, remember that cats are better at remembering patterns than times. So for example, we intended to feed our cat around 4:30 which is just when I get home from work. So I get home, and then he gets fed. Now if I come home anywhere from 2:30 onwards, he'll think it's dinner time and can be a downright pest when it isn't.

    So when you're scheduling, think events, not times.

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  • NiltNilt Registered User
    edited March 2011
    Another vote for Nutro products here. I no longer have any pets (my 21 year old cat died shortly after I got divorced) but my ex and I had quite a number for many years. We fed exclusively Nutro dry food (hairball control, as I recall) for the cats until my oldest one lost her teeth. My ex still feeds her cat the same; that cat's now 14 and going strong.

    The thing that you have to be careful of with all brands is to watch out for fillers such as nut hulls; I kid you not, I saw this on a pet food label that was being pimped as "Premium" at a pet shop one time. Freaking crazy! As others mentioned, the domestic cat really can only properly process protiens and a few amino acids so meat content is key. Keep in mind, though, that with a dry food, 80% or so of the moisture in the meat comes out. No matter what the marketing guys tell you about "slurry processes" or whatever, if "Chicken" or "Beef" is listed as the first ingredient, that means they weighed it before processing. Labels are sorted by weight so the moisture they weighed is not included in that bag of food. This is highly disingenuous, IMO, but they do it all the time.

    Nutro lists a meat meal (chicken, beef or whatever) which is essentially the meat less the moisture. That doesn't sound appetizing but when it comes to actual content in the bag, this is key to keep in mind. Keep in mind as well that vets are often compensated for pushing certain brands, as are pet store employees.

  • DelzhandDelzhand motivated battle programmerRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    This is more of a mechanical solution dealing with the how, not the what. But I will swear by my two Super Feeders. The first one was a gift from a fellow forumer who no longer needed it. I bought the second one because I have an abbysinian kitten that needs a different type of food. They're a little pricey, but the company that makes them is super friendly, and it's really the only automated feeder on the market that isn't a piece of shit.

    You fill it up and attach it to an outlet timer, and it will automatically dispense however much food you set it for. If you have a cat that HAS to eat at 7am, set it for 7am. The feeder comes with a nice metal bowl, so after a few days your cats will associate the clink-clink-clink of food on metal with feeding time.

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  • Bionic MonkeyBionic Monkey Registered User, ClubPA
    edited March 2011
    I spent a few hours yesterday researching cat food, and I'm wondering if any of you have experience with Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul? Stupid goddamn name, but it rates exceptionally well, and it's only $10 more per 18 lbs bag than what we're getting right now.

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  • chrishallett83chrishallett83 Hi! Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Keep in mind there's no need to spend $Texas on pet food.

    Just read the ingredient list, if it's mainly filler, don't buy it. If it's full to bursting with meat/fish, go nuts.

    A good middle-of-the-road brand food is no worse than a million dollar brand, a long as it's got the right stuff in it.

    We used to feed Amys cat the supermarket brand canned food, because it was literally fish, in fish oil, in a can. Whereas the expensive stuff had all sorts of other shit including artificial flavours and colours in it.

    You don't eat beluga caviar for every meal, your cat doesn't need to either...

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  • LadyMLadyM Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I haven't tried the Chicken Soup one, but I'm going to repeat my recommendation for Costco's brand, Kirkland. It's great quality and, being from Costo, extremely affordable.

  • oncelingonceling Registered User
    edited March 2011
    Chicken soup is a premium brand, and you will have good results with it. Obviously even great brands don't work for every cat but it is a good choice.

    Kirkland's Costco is a very acceptable option when you are on a budget, far above any store brand and Iams, etc.

  • OnTheLastCastleOnTheLastCastle and you're not happy, but you're funny and I'm tripping over my joyRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I feed my cats EVO and Orijen. I'll be switching from EVO wet food shortly as they were bought out by Proctor & Gamble in the next week or two.

    Orijen is really great. I recommend it.

    I'm a published writer and have a very unique and interesting writing style. I'm also sharp and witty. My profile is well-written and hilarious. My messages are likewise brilliant. And I've been doing this stuff for...four or five years. I know what "works" in terms of good internet dating writing. "Works" in the sense of leading to a "date" with a human female.
  • Kate of LokysKate of Lokys Registered User
    edited March 2011
    We free-feed our cat Go! Natural Grain-Free Chicken/Turkey/Duck, and she's an incredibly healthy animal: despite being an indoor-only cat, she's at an ideal weight, she has plenty of energy, her coat is soft and silky, and she's *never* had a problem with throwing up. The Go! Natural stuff is kind of hippie food, I know - I don't really think my cat needs blueberries and yucca schidigera extract in her diet - but cats in the wild do occasionally eat plants. More importantly, the first five ingredients by weight aren't byproducts or corn, but delicious meat: chicken meal, de-boned chicken, de-boned turkey , turkey meal, chicken fat.

    Getting your cats on the right food will probably make more of a difference than resorting to mechanical means to limit their food. (I would, however, suggest using a smaller bowl, and just filling it more often - having a trough sitting out for a week at a time means that icky things like dust and hair have time to settle on the food).

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  • OnTheLastCastleOnTheLastCastle and you're not happy, but you're funny and I'm tripping over my joyRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Cats eat those things because they eat animals who have eaten them. They also do eat grass to help with their digestion, but that's why we have cat grass.

    That food looks good, Kate. Maybe I'll pick that up as my new wet food for my dumb babies. Who are also very healthy, not fat and have the best coats in the world. It really is super noticeable if you feed your cats good quality food for the record.

    I'm a published writer and have a very unique and interesting writing style. I'm also sharp and witty. My profile is well-written and hilarious. My messages are likewise brilliant. And I've been doing this stuff for...four or five years. I know what "works" in terms of good internet dating writing. "Works" in the sense of leading to a "date" with a human female.
  • phoxphyrephoxphyre Registered User
    edited March 2011
    Kate, thank you for that food link. It looks good.

    Very handy, because my Felidae supplier has been taken out by the Christchurch 'quake :( And (biggest suprize of all!) I can get that food in NZ!

    Remember the Slug; They have all the disadvantages of Snails, but without the benefit of home-ownership...
  • stormbringerstormbringer Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Esh wrote: »

    Not at all actually. The three breeds they make food specifically for (Persians, Wedge Siamese, and Maine Coon) all have different ways of ingesting than most other cats. It's one of the only foods my wedge can eat without barfing because the shape of the kibble slows down his eating speed immensely.

    (Been working with maine coon and persians for ~15 years)

    Persian's I can see, especially extreme face Persians. But my extreme (ex show cat double national champion) can eat whatever he darn near wants as long as it fits in his gaping maw. They tend to be pretty good at self regulating.

    But Maine Coons will eat just about anything that you put in front of them. I tend to free feed until they start to bolt the food. When I restrict I use 3/4 cup twice a day for one 22lb Maine Coon. Remeber that Coons will keep growing till they are about 5 years old. So they sometimes just eat and eat so they can grow.

    If you add a water fountain it will also help. I never have luck with 1 week feeding schedule, even only ocne day can cause proble,

  • dedustdedust Registered User
    edited March 2011
    I'd go with Orijen too, currently I'm feeding my cats Acana and Royal Canin Maine Coon, the latter being the ultimate favorite for everyone. I have to fill the bowl completely every day, even if it's just the one Maine Coon eating it. Some of the Royal Canin foods made my cats throw up, specially the one meant for sterilized cats. My roommate is feeding Orijen to her cats, seems to go down better than my Acana.

    The dry foods are available all for them the time, in addition they get wet food about twice a day. Canned food mostly, occasionally some frozen pollack (they love that! just leave it to thaw and it's good to go), and sometimes raw pig heart. Those are definitely the favorites here, the heart is nice and chewy and good for the teeth too. I think this goes for chicken as well, doesn't have to be de-boned as long as it's NOT COOKED. The bones can break in a bad way after cooking, which could cause damage to the cat's intestines.

    I myself am slightly lactose intolerant, so sometimes I give them a bit of my low-lactose milk. Maybe mix a raw egg in there too.

    On a side note, the grass marketed as 'cat grass' is usually just oat or wheat seeds, which are much cheaper without the 'cat grass' tag. I've heard some stores sell Cyperus alternifolius as a cat grass, which is apparently poisonous.

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