Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
Erin Shibli and Chirag Ratod are the parents of the cat Miko. "Miko Angelo. Miko Angelo is his full name. Miko briefly," says Ratod.
It's dinner time, and the smell of panini emanates from the kitchen of their apartment in Blacksburg, Washington. It smells delicious, especially to Miko, who takes it as a signal that he's eating time too.
"He's eating in a vacuum, which means I'll just inhale my food," says Shibli.
Shibli knows his cat's habits. Not only living with Miko. But since he was recently part of a yearlong study at the College of Veterinary Medicine in Virginia-Maryland designed to figure out how to keep cats indoors at a healthy weight.
As part of the study, Shibley, along with Dr. Loren Dodd, a resident clinical nutritionist at the school, conducted weekly checks on Miko and fed him a special low-calorie, high-nutrition diet.
Miko was the perfect candidate for the study: no disease and
"We didn't take any food from him," says Ratod. "It was entirely our fault."
"Before I loved, I would share anything with him if he wanted, which was really bad. And throughout the study, he would come to me and try to get my food, and I felt like a monster because I would say no, ”says Shibli.
Megan Shepherd, professor of clinical nutrition at the veterinary school, has heard all these kinds of struggles between pet owners and their pets and knows who usually wins.
"It's not hard to overeat them in a 'food is love' culture," Shepherd says.
While some cats may self-regulate with regard to food, most cats indoors need help to maintain the weight lost More than half of cats indoors in the United States are thought to be overweight. The Virginia-Maryland study – that was, yes, sponsored by Purina – tests how best to do this.
Starts with an evaluation of the body weight scale. The result of "1" is deceptive and "9" is obese. "And there are pets leaving the balance," Shepherd says. "We definitely have pets that turn 9 … plus … plus."
When Shibli and Ratod brought Miko to the study, they thought he might be seven. It turned out to be a nine-sobering conversion.
First change, tell the vets: put an end to your cat's entire 24-hour bite. But cat owners know that cats have a way of listening to their needs – crying all night or jumping on their heads, keeping everyone else awake. One cat in the study ate a whole bag of gluten-free bread in protest.
"If you have a cat that screams for food and still need to keep those calories low," Shepherd says, try feeding them vegetables. This is true. One of the great advances of the study is that cats will and should eat vegetables.
But Dodd says that the connection between pets and their people is the biggest factor in successful weight loss.
A woman with a cat in the study decided to diet with her pet.
"Her cat had to lose. She had to lose. So it was something like this social support where she was able to tell her cat" no, because if he can't eat, the cat can't eat "During one of her checks, she told us she had lost about 20 pounds."
We checked with Miko Angelo a few months later – and his new program is working. "He tends to beg for food," says Shibli, "so this week it can get a little worse because my little sister is away and she keeps giving him salmon."
"I gave him two small pieces of salmon and I felt guilty about it! And I was like, I know he is so good and yet to be questioned and I gave him a handkerchief – he is so sweet, he has these big eyes. "
And we all know what is this. But for cats and humans, it's not just about losing weight, it's about getting away.