There are few things I like to do less than anesthetize an overweight angry cat. Maybe an overweight bulldog, with a heart murmur. That would be bad too.
But I don’t see them nearly as often. At least once a week, I arrive to find an 18 pound cat here for a dental hissing at me from the confines of his carrier, glaring from beneath his folds of chub, just daring me to try and get a pre-anesthetic blood sample.
Fat cats have very little scruff. It’s like trying to hold a squishy watermelon, one with claws and teeth and a vendetta. My techs are much better at cat wrangling than I (a fact I remind them of continually in order to butter them up and get them to do all the dirty work) but sometimes even they get stymied, and then we have to sedate the cat.
Most vet clinics have a small assortment of drugs to choose from, based on the needs and health of the pet. The drug we use most often for very angry pets is a nice one, but it really knocks them out. And overweight animals, just like overweight people, can have a host of metabolic and respiratory issues that make deep sedation and anesthesia a little more dicey than it might be for other animals.
We don’t have much choice in the matter, unfortunately. When a cat cannot be safely handled, it’s better for him and for us to go ahead and sedate him. But I don’t like it. My tech will sit with him and watch him like a hawk during recovery, with me hovering nearby and occasionally sticking a cotton swab in his ear to try and get him to respond a little faster. They recover, albeit slowly. It’s stressful. I don’t like doing it.
Overweight angry cats are often angry for a reason. It’s hard to breathe. Their joints hurt. They have diabetes and asthma and cystitis. People pose them for pictures and think they are cute. And yet it’s a very difficult problem to combat, especially for owners who don’t see it as the big problem it really is.
While there are some similarities between cats and dogs when it comes to medical issues, I find obesity to be one area where there is a big difference between the two. Cats are obligate carnivores. They simply aren’t built to process carbohydrates the way other animals are. Yet we plug them full of carb laden dry foods that are a far cry from the types of food they eat in the wild- and look at the results. It’s tragic.
Did you know that some diabetic cats can be treated- to the point where they no longer need insulin at all- simply by a change in diet? Even those who continue to need insulin often have a vast improvement in their disease management on the right food. It’s amazing to see that kind of change, just from a switch in food.
It does need to be a food change, as opposed to a lifestyle change, when you are dealing with fat cats. Ever try to get one to go for a run with you? That doesn’t go well. But people who have fought with their cats over trying to get them to eat less calories and suffered the consequences of an unhappy cat in the house are often pleasantly surprised to find that the problem as much the quality than it is the quantity. Less carbs. More protein. Less cat.
If there were just one thing I had to pick to wish* that people had more understanding of, it would be this: The best pre-made food for a cat is low carb and canned. If you can’t do both, do at least one. Your cat will thank you, and so will your vet as they gaze at your svelte little kitty in amazement. (CAVEAT: If your vet has recommended a different food, please talk to them before making a change. This is particularly important if your pet has other health issues that may make this type of diet a less optimal choice.)
*Veterinary-related wish, of course. If I had only one wish at all, it would be for more wishes.