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Basketball Cats

Imagine what fun it would be to watch a basketball game played by cats! The pouncing, trouncing, leaping, skittering on shiny floors, batting, slinking, hissing and climbing the pole to dunk would be an Olympic entertainment for us cat lovers. A mini version of this game is played daily at WaLHFMF.

Sadly, however, sometimes the basketball is the cat itself. The term originated for me a few years ago when I showed up at the San Francisco area shelter where I was volunteering for the 5 a.m. cleaning shift. As I pulled into the parking lot in the pitch-black dawn I saw a medium sized cardboard box—the sort you get from a big box grocery store—near the front door. Having been surprised on another occasion by the contents of a similar box (a thoroughly dead opossum left for us by some kindly stranger), I approached with caution. Although the box smelled a bit odd, like urine, I opened one corner and saw a large beige ball of fur whose response to me was a cheerful chirrup. This is how Buffy and I came to meet—a dark morning greeting from a cat so obese that he had not even attempted to escape his flimsy prison. Instead he patiently waited to be rescued, and when I took him into the shelter and found him water and food, he ate daintily, tried unsuccessfully to wash his urine soaked nether regions, and went to sleep. We named him Butterball—which soon became Buffyball, then Buffy. He was a shelter favorite and eventually found a loving home with a couple whose mission was to help him lose approximately one fourth of his body weight--a whopping 27 pounds!

Obesity in cats (dogs, too) is near epidemic proportions. According to my local vet, an overwhelming majority of his patients could stand to “lose a few pounds”. When the patient is a 10 or 12-pound cat, which is parallel to my own doctor telling me to lose 25 or more! No easy task! The following comments are taken from a variety of internet sources; primarily the ASPCA, PetMD, and the ever wonderful UC Davis School of Veterinary Shelter Medicine. All three sites caution that they are informational only, not prescriptive. All recommend regular consultations with your trusted veterinarian—especially before signing your cat or dog up for Weight Watchers! Obesity in cats leads to all sorts of health disorders, including the potentially fatal hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), diabetes, nonallergic skin conditions and urinary tract disorders. Buffy suffered from two of these: diabetes and chronic dandruff. At our Center there are two weight-loss candidates and one “maybe he is just really big boned” beauty.

Grace reminds me so of Buffy. She came to us too obese to walk to her own litter box. Ever gentle and gracious (hence the name), she is losing weight on a carefully monitored food regimen that has already resulted in her becoming more active and using the litter box regularly. Last Friday she startled me by standing on her hind legs asking to be picked up! I hoisted her up and was pleased to note that she no longer smells of urine! Her dandruff is slowly clearing up and she shows promise of being the active three year old cat that she should be. Another candidate for our Biggest Loser program is Buddy. A tabby and white male, he is also considerably overweight. Fairly new to us, he is just beginning to show the effects of a healthful diet and portion control. Both cats would do well in a home where they can be offered a complete diet free of corn and other ingredients that cats do not digest well.

Yogi is another story. He is a macho black and white tuxedo cat whose personality is that of a gentle mystic. He refuses the treats I offer and prefers to be lovingly petted and combed. He is a majestic specimen who really is big boned. I would guess his weight at about 20 pounds. He is timid around other cats, but truly a big bundle

of love with the people he knows and trusts. He has a certain gravitas about him that is rare and interesting in a cat—as though he is contemplating the many adventures of his former lives. If you would like to learn more about feline care and health related issues, I highly recommend the following website: Written by Dr. Jean Hove, it is a treasure trove of information delivered in short, easy to understand essays on a wide variety of health, nutrition, and behavior issues. If you haven’t already perused the site, I strongly suggest bookmarking it for future reference. Also, my thanks to the delightful Dr. Wooley of Alameda, Ca. for putting me onto this important resource. Meanwhile, come and play basketball with us. Visit all of our adorable feline and canine companions and spend some time in our world at the Pet Crisis Center. Very soon you can check out our three charming kittens and their beautiful, blue-eyed Siamese Mom.

Happy Spring! C

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