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Fat Kitty

August 21, 2013

When summer hits, families go on vacation. And when families go on vacation, their pets need tending to.

So who better to look in on your well-loved cat during your stretch at the beach, than me?

Well, in reality it’s me.

You actually went out of your way to hire my perpetually-sneering teenage daughter, giving her simple directions and a key to your home, so that while you were away, your feline friend might have one hearty meal a day.


Feed me, Seymour.

What ended up happening was that I took her by the hand every single evening and morning and forced her to take her only shot at summer employment seriously. But I digress…

We’d recently been told by our neighbors that their kitty had a “weight problem” and was on a special diet to help bring her down a few pounds. Personally, I like a pet with a little meat on their bones, but the vet had given them “the talk” and they felt obliged, as good pet owners, to follow through on their promise to get her healthy.

We got on board with the cat diet, even though the first day we accidentally gave her two scoops instead of one, like your Sicilian Nana who gives you three big pieces of cake after dinner even though mom and dad INSISTED you were to have only ONE. So, we righted our wrong by actively engaging kitty in some hardcore string chasing and the “catch the laser pointer” game.

I felt bad when after ten minutes she collapsed in an exhausted heap and began licking her paws in anticipation of her evening nap.

For days, she’d run her round self to the front door in delighted anticipation every time she’d hear the key turn in the lock. One of my kids made mention that this was the only cat that they could actually “hear” when it walked.  We fed her, we petted her, we played with her.

This pattern continued until her owners came home and I could tell they were relieved when I mentioned that we’d managed some kitten exercise sets, saying that their vet had been on them to diet their once svelte cat back to it’s former self. I saw our cat friend peer out from behind a chair in the hallway as if to say, “What happens when they aren’t here, stays here.”

So I began to think of my own pets, a fat and happy French Bulldog and a slight, but rapidly-expanding yellow lab mix we adopted from a rescue shelter last year. I do a fairly good job of keeping them fit, but I give scraps from the table and overfeed them when I’m suffering from animal guilt issues. So I lie to my vet, claiming that they get only Science Diet and doctor-recommended treats.

Have animal doctors gotten as bad as the human variety about weight shaming and do we even take them seriously?

I mean, I’ve even gotten to the point where I can’t take my doctors recommendations about one of my kids being obese seriously, now I feel as if I might be overfeeding my offspring AND my pets on top of actively ignoring a professional’s opinion on all the creatures in my care.

Fat kitty was happy. She did a lot of purring and rolling around and seemed to appreciate the extra grub and back rubs. Who am I to judge?

28 Comments leave one →
  1. nof permalink
    August 21, 2013 9:20 am

    Honestly, 10 minutes of play seems appropriate to me. I’ve never had a cat that had a higher attention span than that.

    I really dislike applying human weight fears to animals, but I am especially angry about obesity scares in two areas of animals I keep: reptiles and birds.

    First off: reptiles and birds are more closely related to a Tyrannosaurus than they are to humans, so perhaps projecting human fears of fatness on them is silly. Second: these are both groups in which the leading cause of death, disability, and illness remains malnutrition. Our understanding of nutrition for these species isn’t even in infancy; it has yet to implant in the uterus. Restricting their diets in any way is contraindicated, imo.

    There are snakes who can eat once a *year*; my own leopard gecko will only eat a couple times a month during winter, when the house temperature and her enclosure temperature dips by about 10 degrees. Reptiles are cold-blooded animals who can brake their metabolism down to nothing. Perhaps human models of overweight and obesity aren’t at all applicable here. Also, I’ve yet to see evidence that fatness is bad in a reptile. Corpulence seems to be an indicator of good health in them.

    On the other side are birds, which need to consume about 20% of their body weight a day. Birds have hyper-high metabolisms–they poop every 15 minutes or so, have a heartbeat so fast humans can’t differentiate the beats, and they do not stop eating because their caloric needs are so relatively high. A bird can die of starvation in a matter of days (and this is not as rare an occurrence as you’d think). Again, perhaps human models of overweight and obesity aren’t applicable. I will admit that I believe fatness is probably not a good thing in birds, but I know of a single bird who’s classified as “obese” despite a proper diet and room to fly. Nearly all birds, given room to fly and free access to a varied, species-appropriate diet, remain at a ‘good’ weight for themselves.

    tl;dr, but I have a lot of feels on that subject.

  2. Duckie permalink
    August 21, 2013 9:34 am

    I once had a family member come for a rare visit and he commented about my large cat, saying it’s not healthy to let him get that big. He did not take into account that my cat has always been large and square-ish, even when he was a kitten, and that his breed is supposed to get big. My cat is as active as any other cat I’ve ever had and is now living happily into old age. We have an automatic feeder and he gets the occasional tiny bit of chicken or tuna juice….however, I felt more like the family member was no so much commenting on the weight of my cat as he was displacing his weight concern issues. I felt like he was making a comment about the weight of me and my husband, not my cat. I wonder how often vets or pediatricians do that too.

