In 2006, I wrote a post here called “Fat Cat Fight” about a run-in I had with a fatphobic veterinarian over my big, shaggy, black cat El Nino, who had an abscess. When we arrived at the emergency pet hospital, the vet found that Nino, who most certainly has some Maine Coon cat somewhere in his gene pool, weighed 32 pounds. The vet freaked out and tried to stage an intervention, demanding that I restrict Nino’s food. She went as far as ignoring my protests and faxing my regular vet to say I would be bringing him in to start this process the next day.
My opinion was and is that this vet had her own issues about fat and eating, and I wasn’t about to follow her advice and starve the cat. However, I did look at what I was feeding him. It was a fairly expensive dry cat food with corn as one of the main ingredients. My research told me corn can be bad for cats.
I did some experimenting, including all raw meat, not a total hit with the cats, and hopelessly intense for me. Finally I settled on a high protein dry and wet food combination all my cats liked. I saw no change in Nino, he was the same big, happy lug he always has been, although he did seem a little more active.
Not long ago he had another abscess, and I took him to a friend’s vet, whom she recommended as sensible. I told the vet the story of the abscess/diet-nut intervention and he said, “Let’s see,” and put Nino on the scale and discovered that the cat had lost four pounds in about three years. No food restriction, just a higher protein food, and as much as he wanted whenever he wanted it.
Nino was born feral and when he’s done with his food, he paws over it as if to bury it and walks away. It’s not like he’s scarfing up all the other cats’ food and then eating the rug, although he might do that if I tried to starve him. The new vet said that the standard wisdom is that a cat with Nino’s long frame should weigh 18 pounds, but Nino seemed pretty healthy as he is, despite a small recurrence of the abscess.
I rather suspected that Nino was doing well. He’s now 12, and still catnip to the three female cats in residence. He does a distinctive, “Hello there, ladies” sort of meowing when he wants feminine companionship. I don’t know if he sounds like Roy Orbison, Barry White, or Luciano Pavarotti to them, but one or two of the females always come running over to twine themselves around him from head to tail, like furry vines. All of them seem to be enjoying life.
My point is that, while my first instinct would be to ignore any comment from a weight bigot, in this case the crap that the veterinarian offered gave me a reason to look at the food I was offering my cat and upgrade it to something that seems to be better for him.
By the way, I do not base my view that what I’m feeding him now is better on the fact that he lost four pounds. He would have had to lose 14 pounds, or half his current his weight to make the diet fanatic vet happy. My opinion that Nino feels better is based on the fact that he seems to be getting a little more exercise jumping up on the bed and chairs more often and rolling around with the lady cats. All this makes me happy.