Live from CVC San Diego: 5 ways to enrich the lives of brain-dead fat cats


Help veterinary clients convert chunky cats into smart, stimulated felines.

Now that we’re bringing them indoors, most cats are brain-dead and fat, says Steve Dale, CABC, at one his sessions for veterinary technicians at CVC San Diego.

Dale told attendees about a cat he knows that doesn’t even stand up to eat. What’s worse? The cat’s owner, like many of your clients, thinks it’s normal to have an overweight cat that eats, sleeps, and hides most of the day. Dale says this is why it’s necessary to educate clients about cat enrichment. Enriching cats’ environment can help them burn calories, alleviate boredom, prevent behavior problems, and even slow down the aging process. The next time a brain-dead fat cat visits your clinic, enlighten the pet owner with the following five tips.

1. Make your house cat-friendly. Cats need elevated spots where they are allowed to hang out, Dale says. He says clients can buy cat shelves to hang at different heights or simply clear a window ledge just for Felix. Scratching posts and plenty of cozy hiding places (e.g., boxes and tunnels) are also must-haves in any cat-friendly home.

2. Stop ignoring Fluffy. “One of the reasons cats have become so popular is because clients don’t think you need to do anything with them,” Dale says. Of course, this is far from true and one of the reasons there are so many overweight cats. Dale says clients should play with their cats once or twice a day for at least five minutes—even if it’s during the commercials of the owner’s favorite show.

3. Activate the cat’s prey drive. Dale only feeds his cat, Roxy, from enrichment toys hidden around the house and encourages clients to do the same. “When she feels like it, my cat will ‘hunt’ for her food,” Dale says. The kibble will fall out of the toys a few pieces at a time so this also prevents cats from eating too quickly. Dale says clients can buy these food-dispensing toys or make their own. Clients can take a toilet paper roll, seal off both ends, fill the tube with kibble, and poke holes in the cardboard. Dale also hides treats in an empty six-pack container for his cat.

4. Redefine and rotate toys. Dale says cat owners tend to buy way too many and spend way too much on cat toys. Tell your clients they can cut holes in an empty box and it will be great enrichment for cats. Better yet, move that box into different corners of the house. Same goes for cat toys, Dale says. “That mouse toy in the living room becomes a whole new toy when it’s in a different room,” he says.

5. Take your cat new places. Whenever possible Dale says pet owners should take their cats to new and exciting locations. “Take your cat to work with you if you can. Take your cat on walks. Take your cat to go visit Santa. Take your cat to cat shows,” Dale says. Of course, not every cat would be comfortable in those situations. That’s why fenced-in outdoor pet patios are another solution to break up the indoor cat’s day.

The most important thing clients need to remember? The more time they spend enriching their cats’ environment, the smarter and healthier their cats will be. “A cat’s mind is a terrible thing to waste,” Dale says.

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