What definitive/medical information can you provide me that will help convince my roommate to stop lecturing me about this cat?
June 18, 2010 11:34 AM   Subscribe

How do I convince my roommate my cat is fine and does not "need" a shave nor does he need to be fed more?

I grew up with a zillion cats - always indoor/outdoor - and I feel like I understand cats pretty well. A year ago, a friend K started an India/Nepal/Thailand trip for a year and left his indoor-only cat with me.

Part 1:
He informed me he fed the cat twice a day with the estimate of 1/3rd a cup of dry food each of the two times, with the not-always-daily offering of a few tender treats. I continued that regimen.. all the cats I ever had growing up always just had a big bowl of food and they helped themselves when they wanted.. but they were outdoor cats and in almost all cases they were healthy and not overweight. Regardless, I stuck to his instructions..

The cat was probably a bit overweight when I got him and he is maybe a bit lighter now, but generally weighs the same and is still on the beefy side.

All this having been said: he definitely bugs me for food if I walk towards the room where his food dish is. It's almost like a trigger for him. He sometimes even tries to get food 10 minutes after he was just fed. Now, in my experience, this is very typical for cats, especially if you throw canned food into the mix (can opener = Pavlovian response). On the flip side, he doesn't always eat the whole plate of food; sometimes he leaves some leftovers for a few hours.

My roommate thinks I don't feed the cat enough because he does the typical morning routine of toe-biting, face-palming (my face, his palm), and scratching at the furniture.. Yes, he is often trying to get me up to feed him when he does this but I don't think this means he isn't fed enough.. My roommate speaks to me like I'm running a death camp.

Part 2:
My roommate also thinks I'm inhumane and cruel to not get the cat shaved (or "lion cut"). She seems to think he will be miserable and hot this summer.

I'm in Maine and have had numerous Maine Coon cats over the years. We've never shaved them. They've had tons of fur. They still lay in the hot sun on the most humid and hot days of the year. They don't pant. My understanding is that cats run a warmer body temperature than us, their skin is more sunburnable, and the fur actually helps them keep cool in some situations as well as warm in others (ala goose down). My googling has failed to produce a definitive answer here on whether the "lion cut" is necessarily a bad thing (can't be that dangerous - lots of people do it).. but I really feel like a shave/trim is not at all required, especially in Maine where temperatures usually run in the high 70s on warmr days in the summer, sometimes peaking to the mid 90s a few times a year.

What definitive/medical information can you provide me that will help convince my roommate to stop lecturing me about this cat?.. or, alternatively, am I completely wrong?

P.S. other than being a pest in the morning and sometimes in the evening about getting his food, he seems like a damn happy cat, purrs all the time, wraps himself around my arm to sleep at night, and is so trustworthy that I can approach and pet him when he is sleeping and he won't open his eyes, prop up his head - rarely have I found a cat that is this trusting on a regular basis. Also, His coat is beautiful and healthy.

yeesh, I apologize for the length of this.
posted by mbatch to Pets & Animals (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, how much does your roommate know about cats? Has he ever had one? This all sounds extremely normal to me. Cats whine and complain all day long and they like to be warm. That doesn't mean they're unhappy. He sounds like a normal, happy cat.

One way you could pacify your roommate would be to say "We'll take him to the vet, you foot the bill. I'll bet you $20 the vet says he's perfectly fine and doesn't need a haircut."

That being said I know someone who would get their long-haired cat trimmed in the summer but I don't get the point either, especially if you've got AC. My cat almost never chooses to lie in the AC, always in the sun.
posted by amethysts at 11:39 AM on June 18, 2010

Do you have a vet? Ask your vet for a feeding guidelines sheet and post it on the fridge and refer your roommate to it then otherwise ignore her comments about the cat food.

As for the shaving: it's not your cat; you have no business shaving it any more than you'd have business cutting someone else's toddler's hair just because you were babysitting and thought the kid might be hot. Again, you can ask your vet and then just ignore your roommate.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:41 AM on June 18, 2010

On the feeding, you could always pass the buck: "Look, I know it's a little annoying to be woken in the morning, but this is what my friend said to do, and I'd hate for him to come back to a fat cat."

On the shaving, here's a recent thread on (the unnecessariness of) trying to keep cats cool.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:41 AM on June 18, 2010

Here are some cat body condition/weight diagrams designed to help distinguish between emaciated/thin/ideal/overweight/obese cats:



It sounds like the cat in question has longish fur, so you'll have to go by feel for some things. The "abdominal tuck" should help, though.

As for the heat: behavior is the best guide. Watch for panting - that's a bad sign. If the cat is willing to play or eat in the middle of the day, it's probably OK. If it always lies on the bathroom or other cool tiled floor, it may be too hot.
posted by amtho at 11:47 AM on June 18, 2010

I have a Maine coon and live in Florida. He spends most of his time indoors, but does still go out on the porch, even in our hot summers. He is not shaved. If he gets hot, he comes inside. I have only seen him pant once, when he got stuck in some bushes (not literally stuck, but he escaped the porch and there was a dog and fear kept him rooted to the spot). I took care of him promptly with cool water and a/c, and he was absolutely fine.

I've also had Persians that were indoor-outdoor cats. The only reason we ever trimmed them was when their fur was matted from sandspurs. Your cat does not need to be shaved. I'm definitely with you on this one.

Based on an earlier thread with a vet's recommendation, you might consider giving the cat some canned food rather than just dry food, but that would have to be a gradual change. He might be more satisfied, it's doubtful that the cost would be prohibitive (probably not much more at all, if any), and might help to shut your roommate up. But it's not *necessary*.

Also, please remind your roommate that the original owner of the cat trusted you with his keeping. You are using your best judgment, and presumably that's exactly what he expected of you.
posted by misha at 11:56 AM on June 18, 2010

Yes, he is often trying to get me up to feed him when he does this but I don't think this means he isn't fed enough.. My roommate speaks to me like I'm running a death camp.

My cats act like they are dying if they think they have a chance getting a meal. The three of them move like a pack of sharks, all the while 'Wah Wah Wah'ing for all they're worth. Master manipulators, cats are. Mine are fed a homemade raw chicken mixture twice a day. They lack for nothing, but they will do everything in their power to convince me that it is time for eatsings.

Many cats, when given the option to free-feed themselves, will eat past satiation. However, dry food in excess is not very good for cats, because it contains very little moisture. Ideally, cats consume the greatest part of their daily water requirement in their food. Make sure that the cat has an ample supply of fresh water that you change every day.

But you describe the cat as maintaining its weight, having a good appetite, and a healthy coat. It sounds bright and happy. The amount that you're feeding doesn't sound insufficient based on the way you describe the animal.

get the cat shaved (or "lion cut")

What breed of cat is it?

If it is a brachycephalic breed (ie. a Himalayan or Persian) with a long, dense coat, it may find the lion cut to be more comfortable in the summer. Animals cool themselves through respiration; short-nosed animals cannot do so as efficiently as mesocephalic animals (ie. a Maine Coon).

While cats have higher normal temperatures than do humans (100.5 - 102.5 deg. F), they can still be bothered by the summer heat. They have a dense fur coat that they cannot take off! During the summer, my cats can typically be found sleeping on smooth, cool surfaces, like the bathroom floor, at maximum sprawl, to maximize the surface area exposed to the heat sink.

help convince my roommate to stop lecturing me about this cat

Well, it is his cat. If I were to leave my cats with someone, I would expect that person to follow any reasonable instructions I had regarding my cats.
posted by Seppaku at 12:05 PM on June 18, 2010

Best answer: Do not shave your (friend's) cat. They are domesticated from the north african/middle easter area (aka: very hot) and have adapted to do just fine. I quoted this in the other thread, but here it is again:

However, several features of cats' physiology are unusual and are probably due to their descent from desert-dwelling species. For instance, cats are able to tolerate quite high temperatures: humans generally start to feel uncomfortable when their skin temperature passes about 44.5 °C (112 °F); in contrast cats show no discomfort until their skin reaches around 52 °C (126 °F), and can tolerate temperatures of up to 56 °C (133 °F) if they have access to water.

