Putting a cat on a Diet
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By Mickey Zeldes  March 28, 2014 12:00 am

Ever tried putting a cat on a diet? It’s not easy to do. It’s nothing at all like a dog or a person.

Cats are finicky anyway, and when you mess with their routines, especially around food, they can get super cranky. With a dog, you can just cut back on their quantity or buy lower calorie food so they still feel full. They do make special weight reducing food for cats but, again, not all cats will eat it.

If a dog takes a couple of days to adjust to a new food or tries to hold out for something better to eat (who can resist the begging brown eyes!) and misses a few meals, it’s no big deal. Not so for cats. If they go without food for more than 24 hours, there’s the risk of something called Hepatic Lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, which can be fatal if not treated promptly. And because so many people just free feed their cats and have multiple cats in the home, it’s hard to monitor and measure a particular cat’s intake.

The other part of the diet equation – exercise – is also more difficult with felines. Again, with a dog it’s easy (although it might mean more movement on your part too). Take the dog for an extra walk each day or throw the ball a few more times, and you’ve just increased his exercise so he burns more calories. How do you get any cat to move more, let alone a chubby one? You can try and coax your kitty into more movement by using a fishing pole toy or a laser light. But if we’re talking about a mature cat, they may just yawn and watch your attempts in amusement.

One way to get a bit more movement is to portion out the food during the day and put it in different places so the cat has to climb around to get it all (no more dinner in bed). The current thinking for weight loss is to switch to a wet food diet. It’s high in water and fiber (especially if you buy one for overweight cats), which is filling without calories. Canned food is more expensive than dry, however, so this diet plan isn’t going to save you any money.

We recently got two cats surrendered from the same home that are on the supersized side of things. Sugar, a Siamese/Abyssinian mix, at 9 years old weighs 19.3 pounds, and Zona, a short-haired Grey and white kitty at just 3 years old weighs 15.12 pounds. They are both very friendly, sweet and, no surprise, mellow. Their size is not their fault – true they love to eat (don’t we all!), but who was in charge of the food portions?

The sad thing about cats this plump (they hate being called fat) is they aren’t able to do a good job of cleaning themselves. Sadly, one of the reasons the cats were surrendered was for this very problem. One of the cats figured out that if she just scooted across the carpet, it helped clean her butt. Unfortunately, the carpet for toilet paper routine did not endear her to her people.

If you have experience with putting a cat on a weight loss program, or think you can be tough enough to ignore the pleading eyes, Sugar and Zona are looking for a new diet coach (and parent). Fortunately, we don’t charge adoption fees by the pound – or these would be very expensive cats.

On the positive side, pound for pound (because our adoption fees are just a flat $95 for all cats) these two would be a great deal. They are very bonded and would probably get through this ordeal better if they could stay together so we are offering a deal – adopt them both for the price of one. Large laps required.

Both these cats are sweet, friendly cats.


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at mzeldes@rpcity.org.

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