All About Marie
- Dr. Marie Hulett
- Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
We have a lovely, 12-year-old tabby cat named Sadie who is as sweet as can be, but she keeps putting on weight. This morning, she weighed in at 19 pounds. She always seems hungry and is constantly begging for food. I've told everyone in the family not to feed her because I put food out for her each morning and each evening, but the kids especially tell me that they can’t ignore her because she seems so hungry and acts so cute when she wants food. They give her snacks, treats, and table scraps all the time. I've also recently discovered that she eats our dog’s leftover food right out of his bowl. I had no idea that cats would eat dry dog food. When she was younger, she was a slim and trim 9-pound cat. It’s only been in the last five years or so that she’s been putting on such weight. What can we do to help her get her figure back?
From all that you describe, it sounds as though Sadie has you and your family very well trained. (And isn't this what all cats aspire to?) But seriously, an obese cat suffers just as many problems and is susceptible to all the same health risks as an obese human being – so as much as your kitty is happy for the constant buffet of delicacies, her eating habits and your family’s facilitating activities need to be changed immediately.
But first, make an appointment with your veterinarian. A significant weight gain and insatiable appetite may be indicative of an underlying health problem that can be detected with a general exam and blood work-up. Animals do need annual check-ups, especially in their more advanced years; so please do not delay in getting this set up.
Now let’s get back to the issue of Sadie’s overeating. First, your cat needs to be on a senior diet specifically designed for overweight cats. You can obtain this type of food from your veterinarian, or you local pet supply store can advise you as to an appropriate nutritional product. Either way, you want to be sure to purchase a high quality food. Generally, supermarkets will not carry the type of cat food that your feline family member will need, so if you are currently using a grocery store product, you should switch over.
There are very specific feeding schedules and amounts to be given printed on cat food packaging labels. It is extremely important that you follow those instructions. This means that there will no longer be any between meal snacks, treats, table scraps or eating out of the dog’s bowl! You will need to feed your dog in an area that your cat is not allowed, or remove the bowl as soon as your dog is finished eating. It will require vigilance on your part, but extra food can no longer be accessible to your kitty.
I understand it is difficult to resist a cat with its pleading eyes and leg rubbing routine. But, you have to be the administrator of tough love in this situation if you want your special pet to be around for many more, enjoyable years. You must tell all of your family members that their tidbits of food and extra treats are shaving time off your cat’s lifespan and also reducing her quality of life for every day activities.
An obese cat will suffer from joint pain stemming from the extra weight that her petite feline frame was not designed to carry. Her heart will have to work much harder. She will not want to play as much as she used to and she will become more and more sedentary. This is a path that needs to be redirected now. Instead of treats, offer affection and playtime. Have your children use a long piece of string to entice her to chase and pounce. Increase exercise time a little each day and observe Sadie for signs of fatigue. You don’t want her to become overly tired.
Your cat has come to expect food from you any time she wants it. She may be confusing food offerings with affection. Don’t let her mix up these two, very different caregiver activities any longer. Have everyone in the household make some extra time for Sadie where they will sit with her and pet her and let her know that she is still the queen. Her overeating habit will take a little time to overcome, but with the love and attention of her human family, she will be able to reacquire a healthier physique and a new attitude.