Category: Veterinarian

Study Says Most US Cats Are Obese: How Do We Handle the Problem?

The subject of fat cats has come up quite a bit lately here on Pain In The Bud.

First we wrote about Barsik, the 40-pound chonkster who requires a stroller for transport because he’s too big for a carrier. On Thursday we blogged about Mikhail Galin, who hatched an elaborate plan to board his 22-pound tabby on a flight after Russian Airlines told him his feline was too fat to fly. And we’ve been following the struggles of Cinder, a 25-pound kitty who really hates treadmills.

Much to his chagrin, Buddy is in on the action too: I’ve cut back on his treats and portion size more as a preventive measure. He’s not fat, but he’s not as ripped as he thinks he is either.

So how do we deal with the feline obesity crisis? We asked Julia Lewis, DVM, who knows a thing or two about cats: Dr. Lewis graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the nation’s top veterinary school, and has 25 years’ experience working with shelters, universities and most recently in public health, where she provides wellness care to pets of the homeless on the west coast.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Pain In The Bud: A new study says more than half of all US pet cats are overweight or obese. Why are so many cats so chonky?

Dr. Lewis: We Americans like everything big: cars, houses, and unfortunately pets. Too many people equate food with love for themselves as well as their kids and pets. Yet another reason for people to have a family veterinarian that they trust is to have someone objectively tell them if their pets are in the healthy size range.

Fat Cats: M&Ms With Obstacles!
Meme imitates life.

PITB: How do cat owners react when you broach the subject?

Dr. Lewis: I’m glad I’m not in private practice. I feel uncomfortable telling people their pets are overweight because I happen to pack too many extra pounds myself. I’m nervous that when I tell pet owners their pets should lose weight, the owners will think to themselves that I should practice what I preach. (Although I try really hard to keep my own pets in decent weight so that I can practice what I preach from a professional perspective). However, when I have told people their pets can stand to lose some weight, I try to do it with humor so that the owners realize that I’m not making a judgement about them. Descriptions I’ve used to broach the subject include the pets appear Rubenesque. (One used by a particularly flamboyant resident that I had when I was a student.) I’ve also used roly-poly and fluffy. When the weight is in the severely large range, I have used round as a descriptor. Mostly, owners who realize their pets may have a problem really only want advice and that’s what I try to do for them, like I did for you when you wanted to put Buddy on calorie restriction. I also try to understand that it’s hard to lose weight, for oneself as well as their loved ones, whether two-legged or four.

PITB: What about cat owners? What’s the best way for those of us who aren’t veterinarians to determine if our cats are heavier than their ideal weight?

Dr. Lewis: Body condition is very subjective. Pets come in all sizes. This is especially true for dogs since there are such diverse breeds. Think about the extreme size and weight differences between a Chihuahua or Yorkie compared to a Great Dane or a Mastiff. Cats do have breeds, but for the most part there the size difference isn’t as extreme. Yet cats come in petite, average, and large frames. It’s not unusual for certain breeds like oriental short hairs to average only about 6 to 8 pounds and breeds like the Main Coon to average in the teens up to 25 pounds.

Cat weight chart
While healthy weights vary according to breed and size, the eye test is a good way to gauge your cat’s fitness.

That’s why it’s important to have an objective determination of body condition. Use of the body condition scoring charts puts everyone on the same page when describing a pet’s body condition.

PITB: What about fur? Does the eye test work for long-haired and extra fluffy cats?

Dr. Lewis: Beyond having a chart, owners need to be trained on how to assess their pet’s body to compare to the chart beyond just a visual measurement. Fur can interfere with accurate visual assessments of how much fat a pet may be carrying. Pet owners should have their veterinarian show them how to feel (palpate) their pets to determine how much padding beyond the fur their pets have.

PITB: Okay, so let’s say we’ve committed, we’ve talked to the veterinarian and we have a plan. How should we handle the sometimes incessant meowing and crying from a hungry cat? After all, we wouldn’t be their servants if they weren’t so persuasive.

Dr. Lewis: Dealing with pets that show their displeasure in not eating whenever and whatever they want is difficult. I have my own pets so I can really empathize. My dogs are pretty good about only eating when they’re fed but my cat is another story. But as hard as it is, ignoring them does work. I don’t react to my cat when he starts screaming. I’ve certainly not given in to him by giving him food. So, he doesn’t usually bother to yowl at me when he thinks he should be fed. My husband does give in and when my cat sees my husband, he gets incredibly vocal and demanding. So we’ve each trained the cat to give us very different behaviors. In an effort to get my cat to stop being so demanding, I’ve trained him to dance for his food. He now knows that even when we get up to feed him, he still can’t just dive right into the food, he has to do some spins. I tend to make him spin more than my husband, and that’s another reason he isn’t quite as insistent about making me feed him. One thing my cat is really good about is that he doesn’t get physical with us when he wants food. He’s just loud. If a cat does tend to get physical, owner may have to engage them in a vigorous play session before feeding to dissipate some of that pent-up frustration and energy.

