Tag: fat cats

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!

Man’s Elaborate Plan To Smuggle Fat Cat On Flight Backfires

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.

Mikhail Galin and Viktor
Viktor takes a liking to business class.

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.”

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Viktor 11,214 snacks ago.

 

 

 

The Torturing: A Fowl Famine, Episode I (Buddy’s Diet)

Day 1: I meowed for treats for two hours and 37 minutes this morning, to no avail. Has Buddy the Larger suffered a stroke? This could pose serious problems for my snacking requirements.

Day 2: This must be a joke. A bad, totally-not-funny joke that’s gonna end with my teeth and claws delivering the final punchline. I WANT MY TREATS NOW.

Day 3: This new kibble is tasteless. Blue Buffalo Wilderness, my ass. More like Brown Cardboard Inside. Thank God I still get turkey. Oh, turkey, I love you.
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Day 4: It has been 93 hours, 22 minutes and 17 seconds since my last treat, a creamy, moist morsel of manufactured goodness that activated the reward pathways in my brain like only the finest kitty crack can. You got any on you, bro?

Day 5: By employing my own talents of stealth and acrobatics, I’ve discovered not only is Big Buddy withholding snacks from me, they’ve all disappeared from the snack cabinet! What horrible sorcery is this?

Day 6: Last night I helped myself to some of Big Buddy’s pasta when he left the room to refill his beverage. It’s awful, rubbery stuff topped with sauce made from tomato, that infernal vegetable. Yet I gulped it down. What’s happening to me?!

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New York’s Fattest Cat Is Melting Pounds

Barsik the cat made headlines about five months ago when he was surrendered to a Manhattan animal shelter at a whopping 41 pounds.

The five-year-old was kept in the shelter’s office because he couldn’t comfortably fit into a standard cat cage, and a regular carrier couldn’t contain him either so he was carted in a stroller, according to the New York Post.

Barsik the Cat
An unamused-looking Barsik sits next to an empty food bowl.

To add insult to injury, when staffers at the shelter wheeled Barsik inside, an amused visitor dug out her cell phone, laughed as she snapped a few photos and asked: “Did he eat another cat?”

Barsik has come a long way since that depressing day.

The big guy has been in the foster care of Angelique Iuzzolino of New York’s Anjellicle Cats, and he’s been steadily dropping weight.

Barsik weighs 34.9 33.3 pounds, according to Iuzzolino, who has been posting updates on Barsik’s Instagram. He’s still extra chonk, but he’s no longer in danger of matching the 46-pound Guinness record for a cat. Most importantly, he’s making progress.

He certainly looks a lot happier than he did when he was abandoned by his former people:

Barsik the Cat
Barsik has dropped about 19 percent of his body weight.
Barsik the Cat
Barsik is on a veterinarian-supervised diet.

Barsik will be up for adoption, but if you’re interested in the big guy you’ll have to wait. He’s got a few more pounds to lose before he goes to his forever home.

UPDATE: Barsik is now up for adoption! Prospective servants have until Nov. 10 to fill out an application.

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!

 

It’s Time For A Diet

The people who know us best instinctively know how to push our buttons. So naturally my brother knows one of the easiest ways to get me riled up is to tell me my cat is a porker.

“Buddy’s looking like he’s put on the pounds,” he’ll say casually. “How much are you feeding this cat?”

“Buddy is NOT fat!” I’ll reply indignantly. “It just looks that way because he’s meatloafing.”

“No, I’m pretty sure he’s just fat.”

Well now he may be right. Buddy isn’t exactly fat, but he’s on the wrong side of skinny and a few bags of Temptations away from being kinda chubby. Now is the time to nip this in the Bud and bring his weight back down before it, uh, balloons.

(Above: Buddy in super-chonk meatloaf pose, left, and Buddy in a photo taken a few days later. The way a cat sits or stands can dramatically change the way his or her body looks.)

The problem is, Buddy has mastered the art of the guilt trip.

When he’s legitimately hungry he isn’t shy about meowing for his meals, but what he does in between meals is much worse. When I head into the kitchen for a beverage or a snack, Buddy will pad right up to the doorway and stop, looking at me with his big, expectant eyes. His gaze will follow me as he sits there all hopeful.

And if I leave the kitchen without opening his treat cabinet, those big green eyes become accusatory, as if I’ve committed a profound betrayal of his trust by not giving him the ultra-processed kitty crack he loves.

It’s the complete silence that gets me. No meows, no complaints, just dead silence and those big eyes.

Buddy the Handsome Cat
“That’s a tasty looking snack you’ve got there. Where’s Buddy’s treats? You thought of Buddy, right? You would never forget about me…”

Worse yet, he’ll park himself right next to me and watch me eat a bowl of cereal or a cookie, continuing the silent act. What kind of horrible Big Buddy gets a snack for himself but not his Little Buddy?

So yeah. It’s diet time.

Buddy doesn’t know the dreaded D-word. He’s about to learn. But his diet may be harder on me than it is on him.