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The Pet Project, Part One - Our Cat is Fat

A little over a month ago my girlfriend and I got a cat. Her name is Victoria.

We got her via Pet Smart and the Toronto Humane Society. She is a rescue cat, meaning her previous owner was either unfit to take care of her, she was abandoned on the streets, etc. It is unclear the origins of our cat.

What we do know is that she is between 2 and 2.5 years old, has spent a good chunk of time locked in cage and unable to run, jump and climb through much of her time at the Toronto Humane Society. My understanding is that they do let the pets out once per day to get some exercise, but a half hour or hour per day is clearly not enough exercise for a cat.

Thus, soon after getting her home we started to realize that our precious cat, Victoria, was fat and out of shape. She was certainly well fed, but she clearly lacked exercise. As cats go she doesn't always land on her feet, and she isn't particularly graceful.

Sometimes when playing and she fails to execute a jump properly she looks all embarrassed and takes a break to rest.

As a personal trainer I am accustomed to helping humans to lose weight, gain muscle, build endurance, etc. However I have never tried to apply those ideas to helping a fat cat lose weight and become more graceful. Thus it got me thinking. If our cat has a regimented diet which we can easily control, all she really needs is more exercise.

Now I should note we do play with the cat every day. Usually several times in the morning, several times in the afternoon, and once or twice in the evening. Mostly because our cat demands a lot of attention. eg. If we don't feed her at 6:30 AM she starts eating the cord for the lamp next to the bed until we finally feed her. One time I was awoken around 6 AM because she was licking my forehead. So not only does she demand attention, she knows how to demand food.

Before embarking on this "Pet Project" of personal training for our cat, I decided to weigh our cat... This actually took me several days to do... Our cat doesn't like to sit still for very long when she knows she has our attention.

In order to weigh her I first weighed a basket, then using a feather cat toy I managed to coax her into the basket, let her have the toy so she will lay down. Check the weight on the scales, subtract the weight of the basket, and voila, our cat weighs 14.1 lbs.

Now I am not a firm believer in BMI charts, because frankly they can be skewed by anyone with a higher than average muscle mass or bone density. Some of us, myself included, have more than our fair share of muscle and bone density. This is due to exercising a lot. Thus BMI is completely useless for anyone who is athletic and muscular.

Believe it or not however there is a whole field out there of people who specialize in animal health - they're called "veterinarians", which in theory should be complete with BMI charts designed for cats. Like the chart below which uses length of the cat vs the rib cage circumference... As if my cat would sit still long enough and not attack the tape measure while I am trying to measure her length and rib cage circumference.


I also found this "BFI Chart", measuring the cat by Body Fat Index. I would estimate based on this visual comparison that our cat is in the 30 to 40 range. So she isn't super over weight, but she is certainly not sleek, graceful and ready to pounce. Whether you do a detailed visual examination or just guess what category your cat looks like, it seems to amount to roughly the same thing: A vague estimate.


 Doing a rudimentary check of whether you can even feel your cats rib cage is one way to determine if your cat is overweight. If you can easily feel their ribs, your cat is likely a good weight and is low risk for health problems. If you have difficulty finding their ribs your cat is likely overweight. If you can't feel your cats ribs at all, they are probably obese. The same technique is also recommended by vets for checking if your dog is over weight.

Sadly I could not find a proper cat BMI chart. So I have very little to compare it to when considering that our cat weighs 14.1 lbs. Nobody it seems has invested any time or effort in researching weight vs length of cats. You would think there be at least one veterinarian out there who has decided to create a BMI chart for cats... but alas, none of them has.

And perhaps rightly so, since BMI is widely considered to be inaccurate due to muscle weight skewing the results.

However I do know this. The so-called "normal" weight for a cat is 8 to 12 lbs, with males weighing typically 2 to 4 lbs more than females. So our female cat is likely 2+ lbs over weight.

During my research I did find a form to fill out if you think your cat or dog is overweight. It is at http://www.petmd.com/healthyweight, however the form refuses to work if you don't input an acceptable breed of cat. Our cat is a mix of Persian, Russian Blue and Calico - and their form wouldn't accept any of those breeds, and their website server crashed and gave a message that their server was being reset. Once it did reset, I tried the breed names over again, and again it refused to accept Persian, Russian Blue or Calico as breeds.

So what I learned from this is that PetMD's website both doesn't accept Persian Russian Blue or Calico to be breeds of cats, but apparently their website crashes easily. Not impressed.

Anyway, now that I know our cat is 14.1 lbs I can use that as a starting point. Once per week, for the duration of this "Pet Project", I am going to write another post about our cat's health, what exercises I have her doing, and any changes in her health, weight, gracefulness and ability to jump through the air and catch feather cat toys.




If you want to read a past project I did you may consider reading "30 Days as a Vegetarian". Which I determined does promote weight loss, but some of that weight loss apparently was a loss of muscle mass. I also determined that I really missed bacon, that being vegetarian is really hard to do and that it is not very practical in a world where many foods has meat in it. In the future I might do another 30 days on a specific diet, like maybe "30 Days on a Paleo Diet" or something like that.

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