If there's any truth to the belief that pets and their owners tend to look alike, then it's no wonder that there's an obesity epidemic among our furry friends. In fact, somewhere between 25 to 45 percent of domestic dogs and cats are overweight or obese, and a review of existing research on pet paunchiness published recently in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior helps explain why. While medical issues, genetic predisposition, dietary factors, and reproductive (neutered or not) factors, and gender contribute to pets gaining weight, animals are just like us: They're emotional eaters. Women lead the way in wearing their emotions on their scales so allow them to demonstrate what's causing pets to get pudgy. And the next time your pet goes through a tumultuous breakup or has a bad hair day, put a padlock on the Purina.
1. Overweight cats are more likely to be living in houses with only one or two furry friends. So those oft-insulted "cat ladies" who live with lots of felines can take comfort in the fact their cats are usually slim and trim. Similarly, dogs in single-hound households are plumper, presumably because having other pups around 24-7 translates to increased amounts of playtime (or calorie-burning in dog world).
2. When humans are in negative emotional states, comfort foods (i.e. a pint of Ben & Jerry’s) and other goodies that are high in sugar and fat content, help to alleviate the pain. In the absence of comfort foods, emotional eaters overconsume whatever is available. Pets who are feeling down do the same, downing extra kibble or far too much Fancy Feast.
3. Unlike people, cats and dogs aren't necessarily aware of the fact they may have packed on a few extra pounds, so they lack the drive to diet or hit the gym extra hard. The responsibility falls on the caretaker to instill better consumption habits.
4. Don’t reach for the pet Prozac right away. Overeating and obesity in animals could be a sign of a pleasurable emotional state as well.
5. Social isolation has been consistently shown to increase eating in lab animals. Remember to provide physical affection to your pets. They'll be happy you did ... whether or not they show it.
6. It's not you, it's me. Labrador Retrievers, Cairn Terriers, Cavalier King Charles, Scottish Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels, as well as domestic short-haired cats, are most prone to pudginess.