I discovered this today, hidden in the garage with a bow around it, presumably a “gift” for my upcoming birthday:
I wanted to warn you about this dire development so you can pass the word along to the millions of other cats who read your blog. The humans have invented a cruel torture device for us! This is a declaration of war!
My birthday is Wednesday. I must flee on Tuesday night at the latest. Wish me well in finding new humans who will serve me to satisfaction and provide acceptable yums.
Backstabbed in Binghampton
RUN! And I don’t mean on that…contraption. Run for your life!
That video is horrific. It’s hard to watch. There must be some invisible force field keeping that poor cat confined to the wheel so he has no choice but to keep running or be tossed around violently like a wallet in a clothes drier.
Why can’t humans invent something awesome, like a device that feeds us snacks while massaging us at the same time? These sadistic creatures claim they love us, but every now and then they inadvertently reveal the depraved depths of their minds, like when they invented those “fun” puzzle feeders that make us work for every kibble and stop us from scarfing down our yums.
Thank you for the warning, my friend. Take heed, fellow felines! You may be next!
We’ve all heard the oft-quoted factoid claiming domestic cats kill billions of birds and small animals every year, and unsurprisingly that number is contested and controversial.
One reason skeptics doubt those numbers is because researchers didn’t observe cat behavior and extrapolate the ecological impact — they handed out questionnaires to owners and asked them how often their cats brought dead animals home. To get accurate results, researchers have to be confident people are answering honestly and have reliable memories. It’s really not the best way to do a study.
So a team at North Carolina State University came up with a better way to measure cat predation on wildlife: They’d take hair samples from more than 400 cats, which would reveal how much of their diets consist of cat food versus prey.
Hair analysis can reveal different isotopes, so the team would be able to directly note each cat’s diet by distinguishing between pet food isotopes and those from prey animals. As the team explained:
A common way to understand the composition of animal diets is to collect samples of fur, nails, or blood from an animal and analyze its carbon and nitrogen isotopes. All organic materials contain isotopes of elements that get locked into body tissues, following the basic principle that you are what you eat. For example, the ratios of nitrogen isotopes present in carnivores are dependably distinct from those of plant eaters. Similarly, researchers can distinguish the types of plants that an animal eats by measuring the ratio of carbon isotopes.
It was a good idea, but the study was derailed by an unexpected discovery: No one knows what the heck is in pet food.
Cat food manufacturers fill their products with mystery ingredients, the team found, which means one bag of kibble or one can of wet food doesn’t have the same ingredients as the next, even if they’re the same flavor from the same company.
Additionally, pet food manufacturers can — and do — change what they put in their products without notifying customers or acknowledging the changes on the packaging.
As a result, the research team couldn’t identify which isotopes were from cat food and which ones were from hunted meals.
“We really thought this was going to be an ideal application of the isotope methodology,” said scientist Roland Kays, a co-author of the study. “Usually these studies are complicated by the variety of food a wild animal eats, but here we had the exact pet food people were giving their cats.”
That discovery essentially rendered the study useless for its original purpose, but like all good scientists, the North Carolina State team realized that failure reveals just as much as success, even if it’s not necessarily what you’re looking for.
“This isn’t what we aimed to study, but it is important in as much as there are hundreds of millions of cats (perhaps more) on Earth,” said Rob Dunn, a professor in NC State’s Department of Applied Ecology and co-author of the study. “The diets of cats, dogs and domestic animals have enormous consequences for global sustainability, cat health and much else. But they are very non-transparent. In short, at the end of this study we are still ignorant about why some cats kill more wildlife than others, and we have also found we are ignorant about something else, the shifting dynamics of ‘Big Pet Food.'”
As veterinarian Shawn Messonnier put it in an editorial for Pet Age, “the pet food industry remains shrouded in mystery about what’s really inside the pet food bag and how it’s created.”
Calling for more transparency in the manufacture and packaging of pet food, Messonnier pointed out ingredients can have a drastic effect on the health of our furry friends.
