Battling Kitty Obesity

You’ve most likely heard the dizzying stats of the obesity epidemic in America.  A NY Times article published in 2010 stated that 34% of American adults and 17% of children were obese.  These numbers don’t take into account a lost segment of the population – our four-legged children.

Cybil (a.k.a. Cybil the Psycho Cat) has been battling obesity for nearly two years now.  She is nearly eleven years old and was a healthy weight cat, until she quit eating in protest of the 2 kittens (Sammy and Lizzy) that we brought into the house.  It took about a week before I realized she hadn’t been taking over my pillow at night.  It took several more days to convince my husband that something was wrong and we* needed to drag her out from under the bed.

* “We” means my husband.  (No way I’d pull her out from under the bed without wearing a dog bite suit.)

image via

When we extracted her, we found a skinny kitty with jaundiced ears.  We took her to the vet the next day and were informed that she developed fatty liver disease.  For three weeks, we force-fed her three times a day.  Between what we wore and what we wiped off the bathroom walls, I’m not sure how much she actually ate, but we hoped it was enough.

After the three-week mark, she finally showed some interest in food.  I encouraged her to eat.  I obsessed over her food dish, carefully measuring and tracking on paper how much she ate each day.  I cheered for her weight gains at follow-up vet appointments.  She went from around eight pounds up to nine pounds a couple months later and the vet was confident she would be just fine, so the frequent checkups changed to once-a-year.

At last year’s visit, I was lectured about my chubby kitty’s 14-pound girth.  I was given the third degree about the amount (3/4 cup a day) and type of food (which was described as “cheeseburgers for cats.”)  I simply fed her what she would eat because I was scared she would stop eating again.  I’ve changed food brands twice now, and she hasn’t stopped eating…far from it.

For the last four months, I’ve fed the cats a very expensive dry food.  I’m not so sure that the cats don’t eat better than my kids.  In fact, I don’t take my husband with me to the specialty pet food store because if he saw the price, he would schedule a psychiatric evaluation for me.  Sadly, even with the golden cat food decreased to ½ cup a day, Cybil is still fat.  Ooops, sorry; that wasn’t politically correct was it?  She is still obese.

Her next vet visit will be in July, so I have less than five months to get her in better shape.  She won’t react to a toy unless it’s in paw-swat distance, so I got the bright idea that she could benefit from the most basic form of exercise:  walking.  You know, get that ‘ol cardio going.  I put a harness and leash on her, and then begged, cajoled and tugged, but she wasn’t having any of it.

If you EVER do this to me again, you WILL be sorry...

Does anyone know if the grapefruit diet works for felines???


29 thoughts on “Battling Kitty Obesity

  1. Tori Nelson February 21, 2011 / 9:00 AM

    Haha. Poor girl. Does she display any natural rhythm? Zumba classes might do the trick 🙂

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 1:41 PM

      Hmmm….She walks okay to go to the cat box or her food dish, but she isn’t graceful or anything. Do they even do kitty Zumba? She is a cat, so following directions isn’t a trait she has 🙂

  2. Tim Weaver February 21, 2011 / 9:13 AM

    Want the cat to exercise? Hand-held laser pointers.

    Note: May cause obsession with it…and they sit and wait for its return. We can’t use one with our dog anymore because of it. She would sit staring at the wall where it last appeared.

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 1:43 PM

      I did try this, because I’ve driven cats nuts with them before. I can get the kitten-cats to climb the walls, nod their heads and run in circles. It is great fun 🙂 Cybil did raise her head up, but she looked at me like, “Do you really expect me to chase that thing?”

  3. Debbie February 21, 2011 / 9:29 AM

    I sympathize with your plight — Shelties, too, tend to pack on the pounds, and this has been a long and brutal winter. I keep trying to entice my fur-boy to hop on the treadmill with me, but he’s adamant against it. Walking him outside on a leash tends to do the trick, but when the weather is inclement, that’s a no-go. I, too, got sucked into the high-priced food (which I supplement with fresh veggies). Still, it’s a constant battle. Good luck, and if you find something that does work, let me know!

