The battle of the bulge

By David Dickson

 

Even though the rest of the world is still busy planning the excitement of the holiday season, many of the cats at Best Friends are already getting a jump start on their New Year’s resolutions. Specifically, they’re tackling the number one resolution item that keeps popping up on lists everywhere: weight loss. And the best thing is, the cats don’t even know they’ve signed up for anything. Such sneakiness. …

 

At Best Friends, creative problem solving is the name of the game when it comes to animal care. Whether that means roommate swaps among animals who don’t get along, helping to build confidence in a shy animal, or developing new games and enrichment activities — and much more — the caregivers at Best Friends are constantly on the lookout for new and better ways to help the animals. And now, that creativity is being pushed to new limits.

 

 

 

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Weight problems among cats who live in group settings can be a real struggle. It’s difficult to control eating levels with communal food dishes, for one thing. Further, many overweight cats tend to be lethargic if left to their own devices. One solution has been the Biggest Loser Club, where food portions can be controlled for a select few cats. The only problem with the club is there are always more cats waiting on the list than can enter. Now, however, an exciting new program should be a big help.

 

Each of the cat caregivers at the Sanctuary has been assigned an overweight cat to work with. Their main focus with the assigned cat is to dream up new and interesting ways to get them up and moving about. That could mean anything from harness walks to chasing feather boas around the room. Whatever it takes! In other words, a whole bunch of cats at the Sanctuary just inherited their own personal fitness trainer.

 

 

 

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Speaking of weight loss and cats, anybody remember Andrew? At one point Andrew was an 18-pound cat who disdained any level of physical activity beyond what it required to reach the food pan. He was the biggest diet-busting food sneak around. Further, when it came to going on walks or other forms of mandatory exercise, Andrew would resist at every turn.

 

What a difference a few pounds can make.

 

Andrew went into the Biggest Loser program with a target weight of 12 to 13 pounds. He’s now down to 13.5 pounds and simply not the same cat. "He’s got a lot of energy now," explains cat manager Michelle Warfle. Listen to one of Andrew’s new favorite games and see if you can agree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Andrew likes to play what caregivers have come to call "paw ball." He first locates a favorite squeaky ball that will fit in his mouth. Then he whaps the thing clear across the room. That alone is a big step up. The old Andrew wouldn’t have bothered to expend that kind of energy. Swinging at a toy? That wouldn’t bring any food. What was the point? Yet the new, slimmed down version of Andrew now darts after the ball, picks it up in his mouth, and thrashes it around for fun. He repeats the process time and again. No doubt, this cat is feeling miles better.

 

Perhaps Andrew’s game of paw ball will work for some of the other cats at the Sanctuary. Time will tell. One thing is for sure, though. With the heavier cats at Best Friends now finding themselves with one-on-one fitness training, it’s anybody’s guess what new games and activities might emerge. So bring on the holiday catnip-cookies, already. They can work off the calories later!

 

Photos by Molly Wald

 

Fat cat or pudgy pup, they all can be helped. These tips make good reading.

 

Check out: Get moving.

 

And, fun things to do with your dog.

 

 

 

For more resources on keeping your pets healthy, go to the Pet Care Library.