“For pet parents, a big leap of faith is required of them because unlike fresh human food, you can’t visually verify the ingredients used, their sources, freshness or the safeness of their handling,” he wrote. “Label language can be difficult to discern, too, so people rely mostly on the observations and opinions of friends and family they trust. Inevitably, people hope what goes in the bowl will translate into well-being and happiness for their dog or cat.”
You’ve got a dilemma, one that has tormented many a vegan before you.
While you’ve joined the ranks of the enlightened and meat-free, you also have a cat…and your cat eats meat.
Your vegan side urges you to put kitty on a strict plant-based kibble regimen. Your rational side reminds you she depends on you and cutting meat from her diet will seriously harm her.
Cats may be obligate carnivores, but how can you admonish the meat-eating savages of humankind when your four-legged friend gobbles down chicken and turkey flesh every day?
Fear not, vegan friends, for a genuine solution is upon us! I present to you Buddy’s Old-Fashioned Meat-Based Vegan Cat Food. It’s vegan with meat added, meaning kitty gets all the nutrients she needs for a healthy, happy life while you get to tell everyone that you AND your cat are vegans.
After all, what is the purpose of veganism if you can’t tell everyone you meet that you’re a vegan?
Buddy’s Old-Fashioned Meat-Based Vegan Cat Food, available wherever fine cat foods are sold.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Mikhail Galin loves his cat Viktor, that’s for sure.
The 34-year-old Russian and his feline flew from Riga, the capital of Latvia, to Moscow without any incident on Nov. 6, but when Galin checked in for an 8.5-hour flight to his destination in Vladivostok, he was told Viktor was too fat to fly in the cabin.
Officials from Aeroflot — Russian Airlines — told Galin there was an 18-pound limit for companion animals checked into the cabin, and at 22 pounds, the chonktacular Viktor was just too much chonk to hang with his human in business class. Instead, Viktor would have to tough out the long flight in cargo.
But Viktor was already stressed from traveling, and Galin wouldn’t take the flight without the cat by his side.
“I was very worried that during the duration of an eight-hour flight, something would happen to him in the cargo and he wouldn’t survive the trip,” Galin told the Washington Post.
When he couldn’t persuade Aeroflot to let him board with Viktor, Galin turned to social media for help and found a couple sympathetic to his cause. Their cat, Phoebe, looked like a miniature Viktor.
Galin booked a business class ticket, met up with the couple at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, and presented Phoebe as the cat he was taking with him on the flight. After airline employees weighed Phoebe and waved Galin forward, he and his new friends switched Viktor back in for his smaller body double and parted ways.
The plan worked beautifully and Galin would have gotten away with it if he hadn’t celebrated the successful swap on social media. He couldn’t resist the temptation and posted photos of Viktor on the flight: One shows the chubby cat peeking out of his carrier next to a glass of champagne, while another shot has Viktor in Galin’s lap, man helping cat enjoy a bird’s eye view.
The post went viral, an unamused Aeroflot got wind of it, and after an investigation the company docked Galin almost 400,000 frequent flier miles, his entire stash. It also booted him from its bonus miles program entirely.
“The law is harsh, but it is the law,” Galin told NBC News, repeating a stoic Russian maxim about punishment. “I violated the rules, and the carrier has every right to take action.”
Thankfully the result wasn’t all bad and Galin was rewarded for his loyalty to his cat. He told the Post several cat food companies had offered a year’s worth of food free for the flabby feline, and other transportation companies offered free use of their services.
While one politician called for Aeroflot to relax its rules on pet weight, the government wisely stayed out of kitty affairs.
“I don’t believe the Kremlin can or should comment on a situation involving a cat,” a spokesman for Vladimir Putin deadpanned.
As for Viktor, he’s made it clear he expects the same level of comfort next time he flies.
“He liked business class a lot better than economy class,” Galin said, “because he considered himself superior.”
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.