Pet obesity is on the rise. Not just in the United States but in other countries such as Britain. The evidence is clear: like their human caretakers cats and dogs are becoming more and more rotund. According to Hills clinical evidence reports, over 50% of dogs in the UK are overweight. In the United States the numbers are lower: approximately 25% of the U.S. pet population is either overweight or obese. Interestingly enough, Hills research reports that 76% of pet owners think their pooches or kitties are at a healthy weight.
One in every four pet owners admit to never exercising themselves or their dogs. This coupled with the fact that pets often become surrogate children lends itself to over-pampered pooches and kitties. Extra helpings of food, or the wrong type of food, can quickly pack on the weight. A cat’s or dog’s life expectancy is already short. Added fat around the heart and vital organs will only reduce its lifespan. Not only that, but the quality of life will be curtailed by stress on heart, liver, and joints. Indeed, several diseases specific to diet are associated with obesity. Consider the risk: diabetes, heart disease, skin disease, respiratory problems, lowered immunity, and arthritis.
Humans tend to think of food as a source of love. It’s so easy to hand out a treat or a piece of food from your plate. The appreciative grin on your dog’s face is reward in itself. The purr of your cat lets you know that you are amazing! Yet, feeding your pets additional snacks is damaging. One dog biscuit or one cat treat is the equivalent of a small meal. Let’s face it, most pet owners feed their pets snacks throughout the day. Feeding your pet quality snacks is not the problem. But if you are like many pet owners, a potato chip here and there, a French fry, a piece of burger, or in the case of a cat, a slice of salmon, can quickly become the road to weight gain; particularly when this snacking habit is combined with lack of exercise.
Despite words of admonition from veterinarians and health conscious holistic practitioners there is a myriad of internet mis-information that glorifies fat pets. The rolly-polly pet is portrayed as cute and cuddly. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing cute or cuddly about killing a pet with food. It is a slow death that will eventually result in large veterinarian bills and a poor-quality life for the animal.
Fortunately for owners who take their pets’ health seriously there are solutions. Exercise as well as reduced calories can effectively erase the extra pounds. Additionally, when pooches and their pet parents exercise together their bond is strengthened. There are many types of exercise that are fun for both the pet and his human: walks, hikes, swimming, games of fetch, and jogging. Just 30 minutes a day can make a huge difference in your dog’s weight control.
Unfortunately, cats do not go jogging or walking with their humans. However, there are methods of stimulating cats to exercise. Cat “fisher” toys are poles with a feathered “bait” hanging on the end. These are very successful in luring cats into their natural hunter mode. Dangling a feather, or a string, in front of your cat will quickly engage him into running and leaping over furniture. Do this several times a day and you will discover how fun it is for yourself and at the same time it’ll be great exercise for kitty.
Obviously a pet parent will need to be cruel to be kind. That is, you will have to withhold those extra helpings of food, snacks, and treats. It’s the only solution. Keep in mind that this is actually going to give your dog an extra two to three years of good quality life with you. A cat’s lifespan can be increased by up to five years! And in the long run, isn’t having your beloved pet around longer, more important than the instant gratification they receive from a tasty morsel?
About the author:
Gyvel Young is a journalist and published author. Her passion is animal behavior and nutrition.
Male cats can not carry the tortoiseshell markings—that is a genetic fact. This is based on very scientific principals, mainly that male cats only have one X chromosome. And, cats have this weird DNA twist: their sex chromosomes are directly linked to their fur color! (For more on this see this article)
It is important to recognize that multi-patterned calicos and tortoiseshell cats are already a result of a mutation process. This mutation occurs during the formation of the embryo. In order for this to transpire a female must start off with the Xb (black chromosome) and an Xo (orange chromosome) combination. While the embryo is developing a random switch between the Xb and Xo occurs resulting in a patchy coat pigmentation.
This means that a male tortoiseshell would actually be a double-mutant since he would need to inherit both the Xb and Xo chromosomes PLUS one Y (for him to be male). Quite a feat! Yet, mutations can occur but they are rare and the male is rendered sterile.
Now, imagine the excitement when a British veterinarian came across one of these wonders during a routine day in her practice. A client brought three tortoiseshell kittens to Dr. Karen Home’s clinic in Harpenden, Herfordshire for routine vaccinations. While examining the kittens, Dr. Home was happily surprised to discover that one of them was a male!
She immediately recognized that this kitten was indeed something special and adopted the little guy into her family of five cats, four dogs, and three children. They named him Eddie, after Eddie Izzard, the comedian because as Dr. Home said, “…. he is essentially a boy dressed as a girl.”
Anyone and everyone who has ever been owned by a cat knows that from time to time, the inevitable occurs: that choking, hacking, coughing, and gagging sound we have all come to know and love as throwing up a hairball. Yes, it’s a true delight, a serendipitous occasion where we may all observe true cat behavior within the domestic environment.
Because they have a lot less fur to lick and ultimately swallow, short hair cats present us with their hairy gifts rather infrequently. And that’s a good thing. In contrast, our little long-haired friends like the Persian build up such an abundant supply of gullet hair that the production of a hairball is often a daily, if not twice daily extravaganza. Uhhh, not so good …
Curiously enough for hairball aficionados, the surface upon which the hairball is ultimately deposited is directly proportional to how expensive it is to clean, replace, or refinish. No self-respecting cat worth their weight in catnip would think of spewing its fuzzy ball of flop upon a tiled floor—even if said surface happens to make up 90 percent of a home’s walking area. Rest assured, if there is a postage stamp-sized carpet in a far off room, Tinkerbell will find it at just the right time and christen it with her indigestible delights.
The same can be said for genuine wood floors, concrete, marble, slate, laminates, Linoleum, Terrazzo, Silestone, granite, Corian, Astroturf, or the myriad of other long-wearing materials that are often picked by pet lovers as durable flooring or counter top material.
Whether we like it or not, cats possess an internal sensor that steers them away from these slick surfaces and directs them—however inappropriately—to areas that are “softer” and more receptive to their upchuck activities (i.e. carpet). Why heave up a hunk of hairball upon the plain old ordinary floor when you can hurl it skyward so it lands in the middle of an easy chair arm or right between the couch cushion cracks where you sometimes find loose change? You can always find lost money in your furniture, but the occasional hairball uncovered accidentally by a guest attending your next cocktail party is a much more thrilling trophy to behold.
For this reason, the hairball and any accompanying vomit, bile, and/or stomach acid are routinely revisited by the feline upon our fine, expensive Persian rugs, shag carpeting, Berber, and other fibrous surfaces. After all, these are the friendly materials which are eager to absorb and trap the various fluids expelled by our companion critters. These are the types of surfaces that hold color forever and are difficult to clean, leaving us with a lasting reminder of our furry friends and just how much we love them …
Eliminate all of the rugs on your floor you say? Nice try. Your cat knows better and will home in and leap up upon your bed, chair, or any other comfortable surface inside the home and ultimately grace its presence with his or her hairballs. Hairballs and porous fiber just go together; it’s one of the immutable laws of pet ownership.
The only recourse that you have is to accept the situation as it is and revel in the wonder of it all. Let nature take its course without meddling. After all, your cat’s hairball is a small part of him or her, no matter how distasteful you may find it. Truly, when it’s deposited in just the right spot, it’s a lasting greeting card— a precious gift that keeps on giving.
©2009 Michael Karl Witzel
All Rights Reserved, No Reproduction Without Permission