Many of you may have read that the Ottawa Humane Society recently charged a woman who allowed her twelve-year-old cat to get so large that it was unable to stand or clean itself. I know that some of you read this, looked over at your chunky ball of fur and wondered if you could get into trouble yourself.
Obesity in pets is—excuse the pun—a large and growing problem. Pets can be a reflection of our own lifestyles, and our own lack of exercise contributes to our pet's sedentary life. Feeding human food to pets can lead to weight gain and health problems; overfeeding of pet food is common. Many of us should do better by our pets in this regard, but it is unlikely that if you are reasonably responsible about your pet's weight that you would be under any threat of prosecution. Your veterinarian is in the best position to advise you if our pet's health is at risk.
This case was a very serious one. Evidence suggests that the cat had seen a veterinarian multiple times over several years with health problems that resulted from his weight. It is alleged that over the period, the advice was not followed and the cat's condition worsened, as his weight did not decrease, but rather increased substantially.
By the time the cat came into the care of the OHS, he could not stand or clean himself, his coat had severe fecal matting, and he was suffering from scalding and severe skin irritation on his anus and hind quarters. This suffering, and the likelihood that he was suffering from multiple secondary health problems as a result of morbid obesity for a long time, meant that a lovely 12-year old cat had to be euthanized to relieve his distress. The OHS took the relatively rare course of action and laid charges. Though we investigate well over a thousand complaints every year, we reserve charges for only a dozen or two of the most serious cases. In this case, his owner was charged with neglect and with failure to provide standards of care and permitting distress.
This case is not about a cat with a weight problem. It is about neglect.