  3. August 21, 2013 9:40 am

    Fat kitty sounds like she was quite happy to have your company. I think the amount of play depends on the cat and the age of said cat. It also may depend on their interest in the toy. Our older furbaby, who is chubby but very happy and very content, shows little interest in most toys, but break out Da Bird and she goes into playful kitten mode. Our younger furbaby will race around like a wild thing and will play with just about anything, and he’s smaller and eats less than our older cat. Our vet has shown some minor concern for the older cat, but she has not been the feline weight police. She knows Bitty is happy and well-loved and well-nourished albeit a bit chubby. The vet is more concerned about how her overall health, and her glucose and thyroid and enzyme numbers keep coming back in the normal range.

  4. August 21, 2013 12:15 pm

    One of our cats is getting older, and is so fussy about food that our vet is more likely to mention her skinniness than her fatness.

    Lately, we’ve tried out yet another pricey cat food and it seems to be working. I also like to glower at her when she’s fussing and mumble, “Eat, Princess. Or it’s THE VET for you!” I don’t know if it helps but it sure makes me feel better.

  5. Elizabeth permalink
    August 21, 2013 1:11 pm

    For decades I have been hearing some vets who are obsessed with animals’ weight as doctors are obsessed with humans’ weight. The goal seems to be to have dogs whose ribs are visible. We tried to adopt a long-haired German Shiloh shepherd who had attacked her guardian’s child. Tallulah ended up attacking our Lab rescue, and the second time drew blood. This extraordinarily expensive dog, not spayed (guardian: I might want to breed her — I could have killed this woman), was STARVING. Her spine stuck out at least an inch, but you couldn’t see it for her fur. She had been having regular veterinary care; where in hell was the vet regarding her gross underweight? It was little wonder to me that she had attacked a child and attacked our dog; she was resource guarding, of course. We could not keep her because of her hunger-motivated aggression. You can feed a starving dog, but you cannot convince her overnight that food will always be available.

    That said, I have had vets criticize my dogs’ weights. I judge my animals’ weights by their ability to move. Our Lab rescue was pretty chunky, but he could run very fast and keep up with a vehicle climbing a steep hill. If I had a cat or dog or horse that couldn’t move comfortably, then I would worry about their weight.

    I am far more concerned about malnourishment in dogs. We adopted an old dog from her guardian and her health had been compromised by poor-quality food despite sufficient calories. Amazingly, considering all her health issues, she lived another four years with us, at least partially due to superb food. Whenever one of my animals gets thin — I currently have a diabetic dog with Cushing’s — that’s my worry, not a dog heavy with muscle.

    • August 21, 2013 1:21 pm

      We had a cat with diabetes, and we had no idea. When we started working with a new vet, she suspected diabetes immediately when we told her of the rapid weight loss we’d seen in the cat. When we got the results of the blood tests, we confirmed it. This is the same vet we work with now, and her concern was that Boo was too thin. And her primary concern with our chubby kitty is that Bitty can move around well enough. She’s confirmed several times that Bitty’s glucose, thyroid, and enzyme numbers are just fine.

      • BBDee permalink
        August 22, 2013 8:01 pm

        Rapid weight loss in cats (especially older ones) can also be caused by hyperthyroidism. My late, great Ick (Incredibly Cute Kitty) dropped from 11 lbs to 6 in a very short time. I was afraid she was diabetic but it turned out to be thyroid. Blessings to your sweet babies!

        • August 25, 2013 6:08 pm

          *nods* We went through hyperthyroidism after the diabetes went into remission. Boo went through a lot in the last 4 years of her life. She was a trooper.

        • September 4, 2013 1:31 pm

          I had a cat with multiple system failure (liver and kidney) who kept losing weight no matter how much he ate. He started at 25 pounds and was only seven pounds the day I made the decision to have him put to sleep because he was no longer eating or drinking.

  6. Elizabeth permalink
    August 21, 2013 2:31 pm

    Hi, luscious, the vet said it’s much harder having a cat with diabetes than a dog. It’s really easy to give Zipp her shots and she seems to have stabilized, but she has lost a lot of weight. I’m just glad she has an appetite again, it was really worrisome when she didn’t want to eat and would throw up if she ate more than a small amount. What interested me is the vet saying the stress of the heat wave we had could have been the final straw leading to Zipp’s diabetes. Zipp has had so much stress (spending seven years of her life in a little pen by herself, heartworm treatment, etc), and that heat must have reminded her of Arkansas where she suffered so. Stress = elevated cortisol levels = elevated glucose levels. How much is this true of people?

