For several years, my cat Phoenix has struggled with her weight. She’s gone from pleasantly plump to fat, bypassing chubby. This would be fine (fat kitties are cute!) if her 13-pound weight weren’t also terrible for her health. Health problems associated with obesity in kitties are similar to those in humans, and they include diabetes, arthritis, and a shortened lifespan.
When Phoenix started limping this summer, I knew it was time to get serious about her diet. (Exercise is a whole other mess; every time I wave the feather toy in Phoenix’s face, she rolls her eyes and tells me to get a life.)
Here’s what happened when I stopped free-feeding my cat and put her on a diet, according to her perspective and mine (also known as reality). Let’s just say she and I see things differently.
Phoenix: I haven’t eaten in days — days! I’ve been sitting in the hallway by the humans’ nighttime portal in hopes that one of them will emerge and feed me. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard them snoring in a while, and it’s been even longer since the smaller one asked the larger one to let go of the blankets. Oh crap, are they dead?
Oh, Bastet, I’m going to starve. I’m wasting away, and the humans are dead. There is no help, and no help is coming. Maybe I should yell at them, just to make sure they’re not dead? Meow. MEOW!
Me, aka reality: I fed Phoenix last night. She ate wet and dry food less than six hours ago. She weighs four pounds more than she should. And I’m not dead, I’m only sleeping. She needs to get a grip.
Phoenix: Hello? My dish is empty. There is no food in my dish. I think if you came to check, you’d notice there’s no food in my dish, and perhaps you’d put some more food in my dish?
Okay, look, I know vulnerability makes you look weak in front of the stray cats who hang out on the patio, but I’m going to level with you. Here’s the deal: I haven’t eaten in days, and my caretakers almost died last night. I can’t handle that kind of stress on an empty stomach. Hello? Anyone? MEOW!
Reality: Phoenix still has several bites of food in her dish. Perhaps the bottom of the dish is visible in a couple of places. She needs to get a grip.
Phoenix: It has been so long since I’ve eaten that I can no longer recall the time or the place. I do remember the sun was shining, creating a warm puddle of orange light on the living room floor. After my meal I stretched out in that puddle and bathed myself for hours, until Bubba Lee Kinsey came along and wanted to snuggle after he’d just used the litter box. His paws smelled like Tidy Cats. He’s so bourgeois.
That’s when I felt the hunger pangs, sharp and fresh as the panic that prickles my chest every time I hear the rumbling of the demon known as VACUUM. It had been so long since my last meal that the sun puddle had moved to a different spot on the floor. I simply cannot go on like this. MEOW! I’m starving. MEOW, MEOW!
Reality: Phoenix ate two hours ago. She needs to get a grip.
Phoenix: One time the weather got so cold that I snuggled with Bubba even though he’d just gotten done with the litter box. The human didn’t leave the house for a week, and any time she went outside her feet dripped puddles of water on the floor that were way cleaner than the mediocre crap in my dish. I could sense from the human’s desperation that supplies were running low. One afternoon, she ate an entire bag of pasta. Then she cried. I was glad the stray cats from the patio weren’t around.
Then one day, something miraculous happened. “Okay, guys, all I have left is this kitten food,” the human said, dumping kibble from a purple bag into our bowls. And what an explosion of flavor! Those tiny kibbles danced in my mouth like I’d never tasted ocean-fresh salmon before.
I fondly recall this memory as I am faced with the flavorless, gray pellets currently befouling my dish. I demand kitten food! MEOW!
Reality: Phoenix is seven years old. She eats food specifically for feline seniors. Oh well — she’ll thank me later, I suppose.
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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.