America: Home of the... Fattest Pets!?

As if it’s not bad enough that America is known as the fattest country in the world, a new study shows that we also have the fattest pets.

Meet Garfield, a 40-pound ball of fluff that is believed to be the fattest cat on the planet according to North Shore Animal League, who currently has Garfield up for adoption at their facility in Port Washington.

Sure, Garfield is 40 pounds of pure kitty love, but what’s hidden behind that tubby face is a real problem – pet obesity.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that over 1/3 of America’s pets are overweight.

Ironically 1/3 of Americans are also overweight or obese and share the same resulting health issues as their overweight pets. For both, obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease and shortened life expectancy.

This is a growing problem expressed by veterinarians nationwide, and a survey done by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) shows that pet owners aren’t even aware that their pets are overweight.

22 percent of dog owners and 15 percent of cat owners characterized their pet as normal weight when it was actually overweight or obese,” said Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of APOP. “This is what I refer to as the “fat pet gap” or the normalization of obesity by pet parents. In simplest terms, we’ve made fat pets the new normal.”

Dr. Mark Verdino, chief of veterinarian staff at North Shore Animal League, suggests pet obesity is largely due to the ignorance of pet owners.

“If a cat is overweight, it’s more than likely because their owners made them that way.”

It was just last month that Meow the cat, who made national headlines as the fattest cat in the nation, died from respiratory complications at a whopping 39 pounds.

So what can be done to keep your pet from becoming a statistic?

Read Food Labels: Just like our food, pet food has nutritional labels that list toxic chemicals and preservatives that are harmful to your pet’s health, so learn to look for brands that use healthy ingredients.

Exercise Your Pet: Or better yet, exercise with your pet! Much like us, pets need exercise to stimulate their senses, keep their bodies healthy, and create a healthy outlet to get rid of stress; plus it will strengthen the owner-pet bond, which may also help you to stay in shape.

Restrict Food Intake: Most pets know when to stop, but some do not (especially if they have an automatic food dispenser). If your pet seems to overeat, cut back on the amount you give them or split their meals throughout the day to keep them full.

Monitor their weight: If your vet has expressed concern with your pet’s health, it’s important to keep track of their weight. If you’re doing all of the above and your pet is still not losing weight or is gaining weight, it could be due to underlying health issues and you should check in with your vet to make sure everything’s normal.

When it comes down to it, we’re really not all that different from our pets, and it’s our responsibility to take care of them, so make sure you do!

Image Credit: North Shore Animal League Facebook