In the lobby of my clinic, Arizona Skies Animal Hospital, we have two cockatiels. Mango and Della entertain the dogs, cats and people with a variety of behaviors. Mango parades back and forth whistling the tune to The Andy Griffith Show. Della climbs to the closest perch to get a studied look at the visitor. As a hand-raised chick, she thinks people are strange members of her flock.
But living in the lobby on display can also be stressful. Dogs jumping or pawing their cage probably feels like an earthquake. Loud people make it hard to nap. That’s why I recommend a hiding/resting place for all animals in public areas. Look closely at the upper right and left hand corner of the cage. See the two pieces of fabric that hang down to form a curtain? Inside is a perch that allows Della and Mango to give themselves a timeout whenever they need it. I call these spaces ‘the bedrooms.’ Originally, I only installed one bedroom for the birds to share. After one week, Della kicked Mango out! Poor Mango sat on the branch below looking up longingly at his girlfriend. So, I made the second bedroom on the upper right side to give Mango his own space. Della then decided that the new room was superior and took it over leaving poor Mango the now slightly used original bedroom on the left. (See below)
For more information on caring for animals who live in public places, see my next blog.
On Saturday, April 11th at the Tucson Expo Center in Tucson I am pleased to be speaking at a wonderful event called Adopt Love Adopt Local. The principal goal is to help 200 animals find loving homes. Animal rescue groups and animal related vendors have joined together to make this one day event possible. See “pets of all breeds, ages and backgrounds so that every attendee can find their match, while local vender booths will offer resources that can help them thrive as pet owners.” (Adoptloveadoptlocal website)
In addition, a variety of pet experts will be on hand with helpful hints on pet care, veterinary care and training. I take the stage to speak about pets at 12:30 p.m. and then answer questions at the Ask the Expert booth at 1pm.
Weight gain and obesity are big problems for indoor cats. The sedentary lifestyle combined with plentiful food really packs on the pounds. Excessive weight causes a host of health problems including diabetes, osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease in cats just like it does in humans. Here are my tips for dieting overweight cats:
1) Feed canned food, not dry. In my experience, dry food does not satisfy a cat’s appetite for long. They gobble it up then return for more in a couple hours. I call these cats ‘dry food junkies’. Use a brand formulated for weight control to keep the calories down.
2) Practice strict portion control. Ask your veterinarian about the proper amount to feed your cat. Remember, the recommendations on the can or bag are general guidelines.
3) Establish a regular feeding schedule. Cats cycle through a variety of activities during the day. They wake up, prowl for food, eat, groom then sleep again. To burn calories, prolong the time devoted to prowling for food by feeding twice a day. A hungry cat will wander around their environment looking for food. Sometimes this means hunting while other times, it means following the humans around begging. Either way, it burns calories.
4) Stop leaving dry food out. Some cats including two of my own, Roxie and Mauka, can’t handle free feeding. These felines “live to eat” instead of “eating to live”.
5) Schedule exercise sessions every day. Start slow with 5 minutes of active play twice a day and work up to 15 minutes. My cats love chasing feathers or a fake mouse on the end of a string. I play with them until they lie on their sides and pant, give them a 2 minute break, then start again. It’s great fun for all of us!
6) Weigh the cat once a week. To avoid problems such as hepatic lipidosis, I recommend gradual weight loss. To be safe, I recommend a half a pound per month.
When I purchased Arizona Skies Animal Hospital on Oct. 1, 2014, I negotiated a lovely cat as part of the deal. Roxie is a short-haired white cat with a little patch of black on her forehead. This kitty found clinic life a bit nerve-wracking. She hid behind the x-ray table during the day only coming out to explore the clinic at night. Roxie’s sedentary life and habit of overeating made her morbidly obese. As you can see from the picture below, there is a lot to love with Roxie!
Obesity in cats causes all the same problems as in humans. Overweight cats commonly develop pancreatitis, diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, heart disease and respiratory problems. Much to her chagrin, I immediately placed Roxie on a diet. I changed her from dry food to canned food to decrease the carbohydrates in her diet. Because cats are strict carnivores requiring protein from animal sources, the carbohydrates don’t seem to satisfy their appetites for long. These cats eat and eat and eat their dry food. I call them dry food junkies. Even though Roxie was eating a weight control dry food, she ate so much of it that she didn’t drop a pound. When I changed her diet to canned food, she tipped the scales at 13 pounds 2 ounces. This poor girl was so fat that she couldn’t even clean her rear end. I had to do it for her.
The first month with Roxie was tough. Eating twice a day with strict portion control did not please our little princess. Her hunger drove her out of hiding as she begged for food. She also got into a lot of trouble. She ate lab forms, toilet paper and ripped open some of our prescription diets. Diet was a four letter word for this curvy feline. I think she wished I had not bought the clinic. No, I am certain she wished I had not purchased the clinic.
Despite her vociferous complaints, the diet continued. By December 1, 2014 she had dropped a little over a pound. The little snowball could now jump on chairs for the first time since we had met. She now loves to sit on my office chair and look out the window. She can also clean her rear end. And best of all, her hunger pains began to subside. Her begging for food started about an hour before feeding.
Five months later, Roxie weighs in at eleven pounds five ounces. Roxie can jump on counters now which means we have to be careful what we leave out! We had to move the prescription food to a higher shelf to keep it safe. Her fat pad is almost gone replaced by loose skin that sways back and forth when she runs. It hangs about an inch off the ground. She will probably require a tummy tuck soon.
What amazes me the most about Roxie is how her weight loss and increased mobility have transformed her life. Instead of hiding in radiology, Roxie struts around the clinic like she owns it. Whenever I sit at my desk, Roxie hangs out in my lap to supervise my work. She purrs constantly and never misses an opportunity for attention. Her confidence is through the roof. Above she is pictured sitting at the doorway to my office supervising from afar. She feels great!
If you live with an overweight kitty there is hope. My next post will deal with dieting overweight cats.