Also, if I left you my cat and you shaved it I would be extremely pissed.
posted by sbutler at 12:05 PM on June 18, 2010

I live in boiling hot north florida (up to 100+ during the day) with no air conditioning at all. I have five cats - three in and two out. nobody ever gets a haircut or a shave. during shedding season, everybody gets rubber-brushed when I get sick of picking up cat yak. once in a while, when I'm really hot, everybody gets an ice cube in their water dish. that's it.

indoor cats tend to sleep under tables or on the tile floors in the summer. outdoor cats sleep under cars or on the cement bricks by the house foundation.

I give all the cats fresh water every day.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:08 PM on June 18, 2010

Well, it is his cat. If I were to leave my cats with someone, I would expect that person to follow any reasonable instructions I had regarding my cats.

It's not the roommate's cat.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:12 PM on June 18, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, I almost forgot.. the obligatory photo: Henry. Thanks for all the responses, folks.. again, I know cats.. I feel that this cat is fine, loves life, is completely comfortable. My question is really more "I need definitive scientific proof" to shut up my roommate. I've explained my logical reasoning, she just thinks she knows better.
posted by mbatch at 12:13 PM on June 18, 2010

Heh, that web page has the same picture for emaciated and thin as a mistake. I looked between them like 10 times and could find no difference and finally realized they both have emaciated in the image file name.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:13 PM on June 18, 2010

Hard to say under all that fur but that cat is Not Thin to my eyes.

Did the cat's original owner ever trim it in the summer?
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:14 PM on June 18, 2010

that cat looks like it has plenty of breathable face
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:19 PM on June 18, 2010

Response by poster: One more thing : there is plenty of darker shaded rooms in my apartment and it is mostly wooden floors, tile in the bathroom, but he always curls up (not sprawled) and he is usually on the couch, in a chair, or on top of something on the dining room table. I have no doubt that he is not hot.

The previous owner did give him the "lion cut" on occasion but more because he wouldn't keep up with the mats in his hair.. I get the mats myself with scissors, so that's a moot point.

As RustyBrooks said, he is definitely "Not Thin".
posted by mbatch at 12:37 PM on June 18, 2010

I think you have the slam dunk argument. This is not your cat. If I left my cat with a friend and the friend altered kitty's diet I'd be angry. If the friend shaved my cat I'd be livid.

"Roommate, I hear what you're saying about Henry. I just really don't think it's my place to change what K said to do. It's his/her cat after all."


"I talked to K and s/he said Henry's vet wants him on this diet. I was also told that I'd be drawn and quartered if I shave the cat."

Then when your roommate brings it up again you can just sigh and say "I know, I know but my hands are tied."
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:41 PM on June 18, 2010

I've always heard that a cat's fur acts as insulation against the heat. I've had long haired cats all my life, both indoor and outdoor, and none of them were ever shaved.

You can also check the bag of food see what the recommended daily serving is. Mine has guidelines listed based on weight.

Mostly I am commenting to say holy crap, that is a fantastic cat.
posted by something something at 12:43 PM on June 18, 2010

Tell your roommate to get her own cat and do whatever she wants (within reason) to it. If the headbutts in the morning are bothering your roommate, can you keep the cat sequestered in your room at night?

As for medical information, I bet your roommate isn't going to believe anything you show her from a website anyway, given the wealth of contradictory information available. Presumably you'll take the cat to the vet for a checkup at some point anyway, right? Ask the vet, who will undoubtedly tell you that Henry is just peachy. Come back and tell your roommate that until she gets his DVM, you're gonna go with what the vet says.
posted by desuetude at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2010

Response by poster: He is quite fantastic.