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Bruno, a Russian Blue from Chicago, came into the shelter at a hefty 25 pounds. The quirky cat, who sometimes walks on his hind legs only, was adopted by a couple who put him on a diet. (Source: ABC7NY)

We’d like to thank Julia for taking the time to answer our questions and provide expert advice on a tough subject. Buddy, however, would not like to thank Julia for being complicit in the Great Treat Famine of 2019. He considers it a crime to come between a cat and his snacks.

Has your cat struggled to keep the pounds off? Tell us about it in the comments!

Cats Hate Treadmills More Than People Do

Meet Cinderblock, or Cinder for short. In the video below, a veterinarian’s got her on a treadmill, and Cinder is having NONE of it. Is it just me, or does that meow sound a hell of a lot like “No!”?

To make matters worse, it’s an underwater treadmill. Water and exercise, the bane of cats everywhere!

Anyway, Cinder takes the opportunity to provide a master class in how to get by with the absolute least amount of effort:

Cinder was surrendered to the veterinarian by her owner, who said she could no longer care for the portly kitty and asked for her to be euthanized. The veterinarian, Brita Kiffney, had a better idea.

“I couldn’t do it and asked her to relinquish her to me,” Kiffney told CNN. “She agreed and was grateful, as she really didn’t want to euthanize Cinder but was overwhelmed with the care of her father. So, she is morbidly obese, due to overfeeding by the father.

Now Cinder is on an involuntary weight loss journey, which Kiffney is documenting with a new Youtube channel, Cinder Gets Fit. Recent updates like the video below show the reluctant chonkster didn’t get away with the one-paw treadmill workout for long:

We wish Cinder and Brita the best of luck!

 

The Most Interesting Cat In The World

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For the full experience, play this in the background as you read. 🙂

“His scratches are so artful they’re featured on at least 15 hip hop albums. When dinner time arrives, he feeds his human. He makes biscuits for Michelin-starred restaurants. He is….the most interesting cat in the world.”

“I don’t always break things, but when I do, I prefer breaking irreplaceable personal items. Stay Buddy, my friends.”


“His meow can be understood by speakers of 43 different languages. On Halloween, other cats dress like him. When the veterinarian gives him shots, he shoots back. He is…the most interesting cat in the world.”

“I don’t always get the zooms, but when I do, I rocket around at 120 mph. Stay Buddy, my friends.”

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“The owners of the Empire State Building keep a perch for him at the very top of the structure. His litterbox was the inspiration for Calvin Klein’s newest cologne. He’s so adept at knocking things off flat surfaces, the US National Bowling Team recruited him when he was just a kitten. He is…the most interesting cat in the world.”

“I don’t always seek affection, but when I do, it’s always at the time, place and duration of my choosing. Stay Buddy, my friends!”


“His feelings are so strong, he enlisted the Mountain from Game of Thrones as his Emotional Support Human. He always lands on his feet, even in zero gravity. His leap is so graceful, Michael Jordan once asked him for his pawtograph. He is…the most interesting cat in the world.”

“I don’t always want to be let in, but when I do, I want to be let back out again immediately. Stay Buddy, my friends.”

Cat Haters Are Out In Full Force

Earlier this week New York became the first state in the US to ban cat declawing, which is a major victory not only for the many people who have been pushing for a ban for years, but especially for the potentially millions of cats who won’t be mutilated for the sake of someone’s couch or drapes.

It’s a time to celebrate, revel in a rare legislative victory for animal welfare, and look ahead toward similar proposals in other states. If more states follow New York, it could pave the way to a national ban.

Innocent, sentient creatures won’t be harmed as they have been for a long time. What could be better than that?

Here come the cat-haters

The thing is, legislation like this brings out the crazies and lots people who think protecting the innocent is a zero-sum game. In their world, helping animals and helping humans are mutually exclusive things instead of two goals that should be part of any coherent moral belief system.

Just because people are suffering in some parts of the world doesn’t mean we can’t help animals, just as helping animals doesn’t preclude us from helping people.

Declawing bans don’t take resources away from starving children in Somalia or America’s urban poor. Compassion for animals doesn’t somehow detract for compassion for people. In fact, all the research points to the opposite: That the way a person treats animals is a strong indicator of how they treat other human beings.

Twat
A comment on a story about New York’s historic declawing ban.
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The zero-sum game that isn’t.

