When a kitty gets tubby

Our colum­nist puts her fat cat on a diet – with un­ex­pected re­sults.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Pets - Swooner has gone from skinny to a rather podgy lit­tle kitty. — ELLEN WHYTE

DOGS will eat un­til they make them­selves sick, but cats are dainty, proper and know per­fectly well when they’ve had enough. When it comes to uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged truths, that’s one of the ba­sics, right? At least, we’ve all heard it.

Un­for­tu­nately, our lit­tle Swooner looks like a cat but he has the soul and ap­petite of a Labrador.

When Swooner joined the fam­ily eight months ago, he was rail thin as he’d been liv­ing rough. He was a bit weak phys­i­cally but his con­di­tion also came with some men­tal is­sues.

When hu­man peo­ple live through pe­ri­ods of star­va­tion, they of­ten be­come ob­sessed by food. They hoard the stuff and will scoff as much as they can at meal­times be­cause they are con­stantly anx­ious that there won’t be enough. They may steal too.

We an­tic­i­pated that our lit­tle cat would be the same and so we were gen­tle with him. At break­fast and din­ner we put his bowl down first. If he scoffed his food, which he did of­ten, we’d of­fer sec­onds. We gen­tly dis­cour­aged him from steal­ing by mak­ing sure he had a small plate of his own when­ever we ate. And when he me­owed in be­tween meals, he’d get ex­tra bis­cuits, no ques­tions asked.

Our aim was to help Swooner achieve a sense of food se­cu­rity and our method worked. About two months ago, Swooner slowed down. In­stead of gob­bling his food, he sat down and chewed. He still po­liced Tar­get and Guido’s bowls, sweep­ing up any left­overs with a hap­pily flick­ing tail, but that fran­tic look in his eyes dis­ap­peared.

Best of all, he stopped steal­ing. Although he hangs about and is shame­less about beg­ging, he does not raid plates when I’m pre­par­ing meals.

The day he checked out some lunch and de­cided he didn’t want any, was a red-let­ter day for us. We were chuffed that our lit­tle cat was se­cure enough to turn down food.

How­ever, it also meant we had to ad­just our pol­icy a lit­tle. You see, our Swooner is a boy but if you saw him, you’d eas­ily mis­take him for a preg­nant lady cat. We knew our ap­proach would have this ef­fect but we thought it bet­ter to have him happy and se­cure than the proper weight. How­ever, as he had ad­justed, and as be­ing obese is as bad for kit­ties as it is for hu­mans, we knew it was time to slim him down.

As he’s still a kit­ten and hugely ac­tive, we weren’t wor­ried. Tar­get used to be a cham­pion chom­per but when he got too porky, we helped him re­gain his el­e­gant pro­por­tions with­out any prob­lems. We just took a tea­spoon a week off his plate, and dis­tracted him from ask­ing for more by of­fer­ing tummy rubs.

So we looked at our but­ter­ball Swooner and ex­pe­ri­ence told us that it was sim­ply a mat­ter of very qui­etly nudg­ing our new pet into eat­ing sen­si­ble por­tions. Of course, I should have known Swooner would be dif­fer­ent but I was full of pride and zeal and that had us head­ing for a fall.

I started by halv­ing break­fast por­tions, and cut­ting down on bis­cuits and treats. Swooner no­ticed of course. He can tell a half full bowl of kitty crunchies from a full one as well as any­one. But he seemed to ac­cept it, es­pe­cially as I made ex­tra fuss over him.

It helped that Swooner is ma­tur­ing. Tiny cats tend to be tick­lish and so they want to kick box and play when you pet them. Older cats are a bit less tick­lish and learn to en­joy be­ing pet­ted.

As it turns out, Swooner is a cud­dle bug. He adores be­ing picked up cra­dled on his back and hav­ing his chin and ears rubbed. And if you stroke his nose, he shuts his eyes and you get high oc­tane purring.

So there I was, work­ing with my pet and think­ing we were well on the way. Ex­cept that Swooner wasn’t get­ting any slim­mer.

“It took him months to get this fat,” I told my­self. “It will take some time for his lit­tle body to ad­just.”

Right. So then the Raya hol­i­days came by. On the sec­ond day, we had a visit from our neigh­bour who asked if we could pet sit while she vis­ited fam­ily. She’s got a tribe that con­sists of Char­lie and his friend Toby who live out­side, and two boys Happy and Joy who live in­side.

“No prob­lem,” I said as Char­lie was rolling at my feet. And then Swooner rocked up, wad­dling a lit­tle.

When we’re away, Char­lie’s mum pet sits for us, so I wasn’t sur­prised when our lit­tle cat me­owed a hello.

“Isn’t he sweet?” Char­lie’s mum gushed. “And he’s so good with Char­lie!”

At this point Swooner was sit­ting down and look­ing per­fectly an­gelic. But I know my cats and I had a funny feel­ing. “How is Swooner be­ing sweet with Char­lie?”

“Swooner comes to say hello most evenings,” our nice neigh­bour ex­claimed. “They eat to­gether!”

“Does he?” I said, giv­ing our ju­nior cat an evil look. “How so­cial of him.”

Of course, Swooner was sit­ting there, look­ing like but­ter wouldn’t melt. I wasn’t fooled for a sec­ond. I saw that cun­ning gleam in those am­ber eyes.

All that time while I was cut­ting back on food, Swooner qui­etly sab­o­taged me by snack­ing across the street. And at home he was clean­ing up with ex­tra cud­dles too, the lit­tle devil. So much for think­ing that be­ing in charge of fill­ing the food bowl would give me the up­per hand!

I’m not giv­ing in. I will slim down our lit­tle cat. But clearly I’m go­ing to have to up my game.

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