The internet is obsessed with cats. We all know this. But for some reason, it is particularly obsessed with fat cats. I’m not talking slightly round, I mean morbidly obese balls of fur with little eyes peering out in mute supplication. Pictures of people holding a 25 pound cat dangling helplessly from their arms like a kid in a snow suit are especially popular.
And then they become news items like Meow, who would have been just another sad shelter relinquishment except for the fact that he weighed 39 pounds, which made him newsworthy because- well, I don’t know why, really. You don’t see huge rolly polly labs in the shelter stumbling around with arthritis getting on the Today Show. Maybe it’s because cats don’t advertise their discomfort very well? So you can convince yourself he’s just a happy lasagna chugging kitty and ignore all the other stuff going on?
I just don’t go “awwww” or “heee” or any of that when I see these guys. I get sad.
I see a cat who was just placed into an incredibly stressful situation who is a case of hepatic lipidosis waiting to happen. Unsurprisingly, sadly, Meow died in the shelter.
But then we had Spongebob. And Garfield. And there will be more, because veterinarians are not doing a good enough job counseling people on the fact that a 20 pound cat is not the norm and helping them figure out ways to solve it. And in the meantime, they get all the validation they want from the internet, who continues to eat this stuff up.
When I was in college, I dated a guy for a while who decided one day to show me his family photo album. Towards the back there was a cat-dangling picture, him proudly holding up his cat like a prize bass. I thought he was holding a footstool for a minute, the cat was so huge. He thought it was adorable. I was aghast. We looked at each other differently after that. He asked me when we broke up, “Why?” and I said something about growing apart, but really, we were doomed from the moment I saw that picture. Sorry about that, Jason.
I try to have a sense of humor about stuff- goodness knows we pet people can get a little overly serious at times. I’m fine with dogs in hats, cats in wigs, things that are silly, but I can’t and won’t ever see a serious medical condition as cute. I guess this is why I will never rule the internet.
Anyone here have a major epiphany about their pet’s weight? What really made it sink in that this was a problem?
Tabitha W says
I love george but he is about 18 lbs. rather large tabby. he was having such a difficult time jumping on the bed a night he was obviously straining to get up and was limping after several difficult attempts so, we removed the bed frame, put the mattress on the floor and put George on a diet. We cut down his food amount drastically, and is on a “diet” food but we still have not seen any results. We will keep trying!
Dr. V says
It’s hard with cats! Their metabolism is so different than ours and it can be a complicated issue with not only portions, but carb levels, activity, and whatever tricky issues they have. Good for you for putting in the effort!
I tend to be anal about weight, but I almost fell into the “but is suppose to weigh ” argument owners give when I adopted my Ragdoll, Woody.
He came to me with untreated diabetes weighing just under 11lbs. His owner said he used to weigh 23lbs which I believed because Ragdolls are big cats and he was the tallest longest cat I had ever seen. I found 23lbs was too much for even him as I watched him gain his weight back. He had been shaved so it was easy to see his body condition and 18lbs ended up being his ideal weight.
Seeing these cats hit the news makes me sad too, especially because people seem to get so proud over having a “big” (i.e. extremely overweight) pet. The one losing out is the pet.
Dr. V says
And of course, certain breeds such as ragdolls or Maine coons will naturally be a little bigger- but when you see a DSH who should be 10 pounds who weighs 39- well, that’s a 500 pound person right there.
I adopted a semi-feral from work after it was brought in to be spayed. She was untamable- She would bash her head into windows until she bled, broke the window, or you would let her out. Once she became an outdoor cat, she was semi-tame and happy!
Anyway, once when I brought her for a check-up, my boss said, “Wow. You never see this. This is what cats are SUPPOSED to look like.” Her body condiiton score was leaning toward 2… she was thin, lithe and all muscle. She was allowed exercise and her optimal diet- mice!
Now I look at all cats differently, even the ones we think are “optimal weight” are still flabby cats lacking muscle tone. I’ll always strive to keep my indoor cats exercised and on a measured diet.
Gracey, The Tiniest Tiger says
Thank you for this post Dr. V. I agree with you. I don’t find any humor in images of fat cats.
Although I did laugh when you wrote; “Pictures of people holding a 25 pound cat dangling helplessly from their arms like a kid in a snow suit are especially popular.”
Lorie Huston says
Well said, Dr. V! Obesity is growing epidemic in our pet population, both dogs and cats. There’s nothing funny about it and it makes me sad too.
I have a friend who has a tabby that weighs more than my 20 pound schipperke. The cat is known to be cranky and a little mean to people. I’ve never been surprised that he was cranky – he can’t feel good.
