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Feature November 2013 Issue

Another Reason Why Our Cats Are Increasingly Obese

Are cats emotional eaters?

Dedicated and doting owners are usually blamed when their pets are overweight — but new research indicates that some cats and dogs are actually “emotional eaters.” These animals consume more calories than they need simply to cope with boredom or stress.

Emotional eating can become a problem for cats and dogs, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. A lack of activities, stimulation or exercise — coupled with too much alone time — can cause emotional distress for them.

“There is a ton of evidence in humans – and animals like rodents – that stress-induced eating is a very real thing and contributes to obesity, so we should also be looking at it in pet animals,” explains Franklin McMillan, DVM, DACVIM, a member of the adjunct faculty of the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine.

“If this is a major factor in our pets, then the standard approach — simply yanking away their food — is very misguided and potentially harmful. The indicators show that obesity is rising in both humans and in pets. How much is attributable to emotional factors? That is the great unknown,” says Dr. McMillan.

Experts feel that owners should try to address their pets’ underlying emotional problems with the help of their veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

The study discovered that dogs that lived in houses where there were no other dogs, and cats that lived in a home with just one or two cats, were the most likely to suffer from obesity.

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