While human obesity is on the rise all over the world, people are not the only living creatures who sometimes struggle with their weight.
But the difference with pets is the number of people who will argue that their cats and dogs are ‘perfectly healthy’ and refuse to address possible diet or exercise solutions, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
While their friend was traveling overseas for work, Redditor AntiChunkster agreed to pet-sit her very overweight cat, but they did not agree to how their friend wanted her cat to be cared for.
But when placing the cat on a feeding schedule led to her positive weight loss and the end of the pet owner’s friendship, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if they took their responsibilities too far.
They asked the sub:
“AITA for making my friend’s cat lose weight while she is in my care?”
The OP’s friend’s cat was obviously overweight.
“My friend’s cat, Juno, has always been massive.”
“She was well beyond the level of usual ‘Oh, that cat is kinda fat’ comments; she was an absolute tank, and she is not even a large breed, just a standard regular cat.”
“Whenever someone would point out that she was bigger than she should be, my friend would get annoyed and insist she is just that way and is perfectly healthy.”
The OP agreed to pet-sit Juno for an entire year while her friend traveled for work.
“My friend started a global mobility assignment at her job that involved living in Europe for a year, and she asked me if I would take care of Juno while she was gone, which I agreed to.”
“She walked me through all the cat care matters before she left and told me that Juno was free-fed and I just needed to keep her feeder topped off so that she could access dry food at any time.”
“The feeder wasn’t on a timer, it was just a bottle that dispensed food with gravity whenever the tray got empty.”
“I told her that I really wasn’t comfortable letting her have constant access to food at her weight.”
“She said (paraphrasing here), ‘Look, she’s still my cat, and you don’t get to make that call. Either tell me you’re going to stick to the plan or tell me you won’t and I’ll find someone else.'”
“I agreed, but admittedly I wondered if I would be able to follow through on my word for a whole year.”
The OP “admittedly wondered” for good reason.
“I lasted… maybe a week? Having Juno around all day every day made it extremely clear how much she was suffering because of her weight. She struggled to even hop up on my couch.”
“I took the feeder away and started feeding her one can of wet food in the morning and one can in the evening.”
“I work from home, so the adjustment period of constant yowling for food was an absolute nightmare, but… it worked.”
“She is now 14 lbs after eight-ish months on the ‘my way or the highway’ diet, and she is much more energetic and mobile. Even her breathing sounds better.”
The OP’s friend called her out on Juno’s weight loss.
“My friend has started to notice the weight loss in the photos that I’ve been sending her and is extremely upset that I went behind her back after I agreed to the free feeding.”
“She demanded that I go back to the old way.”
“I said, ‘Honestly… I’m sorry, but I really don’t think I can bring myself to do that.'”
“I was like, ‘I know that when she is back with you, you are going to do what you will, but while she is under my roof, I can’t just let her gorge herself on food all day when it’s clear that she can eat normally and lose weight, that would be neglect.'”
The OP felt conflicted over her friend’s harsh feedback.
“My friend called around to see if any other friends or family would take her for the remaining four-ish months, but no one could or wanted to.”
“She is extremely upset with me and says that when she is back in the US, she is taking her cat back, and this friendship is over.”
“It hurts, but I accept it. I know I went back on my word, and it must feel very bad for my friend to be across the world with this situation totally out of her hands.”
“But I don’t know if I can bring myself around to thinking that I actually did something morally wrong.”
“I welcome any and all feedback; lay it on me.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some reassured the OP that any other treatment of Juno would have been neglectful.
“Oh wow. NTA.”
“Think of it this way, if she was skin and bones instead of overweight and you started feeding her more instead of less, would literally anyone call you the a**hole? I bet not.”
“It’s really the same thing, just two sides of the same coin. Starving a cat is abuse. Overfeeding a cat to obesity is abuse. And if she’s still 14 pounds after almost a year of weight loss, she must have been enormous.”
“The inevitable regain when she goes back to your friend is very sad, but at least you did right by her while you could.” – EstherandThyme
“Your friend is basically abusing that poor kitty! She’s shortening the cat’s lifespan while also putting her at risk of heart disease, different cancers, joint pain, etc.”
“Is your friend simply lazy? I have two dogs who are fed thrice daily with limited treats. Feeding an animal is a basic responsibility and easy to do. She doesn’t deserve to have a cat.” – Beck2010
“If someone put their child into your care and said, ‘Feed them at least six Big Macs a day and they can have whatever chips, fries, cookies, ice cream, and snacks that they want when they want it,’ what would you say?”
“You’d say, ‘iN tHiS eCoNoMy?!'”
“No but seriously, would you actually do that? Of course not!”
So then why would you do it with an animal who is supposedly loved?”
“OP says they tapered down and the cat is healthy. OP is NTA for not being complicit in animal abuse.” – Aviendha13
“OP is NTA, but OP, take that kitty to the vet and get a full health workup. The vet might recommend some tweaking in the diet, such as reducing the wet food to one can, with X amount of kibble at certain times of the day.”