    • Dizzyd permalink
      August 21, 2013 6:51 pm

      I don’t doubt it’s VERY true, but that’s not as much fun as telling fatties it’s all your fault you eat too much take this dangerous drug slice dice and julienne your stomach or starve yourself to death to get HEALLLTHEEEEEE!!!

    • August 22, 2013 7:26 am

      Hi, Elizabeth. 🙂 I will have to disagree with your vet, at least in the case of our cat. She was the BEST patient in the world when we were dealing with injections and checking her glucose. Within a week of starting the injections, she would go to my husband when she saw he had the syringe out. Then she’d be patient while he gave her the shot. In fact, at the time, I was using Byetta for my diabetes and she would come over to me, presumably thinking that shot was for her. When you consider how you have to check for blood glucose at home – finding a vein in her ear tip and sticking it – she was amazingly well-behaved. So, in the case of Boo, she was not a bad patient. On the other hand, if Bitty (the chubby kitty) were to develop diabetes, we’d be in a world of hurt. LOL, she is the WORST patient.

      • Elizabeth permalink
        August 22, 2013 11:14 am

        So glad to hear it was easy to take care of your kitty!

    • nof permalink
      August 22, 2013 11:09 am

      I had a diabetic cat who was also a great patient–he was so tolerant and easy about his shots and us checking up on his blood glucose. He was also a weird patient though; we never managed to get his sugar under control and he consistently always read levels of 400 or more. For reference, 400 is considered imminently life-threatening in cats, but we could never bring his below that number. He survived 7 years after diagnosis with fatally high blood sugar. It was odd, to say the least.

      • Elizabeth permalink
        August 22, 2013 11:16 am

        Well, as my RN husband says, it takes a lot longer to die from high blood sugar than from low blood sugar. That’s fascinating that you couldn’t get the sugar lower yet he lived another seven years.

        • nof permalink
          August 22, 2013 12:23 pm

          He did not respond to insulin, at all, in any dose. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had something else going on, but we never found out.

          We ended up putting him to sleep, because he just wasn’t *there* any more. I think he was ready to go–he was always terrified of the vet and would wail and cry and try to hide, but when we took him that last time he was calm and purring. He certainly wasn’t in great health–he went from a 16-lb kitty to a 7-lb kitty, threw up at least once a day and had bad teeth thanks to that, and never groomed himself so his fur and skin were not in good shape despite our brushing him (although this I attribute to him being separated from his mother too early, at 6 weeks). But he lived til 17 and probably could have lived longer, which is not bad at all for a cat. And he seemed happy until his death too.

          • Elizabeth permalink
            August 22, 2013 1:01 pm

            Zipp is seemingly not responding to the insulin as far as her glucose levels go, but since we’ve been giving her shots AND giving her herbs from our holistic vet for possible Cushing’s, she stopped throwing up (and you know what a relief that is). Her diabetic thirst is gone and she has a good appetite, though she has gained no weight. I think diabetes is a lot more complicated than human doctors are willing to recognize.

            An old local vet told us dogs will always tell you when it’s time to go: won’t look you in the eye, go in another room, etc. But what you’re saying about your kitty says that can be true of cats as well.

      • August 22, 2013 11:50 am

        Boo’s first reading was 412, and it took us a long time to get it regulated. But we eventually did, and she even went into remission. Not long after she went into remission for her diabetes, she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and treating that was a nightmare. We did the radioactive iodine treatment, which is effective the first time in 95% of cats. Of course, she was in that 5%, so we had to do it again a few months later. It was three months after the second treatment that we had to have her put to sleep, and the emergency vet said she thought Boo had cancer. So, for a kitty that went through all that, she was a stellar patient. =^._.^=

    • September 4, 2013 1:38 pm

      Elizabeth, there are studies showing that stress causes elevated cortisol levels, which do lead to weight gain. I hadn’t heard that elevated cortisol levels lead to elevated glucose levels. It doesn’t surprise me, though. All this stuff works in conjunction.
      I’ve worked night shift for a good portion of my working life, this time since 2004. I went from about 180 pounds to over 300 during this time period without eating more. Until a few years ago when I discovered this blog, I shamed and berated myself, yo yo dieted, and didn’t exercise because it didn’t lead to weight loss.
      Since discovering this blog and Ragen’s blog, I’ve been able to stop belittling myself and calling myself names. I stopped dieting, and my weight stabilized. I started exercising again and have stuck with it ever since because success isn’t based on whether or not I lose weight.
      I did lose about 25 pounds in the first few months that I was exercising. However, the doctor also put me on Armour thyroid (dessicated thyroid, not suitable for vegetarians/vegans because it is made from pig thyroid). So I can’t really say how much of the weight loss was due to increased thyroid levels and how much was due to exercise. I had to fight with myself to keep this simply an observation and not go back into the “ooh, I’m losing weight! Soon I’ll be slim and people will love me!” thinking.

