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Flabby tabbies need weight help, too

By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Meet Ken — the 23-pound cat and Auburn’s newest biggest loser. He’s twice his body weight, and according to his “coach,” Rosemary Frieborn, he’s determined to shed those pesky pounds. “He says he has pangs of hunger, but he’s very determined to shed those pounds,” Frieborn joked. “He’s very concerned about his health.” Ken’s tale of obesity is unfortunately a common on in the animal world, Frieborn said. Frieborn, who is president and founder of the Friends of Placer County Animal Shelters, said she’s seen her share of overweight animals. “When people see Ken, they’re astounded by his size,” Frieborn said. “It gives us an opportunity to say this is not right.” Animal obesity is just as serious and prominent an epidemic as obesity in humans, according to Laura Reich, a veterinarian who helps out at the Friends shelter. It happens in just the same way. Animals are fed too much and exercised too little, Reich said. “In general most neutered male cats need 75 percent less calories,” Reich said. “My guess is he was free fed and became fat and lazy.” Now Ken is on a special diet. He eats about 300 calories a day, which amounts to a cup and a half of food. This plan is set to help Ken lose about half a pound per week until he reaches his ideal weight of 12 to 13 pounds. Some of the issues that come with animal obesity are similar to those that humans encounter. Reich rattled off a list: diabetes, arthritis, urinary tract infection, lung problem, high blood pressure and more. Reich acknowledged that exercising a cat poses an extra challenge. She said there are some things pet owners can do such as putting food on a ledge that’s about 1 to 2 feet off the ground. She also recommends using cat toys to engage the feline in play. Indoor gardens also help because cats are inclined to dig through them. Leilani Vierra, chief executive officer of Placer Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said exercise in a pet shelter can be more difficult. She said cat suites are made as comfortable as possible, but it’s hard to give cats all of the space they need. To solve the problem, Vierra said shelter staff focuses on adopting out cats as much as possible. In February they held an overweight-cat specific adoption event all month long entitled “flabulous felines.” Vierra recommends that cat owners take their cat’s weight loss and gain seriously. Go to a veterinarian, she stressed, because there are complications if a cat losses or gains weight too quickly. “We make sure when they are adopted we specifically identify that they need to visit a vet and discuss more in depth the animal’s state of being,” Vierra said. “They need to know what will contribute to a healthier pet so they maintain that through the lifetime of the pet.” The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment at auburnjournal.com.