“The real point of the health check is for the official vet report. Explain to the veterinarian how Juno’s owner doesn’t care properly for her, and show photos of Juno ‘before and after’ this new feeding schedule. A sympathetic vet will write up a report on proper care for Juno, and include the health benefits of a proper weight in cats. Have that report on hand to give to your friend when she returns.”
“Meanwhile, take videos of Juno to send to your friend: Juno hopping lightly onto the bed, Juno sleeping peacefully with no wheezing, Juno running around playing, Juno happily purring, etc. This will help your friend see that Juno is better off being at a healthy weight than she was when she was too fat to move and breathe properly.”
“It’s heartbreaking to think Juno is going to have to go back to an owner who will definitely abuse her. I’m not sure if Animal Control could do anything about this, but you could call and ask.” – SiroccoDream
“NTA. I’m a cat owner myself and would generally be furious to hear someone disregarded an owner’s instructions, but if the cat is down to 14 pounds then she really needed the diet. The typical healthy weight for a house cat is eight to 12 pounds, so unless this was some very large breed, you did her a favor.”
“I’m sure there was yowling but twice daily limited feedings are normal.”
“Did your friend ever take her cat to a vet? I’d imagine a vet would have said something about the terrible joint and cardiovascular strain of too many extra pounds. Your friend has been an irresponsible pet owner and I kind of wish you didn’t have to return the cat (but you do).”
“Maybe her kitty won’t want to gorge again? I hope. Or maybe when your friend sees in person how much more mobile and less wheezy kitty is, she’ll change her mind.” – Icy_Blueness1206
But others felt going back on their word tipped the OP into YTA territory.
“YTA. When you went against the cat owner’s direct instruction, you were overstepping. If you weren’t willing to take the responsibility of getting a vet’s advice you shouldn’t have taken it on yourself to do that.” – NeeliSilverleaf
“It is not your cat. You should not make a medical decision because it is NOT AN EMERGENCY, and putting an obese cat on a diet REQUIRES A VETERINARIAN TO SUPERVISE BECAUSE… Weight loss that occurs quickly can result in severe liver disease (hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome) and could kill the cat.”
“Feed the cat what your friend told you to feed it. You could have talked to her about your concerns and SHE can talk to her Vet. Would you put a friend’s child on a crash diet and not expect anger? And a crash diet would not risk the child dying.”
“I think your heart is in the right place but you are overstepping and risking the cat’s health and life. Please do better.” – Capt-Sylvia-Killy
“OP, you wrote, ‘Either tell me you’re going to stick to the plan or tell me you won’t and I’ll find someone else.'”
“YTA. Your friend made this VERY clear. If you don’t intend to follow someone’s rules with their pet, then don’t agree to watch them.”
“You didn’t even consult with a vet or anything, you just drastically changed the cat’s diet against the owner’s wishes. You could have made that cat very sick, on top of the sheer disrespect you showed to your friend.” Swirlyflurry
“YTA (although it’s understandable). You went back on your word, and it was not your role to change the method of care.”
“If you didn’t agree with what your friend was asking you to do, it was your responsibility to say no upfront, so she could have found someone else to care for the cat before she left.”
“And if you hadn’t realized it until she was gone, it was still your responsibility to confer with her before changing the cat’s diet.” – Kitten-Now
“YTA. Did you even consult a vet about whether the cat could sustain that kind of imposed diet?!”
“Also, what kind of terrible friend clearly agrees to a plan knowing full well you won’t adhere to it? You should have said no, you wouldn’t care for the cat because you could not follow her plan for the cat’s health.”
“While I hurt for the cat, it’s not yours, and you didn’t even consult an actual vet when you started starving it. There is a healthy way for all creatures to lose weight and a cold-turkey 100 percent change in diet contents and quantity is unlikely to be it.”
“You absolutely should not have agreed to this, you should have simply refused and clearly stated why.”
“Also, most people are saying you saved the cat, and while I can see that perspective, it simply wasn’t your call, and you completely disrespected your friend’s trust. So I am glad the cat is healthier, I just don’t think you went about it the right way.” – SpicyTurtle38
While everyone could agree that Juno was inevitably healthier than she was when she arrived in the OP’s temporary care, the subReddit was deeply divided on how they had gone about caring for the cat.
Some felt that the OP had saved the cat’s life, no question, and that Juno’s owner should be grateful and adopt the new diet, or otherwise not be allowed access to the cat again upon return to the United States.
Others, though, felt that it wasn’t the OP’s call, both in the sense of pet ownership and responsible medical care. Without a vet’s guidance, the OP’s diet schedule could have easily backfired with an overweight cat with other undiagnosed health concerns, but even if the diet was working, the OP had still gone back on their word and lied to Juno’s actual owner.
Even though the friendship was likely over, hopefully the weight loss had legitimately helped Juno without provoking other medical issues, and hopefully her owner, too, would realize how much better off she was, even if she wasn’t as fluffy as she used to be.