Increase in obese pets

YVETTE BATTEN - NORTH TARANAKI MIDWEEK
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2012
ntm-cat
Yvette Batten/Fairfax NZ
Rotund puss: Kelsi, the domestic short-haired cat was a stray before being handed in to the SPCA. She is one of several obese cats at the shelter

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It is actually possible to kill a cat with love.

Over-feeding pets is something that has North Taranaki vets and the SPCA staff concerned as they see more and more rotund cats through their doors.

Meow, the 17.7kg cat handed into an animal shelter in Santa Fe, made headlines around the world when he died last month from complications due to his weight.

St Aubyn Veterinary Clinic veterinary surgeon Dr Wesley Bell estimates 50 per cent of the cats he sees are carrying too much weight.

"It's getting worse," he says. "The diets that are around these days, cats love them so much. But some cats are just sloths. They've got to be encouraged to exercise."

In general terms and depending on the breed a healthy cat should weigh less than five kilograms. The biggest cat he's ever met was about 12kg.

Being overweight can lead to liver problems, diabetes, joint and arthritis issues, heart problems and generally a shortened lifespan, he says.

"There is a price to pay."

It's a problem that affects all pets. In a trial, run several years ago, one group of labradors was fed food on demand, and another group given a regimented diet.

Those fed on demand lived one-and-a-half to two years less and they got arthritis two years earlier than the regimented diet group.

There are specialised diets for overweight pets. Lowering the pet's food intake is dangerous.

"If you start limiting the normal food you're going to end up with deficiencies, especially vitamins and minerals."

Not all animals living in the SPCA are bone-thin, says shelter spokeswoman Jackie Poles Smith. There is usually at least one cat in the shelter that tips the scales the other way.

One such case is Kelsi, which weighs about 9kg, and was a stray.

"Kelsi came in and we assumed she was ready to have a litter of kittens."

It wasn't until she got to the vet that it was discovered she was overweight.

"She hasn't done very well with her diet, mainly because we have so many cats here looking for homes she has to share her enclosure with slim cats so it's very hard to restrict her eating."

Kelsi needs to go to a home where she can be put on a proper diet. At this stage Kelsi is so big she cannot jump or climb like a normal cat.

"People just don't realise the significant problems it causes to a cat; how unhealthy it is and how cruel because they can't display their normal behaviour and traits because they're not agile."

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Kelsi is not the largest cat that has been through the North Taranaki SPCA. The largest was more than 10kg.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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