February 29, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Learning to feed

By |2018-03-21T18:26:05+01:00December 1st, 2007|Lifestyle Archive|
Dead fish have awful eating habits.

nd another one bites the dust. Today (and this is hardly breaking news), fish no. 2 died. He floats in the tank as evidence of our inability to sustain aquatic life. With 26 dead fish under our belt, our local pet store owner intervened. He invited himself over to monitor our tank and our lifestyle. He had three thoughts: a. we’re giving the fish too much light; b. we’re not giving them enough; or, c. we’re not feeding them properly. I go with food. The fish look anorexic to me. They barely nibble at their meals. They lose interest, luster, and finally go belly up. We’d like to find a decent diet to encourage them to live, but so far no luck.

Our pet store owner takes diet and health very seriously. He’s not alone. An overweight cat or dog is cute only in a bad sitcom or cartoon. Guinea pigs with atrophied limbs are pathetic. When encountering an overweight pug or triple-chinned cat I’m inclined to wonder how much thought goes into a pet’s diet, if any.

Lately, particularly in the United States, pet care has been on a Botox curve, which is to say on the rise. Vigilance is the word. All-natural pet foods have become de rigeur. Nutritious pet diets and exercise regimes are beginning to measure up to human standards. Europe is slowly catching up, with more pet spas and more pet menu items.

Keeping a pet in good shape isn’t easy, but it’s not hard either. Though I don’t have the patience to put Bella on the South Beach diet (for her youthful figure), I can proudly say she’s fed only twice daily and walked three times a day to help her maintain her trim, three-kilo, airline carry-on size. For the record, I am not impervious to her uncanny impression of a starving dog, complete with foamy mouth, eyes rolled back and a cute, begging jump.

And yes, I’ve been known to “drop” something on the floor for Bella — even when she’s not with me I instinctively move my hand under the table. That said, I also know exaggeration is risk. Fact: Yorkies have no hunger gauge. They can literally eat themselves to death.

With the holiday season reminding everyone about winter weight gain (and sending many to the palestra), why not take time out to consider your pets’ health needs?

Here are some themes:

Man vs. Animal: Your cat/dog/parrot’s meal should be catered to its dietary needs — not what’s left over from your table. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian about pet food and amount.

Age vs. Beauty: Pets grow up and their dietary needs change. It is always good to speak with your vet about what your pet needs to live healthier and longer.

Tricks vs. Treats: Treats are rewards for good behavior, not for snacking between meals. If you feed your pet snacks through out the day, reduce the size of his/her standard meal.

Man vs. Nature: If you can’t find time to walk your dog, play with your cat or encourage your gerbil to run through the tube, find someone who will. Either pay a pet sitter or ask a kid. Kids are usually in the pet energy range when it comes to wanting to play.

About the Author:

Erica Firpo wrote The American's pet advice column from 2006 to 2009. She is a freelance travel and culture writer who lives in Rome with husband, daughter and faithful sidekick Bella. She has worked for Fodor's Rome edition, Luxe City Guides and National Geographic Travel, as well as writing art reviews for Zing and other U.S.-based magazines.