I can’t believe it. My life has taken such a terrible turn. My human took me to the veterinarian for routine shots. It was bad enough getting stuck with sharp objects and having a close encounter with a rectal thermometer, but then the vet started insulting my waistline. (What’s wrong with it? I’ve been told I have a very prominent midsection.) He used adjectives like “vast”, “boundless”, and “immeasurable”.
Since my vet visit, my human Mom (who hasn’t missed any meals herself) went off the deep end. She cut off the canned cat food I love (She said it’s probably fattening), and puts out only a few pieces of dry weight control food that has slightly less flavor than sheet rock. I might as well be eating cat litter! I admit I could stand to lose a little girth, but this mad woman is starving me to death!
Help me, Obi Wan Einstein. You’re my only hope!
October 10 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day. Sadly, it sounds like all you have to do to observe it is look down.
A 2011 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that over 50 percent of all cats are either overweight or obese. Tubby tabbies look forward to a world of hurt. You’re more likely than your skinny counterparts to suffer from diabetes, arthritis, lower urinary tract disease, and skin problems, not to mention a host of other not-so-fun cat diseases that can make the rest of your nine lives miserable.
Mom needs to work out a weight loss plan with your vet. No Ethiopian-style dining for you. Crash diets unfortunately cause kitties to crash, literally. Cats who lose weight too quickly can develop a potentially fatal form of liver failure called fatty liver disease. (If you don’t get early treatment for that, you could start meowing with the choir invisible.)
Your circumference isn’t your fault. Loved kitties live in an environment perfect for puffiness. Well-meaning humans cut our junk off, jail us, and leave out enough kibble to feed a Siberian tiger. Since humans often equate food with love, lots of food equals lots of love. (Which is probably why so many humans, like your mom, are a tad flabescent.)
Cat doc extraordinaire Margie Scherk, DVM, ABVP, recently told me at the Greenies Feline Influencer Summit in Franklin, Tennessee that eating only ten cat food pieces per day more than your body actually needs can pack on one pound of fat in one year! That’s ten percent of a ten-pound tabby’s weight. (Imagine a 150-pound human putting on 15 pounds.) If you pork on a pound of fat every year for three years, and that’s bad news.
Doc Scherk says (and I admit I’m paraphrasing here) that kitties are designed to hunt and eat a lot of little meals, not gorge themselves from a trough. A cat who hunts to survive spends most of the day running, jumping, and climbing trees. To fuel all that activity he has to kill five to ten mice a day.Doc Scherk says only one in 15 hunting expeditions results in a meal.
For a rocking panther profile, your eating style should mimic a wild cat’s. Mom needs to shut down the 24/7 diner and feed you two to four meals daily in mouse-size portions. No, really! A mouse is the perfect single-serving size for kitties. (If Mom’s too squeamish to weigh a live squealing Mickey, tell her a seven-pound cat should get between .6 and one-ounce portions of food at each meal.)
But, not only do you have to cut back on the grub, you need to eat the right stuff. We household kitties are true or obligate carnivores, just like our cousins, the Tony the Tiger! That means we have to eat meat to survive. We aren’t designed to eat vast quantities of veggies and grains! All of the grain and fillers in dry cat food contains lots of empty carbohydrates that we might just as well apply directly to our midsection. Bottom line, your beloved canned food IS a much better choice. Scoreeeeee! Think of it as the Catkins diet.
Next, it’s time to get off of your tail and embrace that dreaded “E” word. You know: exercise. I’m not asking you to do jumping jacks or let the dog chase you around the house. Exercise can be fun, especially if your human follows the suggestions of Alice Moon-Fanelli, Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist with Animal Behavior Consultations at Brooklyn Veterinary Hospital in Brooklyn, CT.
Mom needs to get a feather-on-a-stick toy that you can chase around. (My human likes Da Bird cuz it flies like a real bird. It’s being reviewed this month in the AdoptAShelter.com Featured Products section.) Since you’re presently as fit as linguini, Mom’ll should start out slow and work up to two 10-minute play sessions a day. Whichever toy she uses, it needs to act like a real prey. Fly around, then stop on the floor. Fly around and stop. No bird (or any prey) stays in motion all the time. While the game should be challenging, she needs to let you grab the prey with your claws or chomp down on it every now and then. When the game ends, you finally get to kill it, and then it’s dinnertime. (After all, if you killed that mouse, you’d get to eat it.)
When you’re all alone, your human can make you work for your food too. She can put some high quality kibble (not treats) in a couple of treat balls. Next she can hide them around the house so you must “hunt” before you eat your “prey” which helps you to eat smaller portions all day long. Another variation is to divide your daily canned food ration into six or seven mouse-sized portions and place it in tiny bowls all over the house – in different rooms, on top of things, or under furniture.
And, the good news is your mom doesn’t have to completely cut out treats. They are very effective for training you to do tricks or rewarding what humans call good behavior. I bet if Mom gave you treats after those ow-y shots or after a three-minute round with that rectal thermometer, or following a nail trim, you’d become a lot more cooperative.
Joseph W. Bartges, DVM, a veterinary nutritionist who teaches at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine suggests lower-calorie all-meat treats like bonito flakes, freeze-dried chicken or fish. They don’t contain empty carbs, grains or calories. His rule of thumb is everything in moderation. Your diet can include up to five percent of those healthy treats.
So Jabba, it looks like you and Mom have your work cut out for you. Who knows … perhaps you could do more than just get yourself healthy. If you set a good example, maybe you can inspire your human to lose a few pounds, too! Hopefully, next October 10 neither of you will have as much fat to observe.
About the Author (Author Profile)
communications. She also serves as vice president of the Cat Writer’s
Association. With 25 years of animal rescue under her collar, Dusty has
rescued or fostered over 1000 cats. She’s author of Kittens for Dummies
and Cat Wrangling Made Easy.
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