Courtesy of: Joye
Ok, I know the title is strange, but stick with me and you’ll see where I’m going. This is the first in what will hopefully become a series of blogs about the way I see things at Truro Vet. If you’ve met me, that might seem like a scary idea, but I promise to be nice most of the time!
Today’s topic is obesity in cats, which is certainly no laughing matter. Over 50% of cats are overweight or obese, serious conditions that can lead to a number of diseases which shorten their life span. Of course, discussing nutrition is at the core of any discussion about weight management, so I’m often called in when we have a tough case. Sometimes the basic issue is simply lack of understanding and effective communication, so I always start there.
I’m now going to give you a sample conversation I might have with a fictional client. I emphasize that this actual conversation has never taken place, and the client, “Mrs. Smith”, does not exist. However, many of Mrs. Smith’s concerns are very real and the advice I (try to) give is what I would say to any client who presented the same issues.
RVT (Registered Veterinary Technician…that’s me!): Good afternoon, Mrs. Smith, and hello Fluffy. My name is Joye and I’m here today to start your appointment. The veterinarian will be in to see you shortly. I see that Fluffy is now 12 years old. How has she been doing?
Mrs. Smith: Oh, she’s great. She’s the sweetest cat. I’ve had her since she was just a kitten you know. She has always slept on my bed, but for the last little while she doesn’t seem to jump up anymore. I guess she’s just getting old.
RVT: Well, Mrs. Smith, 12 years really isn’t that old for an indoor cat like Fluffy. Let’s have a look at her, shall we? Oh my…Fluffy is a pretty big girl! Let’s get her on the scale. Fluffy weighs 7.5 kg…that’s 16 and a half pounds. That is very large for a cat.
Mrs. Smith (proudly): Ha, if you think Fluffy’s big you should see our other cat at home! Our cats have always been very big and healthy. Fluffy loves to eat and sleep. I tell my husband we should have called her Garfield, she’s so lazy!
RVT: Actually, it’s not really very healthy for Fluffy to be carrying around so much extra weight. At her age, it can lead to some pretty serious health problems, like diabetes and arthritis. I can see that she has some mats on her back too. I suspect she’s not grooming as well as she used to, because she can’t reach or she is uncomfortable.
Mrs. Smith: Oh dear, you don’t think she’s hurting do you? She doesn’t seem to be uncomfortable at all. I noticed the mats but I thought maybe she just got into some sap on the Christmas tree.
RVT: Hmm…well, it’s March now, so I would really expect any sap from the tree to be long gone. You mentioned that Fluffy doesn’t jump on your bed like she used to. That might be related to her weight and potentially to arthritis. I think it is important for us to put Fluffy on a diet to try to get her to start losing weight, as well as trying to increase her exercise through play.
Mrs. Smith: A diet? Oh, I couldn’t do that. I just put the food out for Fluffy and Mitzy and they eat whatever they want. Fluffy wouldn’t like it if she went to the bowl and it was empty!
RVT: Eating her food in meals and eating a calorie reduced diet is really the best way to help Fluffy lose weight. Cats can get used to eating meals and sometimes having an empty bowl, although they can sometimes develop new begging behaviours unfortunately.
Mrs. Smith: I just know that Mitzy will eat all of her own food and most of Fluffy’s too. She’s very pushy and loves her food. I don’t think we will be able to feed them in meals, sorry.
RVT: One good way to ensure that each cat gets their full meal (and no extras) is to feed them in separate rooms, with a door closed between them. After 15-20 with their food, you open the door and remove the dishes. Cats will learn to eat their meals on time, since the food won’t be back again until their next feeding.
Mrs. Smith: Oh dear. We can’t do that. Our home is very open concept…I don’t have anywhere to put the cats to separate them.
RVT: Does your bathroom have a door? (while thinking “If it doesn’t, please don’t invite me over to visit!”) Several people I know feed one cat inside the bathroom and one in the kitchen. Could that work for you?
Mrs. Smith (skeptically): Maybe…
RVT: Here’s the veterinarian now. Once she has completed her physical exam, she and I will come up with a recommendation for the best diet plan for Fluffy and I’ll be back in to chat.
As you can see, Mrs. Smith is not really a big fan of all the changes I’ve asked her to make. It’s obvious she loves Fluffy very much and wants to do what’s best, but I’ve asked her to significantly rearrange her life to help Fluffy become a healthier cat. Hopefully by the time our visit is complete, she will be more open to trying some of my suggestions.
If your cat is overweight or obese, we would love to talk with you. The process of weight loss generally follows the same basic steps. Our first recommendation is often a calorie reduced diet, such as Calorie Control from Royal Canin. Secondly, cats need to be fed a measured amount in timed meal feedings. In households with multiple cats, this may mean with a door closed between them. It is also great to increase their playtime, by buying toys that encourage them to move (such as laser pointers or treat balls). Finally, coming back for regular weigh-ins to make sure we are having success is a key part of the process.
If you would like to know more about obesity in pets (including how to prevent the problem in the first place), please give us a call at 902-893-2341.