Obese pets could be overeating to deal with stress
NewsMonday 23 September 2013
Today’s topic of discussion is fat cats. And no, we aren’t talking about big-wig bankers. An overweight pet is usually believed to be the result of an animal with a large appetite combined with an overindulgent owner.
Well, this isn’t necessarily the case. Experts have revealed that the growing girth of your cat or dog, could be the result of overeating due to emotional issues.
According to The Telegraph, some vets are suggesting that household pets could be becoming obese do to emotional overeating, where they use food to solve feelings of unhappiness and stress.
That’s right, fat cats and dogs could be gaining weight by using food as a “coping mechanism”, in the same way some humans do.
The claims are made in research contained in the latest edition of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.
A former clinical professor of medicine at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine, in California, Dr Franklin McMillan is now a vet. And he has reviewed a number of studies into the eating habits of pets and other animals, including humans.
His studies have revealed that pets can eat too much, in the same way as humans, not through hunger, but as a result of “disinhibition”. In this case, the overeating is in response to stimuli such as stress.
Other studies carried out by Dr McMillan have shown that some animals that were offered an abundance of food do not overeat, as well as others showing a link between stress and negative emotions and eating.
The research suggests various factors which could trigger “emotional eating” in pets, including boredom, anxiety and depression.
The research may, however, cause eyebrows to raise among some owners, who might point out that their pets appear never more contented than when overeating.
As well as a cat or dog overeating due to a negative emotional state, the research has also shown that pets can overeat when in a pleasurable emotional state.
These results could then lead to a change in the way obese cats and dogs are treated.
Simply putting a fat cat on a diet isn’t enough. Owners of overweight animals should also aim to tackle the underlying emotional issues that could have led to the overeating.
By simply putting an “emotional eater” cat or dog on a diet, they could worsen the situation, by taking away the animal’s “coping mechanism” and making the animal even more unhappy - and even hungrier.
It has been found that obese cats are more likely to be living in houses with only one or two cats; while dogs in single dog households were more likely to be fat. Female dogs seem to be more susceptible to obesity than male ones.