Tip­ping the scales

Fat cat? Pudgy pooch? It’s time to ex­er­cise and cut down the calo­ries.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Pets - By RENE LYNCH

NEXT time you’re at the vet, you need to look your vet in the eye and say: “Doc, give it to me straight. Is my pet fat?”

And then don’t freak out if the an­swer is, “Yes, I’m glad you men­tioned that, I’ve been mean­ing to tell you ...”

It’s es­ti­mated that as high as 59% per­cent of the cats and 54% of the dogs in the United States are strug­gling with obe­sity, ac­cord­ing to vet­eri­nar­ian Ernie Ward, founder of the As­so­ci­a­tion for Pet Obe­sity Pre­ven­tion, and au­thor of the book Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fat­ter.

“We ac­tu­ally think the num­bers are higher,” Ward said, and that vets are un­der-re­port­ing and side-step­ping the prob­lem lest they risk of­fend­ing clients.

Pudgy pugs and fat cats may get lots of “likes” on so­cial me­dia, but there’s noth­ing amus­ing about pet obe­sity, which can dra­mat­i­cally shorten a pet’s life by con­tribut­ing to crip­pling arthri­tis, Type 2 di­a­betes, high blood pres­sure, kid­ney fail­ure and a va­ri­ety of can­cers.

If you love your pet, “one the most im­por­tant things you can do is keep your pet at a healthy weight,” Ward said.

The first step is hav­ing a frank dis­cus­sion with your vet and fig­ur­ing out an ap­pro­pri­ate plan for feed­ing your pet and dol­ing out the right amount of treats. (There’s no way we’re go­ing to stop giv­ing our pets treats!)

Next up, though, is the fun part: ex­er­cis­ing with your pet to burn off calo­ries and pent-up en­ergy, and bring­ing out its in­ner wild child. Here are Ward’s tips:

If you have a cat

“Cats don’t ‘jog’ – they are built for short spurts of en­ergy that un­leash their in­ner preda­tor,” he said. Think na­ture doc­u­men­taries, where the chee­tah goes full-out to cap­ture its prey and then spends the rest of the af­ter­noon snooz­ing and recharg­ing.

Ward sug­gests us­ing laser point­ers and re­mote-con­trol toys to drive your cat in­sane for three to five min­utes of play at a time, work­ing up to three or four ses­sions a day, for a to­tal of about 20 min­utes of play each day.

In ad­di­tion, he sug­gests plac­ing a few boxes around the house and other toys your cat can use to hide in and leap out at you as you are walk­ing by.

Ward also plays “hide the food” with his cats, plac­ing some of their food in lit­tle bowls and hid­ing them around the house each day. It’s kitty’s job to find them.

“They get to kind of stalk their ‘prey’ and burn off some calo­ries in the process.”

If you have a dog

In con­trast to cats, dogs need longer work­outs to help them re­set their en­ergy lev­els, Ward said.

This does not mean you should take a dog that has been a couch potato and try to make it run 8km be­hind your bike. “That is a recipe for dis­as­ter,” he said. In­stead, aim to con­di­tion your dog (and your­self ) by work­ing your way up to a brisk 30 min­utes of walk­ing each day, or two 15-minute walks. Start out with leisurely walks of about 10 min­utes apiece, and in­crease time and in­ten­sity by about 10% each week un­til you hit your goal.

If you don’t have the time, con­sider hir­ing a dog-walker or a col­lege kid or a neigh­bour who could use a four-legged walk­ing buddy. Dog­gie day care ser­vices are help­ful, too.

You also want to get in some ball-play­ing, or Fris­bee time with your dog, so it can get in a lit­tle harder run­ning and jump­ing, if its health al­lows, Ward said. – Los An­ge­les Times/Tri­bune News Ser­vice


Aim to con­di­tion your dog (and your­self) by work­ing your way up to a brisk 30 min­utes of walk­ing, or two 15-minute walks, each day.

— AP

This tabby weighs over 17kg, com­pared to most adult cats that typ­i­cally weigh be­tween 3kg and 5kg.

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