NEWS AND COMMENT: There is an online craze on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram for pet owners to show off their fat cats and dogs, or other pets. It’s a dangerous craze because it’s promoting ill health in cats and dogs. The disappointing fact is that Instagram accounts Round Boys and Round Animals have amassed more than 765,000 and 430,000 followers respectively. On Facebook there is a group called, “THIS CAT IS CHONKY” which has 850,000 members. This is a private group so you have to be a member to participate. Without wishing to be overly critical, I wonder whether the administrators have kept this group private to avoid criticism from animal advocates. They are open to criticism.
There is a cat called Bronson who was three times heavier than an average cat when he went into a shelter. I presume that he’s lost some weight but during the weight loss program he had 250,000 fans.
It might be a good thing in that people want to be encouraged to start a weight loss program for the cat. It might also be curiosity about anything exteme in animals. And it seems to me that there is a group of people who are interested in fat cats, and I don’t mean the human variety.
I don’t need to go over the obesity problem among the cat population in the Western world. There are too many fat domestic cats and dogs and it is causing a health problem. It’s been described as an epidemic by some veterinarians. One potential consequence is an increased incidence of feline sugar diabetes.
If enough people look at obese cats and dogs they can normalise the weight of companion animals. This is already one of the problems of companion animal ownership. People are beginning to fail to recognise what an obese cat and dog looks like. They develop a skewed perception and like the look of cuddly cats. Even the word “chonky” is now popular. I’ve seen a rescue organisation use the word to describe one of their rescue cats abandoned by a person who overfed the cat.
In the UK there are about 8.5 million overweight pets which I’m told is up by 600,000 in five years. In addition, 44% of cats in the UK are overweight as at 2019. The figure for dogs is 51%. This is a rise of about 40% since 2014. The figures are from the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association.
Clearly there are health problems as mentioned with obesity. In addition to diabetes, a pet risks joint problems, respiratory problems and cancer. Pet obesity has risen in parallel with human obesity since 2010.
A survey by the pet food manufacturer Purina found that dog owners decided that 3,399 overweight dogs were an ideal weight. Two dog breeds particularly susceptible to this misconception are labradors and pugs. It appears that people are projecting their thought about people onto their pets and we know how people normalise their own weight.
It’s important that cat and dog owners have an accurate perspective on ideal companion animal weight. You should be able to feel their pet’s ribs and I have a page on this subject which you can read by clicking on this link. Cats and dogs should lose weight slowly to avoid feline hepatic lipidosis.
Social media pages with hundreds of thousands of followers of images of obese animals doesn’t look good to me. It looks like voyeurism and taking amusement out of what ultimately comes down to suffering and ill-health in companion animals. I don’t want to be too curmudgeonly and neither do I want to be overly critical because people deserve some fun. However, personally I don’t think that people should seek amusement out of ill-health. Are you with me on that or do you think I’m being overly critical?
I’m afraid that social media has weaknesses. It tends to bring out the bad side of humankind sometimes. Social media can be useful and advantageous but in the past we’ve seen problems such as harassment of young people leading to mental health issues. Many young people have body image problems and a lot of posts on social media present fake stories due to the desire to present success.
In my view, social media needs to be checked and regulated by an independent body. We can’t rely on Facebook (Facebook owns Instagram) to self-regulate and monitor their business to the required standard. This is partly because it is too big and therefore impossible for them to monitor it properly. It’s out of control to a certain extent and I think these fat animal voyeuristic groups are an example of where social media goes wrong. I know Facebook would hate to read this sort of stuff but they have a problem. There is a lot of talk about it and whether it is a good idea to regulate social media.
Sometimes videos like the one above stop working for reasons beyond my control and if that has happened I apologise.
SOME MORE ON CAT OBESITY: