Sunday 15 June 2014

Domestic Cat Lifestyle No Longer Compatible with Their Genes

Domestic Cat Lifestyle No Longer Compatible with Their Genes

The title to this post is a very interesting way of expressing the current problem that we have in caring for our domestic cat companions. It could be argued that currently, in general, we are failing in our care of the cat. This is because their lives are increasingly integrated with ours which results in them being subjected to the same pressures that we have because the way they live is the way we live but they are unsuited to this. The domestic cat is a whisker away from their wild cat ancestor.
Average weight community cats. You don't see obese community cats. Photo by donjd2

We are aware that there has been increasing obesity amongst humans in the West with a resultant increase in human diabetes; the same thing is happening amongst the feline population. An increase in feline diabetes is greatest amongst cats whose lives are more fully integrated with the lives of their human caretaker.

In the UK, whereas 50% of cats kept indoors are obese, half this percentage of cats that are allowed to go outdoors are obese. The conclusion is obvious, namely that the outdoor cat is more able to express his/her natural desires and motivations and in doing so exercise herself.

To keep cats indoors full-time is fully understandable because there are many dangers outside the home, particularly in America where there are predators. The usual danger is of course road traffic. But this creates a dilemma for the cat caretaker. On the one hand there is the need to protect their cat from injury and on the other hand there is the need to protect their cat from becoming overweight with the incumbent multiple health problems that brings.

The basic answer to the epidemic in feline obesity and feline diabetes is to turn the clock back and allow the domestic cat live a more natural life. This is impossible as the world develops and becomes more heavily populated with people. So you can see immediately that we are creating a world environment which is less and less suited to the domestic cat.

Cat caretakers have an ever greater tendency to feed their cats with tasty rich foods combined with high carb. dry food because this is the sort of food that they themselves eat. Being indoors the cat has less opportunity to exercise and the potential result is foreseeable: overweight cat.

Apparently, in the UK, the average weight of cat has ballooned by 25% over the past 10 years. Nowadays, the domestic cat is 400% more likely to become diabetic than 30 years ago.  Something needs to be done but this is an incredibly complicated problem because, as mentioned, the underlying problems are intractable namely the environment that we are creating for our cat companions disallows the possibility that he or she is safe to go outside.

I'm sure there are many cat owners who feel guilty watching their cat balloon up. One such cat caretaker is Michelle Howlett whose cat Daniel, aged 11, ballooned up to 12 kg which is getting on for three times the normal healthy weight for a domestic cat. I'm sure that she knew she was doing the wrong thing but as Lindsey Quilan of Battersea Cats and Dogs Home in London say:
“...  People often give their pets too much food or the wrong types of food as an expression of their love, although it is in fact a form of cruelty."
This is patently true but we can't help it sometimes because we want to please our cat and because people themselves struggle with their weight and tend sometimes to give up the battle.

Thousand years ago you would not have seen obese domestic cats.  They were often barn or street cats.  There were also community cats and sometimes they were domestic cats like you see today. The domestic cat, 1000 years ago, lived a shorter and less healthy life because of a lack of veterinary care but I'd be surprised if they suffered from obesity and diabetes, the modern feline disease of catastrophic proportions.

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