Pensacola, Florida
Saturday November 22nd 2014

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Catercise

By Jessica Forbes

Thanks to an Internet-celebrity cat named Buddha, fat cats no longer have to suffer in silence. Buddha is leading the movement for overweight cats everywhere to get off the couch and feel the burn.

Buddha was dropped off at a Nashville, Tenn. shelter in early August weighing in at 32 pounds. If you don’t know anything about cats, well, that’s pretty big. A local pet store is currently fostering Buddha and working with an animal clinic to get his weight down. Now on a regimen of cat food and exercise—Buddha works out on a veterinary water treadmill—the feline is slowly shedding those extra lbs. and serving as an example of what’s possible when a cat’s diet and fitness are improved. Yes, you read that right—a cat on a treadmill.

Although Buddha’s case is a bit extreme—he’d been eating human food only—anyone with an indoor cat knows it’s easy for them to start putting on the pounds.

“Obesity is a problem with indoor cats,” said Dr. Laura Tonetti Hall of Pensacola’s East Hill Animal Hospital. “Normal, healthy cats will sleep 18 hours a day anyway. If they’re inside, they’re going to be less stimulated and probably going to sleep more than that.”

Just as with humans, finding higher quality food with less filler is an important first step for managing a pet’s weight. “All food is not created equal,” said Hall, who recommends veterinary prescription diets as indoor cats are prone to steady snacking. “It’s the difference between eating a big, huge salad and being filled up versus eating French fries. It’s just a lot more food they can eat for the calories.”

For indoor cats, owner-initiated activity is especially important, and there is a range of products out there aimed at getting felines to break a sweat. If you don’t have a water treadmill handy or room for a cat-sized hamster wheel in your place, there are easier ways to get a cat in motion.

“Those laser light pointers are awesome,” said Hall, mentioning the main goal is to burn calories.

If you’re looking to save some cash, batting around an old water or milk bottle caps or tying together pieces of ribbon from gifts or clothing tags is a good, on-hand source of endless cat entertainment.

“Feather toys, climbing things… anything to stimulate them and encourage them to get up and get moving,” added Hall. While there’s no rule of thumb for how long cats should exercise, “It really depends on the cat. Whatever they’re doing, just step it up gradually.” Hall says it’s important to keep an eye on the cat’s breathing—if it gets heavy, know it’s time to give them a rest.

Also, keeping a cat’s food and water bowls in separate areas or even separate floors if possible is a good way to guarantee your cat will have to migrate to eat. “Some cats, it’s just really hard to motivate. You can do different enrichment things like they do at the zoo,” said Hall, including moving their bowls around in between feedings to keep them stalking their meals.

And like Buddha, with enough activity and time, your husky cat will shed some weight and totally rock that teeny little bikini by next summer.

For updates on Buddha’s progress, check out facebook.com/CatShoppe.