Lean, Mean, Purring Machine

We’ve all heard it time and again: there’s an obesity epidemic in America, but did you know this problem extends to our feline companions as well? According to a 2011 survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 55% of cats in the United States are overweight. These results come as no surprise to those caring for cats here at PAWS. “We see a lot of overweight kitties,” says Lead Companion Animal Veterinarian Dr. Keiko Young, “especially those arriving at the shelter as guardian-surrenders.” This insight gives credence to the survey’s observation that 15% of the guardians of obese cats don’t even consider their animals overweight.

Sheltering overweight cats can present numerous challenges. Many are too large to use a standard-sized litter box or even relax comfortably in a standard-sized cage. While this isn’t kitty boot camp, PAWS does offer modest slimming opportunities to our tubby tabbies. Volunteers and staff routinely get cats out of their cages for one-on-one playtime. Tapping into the cat’s natural predatory instincts, laser toys are used to encourage them to run and pounce. Work-to-eat toys are employed while the cats are in their kennels, giving them puzzles to solve in order to earn a reward, and keeping their bodies and minds active.

Clicker-training is another way the staff and volunteers at PAWS Cat City try to keep the kitties active. This reward based method helps the cats to learn tricks such as “sit.” PAWS Assistant Shelter Manager Kerri Tenniswood brings up a good point, “It’s hard to help an animal who is housed in a cage and sleeps 15 hours a day, stay fit, let alone lose weight. Our biggest goal is to get them into homes where they can have enough exercise. But, until then, we’ll try to keep them trim.”

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