Fat Cat Fight Continued

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.

7 thoughts on “Fat Cat Fight Continued

  1. A vet told me that my dog (a yellow Lab) was too fat and needed to have his food intake sharply restricted. No more than 3 cups a day, he said, and it had to be the $40-a-bag food sold at the vet’s office.

    I gave up on this because my dog was so hungry that he started eating random things around the house, like used tissues from the wastebasket.

  2. My cat, Baggins, is Tonkinese (usually a small breed) and weighs 14 pounds. By contrast, my other Tonks weigh 6 and 9 pounds, and I had an even smaller one, barely 4 pounds. But when I took Baggins to the vet, before I even opened the carrier, the vet looked at his records and said, “He’s probably a bit overweight…” Then I took the cat out and she stopped immediately – he’s a thin cat, but immensely long! I suspect the vet was looking at me, not my pet.

  3. I recently changed my cats’ diet from all crunchies to mostly wet food with some crunchies. They’ve both lost a little weight, though they are still big cats. (Tommy, the big red cat, is around 18 lbs; Hanako is smaller and I’m not sure what she weighs now. It used to be about 12 lbs.)

    My vet says, as a general rule, if a cat is unable to clean his/her rear end, that cat is carrying too much weight. She also says, all such judgments should be made on a case by case basis. Works for me.

  4. Steve, Lilacsigil and Lizzy L, your critters are lucky to have you in charge of the meals! I’ve seen other situations aside from what El Nino went through where veterinarians managed to inflict their own fat phobic views on anxious pet owners who then turned around and restricted the animal’s food or change the food to “diet” pet food. As Steve points out diet kibble is sometimes sold in the vet’s office, and based on the research I’ve seen, most of the diet pet food restricts the calorie count so that the human can feel like “something is being done” about the animal’s “problem” while the food itself is usually still high carbohydrate and not that nutritious.

  5. Some years ago, I took my rangy, athletic cat to a new vet for something mundane, like a rabies shot. The vet put Tango on the scale, then said, “If he were overweight, we’d have to put him on a diet.

    It was so bizarre. My cat was nowhere near overweight. I could only conclude that the vet was passive-aggressively talking about me. Needless to say, I found a different vet.

  6. How bizarre Patia! And yet how often we see it! I think you nailed the vet’s mindset. I could see that same dynamic with the vet who tried to get me to severely restrict El Nino’s food. She was young and with a medium build, and I think she was looking at my fat body and my fat cat and thinking that I was making the cat gain weight just as I had “let myself” gain weight. If the situation had permitted her to advise me to diet, she would have done so.

    I also think that when people (health care professionals included!) advise others to diet it’s a way of warding off their own fear of getting fat. Usually the health care professionals are trained not to say things like, “I would never ‘let myself go’ the way you have.” But the thought is there.

  7. I think what angers me more than anything about the whole fat-thin debate is the assumption that fat people just don’t know any better — and it’s up to thin people to educate us.

    We’re fat, not stupid!

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