How the Fit­bit changed my cat’s life

HWM (Singapore) - - Trends - BY Ger­maine ONG

I bought a Fit­Bit Zip while on hol­i­day ear­lier this year. It was in­ter­est­ing to track how many kilo­me­ters I’d walked through Tokyo and Osaka, but once I re­turned home, my Fit­Bit data be­came pre­dictable and I stopped us­ing it com­pletely.

While it gath­ered dust on my shelf, I read about pet own­ers who used the Fit­Bit to track their cats’ and dogs’ ac­tiv­ity lev­els. Now, my five-year-old cat, Bob, has been get­ting fat. When he lounges on his side, his belly just flops ob­scenely be­side him. He’s also greedy: I tried re­duc­ing his food in­take; in­stead, he stole my other cat’s kib­ble.

Obe­sity has sim­i­lar health con­se­quences for cats as it does for hu­mans, and I dread the idea of some­day lug­ging a geri­atric Bob to the vet. This in­spired me to clip my un­der­used Fit­Bit to Bob’s col­lar, to track his ac­tiv­ity (or lack thereof) and find ways to help him get from fat to fit.

The first week’s re­sults were mostly pre­dictable. The Fit­Bit mea­sures foot­steps, and on most days, the lazy an­i­mal didn’t take any steps from noon till 5 pm. And while it’s be­lieved that cats are noc­tur­nal crea­tures, he was also largely mo­tion­less from 9 pm till 5 am. Which means Bob rarely stirs from his comfy cush­ion all af­ter­noon and night – no won­der he’s fat!

More in­ter­est­ing were the spikes in Bob’s ac­tiv­ity lev­els. The cats’ din­ner­time is 8 pm, and Bob would take an im­pres­sive 200 steps ev­ery 15 min­utes start­ing at 7 pm daily, pac­ing im­pa­tiently un­til it was time to eat. An anom­aly also came up on the day my weekly clean­ing lady was around. In­stead of sleep­ing all af­ter­noon, Bob took about 50 steps ev­ery half hour. I later found out that the vac­uum cleaner dis­turbed his nap and made him move from room to room in search of a qui­eter spot.

I de­cided to try lever­ag­ing his pe­ri­ods of high ac­tiv­ity lev­els. The next week, I de­layed the cats’ din­ner till 8.20 pm to pro­long his rest­less­ness. I also en­listed the en­tire fam­ily to keep him mov­ing con­stantly from 7 pm. This was best ac­com­plished by open­ing the cup­board con­tain­ing cat food, to make Bob sprint hope­fully into the kitchen – only to en­counter a fake-out. (One evening, I suc­cess­fully re­peated this stunt six times. Bob’s not very clever when he’s hun­gry.)

Two weeks into the ex­per­i­ment, Bob now av­er­ages 20% more steps each day than when we started. He al­ready looks fit­ter: his body no longer bulges at the sides, and with less fat cov­er­ing his haunches they look nicely de­fined when he sits. I’m not giv­ing up, though though. The Fit­Bit is stay­ing on Bob’s col­lar so that I can mix up his ‘work­outs’ if he starts chang­ing his daily habits. He may never be lean and mean like Puss in Boots from the Shrek an­i­mated films, but I in­tend to help him stay free of fat-cat ill­nesses for as long as I can.

"Obe­sity has sim­i­lar health con­se­quences for cats as it does for hu­mans."

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