May 22, 2007

I’d do anything for you, except the one thing you need

Posted in bunnies, companion animals, health at 10:51 pm by nevavegan

I brought up recently that I took Jasper the rabbit to the vet and the vet called him “obese.” Not “you’ve got a chubby rabbit here.” But “obese.”

My first response was to say that Jasper wasn’t obese. Sure he could be a little more active, but he’s just a big bunny…. No, the truth was I had let my bunny get overweight to the point that it was detrimental to his health.

This makes me sound like the worst bunny-mom ever, but it happened so gradually I didn’t see it coming. First Jasper really wasn’t socialized at all when we adopted him, so the only real way to interact with him was to coax him out with bits of apple or dried cherries. Then we were putting out dry food for both him and Juniper and we kind of knew that Juniper was elderly and eating less and he was getting more, but that was ok, right? Then Juniper died, and Jasper was all alone, so how else was I going to comfort him except to shower him in every type of delicious treat. The weight gain was so gradual that he didn’t look any different to me from the day he’d come into our house.

It took someone else shining a light on the problem for me to wake up. Luckily Jasper has two new friends now to keep him company and lots of hay to chew on. He still gets treats from time to time, but fewer now and the dry food is carefully measured.

We’re actually trying to be better with all of our rescued animals. Now with the cats I’m trying to crack out the toys, not treats, to bond with them. It’s hard not to give the dogs those cute little dog cookies sometimes, but they also have to go outside and walk and run with me.

It’s kind of scary how easy it is to harm the health of those we love, even with the best intentions. I’ve always loved to cook, and I totally would shower my husband with baked goods at every turn… He told me to stop actually. No more cookies, no more cakes! It feels like such total rejection to me, in a way, because I do base so much of my self image on being a nurturer, being the one who makes the food and hands it out, and then gets the praise of how good that food is. I’m finding healthy dishes to make though of course, and still sometimes I make beer battered tofu, but I can’t do it to excess.

But our country is in the middle of a human obesity epidemic that likely has its roots in just these issues. And oddly enough, right along with the human obesity epidemic is a companion animal obesity epidemic. At the same time that we’re finding starving cats and dogs living off scraps from garbage cans, record numbers of dogs, cats, rabbits, and even other animals are going to the vet with health problems from eating too much in general and too much junk in particular.

I think about this with regard to companion animals who are totally dependent on us. We love them so much we’d do absolutely anything for them. We’d take them to the vet, let them sleep in our beds, change our schedules for them. But we won’t do the one thing they need, which is make the nutritional and food portion decisions they can’t make for themselves.

Especially with rescued animals, some of them just have the “full button” permanently broken. Torty, my ex-feral cat would probably eat herself into a coma if she had the chance. She knows what it’s like to be hungry, and she doesn’t ever want to experience that again. That’s instinct. Outside it would help her store calories for the lean times ahead. But I’m the one in charge here and I know I’ll feed her tomorrow and the next day and the next. So I have to sometimes say no. Even if she begs. Even if she makes terrible crying noises and I feel like the meanest person on earth.

Of course, this is sadly true for a lot of human children too. Their parents need to force them to eat some veggies and say no to some donuts, but another rant, another time, I suppose.



  1. bazu said,

    I hope you’re feeling better from the plague you mentioned!! I hate being sick, so I’m sending you healing thoughts.

    Also, I wanted to let you know that I tagged you for a meme on my blog- I hope you can check it out and participate!

  2. Deb said,

    I struggle with my tempest’s weight constantly. I’ve had friends take care of her when I was out of town, and over feed her big time. Despite my instructions. And overfeed her by about twice.

    That pissed me off to no end, I can tell you. It is painful to get her back on her normal amounts after she’s been able to be a glutton. She begs for food quite a bit, and she’s been that way since she was a kitten.

    Anyway, she’s not trim, but she’s not obese, and it is always a struggle with her to keep her from gaining weight. One thing I’ve found is that when she’s certain that she’s starving to death, she often really wants attention. I’ll play with her, we’ll go out on the patio, I’ll brush her, or I’ll just plop her down on my lap and pet her until she forgets that she thought she wanted food.

    It is hard to not just give her treats, because she really loves them. It makes her happy. Denying the ones we love something that will make them (temporarily) happy is not easy, but if we’re looking to the future and their long-term health and happiness, a little denial is more loving then the treats are.

    I think it would be cool if someone could come up with exercise videos that are designed for humans + cats or dogs. She joins in a bit when I’m doing yoga, but it only works up to a point!

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