      • Dizzyd permalink
        September 14, 2013 5:30 pm

        Cie – Well, yeah! They don’t stop to think that if you make somebody feel like crap, why would they take care of themselves if they feel like they don’t even deserve to exist? It’s so like “Doyeee!” but those idiots would never get it ‘cuz that would mean they actually have to think. I miss having kitties. If it were me, I would want to say to vets like that: “Yes, doc! That’s exactly what we’re doing. We fight over the Fancy Feast at every meal.” (eyeroll) But then again, I just have a weird sense of humor.

  7. vesta44 permalink
    August 21, 2013 3:35 pm

    We have two cats that are larger than normal. Marty is part Maine Coon, and males of that breed can weigh up to 25 lbs (Marty weighs 17 lbs). He’s a long and tall cat, with long hair (I’m betting that his fur weighs almost 1 lb). He sleeps most of the time, but he goes on rampages through the house at least once a day – tearing up and down the stairs, chasing Squirt, etc. Squirt is a domestic shorthair, and weighs about 12 lbs. She’s almost as long as Marty, and almost as tall as he is, and while she may be little chubby, she’s a lot more active than Marty.
    We have a self-feeder for them, and I’ve noticed that Marty will eat a couple of times a day and that’s it. Squirt, on the other hand, will nibble off and on all day long. She takes a bite or three, walks away for a couple of hours, then comes back for another bite or three, lather rinse repeat.
    Our vet has said that both of them are very healthy, and he’s not worried about their current weights, but he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for either of them to gain any more weight. When we leave for 3 or 4 days, we make sure there’s enough food and water (and litter boxes) to last. I don’t like leaving them alone for that long, but it’s better than kenneling them – Marty spent two years in a humane society shelter before we adopted him, and he was caged most of that time. Not a good idea to kennel him for a couple of weeks. I think he’d think he’d been abandoned again, and I refuse to do that to him. At least at home (and it is his house, he claims it all), he’s in familiar surroundings. This year, we’re going to be gone for two weeks, and Mike’s stepson’s ex-wife is coming over while we’re gone to check on both of them, play with them, and give them their kitteh treats.

    • Elizabeth permalink
      August 21, 2013 3:48 pm

      Oh, vesta, two years in a shelter! Our kitty Daniel spent several months at the shelter, but our other two cats were dumped in our area. Our dog Zipp spent eleven months in a very nice shelter in Arkansas where she learned to open all the gates, then four months in two foster homes in New England. Zipp thinks strangers are the bee’s knees since they were kinder to her than the people she lived with, but she’s grown very attached and I think she would think I’m abandoning her if I kenneled her. Plus she now gets insulin shots 3x daily.

  8. Jenny permalink
    August 21, 2013 8:35 pm

    I was thinking, Garfield should have a fat acceptance blog for cats.

    • August 22, 2013 7:27 am

      I am seriously tempted to set up such a blog for Bitty. LOL, that would be so awesome. Maybe something like “A Day in the Life of a Fat Cat.”

    • BBDee permalink
      August 22, 2013 8:04 pm

      Or another great role model for the large and lovely felines: Bustopher Jones, the Cat About Town. (I finally got to see CATS over the weekend, been wanting to see that show for 30 years now!)

    • Dizzyd permalink
      August 25, 2013 5:20 pm

      I agree: Garfield should have an FA blog for cats. I remember his best and truest quote that our weight-loss driven society would be wise to heed: “Diet = it’s ‘die’ with a ‘t’!”

    • Dizzyd permalink
      September 14, 2013 5:31 pm

      I know I would follow it!

  9. September 4, 2013 1:27 pm

    Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    There are five cats in my house all the time, and one semi-feral cat which comes inside a couple times a day and then goes back out. The feral is small and sinewy, which she has been the whole time I’ve known her. One is a fluffy black male who has always been small. He only weighs nine pounds. The other is puffy, black, average weight female with a tail that looks like a club.
    I have two brothers, one of whom is a chunky gray tabby, and one of which is a chunky gray and white long hair who looks like a badger when he lies on his stomach. The last is a tubby calico who looks like a beach ball.
    The calico is not at the food dish more often than the others, nor is she less active. I finally found a vet who didn’t fat shame or give us the pearl-clutching “vague future health threat.” As a fat person bringing in a fat pet, I was often eyed with suspicion as if both my cat and I must be gorging ourselves daily.
    The net effect of fat shaming, for pets or for people, is that people tend not to get care for themselves or their pets unless it becomes an emergency. This is a trend that can’t stop soon enough.

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