Ask the Cat Doc: Skittisch Cat, Morbidly Obese Cat, and More

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Welcome to our regular “Ask the Cat Doc With Dr. Lynn Bahr” segment! Once a month, Dr. Bahr answers as many of your questions as she can, and you can leave new questions for her in a comment.

Dr. Bahr graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. Unlike most veterinarians, she did not grow up knowing that she would become a veterinarian. “It was a cat who got me interested in the practice and I am forever grateful to him,” said Dr. Bahr. Over the course of her veterinary career, Dr. Bahr found that the lifestyle of cats has changed dramatically. As the lifestyle of cats has changed, so did Dr. Bahr’s client education. In addition to finding medical solutions, she also encourages owners to enrich their home environments so that their cats can live long, happy, and healthy lives.

This new understanding led Dr. Bahr to combine her passion for strengthening the human-animal bond with her veterinary background and knowledge of what animals need and want to start her own solution-based cat product company, Dezi & Roo, inspired by two cats of the same names.

For more information about Dezi & Roo and their unique and innovative cat toys, please visit Dezi and Roo on Etsy.

Do you have a question for Dr. Bahr?
Leave it in a comment and she’ll answer it in next month’s column!

Skittish cat

We have a Torte kitty who is 8 mo. old. We adopted her when she was 3 mo. old. Her mama passed away and left 3 kitties in all. She is spayed and has all her shots. She is very skittish when we try to pet her. She will come up and sit in my lap and cuddle. Doesn’t like to be held. Will she soon get over this? It’s just me and my husband in the household. – Delores

Hi Delores,

In my experience, I find that most cats don’t like to be held and it is the exception, not the rule, when one does. I chalk it up to good instinct. In the wild, the only time a cat would have all four feet lifted off the ground would be as they are being carrying away by a predator, like a coyote or hawk (with kittens being move around by their mom as the one exception). Otherwise, being held means danger. So it is normal for your girl to be uncomfortable with it, and she may never outgrow that instinct. It will be easier for you to build her trust by respecting her boundaries and not attempting to hold her but, instead continue doing what you have been by letting her come up to you to cuddle the way she enjoys it best.

The good news is that she is young and just a baby. While her personality will remain relatively the same, her preferences will change throughout her lifetime. This is a good time for you to help shape them. Playing with cats builds stronger bonds and I believe solves everything. Therefore, I encourage you to make time every day to engage her in fun activities. The more often you do so, the better she will feel and the happier you both will be. Allowing her to sleep with you at night is also a way to bond, closer together, physically.

If you are up to it, clicker training is a fabulous activity that helps skittish cats, like yours, come out of their shells. That along with play are my two favorite ways of charming cats. Allowing her to associate you with food also reinforces bonding but I assume you, and she, have that one figured out already.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that being skittish isn’t something cats automatically “get over”. Instead, it typically takes coaxing, trust, time, and a little magic (like play). And even with that being said, most remain skittish to some degree their entire lives. It’s instinctual. If you focus on her other outstanding qualities instead, you won’t mind this trait about her at all.

Morbidly obese cat

I have a morbidly obese cat she’s an inside cat, she’s about nine years old and she eats the other cats food. I’ve had her tested they say no diabetes that it’s her metabolism but it is so hard to get her to lose weight any tips any suggestions? – Karinda

Hi Karinda,

Obesity is a huge problem for our pets and certainly affects their overall health and wellness. It is rampant in cats that live indoors due to lack of activity, exercise, and a limitless supply of junk dry food. You will find a myriad of helpful articles on the subject and I encourage you to read as many of them as you can. Here is one I wrote a few years ago. The better informed you are, the more likely you will be, at helping your cat shed the necessary pounds to be happy and healthy.

Once a cat becomes obese, I prefer owners venture into a true weight loss program with a qualified veterinarian. Otherwise, it may not be safe or effective for your cat if you attempt it alone.

There are many facets to developing a proper plan and it should be tailored specifically for your kitty. It will involve calculating how many calories a day she should eat, the best food for her, and a healthy and achievable exercise plan. It is important that she is weighed often and monitored closely to make sure she stays happy and healthy throughout the entire program.

At 9 years old, your cat is just approaching middle age. Obesity will negatively impact her health and shorten her life but, it does not have to. Find a good veterinarian that you want to partner up with and commit to a program that helps your baby lose weight successfully over time. Make sure the plan is doable, keeps your cat satiated, and that it is fun. Keeping her happy with small frequent meals and playing together often will make it a more pleasant experience for you both. The minute she gives you that “look” to be fed, play with her instead. Let her stalk, chase and catch her prey first. After she has burned some calories, reward her with a small amount of good quality, high protein, wet or raw food.

Thank you for writing in and giving me the opportunity to discuss this important topic that affects so many of our pets these days. I would love to hear back from you in a few months, letting me know how your cat’s weight loss program is working.

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4 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: Skittisch Cat, Morbidly Obese Cat, and More

  1. Steven
    April 21, 2020 at 9:17 pm (1 month ago)

    Hi, my cat is 8 years old, just recently on the left side of whiskers a looks like a scab has appeared over night, I removed it, however it just reaperd, it is brown in color and about the size of a pencil eraser a little bit smaller, it doesn’t seem to affect or bother her. Thank you for your time.

    Reply
  2. W SCRIBNER
    April 20, 2020 at 8:52 am (1 month ago)

    HOPE YOU CAN HELP WITH THIS ONE. MY CANT IS 12 YEARS OLD AND HAS ALWAYS HAD AN EATING DISORDER. SINCE, SHE IS A RESCUE CAT, WE FIGURE THIS IS WHERE IT STARTED. LATELY, SHE WAKES UP AT 2:00 IN THE MORNING AND WANTS TO BE FED 3 OR 4 TIMES IN THE NIGHT. THIS IS A CAT WHO WILL NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER.

    Reply
  3. Janine
    April 20, 2020 at 7:35 am (1 month ago)

    My cat Pele is very skittish and hides if someone comes over. We got her when she was around two months old after she was thrown out of a car driving down a busy road in Dallas. My husband ran out in the traffic to save her so she wouldn’t get hit by a car. So, I understand her fear of people. She never likes to be held or touched much. We never tried to change her, just assured her she was safe in our house. But in the last year or so, she has started going to my husband when he is on the couch and she wants to sit on his lap. She’ll be 10 this year so maybe she is finally feeling more comfortable here.

    Reply
  4. Liz Lucero
    April 20, 2020 at 1:28 am (1 month ago)

    I’ve heard that a diet of strictly dry food is not always the best diet for a cat. My torti is about six years old ( she’s a rescue so I don’t know for sure) and the only thing she will eat is dry food. She refuses to eat canned food, raw food, or people food. Right now she’s a good weight for her size – 10 pounds. Because she’s relatively young is eating only dry food for the rest of her life something I should be concerned about?

    Reply

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