Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Obesity in Cats: The Story of Q

Imagine getting winded when you walk across the room. Imagine not being able to bathe yourself because you can’t reach certain parts of your body. Imagine the stress on your joints from carrying more than twice your ideal weight.

Now meet Q, one of Feline Rescue’s newest residents. She is a beautiful tuxedo cat with soft fur and large, green eyes. Her very favorite thing is receiving pets, and she purrs in gratitude. Her former owner died and she wound up at animal control where one of our volunteers spotted her. Carrying twenty pounds on an eight-pound frame, Q was hard to miss. She couldn’t take more than a few steps without resting, she couldn’t clean most of her body, and she couldn’t make it over the side of the litter box.

Though Q’s condition is extreme, cat obesity is a serious and growing problem in the United States. Experts say that around half of domestic cats can be categorized as overweight or obese. And while chubby cats might seem cute, they are actually at risk for significant health issues. As little as two pounds of extra weight can increase your cat’s chances for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, kidney and liver disease, many forms of cancer, and osteoarthritis. That extra weight can even decrease your cat’s life expectancy by more than two years.

So how did a cat like Q, with loving human guardians, get to be so heavy? Just like people, cats need to expend more calories than they take in, and those calories need to be from the right sources and consumed in the right amounts. Like most cats, Q was probably given a bowl of kibble and allowed to “free choice feed” or eat whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. While that is convenient for humans, it’s not ideal for many cats! Some cats (like some people) will eat past the point of fullness or have a hard time recognizing when they feel full, while others eat out of boredom. Furthermore, cats have a harder time processing carbohydrates than humans, so the carb-rich, dry chunks of commercial cat food are more likely to be converted into stored fat. Though some cats can eat kibble and maintain their trim figures, cats like Q just gain weight. The extra weight leads to less activity, which leads to more extra weight.

It took Q a long time to get to twenty pounds, and it’s going to take a long time to get her back to her ideal weight. For now, she’s got a room of her own at the shelter where she gets regular, portion-controlled meals of protein-rich wet food. The volunteers tempt her with toys instead of treats, and she has her very own stylist who comes in to help her care for those as-yet unreachable spots. As the weight comes off (she’s already down to nineteen pounds!) we will increase her activity and adjust her meals accordingly.

If you are interested in making a huge difference in the life of an animal, consider adopting this sweet girl. Q will need a regular schedule and lots of attention, but imagine watching her become the playful, healthy cat she is under all that extra weight!

You can visit Q at our shelter, 539 Fairview Ave N, St. Paul, any time it is open.

Sources: Cornell Feline Health Center, The Cat Community, PetMD

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