Does your cat have a second home? Cats love to roam. No other domestic animal enjoys its freedom quite as much as the cat does - that's no set times each day for walking, and plenty of hours left over for snoozing!
To most cat owners, that’s what is great about them. You can let your pet come and go as it pleases, roaming the surrounding streets and gardens for fun, exploring new and pre-loved territories to its heart content. And with no front door key required, either!
Twice a day
What is vital for cats – indeed, any pet - is having a fixed, healthy diet, whether it’s a general ‘twice a day’ meal plan or a more specialist one created to support a healthy condition.
When you suddenly notice a few changes in your cat’s behaviour, their freedom very quickly becomes an issue. Perhaps he or she is spending less time than ever at home and whenever it does make an appearance, there’s a few changes to their habits – and more worrying, their shape.
Why has it happened?
What’s going on? It’s likely your cat has adopted a new, part-time owner, someone living close by who makes a plate of food available at the drop of a hat. And how many cats do you know that wouldn’t appreciate this type of friend?
The problem with overfeeding cats
Like most humans, cats love their food. They like nothing better than to feign hunger, purring their heads off until someone chooses to take pity on them. Yet with obesity in cats on the rise and the PDSA reporting more than 1 in 3 as overweight, overfeeding is something every cat owner must be made aware of to prevent their pet from becoming seriously ill.
So, if yours is a cat with a second home – and one with a roaming banquet table, 24/7 – here’s what to do to keep your pet happy and healthy.
Have a neighbourly CATch-up
If you think you know the person responsible for feeding your cat, it’s time for a friendly word about the situation.
As a cat owner yourself, you understand how cute and cuddly felines can be. Often, a needy purr is all it takes to dupe someone into thinking your cat needs a feed – and this is more than likely the case with your cat.
Whether it’s down to ignorance or simply being a soft touch for animals, once the neighbour understands the dangers associated with overfeeding your pet then the extra feeds will come to a halt. And while kitty may drop some of its visits, if the neighbour’s place offers a haven they will likely continue to stop by – which is great news for anyone living by themselves who enjoy the companionship your cat provides.
Above everything, don’t be jealous of your cat’s extra love and attention. You know yourself how gorgeous they are and that neighbour of yours could be over the moon playing occasional cat-sitter, allowing you to take the odd holiday now and again!
Spread the word further
With cats prone to roaming far and wide, it’s essential to tell the wider world your cat is no stray but one with a home and family.
Put posters around your local area, including a picture of your cat and their name, and specify they are a much-loved pet with plenty of food available at home. You may want to do similar using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, or localised online forums such as Nextdoor, to notify the more digitally inclined.
Introduce a cat collar
This is a super-effective way of letting the world know your cat is no stray, but owned and cared for by a family who provides all the food it needs to stay healthy.
While the message on your collar needn’t be a lengthy one, make it clear not to provide food for your cat under any circumstances. Or, to take this up a level, attach a GPS device to the collar so you can track where it is your cat is visiting each day for its additional supplies.
Keep your cat indoors
For those of you who are used to seeing your cats roaming free, this is a last resort for both you and your pet. Although where the above-mentioned strategies fail to work, it may be an option you need to implement, at least temporarily, while your cat becomes fit again.
If yours is an outdoors type, make sure your home offers plenty of stimulation to keep your pet entertained. Buy some new toys, a soft bed or scratching post - even a cat house if you have room – to keep kitty content. It won’t take long for he or she to become familiar with their new routine. Who knows, they might even come to prefer staying home again over wandering the local neighbourhood!