I had read that, too, something something.. I'm really looking for definitive information, so I think sbutler's wiki quote is going to have to do.. I know how to lie, stretch the truth, or otherwise deflect or ignore my roommate.. I'm just stubborn and don't like letting people get away with their incorrect "truths" :)
posted by mbatch at 12:53 PM on June 18, 2010

Oh my god, this it as a handsome Maine Coone-type cat! Yeah, don't shave him. They like it hot.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:57 PM on June 18, 2010

Cool cat. Buy a furminator and if your roomate wants something to do, then she can groom Henry every couple of days. Don't shave the cat, obviously. If it was meant to be furless.. it would be furless.

For a definitive view on weight, weigh the cat. If you're not feeding the cat enough, you would expect the cat to keep losing weight. If it's not, and the cat is at the right weight now then you're feeding it right.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:59 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cats are ALWAYS dying of food ten minutes after they're fed. Just in case. Maybe you should talk to a friendly vet and then tell you roomie "the vet said this is the right way to do it." whatever you say, say it firmly. If you seem the slightest bit unsure, s/he will continue worrying about it.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:10 PM on June 18, 2010

We live in California and give our cat a lion cut in the summers. He loves it. Goes from sedentary lying on his back on the tile bathroom floor for hours to frisking and whisking around the house. He always has more energy in the weeks and months post-lion cut.

That said, he is the first cat I've ever given lion cuts and that was only after a few summer months of watching him pant and sleep in the bath tub. I say, your friend's cat doesn't need a lion cut. He is obviously happy.

Give your roomie a furminator and let him vigorously furminate Henry. We love our furminator (as does our vacuum) and if they're really that worried about too much fur, that's the trick.

Also, tell your roommate about some of the dangers of feline obesity (decreased lifespan, feline diabetes, dandruff, all sorts of other nasty stuff). I'd worry that s/he was slipping Henry food on the sly (which in my experience leads to increased meowing/begging because the cat now knows there might be occasional extra feedings).
posted by arnicae at 1:24 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the pic...gorgeous cat!
posted by Lone_Wolf at 1:29 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A few years ago New Zealand passed a welfare code for companion cats. It outlines the minimum requirements for keeping cats plus recommendations for best practise. It was well researched and is legally enforceable, so should be fairly definitive for your flatmate.

At the very end it has pictures of how fat or thin a cat should be, and Henry clearly doesn't fall into the underweight category. Recommendations for feeding are on page 15 and if Henry is actually in the 'heavy' category (hard to tell with all the fur) then you need to look at feeding him less rather than more. Also keep in mind that an overweight cat is at greatly increased risk for diabetes so increasing his food is actually a Really Bad Idea. My info comes from my vet specialist but I can probably find references too if you need them (let me know).

For coats it doesn't say anything about shaving just that long hair cats need to be regularly groomed and mats need to be removed appropriately (page 27). Given the whole point of this guideline is to outline the things which need to be done to ensure your cat's welfare (including quite a lot of advice about when you need to go to the vet, which again is legally enforceable) that means that shaving is in no way necessary. If it was it would be listed in there. So if your flatmate is worried then show her that you're fulfilling not only the minimum requirements but 'best practise' (daily grooming) so are already going beyond what is necessary.

Henry is lovely.
posted by shelleycat at 1:38 PM on June 18, 2010

I have a Maine Coon and a Norwegian Forest Cat, and the temptation to shave them is pretty hard to fight, but they're really happier not to get boxed up and taken to a strange place to be attacked by strange people wielding strange tools, if it's all the same to me. I furminate the shit out of them when they let me but it is more for my sanity than their comfort, they would just as soon be left the hell alone.

Also, they are enormous (but not as fat as they look, they're just...big boned and really fluffy), and they don't really need to eat much because they're lazy as shit, but they do really like to eat so they do what Henry does, which is get super-stoked any time there is any action that leads them to think there might be food. The family response to this is to roll eyes, say "Oh jeez, Craig/Murphy, you JUST ATE" and keep walking.
posted by padraigin at 1:38 PM on June 18, 2010

That looks EXACTLY like one of my cats!

