Linda Samson is an animal lover. So when she learned that her friend Mary had passed away suddenly, leaving her overweight, senior cat Tiger without an owner, she reached out to Mary’s family and offered to take her in. Because of her age and health conditions, Linda knew Tiger would not fare well in a shelter. It was the beginning of a life saving journey for this very special cat.
Linda, who had never met Tiger in person, was shocked to learn that the cat she was adopting weighed 25 pounds. Tiger had an enormous appetite and would constantly beg for food. In an effort to help transition Tiger to a new environment, Linda continued to feed Tiger the food and treats she was accustomed to. She continued to gain weight.
When Linda brought Tiger to VCA Metro Cat Hospital in Brookline, MA, a full service feline veterinary hospital with exceptional knowledge of conditions particular to cats, Tiger weighed nearly 30 pounds. They saw Dr. Amelia Krump, who explained that Tiger was addicted to carbohydrates.
“What a lot of cat owners don’t understand is that dry food and most treats are very high in carbohydrates, but cats need a diet that is mostly protein,” explains Dr. Krump.
Since carbohydrates aren’t listed on cat food labels, Dr. Krump spends a great deal of time educating clients and providing resources to help them make the best food choices for their cat. She developed a strict diet to help Tiger lose weight, which included throwing out all of the old dry food and treats in favor of prescription canned food, and limiting approved dry food to just 1/8 cup a day. The plan proved to be just as intense for Linda as it was for Tiger.
“Dr. Amelia warned me that since Tiger was addicted to dry food, the transition to wet food would be very difficult,” recalls Linda. “She wasn’t kidding. I caved after just three days.”
Tiger continued to gain weight, and Linda began to notice that she was having difficulty breathing. She also became unable to walk and had to be carried to her litter box – a task that was nearly impossible for Linda. Since Tiger had difficulty moving, she lost all interest in play. Her behavior was also affected, since she was constantly ravenous and no longer able to groom herself. Food became her only joy.
When Tiger returned to VCA Metro Cat Hospital for a second visit with Dr. Krump, she weighed in at a nearly 37 pounds – the equivalent of three large cats.
Dr. Krump informed Linda that she could not allow Tiger to go home at her current weight. She and other staff members came up with a plan: Tiger would stay at VCA Metro Cat where she would be put on a strict diet and receive physical therapy. Linda would pay for food, litter and medications, and would be allowed to visit Tiger for fifteen minutes, 3 times a week.
Tiger spent most of her day in the treatment area near the staff, where they encouraged movement and praised her for it. Eventually Tiger got used to the increased levels of attention, and began to seek out affection instead of just food.
Dr. Krump and her staff created a sling to give Tiger the support she needed in order to re-train her to walk and provided her with a specially modified litter box. They treated her joint pain and urinary tract infection (the result of being unable to groom herself) and groomed and cleaned her daily. The staff also developed activities that got Tiger interested in play again.
“Tiger’s care was truly a team effort among our staff,” says Dr. Krump.
By the end of her four month stay at Metro Cat Hospital, Tiger had lost an impressive 10 pounds. On the day she brought Tiger home, Linda was shocked to see her climb a few stairs – something she never could have done before.
Dr. Krump stresses that weight loss of this magnitude must be supervised by a veterinarian. Since too much weight loss too quickly can cause liver failure in obese cats, Tiger was on protective medicine and lab tests were done regularly to watch her liver.
Maintenance hasn’t been easy, but Tiger continues to lose weight at home, and today weighs a little over 23 pounds – 13 pounds down from her highest weight. Linda does daily weigh-ins at home and sends regular updates to hospital staff. Like so many of us, Tiger gained some weight during the spring shelter-in-place order. Linda is determined to get her back on track, and hopes to be able to report additional weight loss by the end of September.
Not all obesity issues are as obvious as Tiger’s. According to a study by Mars, parent company to VCA Animal Hospitals, more than 40% of dogs and cats globally may be affected by obesity, yet few receive treatment to address it.
“Too many pet owners are unaware if their pet is overweight, and as a result their pet’s health and quality of life can be severely reduced,” said John Flanagan, Discover Program Manager at Royal Canin, a sister company to VCA Animal Hospitals.
Linda is grateful for a cat hospital close to her home that can provide expert care for Tiger.
“If it hadn’t been for Dr. Krump and the staff at Metro Cat Hospital, Tiger wouldn’t be alive today,” says Linda. “There is no way I could have done any of this on my own, and I am so appreciate for the love and exceptional care they continue to provide.”
Thanks to the VCA Metro Cat Hospital team involved in Tiger’s care including: Nancy Cleveland, Kenesha Davis, Shannon Dyer, Iris Hernandez, Dr. Amelia Krump, Cathy Nazziro, Dr. Naomi Oliver, Dr. Jennifer Power, Tyler Patriquin, Natasha Smith,and Evelyn Soto
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“If it hadn’t been for Dr. Krump and the staff at Metro Cat Hospital, Tiger wouldn’t be alive today.”