I know it is hard to help a pet lose weight. At one point, my dog got up about 24 pounds, primarily thanks to my three toddlers who would feed him whatever they didn’t want to eat. Now my kids are older, so we take the dog on lots of walks and spend lots of time actively playing with him. Our vet was thrilled to see the weight loss, especially since the pup isn’t much of a pup anymore at almost 11 years old.
I know it isn’t funny, but I couldn’t help but laugh when you compared the poor cat to a child in a snow suit! That really is the exact same visual, except the cat looks even more miserable.
Michelle Cotton says
When I first met my husband his mom had a cat that was 28 lbs. When I first saw Banjo I thought he was a footstool! It was sad listening to him try to breathe and walk around.
That said, I have a large housecat who last weighed in at 20 lbs. When the vet came in to look at him she said, “I heard we had a 20 lb cat in here and I was expecting to see a fat boy and ready to read the riot act. But Maestro is a big boy!” Meaning he is a really large cat. Long and tall. We both agreed he could stand to lose a few pounds.
I have a husband who loves to give treats and children who fill up the food bowl whenever the cat claims he’s hungry. But I laid down the law. I am in charge of the food and all treats must be approved by me. I would love to exercise him, but he’s one of those lazy cats who wants you to bring the toy to him so he can bat at it.
When I saw Spongebob on the Today Show, my thought was, “well, that cat will be dead in a week, just like the other one!” – I’m not sure what it is about Americans that they ALWAYS think bigger is BETTER. Sadly, I’m inclined to think that it’s the same mentality (complete with sense of humor) that thinks too chubby (read FAT) kids are cute and not a lifetime of serious health problems waiting to happen. I’m sure I sound sanctimonious, but I am at least TRYING with my animals and not laughing at the fat ones I see here in our small town. Among our friends, I have become the “fat dog police” and I guess I’m not sorry!!
The very fact that many of us (including myself) have a tendency to equate food with LOVE, with ATTENTION. How many times have I looked at my dog and wanted to make him happy… and all I wanted to do was give him a treat? Truthfully, with a dog, a few throws of a ball will be just as rewarding, but it seems somehow less rewarding than giving food. That, to me, is wrong. It’s selfish, and it’s something that also goes on with the people population – do you know a mom that pushes food on others? She does it out of love, but it’s that love that gives us love handles.
My dog does have health problems (HD), so I do keep him lean, and it’s easy to do so knowing he absolutely needs to be that way. I only buy treats that provide calorie information, and I prefer treats like Charlee Bears, because they’re incredible low calorie and a labrador never tastes his food anyway since he doesn’t chew. I try to fight against my natural inclination to give him some sort of treat and go outside and play with him instead.
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is so much easier than keeping yourself at one. We control their food intake, so it’s truly up to us to make sure we’re not overfeeding them.
Dr. V says
So true, all of it. Food = love, just ask my grandmother. 🙂
Amber Pye says
I’m not sure how much water it holds, but veterinarians were saying Meow was healthy… Just really fat. I’m absolutely sure it was the stress of being toted around like a furry celebrity that did him in, not just his massive weight.
I don’t know why people don’t like small or robust cats just as well as the tubby bums. I have two siblings- the tom is built like a small tree. He hits the ground with a “THUD” from not even 12″ up. He has swag-belly. Yet he only clocks in at 9 pounds. He’s just a big boy, and he’s NOT overweight. He limits his own food intake, where his 4 pound fairy of a sister doesn’t. She packs in all the food, and everything she finds on the floor, and begs for more, and she is so small I’ve had ferrets that weighed more than her. She curls into a ball and is maybe 10″ in diameter.
Cats of all sizes are adorable: so keep your cat healthy, and he’ll be even more cute than if he was 40 pounds and suffering from organ failure.
Dr. V says
Well, and this is where we get into trouble. You can say he’s not diabetic, his organ function tests are good, but the bottom line is no 39 pound cat is healthy. And he died, which should be the final proof that he was, in fact, not healthy. I wish they hadn’t used those choice of words.
Our two cats, both DSH, are different sizes. Our male, is 16lbs, and lean (our vet says he could loose a pound to be ideal) he’s a big cat. He’s so tall he can stand up on his back paws and get his front paws over the counters in the kitchen! Our female was up to 13lbs and should be only 9 or 10. She’s lazy and will eat until the food is gone, while the male cat is very active, chases the dog, and will make his food last all day… It has been a challenge for us to get her to stop eating the other cat’s food! We try,and she’s lost a little, but is still chubby. :/ Even having a puppy around didn’t make her move! Instead of running away (like a smart cat) she’s just flop over and start “yelling” at the puppy. She’s not too bright. 🙂
These make me so sad. Having lost a cat that was not considered obese by our vet to hepatic lipidosis, I can tell you that it’s not a pretty thing. Every time I see these photos, my heart hurts knowing what could – and likely will – befall them.