Q: Norman, our 6-year-old short-haired cat, is developing a prominent middle-age spread even though he doesn't seem to eat more than he used to when he was younger. We frequently change his diet to give him a lot of variety, and he does have his favorite foods, which he is becoming fussier about eating. He stays mainly indoors with an occasional outdoor stroll for exercise. We have tried to cut back on the amount of food that we feed him but he raises such a fuss when he is not fed when he wants to be. Is there another way to control his appetite to keep his weight down? We don't want him to develop any heart problems from his weight.
Millie Betterman, Los Alamitos
A: Obesity in cats can develop into problems with heart and liver disorders as the pet ages. Your recognition of your cat's weight problem is a reflection of your care for him. Weight control in pets can be as difficult as weight control for us, but since we do the feeding, the responsibility is ours.
I would recommend that you have a physical examination done on Norman to evaluate his health status and to determine what his ideal weight should have. A screening panel of blood tests may be necessary to assess his organ functions, especially his thyroid levels, to help rule out a possible metabolic cause for his weight gain. If everything is normal, your veterinarian will want to start a weight-control program that will include a special diet and a series of follow-ups to assess Norman's weight and his health. You will have to eliminate any snacks or table foods for your cat if this program is to work. I suspect that Norman will be vocal about this new program at first, but he will soon adapt and you'll have a healthier cat.