Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
This question was inspired by your post “I think my new kitten is blind. How can I help her cope?” My cat is two years old and is blind. He has been blind since he was born. We need to know how to help my cat with his weight. We took him to our vet but they would not tell us. They just laughed at his weight. Please help if you can.
Siouxsie: We do have some tips about how you can help your cat with his weight. But we also want to say we think you need to find a new vet!
Thomas: There’s no excuse for a vet to refuse to tell you basic information about your cat that you have a right to know, and there’s certainly no excuse for them to laugh about it.
Dahlia: There are lots of vets out there, and they all have different approaches to their job and can vary greatly in their “bedside manner.”
Siouxsie: Mary, you didn’t mention whether your cat is too skinny or too fat. As you can imagine, these conditions require very different approaches.
Thomas: The standard protocol is that overweight cats need to consume fewer calories and play more. As with people, diet and exercise are the best tools for feline weight loss.
Dahlia: Underweight cats, on the other hand, need a richer diet. Underweight cats should also be screened for medical problems that could lead to excessive weight loss such as worms, chronic problems like malabsorption (where the cat’s body can’t extract nutrients from the food he eats), or diabetes.
Thomas: We imagine a blind cat could become overweight because he’s comfortable with playing. Most cats play with things because they see them, and a cat that can’t see needs toys that engage his other senses.
Dahlia: Blind cats should play in a room they’re familiar with, so that they can enjoy their toys without bumping into furniture or falling off things and possibly injuring themselves.
Siouxsie: As we said in our earlier column, get toys that make noises so your blind cat can locate and play with them. Rolling treat balls can help your cat by guiding him via his sense of smell as well as his hearing. Catnip-infused toys can encourage your cat to play, too. When you play with him, use a thing-on-a-string toy that has a bell or some other noisemaker that isn’t shockingly loud.
Thomas: Even if your cat is skinny, he should have noisy or smelly toys that he’ll want to play with. He may become depressed and bored if he doesn’t have enough stimulus in his life.
Dahlia: And if you need to help him gain weight, consider feeding him a canned kitten food for a while. Kitten food has more calories than adult cat food and can help a skinny cat put on weight. Be careful that he doesn’t put on too much weight, though!
Siouxsie: Canned foods are more pungent than dry kibble, and they could attract your cat and get him interested in eating. Don’t leave canned food out for more than 20 minutes or so because it will get dry and unappealing and could start to grow bacteria that could make your kitty sick.
Thomas: If you give your cat half a can of food at a time and store the rest in the refrigerator, zap the leftovers in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds to warm it up and bring out the smell. As a rule, even sighted cats don’t care to eat cold food.
Dahlia: Now, back to the subject of your veterinarian. We don’t know if it was your veterinarian’s staff or the veterinarian him- or herself that treated you that way. If this is a vet you’ve been seeing and have a good relationship with, and a staff member refused to give you the information you requested, you may be able to have a polite talk with the vet and explain what happened. If you do this, it usually won’t happen again.
Siouxsie: However, if the vet is the one who laughed you off and refused to tell you how much your cat weighs, we would definitely suggest that you start shopping for another veterinarian. If your doctor or your doctor’s staff laughed you off when you requested health information about yourself, I’m sure you wouldn’t let the door hit you in the flank on the way out!
Thomas: A good vet is a good listener, knows how to communicate with animal caretakers, and genuinely wants to be of help. This article by veterinarian Dr. Ron Hines is an excellent guide to choosing and finding a good veterinarian.
Dahlia: To get a view from the veterinarian’s perspective, check out our interview with our wonderful former vet, Doctor Sarah. We’d still be going to Doctor Sarah if we hadn’t moved far away, ’cause we all love her so much. But Thomas says our new vet, Doctor Jim, is pretty cool, too. Siouxsie and I haven’t met him yet, but Siouxsie’s going to meet him on Tuesday. Tee hee hee!
Siouxsie: No I won’t. I’m not going! I’m going to hide in the closet and Mama will never find me. Vet, schmet!
Thomas: Oh, now, come on, Siouxsie. Be a good example for all the other kitties out there.
Dahlia: Anyhow, Mary, we hope we’ve been able to help you manage your cat’s weight. And good luck with the veterinarian thing, whatever you do.