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 2:20 PM

      I don’t blame your dog, I don’t care much for the treadmill either 🙂 I will let you know if I find something that seems to work. I’m frustrated that she’s being such a cat and won’t cooperate with my efforts. In the meantime, I’ll continue to buy the golden cat food 😉

  4. clarbojahn February 21, 2011 / 10:05 AM

    Poor girl. Luckily my cats are indoor/outdoor cats and don’t have a weight problem. There was a time my dog was overweight but with adding green beans to her dinner she got her weight down. We live in the country and all our animals are free to roam at will. My dog has the unpleasant hobby of bringing deer carcasses home to eat here in the yard. That’s when we have to decrease the amount of dog food we give her. And after hunting season this is not a problem. Gross, huh?

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 2:28 PM

      Ewww…deer carcasses would be a disgusting find 😦 My mother-in-law has a cat that brings dead mice to her. She’s not pleased with that either!

      I wonder if green beans will work for cats, too. I’ll have to check into that. Unfortunately, we live in a populated area and I see coyotes fairly often, so there’s no way I’ll let her out. If I can’t get her motivated to move, something will have to be done with her diet.

  5. Aligaeta February 21, 2011 / 10:46 AM

    My crazy BFF treats her cats once a week to shrimp cocktail, I think they may eat better than me? If you bring her here on retreat to the farm, you can pay me and I’ll get her slim chasing after the mice. How’s that for kitty humor?

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 2:32 PM

      Please tell me your friend doesn’t serve the cat using crystal dishes! If you could actually get her motivated to move, it would be worth it! I can get her to come to me if I’m holding her brush, but if I move around to get her to follow me, it doesn’t take long for her to lay down and pretend like she doesn’t care if she gets brushed.

  6. chlost February 21, 2011 / 12:16 PM

    How much of the other cats’ food does she steal and how much are your kids feeding her? We found that the cat food was only the beginning of a cat’s diet.

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 2:39 PM

      Here’s the interesting thing, Chlost: we still keep the kitten-cats separated from her because when the kittens do get into my bedroom, Cybil gets really upset. The kitten’s food dishes are in my older son’s room, and those dishes are picked up whenever his door is open because the dogs will scarf that food down in about 1.3 seconds. Cybil won’t leave my room on her own, and even when I bring her into the main part of the house when the kittens are put away, she will only stay out for about half an hour before she sneaks back to my bedroom.

      No one else feeds Cybil; not even my husband. I use a half-cup measuring cup when I get her food and we don’t give out cat treats. Did I mention that I’ve been obsessive over her food 😉

  7. Hilary Clark February 21, 2011 / 12:34 PM

    If you find something that works, please, please share!!

    My cat, Oreo, will be 12 in April and weighs a little over 20 lbs. And the weight just keeps climbing. I’ve reduced the amount of high-priced food I feed her. I’ve cut WAY back on treats (she only gets a few at “dinner” time and I toss them so she has to run to eat them). She’s too lazy to chase the laser pointer and forget about playing with toys or even her favorite ball. The vet tells me (and continues to tell me) that Oreo’s metabolism essentially disappeared when she was fixed way back in kittenhood. However, I can’t help but feel like a bad “mommy” because I’ve let her get into this state.

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 2:45 PM

      Hey, if I could find the secret, I could write a book about it 🙂 Seriously though, if I do find something that works, I’ll do a follow up post.

      I totally understand your feelings of being a “bad mommy”. I feel like the vet judges me – like I let her snack on potato chips in front of the TV all day. And, I have the added guilt because all of these problems started a few months after we brought the kittens home. I knew she was crazy, so I feel like I should’ve known she’d go off the deep end with other cats in “her” house. Cybil is fixed, too, but the ballooning weight gain came after the severe weight loss and diagnosis of fatty liver disease. I think that whole thing messed up her system.

      Thanks for sharing your similar kitty weight experience, Hilary.

  8. Nicole February 21, 2011 / 1:57 PM

    My cat is 6.5kg but he’s not obese. He’s just big boned 🙂

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 2:47 PM

      Good one, Nicole! Big boned…I like that! If the excuse works for people, I see no reason that it wouldn’t work for kitties 🙂

      I do wish I could claim that, but she weighed around nine or ten pounds her whole life. Unless….maybe her bones grew the last couple years.

  9. widdershins February 21, 2011 / 2:48 PM

    @Nicole … and has fat fur! … seriously though. If you get more exercise than Cybil (I think that’s the problem right there – you think she didn’t see the movie and knows why you named her the way you did?) by making sure she gets the right amount of exercise, it’s a win-win situation!

