My Big, Fat Cat
In honor of our "Fat-to-Fit Month," read the first installment of Wendy’s blog about her pursuit to slim down Bubba.
Wendy Bedwell Wilson
Meet Star, a.k.a. Bubba. He’s a 6-year-old domestic shorthair tabby with a serious weight issue.
My husband and I adopted him from a shelter in Newport Beach, Calif., four years ago. We took pity on the poor thing the moment we saw him — the rescue worker said he’d been there for eight months because no one wanted such a rotund cat!
He was big then, and he’s even bigger now, hence his nickname, Bubba. When we adopted him, we lived in a two-story townhouse, so he exercised by waddling up the stairs to his litterbox and down the stairs to his food bowl. To bring some excitement into his life, we adopted a brother for Bubba, a normal-sized cat named Benny. They chased each other around the townhouse, zipping up and down the stairs.
Two years ago, we moved to a single-story home in Hawaii. Now, the cats’ activities consist of eating, sleeping and reclining in the warm sunshine ALL DAY! No chasing, no playing, just lounging. Benny has retained his svelte physique, but Bubba has packed on the pounds and developed an eating disorder of sorts: He panics when his food bowl is half empty, pacing and demanding that it be filled.
We decided it was time to take Bubba to the veterinarian for a weigh-in, so I took him to the Paradise Animal Clinic in Kalaheo.
The veterinary assistant who took Bubba’s vitals didn’t need a scale to declare Bubba obese. The official weight came to a whopping 19 pounds. When Deborah Day, DVM, came into the exam room, she delivered the official diagnosis: He is, indeed, obese. His ribs are difficult to feel, his tail is thick, he has no abdominal tuck or waist at all and fat jiggles from his belly and hindquarters.
His ideal weight is 15 pounds, Dr. Day said. (He does have big bones, after all.) He’ll need to drop 4 pounds gradually throughout the next six to eight months. Losing too much too soon could cause fatty liver disease (Feline Hepatic Lipidosis), a life-threatening illness that is caused by an accumulation of fat (lipids) in the cat’s liver tissue. But he does need to lose that weight, because as it is, he’s at risk for developing diabetes, the extra weight is putting strain on his skeletal system and he’s not grooming himself as well as he should.
Dr. Day proposed a three-pronged attack to combat Bubba’s blubber.
She said I first have to decrease his caloric intake for the day. That’ll be easier said than done! He currently eats one- to one-and-a-quarter cups of Nutro Indoor Adult Cat per day; I need to cut that back by a quarter cup. The ideal caloric intake for maintenance is about 570 to 600 calories per day, which is what I had been feeding him. Decreasing the intake by a quarter cup is just enough to cause gradual weight loss, she said.
Bubba has that crazy fixation on his food bowl, so Dr. Day’s second suggestion was that I purchase smaller 6- or 8-ounce bowls and feed him one-third cup of food three times a day. That way, the bowl will always look as if it has food in it. We have to out-think the cat!
The third strategy in our three-pronged attack is to exercise him for 20 minutes twice a day. We don’t have the stairs anymore, and I don’t think he’d appreciate the convenience of a treadmill, so I’ll have to engage him with a feather toy or some other interactive toy as often as possible. Dr. Day added that when he starts fixating on his empty food bowl, I should pull out the toy and distract him.
Dr. Day asked me to bring Bubba back in after a few weeks to weigh him, so time will tell how well this strategy works!
My biggest challenge with Bubba’s reduced-calorie and increased-exercise diet will be keeping him away from Benny’s food. I’ve seen Bubba sneak snacks from Benny’s bowl and our dog Petey’s bowl, too! I may have to start feeding Benny and Petey in another room …
And I have to admit: When we came home from our visit to the vet’s, I treated Bubba to a handful of Feline Greenies as one last goody before the diet commences. Looks like this adventure will teach both Bubba and me a thing or two about weight management!
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My Big, Fat Cat