Monday, October 5, 2015

Wednesday the Fat Cat

Wednesday had a rough start in life. She showed up with her Mom at my feral colony ten years ago. Her Mom was very ill. Though I tried to trap her, she disappeared after a week without ever going into the trap. She had two kittens who disappeared around the same time. I was sad, but used to this occurrence. When you're taking care of a feral colony, cats come and go and you don't always get them all before something else gets them.

About two weeks after they disappeared, I came home to find a kitten sprawled out in my parking space. She was glassy eyed and barely breathing. She had clearly tried to eat because the food dish was scattered. She was soaked from trying to drink water out of the bowl and it really was nothing short of a miracle that she hadn't drowned. She was top heavy - her head so much bigger than the rest of her tiny body.

I wrapped her in a towel, waiting for my boyfriend to get home from work. The plan was simple: take her to the vet and have her humanely euthanized to end her obvious suffering. She was on the brink of death anyway. Crawling with fleas, she was nothing more than a bag of bones. Staring at that tiny body, talking to her softly, I tried to give what little comfort I could before her end.

When Erik got home, he took her from me. I navigated the streets as fast as I could, racing toward the vet. Twice, he said, "Oh hon, forget it. She just took her last breath." She would then utter a small, weak cry to show him she was still there. Our vet was closed so we had to take her to an Emergency Vet. After evaluating her, they came in with an $800 vet bill. Um, what?

Blood transfusion: $500

"How much to put her down?" Erik asked.

That bill suddenly went down to under $200. She had flea anemia. They gave her a bath, kept her overnight on IV fluids, then sent her home with us. She was 12 weeks old and weighed a mere 10 ounces. She seemed so fragile. At night, she would crawl up between us on the bed and sleep so soundly we thought she was dead. I would shake her and shake her and shake her before she would finally open her eyes and give me the grumpiest look. Poor thing just finally felt safe enough to sleep deeply.

Her sisters were less than thrilled with her. Pip, our ever tolerant one-eyed cat, was a reluctant teacher. Having come off the same streets as Wednesday, she seemed to have a bit more sympathy for her. She showed her how to use the litter box, how to pounce on bugs or tricks of light. Sometimes, she even let Wednesday sleep next to her.

As Wednesday grew, she really GREW. Afraid of missing out on food, she can tend to overeat. Free feeding is hard with her because the minute you fill the bowl, she's at it even when she isn't hungry. It's been a struggle keeping her weight down. Our vet does not believe in low calorie food. She believes in feed proper amounts and exercising your cat. So, we feed Halo (and the girls get 1/4 small can of a high quality wet food twice a day). They get supervised yard time where they race around the yard chasing butterflies and bees and flies. It's their time to be cats. (Though I jokingly refer to them as prisoners who get yard time - someone will try to escape and usually a fight or two will break out.)

We've managed to keep her steady at 13 pounds. She would do better at around 10 pounds. The extra weight is hard for her to carry around. But she's otherwise healthy according to her yearly blood work. Having one overweight cat has been hard to balance with an underweight one. Keeping food away from one while encouraging the other to eat can be a struggle. How does one cat relax enough to eat when there is another clawing at the door knowing there is food she doesn't have access to? This is where the small spoonful of wet food comes in handy. Distract overweight cat with just a taste while underweight cat gets half a can of it.

If we had it to do over again, we would never have free fed the cats. It's been back and forth with the timed feedings, critical when you have a cat who cannot afford to lose any weight in addition to one who cannot gain anymore. When we go on trips, we don't ask our pet sitter to free feed. We leave the food down.

Apparently, it's common for cats who are taken from their litter too young, who have a rough start of being underfed, to end up being fat cats. Obese pets are a big problem for vets across the nation. Our animals are no different than we are: being overweight can cause the same health problems for them. We've lucked out so far with Wednesday, but we're very dedicated to keeping at it.

Wednesday sleeping with her sister, Lily

What about you - is your pet overweight? Do you free feed?

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