Animal abuse and violence crime

That’s why there’s a link between animal abuse and violent crime against people. Animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violence against fellow humans, research shows. Criminologists have been aware of this link for many years, and smart investigators know to keep tabs on animal abusers because they often “graduate” to hurting humans.

That was the case with Luka Magnotta, a notorious animal abuser who, among other crimes, filmed himself feeding a young kitten to a python. Magnotta went on to kill a man with an ice pick, a crime that could have been prevented had detectives in Canada taken Magnotta’s animal abuse more seriously. Animal life has intrinsic value, and Magnotta should have been imprisoned for killing the kitten.

Cats scratch. Get over it.

Then there are the declawing advocates, the people who inexplicably argue that it’s okay to brutally mutilate living, feeling creatures in order to protect inanimate objects like couches and drapes.

One thing should be absolutely clear to anyone looking to adopt a cat: Scratching is completely natural behavior, and it’s your responsibility as caretaker to make sure you provide adequate scratching posts, as well as redirect your cat to those posts and vertical scratchers.

If you can’t or won’t accept that responsibility, you should not adopt a cat.

Cute Kitty
“Don’t touch my paws!”

Of course there are people who will insist declawing has no negative effects on cats. They’re wrong. That’s not a matter of opinion, it’s fact: A 2017 study, the most comprehensive of its kind, detailed a long list of negative effects that result from declawing.

Declawing is NOT a manicure

Declawing, which is the amputation of a cat’s feet up to the first knuckle — and not “kitty manicure” — causes lifelong pain in cats. Because cats are digitigrade animals, meaning they walk with their weight on their toes, the act of walking itself becomes painful. That leads to cats altering their gaits to limit the pain, which in turn leads to poor posture, which ultimately leads to early-onset arthritis and other physical problems, according to the 2017 study in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.

It’s a cascade of physical problems that leads to misery.

Because cats are famously stoic, doing everything they can not to show pain — they are prey animals as well as predators, after all — it may not be obvious, but declawing hurts them. A lot.

While people may think they’re solving a problem by declawing their cats, they’re creating new ones. Declawed cats are several times more likely to bite because they no longer have their claws for defense. They’re five times more likely to stop using the litter box, because the simple act of standing on litter granules is painful on their raw toe stumps. They’re more likely to be aggressive and ill-tempered.

Insult to injury

Those are all prime reasons why people surrender cats to shelters, causing another type of cascade: One in which a negligent owner has his or her cats declawed, then surrenders the cats because they’re acting out. Declawed cats are twice as likely to be surrendered to shelters as cats who are not declawed.

That directly contradicts claims by proponents of declawing, who say declawed cats are more likely to be adopted. In fact, declawed cats are more likely to end up without homes.

It’s 2019. The information is out there for anyone to look up, and ignorance is no longer an excuse. Declawing is wrong.

Here’s to hoping New York is just the first of many states to ban the barbaric practice.

budhanging2
“You don’t wanna tangle with these talons, bro. I’ll cut you. I’ll cut you for real. And then you’ll have to lather anti-bacterial cream all over your skin, and you’ll smell like medicine. Hah!”

 

Dear Buddy: Halp! I Don’t Want To Be Neutered!

Dear Buddy,

My human has me scheduled to go to the vet for neutering on May 12, and the dreaded day is fast approaching. I’m terrified! I don’t want to be neutered! Help me please, how do I get out of this nightmare?

Terrified in Texas

Dear Terrified in Texas,

What the hell are you talking about?

Buddy

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Dear Buddy,

It’s when your human brings you to the evil veterinarian and they remove your balls! How can you not know this? You’re telling me you weren’t neutered?

T in T

Dear T in T,

I still have my balls. My favorite is green and fuzzy and I use it to play catch with Big Buddy. I also have one with little lights in it and it makes noises when I swat it around! So much fun!

There’s a catnip ball too, but the catnip is inside and I can’t get to it. That kinda sucks. Tell your human not to take away your toys.

Buddy

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Dear Buddy,

No, you moron! Your balls! As in testicles! They cut them! It hurts just thinking about it!

T in T

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Dear T in T,

Hey now! No need for name calling. Who is Testicles? Was he friends with Achilles and Socrates? And what does this have to do with balls?

If you’re gonna write in and ask my advice, the least you can do is make sense!

Buddy

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(The great warrior Testicles led the Spartans alongside Leonidas and the 300 legendary cats who fought a million-strong dog army in Thermopylae Alley. To this day, poets sing songs of Testicles and his bravery.)

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Dear Buddy,

I suggest you go and ask your beloved Big Buddy what happened the first time you went to the veterinarian. Make sure your claws are extra sharp before you have that conversation. You’ll thank me later.

T in T

(King Leonidas — er, Leokittiness — image courtesy of CollageOrama.)