Last week, a fellow opinion writer wrote an article expressing his views on a trend that has emerged on social media, specifically Instagram, in which owners of large cats share pictures of their cats. The author seemed to be most concerned that the glorification of these cats is contributing to the public’s complacency toward obesity, and that NC State, as an agricultural school, should take measures to stop this trend. However, the author’s argument is problematic for several reasons.
One, someone cannot assume that just because a cat is “fat” (and by the way, I am using fat as a size descriptor, not a derogatory term), their owner must be overfeeding them. This is because cats come in all shapes and sizes, and some cats might simply have naturally larger bodies regardless of how much their owner feeds them. Also, focusing too much on “overweight” or “obese” cats ignores the fact that underweight or even normal weight cats can have health problems as well.
While I agree that regularly feeding cats more than what they need is not healthy, it is more important to focus on overall health behaviors when encouraging cats to be healthier, rather than focusing on a specific number or size. For example, owners might encourage their cats to get more fresh air by leaving the door open, or allow their cats to roam freely around the house if they are not outdoor cats. Also, owners can discourage overeating by feeding the cats smaller meals throughout the day to ensure their cats are getting adequate nutrition. Owners can also ensure the food they are feeding their cats is nutrient-dense, because deprivation can certainly lead to overeating, as well as nutritional deficiencies and liver failure.
The point here is that instead of focusing on owners who glorify their pets’ size, we should instead direct attention to owners who abuse or neglect their pets by leaving them in cages all day, not getting them properly vaccinated, or even physically abusing them. Even if the cats we see on the internet might be “unhealthy” by society’s standards, it can be reasonably assumed that their owners love them enough to post cute pictures of them.
On the other hand, something the author alludes to but does not specifically state in the article, is that overfeeding can potentially be a sign of something more problematic. This makes sense, as not allowing a cat to move adequately and feeding nutrient-poor food could be a sign of neglect or abuse. However in this case, we should focus on the underlying causes rather than on the weight itself. In fact, animal abuse is strongly correlated with domestic violence and child abuse.
However, focusing our attention on creating weight loss goals for pets through a “calorie deficit” or “increasing fiber intake” is detracting from more serious issues surrounding treatment of animals and could potentially lead to more mistreatment if owners begin underfeeding their pets. As students at NC State and as humans, we should certainly be concerned about the welfare of animals, but social media accounts which depict larger cats should be the least of our worries.