We also worry about the heat since we haven't had her through a summer yet, but she seems fine so far and this might not be a very hot summer - last year it was very hot and even the very short hair cat was panting. If she pants I think we will trim her with the electric shaver. She already does need her rear trimmed a bit so stuff doesn't get stuck to it in the litterbox.

As for food, I think your way is fine. For more than one cat I think the grazing method (just always have dry food out) is better because it doesn't encourage competitive eating.
posted by meepmeow at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2010

I'm in Maine too. I've had coon cats all my life, and have never had one shaved. First, I don't think it gets so hot here in Maine that they need it. And second, my cats have never appeared to be uncomfortable in the heat (Though I don't push it - when it's extreme I let them hang out in the cool basement). As a matter of fact my big orange coon is on the sun porch right now, on this muggy 85 degree day, stretched out in a patch of sunlight.

(And your cat is beautiful!)
posted by suki at 2:05 PM on June 18, 2010

"Roommate, I hear what you're saying about Henry. I just really don't think it's my place to change what K said to do. It's his/her cat after all."

And I would add to that, "Roommate, you are acting like a crazy cat lady. If you want to take this cat to the vet and pay to get a professional opinion, please do. However, regardless of what the vet says, you'll need to run any changes by the owner first. Now, let us never speak of this cat issue again!"

Jeez, Louise!
posted by amanda at 2:27 PM on June 18, 2010

What a beautiful boy! And probably not nearly as fat as he looks -- my cat is much the same (get him wet and you'll find out just how small he actually is). Mine -- both black -- sit in the most RIDICULOUSLY hot spots in the house, and act as if they're being starved when of course they're not -- it's just normal, spoiled puddingcat behavior. Your roommate knows not of what he or she speaks!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:55 PM on June 18, 2010

Yeah, there's nothing wrong with that cat. Perhaps roomate thinks cats ought to be fat? A lot of people do.

Unless the cat is panting and seeking the coldest place in the house, it is fine.
posted by gjc at 3:08 PM on June 18, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I think I have the ammo I need.

two more pics:

pic 1
pic 2
posted by mbatch at 3:09 PM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

N-thing advice re: plenty of fresh cool water is generally all he needs. He's gorgeous, btw.
posted by variella at 3:26 PM on June 18, 2010

Try this: "This is my cat. I will feed and groom it as I see fit. You will neither feed nor groom the cat."
posted by Ironmouth at 3:43 PM on June 18, 2010

My question is really more "I need definitive scientific proof" to shut up my roommate. I've explained my logical reasoning, she just thinks she knows better.

You need to show backbone, not "definitive proof."
posted by Ironmouth at 3:46 PM on June 18, 2010

Fur acts as insulation against heat as well as cold, usually the only reason to shave a cat is if it's matted or isn't grooming itself and is all greasy and gross.

Cats are opportunistic feeders, they ALWAYS want food, as a general rule. It doesn't mean they're actually in need of food.

Most pets are overweight, so most people are accustomed to overweight being normal for a pet. Leaner is better, as a general rule.
posted by biscotti at 4:09 PM on June 18, 2010

Make sure she's not feeding the cat behind your back. I had someone do this to my cats and it's been hard for them to drop that weight.

p.s. thank you for following the law.
posted by desjardins at 5:35 PM on June 18, 2010

Nthing the Furminator idea. My god that thing could pull enough fur out of my old fatass to stuff a softball with it. They SAY you should only need to do it once a month ... I had to do it every WEEK. Never-ending fur factory, that one.

And since yours looks a LOT like mine did, I'll suggest you make sure to furminate his belly and his armpits. A LOT of his fur would come from there.
posted by Heretical at 7:35 PM on June 18, 2010

Get your roommate a new hobby. The cat's fine. Gorgeous, as well.
posted by theora55 at 12:20 PM on June 19, 2010

« Older Help me rock out with my c- ... uh help me rock.   |   Insurance catch-22 Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.