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August 11, 1988|DR. GLENN ERICSON | Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q: Two years ago, I had my male cat neutered, and since then he has been gradually gaining weight. I haven't changed his diet at all, and now he weighs almost 13 pounds. He eats mostly canned food, half in the morning and half at night. I also leave some dry food out during the day. He is mostly an inside cat and does not go out at night. My vet wants to put him on a special diet, but is there anything else I should do?

Sandy Seimer, Anaheim

A: Neutered pets seem to gain weight partly because of a change in their behavior patterns without a change in their eating habits. Their metabolic rate or energy requirements may also decrease after being neutered, and therefore their dietary needs should be less. To reduce your pet's weight, you need to change his food intake and try to increase his exercise level.

A special diet, such as Hill's Feline r/d diet, may be the best way to control your pet's weight. The food is a completely balanced diet that supplies your cat with all his nutritional needs and reduces his calorie intake. The amount fed is determined by the estimated ideal weight. The duration of the feeding program for the special diet depends on how overweight your cat is and what his health is when you start the diet. It may also be necessary to feed him smaller amounts more frequently. You can also prepare a similar diet at home, and your veterinarian should be able to supply you with an alternative recipe for the r/d diet.

In most cases in which the pet is not greatly overweight, a gradual reduction in the amount of food helps reduce weight. However, you must be strict with feedings if you choose this method.

Try to play with your cat more in order to increase his activity. Just like you and me, exercise will help his weight control as well as improve his overall condition. You should discuss your pet's weight control program with your veterinarian and keep on the program. Weighing your cat weekly and recording the results is the best method of determining how successful you are. Even after the desired weight is reached, you should continue a maintenance program. Good luck.

Q: I recently got two parakeets as a gift for my daughter. The birds seem very active, healthy and eat well. They are kept in a cage near the window in my daughter's room. I have heard that I need to cover their cage at night to keep them from catching cold. Is this necessary during the summer months? Will they need to be covered on cold days?

Mrs. Terri Mars, Huntington Beach

A: Putting a cover on a bird's cage does protect it from the cold, especially if there is a draft from the window. The cover can act as a partial insulator during cooler fall and winter evenings. A cover can also provide security when there are many strangers in the house and affords some privacy when needed. In some cases, a cover may delay the very early morning antics of a noisy bird. In the summer, use the cover to protect your birds if they are exposed to cooler evening breezes. The top of the cage can be left open to provide needed ventilation. Make sure the cover is not made of any material that may be harmful to the birds.

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