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Q: At the last veterinary checkup, the vet told me that my cat was overweight. Is it really important to keep her thin?

A: Obesity is one of the most common problems seen by veterinarians. It is easy to see how cats (and dogs) become overweight. Most pets lounge around the house all day snacking on a full bowl of food. Unfortunately obesity in pets has serious deleterious effects which include increased incidence of diabetes mellitus, arthritis, respiratory and urinary disease. Obese cats can even develop skin diseases as they are unable to properly groom themselves. A recent study found that overweight cats are three times more likely to suffer from a life-threatening disease.

Taking weight off your house cat is not impossible; however, you should consult with your veterinarian before starting a crash diet for your pet. The rules for weight loss in pets are essentially the same as for people: 1) cut back on snacks, 2) exercise, 3) eat a lower calorie diet, and 4) eat a smaller amount. If your cat is a 100 percent indoor cat, you have total control of these factors. Consult with your veterinarian on which foods are recommended for weight loss and be strong when ignoring your kitty's yowls for more food.

Timm Otterson, DVM

Bunny tips

Q: As Easter is approaching I'm thinking of getting my kids a baby bunny. Are there any precautions or special recommendations to be aware of?

A: Impulse purchases of rabbits, ducklings and baby chicks are common in the coming months and should be discouraged. Rabbits make wonderful family pets for those committed folks who are willing to integrate one into their family -- and not leave it isolated in a hutch in the back yard or the garage.

Some things to consider: although rabbits are very social, cuddling is not on their list of favorite things to do. They prefer to spend their time on the ground but not around noisy, exuberant people (a k a children). When picked up, some rabbits will struggle and, if dropped, break their fragile bones very easily. Rabbits can be litter trained thus possible to be kept indoors. A baby bunny very quickly turns into a teen-ager with raging hormones (and the associated mood swings) if it isn't spayed or neutered. Scratching and biting are common at this stage in a bunny's life if it remains unaltered. The food intake of a rabbit must be closely monitored.

Living for as long as 10 to 15 years, a rabbit has a lot of time to overeat and become obese -- with many of the same associated health risks that obesity has for other animals. Most, but not all veterinarians will treat rabbits so it would be a good idea to inquire about such with yours.

D. Jeff Pollard, DVM
Prepared as a public service by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Send questions to Pets, P.O. Box 403, East Aurora, N.Y. 14052-0403. Sorry, personal replies cannot be provided.

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