When you were growing, we fed you kitten food. At the time, our adult cat Max ate free-choice, so it worked well to measure out your food a few times a day and feed you separately. You prefered the kitten food, and you were growing. It was no problem if you stole a little extra cat food.
The problem started after you stopped growing. We changed you to the same adult cat food Max ate and fed you both free-choice. Soon, it became apparent that you kept track of how much food was left because you were the one to sound the alert if you could see the bottom of the bowl. And it happened more frequently over time.
Because Max ate what he needed and then stopped, we were pretty relaxed about food bowl management. He spoiled us. We just added more when it looked low, or when someone (you) complained. Sometimes I wonder if you even learned to alternate which one of us you bugged, just to keep us fooled for longer.
But, one day it occurred to me that you were too fat and Max was too thin.
I remember learning the risks of obesity for cats at school. The big problem is the long list of diseases called ‘comorbidities’. These are other health problems that can be related to carrying extra weight and having extra fat cells. In other words, by letting you stay fat, we were exposing you to an increased risk for:
- Cardiovascular disease including impaired lung function and heart disease
- Insulin resistance which can lead to sugar diabetes
- Kidney disease
- Diseases of the liver, pancreas, cancer, bladder diseases and increased anesthetic risk, leading to:
- Shorter life span!
Fat cats from 8-12 years old are 30% more likely to die from these problems than lean cats. If we let you stay fat, we were risking all the pain and discomfort of these disease and YOUR LIFE. Needless to say, things had to change.
We had to figure out how to make you eat less while offering more food to Max. So we became a meal-feeding household. The food was measured carefully and put down twice a day, and we kept a dry-erase chart on the fridge to make sure you didn’t fake us out and get an extra meal.
Back then, we didn’t have the great resources that are available online. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention gathers information and offers advice. The American College of Veterinary Nutrition (yet, nutrition specialists for cats!) offers guidelines for cat owners based on science. The folks at International Cat Care also have some great advice on feeding cats.
For you, fat Dennis, just changing the food routine and making sure you didn’t get extra meals was enough to get you back down to a healthy weight. This change also ensured that Max gained back some weight and stayed healthy.
But you never stopped trying to get an extra meal. Never.