There’s only one way to say this, no pussyfooting about it: My cat is fat. Sure, I knew Furball was big, but I hadn’t realized the extent of his expanding girth until we had guests over for the holidays.
My friend hadn’t seen Furball in a couple of months and as she was watching him chow down his dinner, she casually remarked, "Furball’s looking like a meatball."
I stopped what I was doing and scrutinized Furball carefully. Looking down at him from above, I had to admit that he was indeed fat. He wasn’t just big-boned, slightly chubby or carrying a little pot belly. He looked like a rotund radish with four legs.
I was shocked. How did my cat get this big without me noticing? We’d been feeding him exactly the same food in exactly the same portions for years. Given my friend’s comment, I figured that most of the weight gain must have occurred in the past two months. What had changed?
I racked my brain and came up with one conclusion. It was the baby food. Furball used to get struvite crystals and the vet recommended a prescription diet to prevent crystals from forming. However, on the special diet, Furball’s coat felt ratty. As a result, I replaced a portion of the canned food with baby food. And it wasn’t just any baby food, it was organic pureed turkey.
Admittedly, Furball’s been carrying a few extra ounces for quite a number of years. He’s been on a couple of diets before — the first one was inadvertent and the second one was quite successful in terms of weight loss.
However, Furball is a cat who loves to eat and he becomes very upset if anything happens to his food. Think Garfield the cat, only with a lot more howling, crying and vomiting. Yes, vomiting.
Ironically, my cat gets so stressed when his food is reduced that it upsets his digestion and he starts vomiting all over the house. Then he gets super hungry and more stressed, resulting in a vicious cycle.
Diets put us between a rock and a hard place. Being overweight increases Furball’s risk of recurring crystals and a blocked bladder. On the other hand, being stressed also increases his risk. We ended up settling on a happy medium of slightly overweight and happy vs. ideal weight and stressed out.
However, over the past two months, Furball had indeed grown much bigger. I attributed the cause to the baby food. About two months ago, I had noticed that the consistency of the puree had changed. It used to be quite runny and recently it was thicker and lumpier.
I had wondered if this would affect the calorie count as it looked like quite a bit more food in his bowl. However, I shrugged it off and figured a tiny bit more wouldn’t make a difference. Turns out, a little adds up to a lot.
Recently, I came across a national 2011 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention that found that 55 percent of cats could be classified as overweight or obese. Another striking find was that 15 percent of cat owners considered their cats to be normal in size when they were actually overweight. Excess weight in pets is linked to osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems, kidney disease, and shortened life expectancy.
These facts were alarming enough to inspire me to make a New Year’s resolution for my cat. Furball is going on a diet. I’m vowing to find the happy medium where he’s at his ideal weight and also happy.
I’m also vowing not only to give Furball less food, but also to get him more exercise. So, I’m making a New Year’s resolution for myself. I’m going to play with my cat more often. I’m hoping that Furball will be a lot leaner, healthier, and happier as a result.
If you’ve got a little meatball cat, I suggest you take a good look at your feline friend as if you’re seeing her for the first time. Look past her fluffy coat, sparkling eyes, and "I’m so cute" expression to objectively assess whether she needs to lose weight. Your objectivity might just save her life.
Photo: Close-up shot of a black cat with green eyes by Shutterstock