Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My kitty is 7 years old and weighs 32 pounds (14.5 kg). Recently he had some pain in his back leg. I took him to the vet, who thought he pulled a disc in his back or had a thrombus. Tests for both of these conditions were negative. The vet gave him pain medicine and sent him home. Now my cat acts like he doesn’t know us — and doesn’t even know his name! He doesn’t eat or drink much now, and it seems like he lost the will to live. What can I do to help him feel better? Please help my big kitty.
Siouxsie: The first thing you need to do is call your vet. Your cat may be having a reaction to the pain medication he’s taking.
Thomas: Once you’ve got the medication issue straightened out, you’ll need to get to the core of your cat’s problem and the reason why he may have hurt himself: your cat is morbidly obese.
Dahlia: Unless your cat is a Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest cat, he should weigh between 8 and 12 pounds (3.5 to 5.5 kg). And even Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats rarely weigh more than 20 pounds (9 kg).
Siouxsie: We know that 32 pounds may not sound like a lot to a human being. But let’s put this in perspective.
Thomas: Let’s say you’re a 5-foot, 5-inch (165 cm) woman of average build. A healthy weight range for you would be between 130 and 145 pounds (60 to 66 kg).
Dahlia: Now, imagine this same woman weighing 400 pounds (181 kg). That’s how obese your cat is!
Siouxsie: Morbid obesity is just as dangerous for cats as it is for people. Obesity in cats leads to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and all the risks of high blood pressure including blindness, strokes, and kidney failure.
Thomas: And the huge stresses all that weight puts on your cat’s body drastically increases his risk of developing arthritis and injuries to the knees and hips.
Dahlia: To remedy your cat’s problems once and for all, you absolutely must get him down to a healthy weight!
Siouxsie: And as with humans, the only way you’re going to be able to make your cat’s weight loss permanent is to change his entire lifestyle. You’ll need to modify his diet (and cut out any snacks and treats you’re giving him) and give him more exercise.
Thomas: If your cat were only a couple of pounds overweight, we’d say you could probably manage this yourself, but because your cat is so drastically obese and obviously unhealthy enough to require vet care for a potentially fatal problem, you’ll need to get your cat a full veterinary workup before you begin.
Dahlia: Your vet will tell you how much exercise your cat can tolerate and give you guidance about how to adjust his diet. It’s very important that you follow your vet’s instructions in order to avoid further injury or aggravation of any underlying health problems such as diabetes or heart disease.
Siouxsie: You and your vet can create a meal and exercise plan that will help your cat lose weight in a gradual, safe and healthy way. Your vet might also suggest you work with a veterinary nutritionist for specialized diet information.
Thomas: This post on The Pet Site has some more information on how to go about helping your cat lose weight. But it also says, just like we said, that your cat absolutely must have a complete physical exam including blood tests and urine tests to rule out underlying diseases.
Dahlia: So, Amanda, once your beautiful big boy recovers from his injury, please talk to your vet and get him started on a weight loss program. If you get him healthy, you’ll be able to enjoy his company for many more years!