A little detective work by pet owner Sally Hall uncovered the solution to her cat Perry’s puzzling behaviour: he was seeing other people. Several, in fact!
Perry the cat has always kept his owner Sally and her family on their toes, but she never suspected how much of a secret life he was leading.
Rescued as a stray, Perry was a playful kitten, often with one eye on his next meal. ‘He grew up into a bit of a troubled teenager,’ Sally says. ‘He loved our other rescue cats, but mealtimes could be fraught, as they sparked his competitive streak around food.’
Perry would rush his food, then run into the garden and be sick. In consultation with her vet, Sally put some strategies in place to resolve the problem: feeding Perry separately from her other cats and bulking out his food with wheat cereal until he learned to slow down.
Perry seemed much happier and healthier at first – so the family was surprised when his eating problems seemed to take a turn for the worse.
‘Not only was Perry losing weight, but he was now refusing his food,’ says Sally. ‘It was as if he had been fed already, yet he was getting thinner. We were at our wits’ end.’
Sally worried that Perry was seriously ill, until she began wondering whether someone else was feeding him: ‘It was time to start doing some detective work if we were going to nurse him back to health!’
Finding out your cat visits other homes
Sally put a leaflet through neighbours’ doors, with the message: ‘This is Perry and he has an eating disorder. We think some kind neighbour might be feeding him. If this is you, please call us to have a chat about it.’
‘We didn’t want to accuse anyone of doing something wrong,’ explains Sally, ‘because if someone was feeding him, they were doing it from the goodness of their heart.’
Sure enough, not one, but three, sets of neighbours soon called, all saying they fed Perry at various times of the day. ‘We call him Mortimer,’ said one couple, ‘and we give him the rinds from our bacon.’ Another woman revealed that she gave him cheese and milk on her patio. A third couple said that they bought food for the cat, thinking he had no home.
It seemed Perry had won the hearts of several households and was getting (often unsuitable) titbits from them all! Dairy products are often difficult for cats to digest – around a third of cats can’t tolerate cow’s milk – and fatty, salty foods like cooked bacon should only ever be given as an occasional snack. Not surprisingly, all this over-feeding wasn’t helping Perry’s eating disorder – he was still being sick, hence the weight loss. Plus, it was putting him off his own food at home.
‘I took a long time chatting to these kind neighbours, trying to explain that though their intentions were good, they were doing Perry harm,’ says Sally. ‘Luckily, they understood and promised that, though they would give him cuddles, they would stop feeding him.’
What to do if neighbours are feeding your cat
It can be difficult to manage if other people are feeding your cat – but a tactful approach like Sally’s is best. ‘You could put a “Please do not feed me” collar on them, or distribute stickers or leaflets around your neighbourhood,’ suggests Samantha Cook, veterinary nurse and ‘cat whisperer’ at Hornsey Vets in north London, who helped Sally tackle Perry’s problems. ‘If a cat has a dietary intolerance, a kidney problem or another health issue, they need to have the proper food and care.’
Perry’s wandering ways are far from unusual. Cats naturally roam to hunt for food, and will often happily accept treats and attention from other sources, even when they’re well fed and cared for at home.
While you might expect a cat sneaking extra feeds to gain weight, rather than lose it, Perry’s case shows it’s not always that simple! Keep an eye on your pet’s weight and signs of fussiness, and do get any unexpected cat weight loss or gain checked out by your vet if you’re worried.
Within a couple of weeks of his secret life being rumbled, Perry’s weight was back to normal, and he was back on the route to a good eating pattern.
‘It was quite fun to use detective skills to work out what was going on and I was so grateful to have such good neighbours,’ Sally laughs. ‘But I was also a little miffed to find out that my cat had a better social life than I did!’
Does your cat have a secret life? Post a snap of your little wanderer in action on Instagram with the tag #PethoodStories and we’ll share on our channel (@petplan_uk) – or get in touch at @PetplanUK on Facebook. We’d love to hear from you!