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 2:55 PM

      But Widdershins, I only give her half an hour of educational television a day, so she couldn’t have seen the whole movie 😉

      She actually earned her name, but that’s a whole different story. I’ll have to think of how I can get more creative with the exercise, because I know that the calories burned will help her lose weight better than just diet alone.

  10. Carol Ann Hoel February 21, 2011 / 2:59 PM

    I wonder if she has gone through menopause and her age is the problem for her poor metabolism. I use that for my excuse. Perhaps Cybil would like it, too.

    I remember when cats never ate more than they needed. What happened? I’m constantly afraid my Shady will become obese. He LOVES to eat. From morning until night he spends all his time eating, trying to get me to feed him more, or sleeping. He is very polite. When we eat, he sits beside us at the table and gently places his paw on our knees, one first, and then the other, hoping for mercy. It’s not easy to say no to such a charming boy.

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 9:14 PM

      Hehehe…you’ve got a manipulative kitty – he knows how to play you 🙂 Love the menopause comment, we just might call it that.

      I feed Cybil at night before I go to bed because if she runs out of food, she’ll meow (very loudly) until she gets fed. It didnt’ take me long to figure out the timing!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your kitty story, Carol.

  11. Nicole February 21, 2011 / 3:55 PM

    @widdershins…my cat wasn’t neutered until he was 4. We got him from a rescue centre and he had been allowed to grow to full male size. He has big shoulders and proper Tom-cat cheeks but he is a real softy!

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 9:16 PM

      male cats do tend to be bigger, so perhaps he really is big boned 🙂

  12. nrhatch February 21, 2011 / 7:01 PM

    Different vets have different takes on cats and their weight. Our vet in NJ specialized solely on cats. He told us that obesity in cats is not as significant an issue as it is with dogs and people ~ it doesn’t lead to heart or lung problems. He was not worried about our 16-17 pound cat.

    Our vet in MD thought Tigger at 15 pounds was too heavy ~ and made us feel like bad “parents.”

    Our vet here took one look at Tigger and said, “Wow. That’s a big cat.” We said, “Is that code for fat?” And the vet said, “Nope. He’s just a big cat. He seems happy and healthy. I wouldn’t worry about his weight.”

    Our previous cats lived to 16 and 17 years of age ~ both were “overweight” and then lost weight due to health issues. Jazz dropped from 17 pounds to 4 pounds (over a 6 year period) due to a thyroid problem that made it difficult to keep food down.

    If he hadn’t been “overweight” to begin with, we would have lost him sooner.

    Bottom line. Love your kitty and don’t stress about a few extra pounds.

    BTW: We’ve taken all our 3 cats outside on a leash, training them as kittens. But walking a cat is not like walking a dog. It satisfies their curiosity to see what’s going on, but it doesn’t burn off many calories since they tend to walk, sit, smell, stare, walk a bit more.

    • jannatwrites February 21, 2011 / 9:31 PM

      I agree that vets do have different approaches, Nancy. Mine brought up diabetes from excess weight. I may schedule with a different vet next time, since the one I saw wasn’t our normal person.

      With illnesses you mentioned, it does sound like it worked out to your benefit that kitties had a little extra padding. Maybe we’ll get lucky too. Cybil is happy (as long as the kitten-cats don’t come near the door to my room.) She curls up next to my face and purrs me to sleep every night.

      Thanks for the tips on cat-walking, Nancy. I’m not sure my old kitty is up for that training, but I’ll keep it in mind for future cats.

  13. e6n1 February 22, 2011 / 11:25 AM

    Rubber mice pulled on a string? My cat was a bit fat too, but it was solved with some new toys.

    • jannatwrites February 22, 2011 / 7:37 PM

      I can try a couple new toys. She is pretty lazy, so we’ll see how it works 🙂 Who knows, maybe she’ll release her inner kitten!

      Thanks for stopping by and offering your suggestion, e6n1 🙂

  14. Damyanti February 22, 2011 / 5:45 PM

    Thinking of getting a cat, but wondering how that will go after reading your post. I had an over-fed betta-fish recently, so my pet-feeding skills are questionable.

    • jannatwrites February 22, 2011 / 7:52 PM

      Cats are normally easy and my other cats are just fine, so don’t let it deter you from getting a cat 🙂

      Betta fish are harder to take care of than one would think. We lost one about a month after my son got it, but the other one is still alive.

      Cats are easier to care for than betta fish (in my opinion).

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