Source:  Times Live (Extract)
Posted:  February 17 2021

For Brad Mitchell, being at home during the country’s coronavirus lockdown meant he noticed his cat’s food bowl was empty.

As a result, Chrissy was fed more.

Mitchell said Chrissy used to be fed twice daily when her owners were working from  offices.

“I think we’re more aware of when she’s hungry or when her bowl is empty because we are at home. During the lockdown, it was easier to notice when she didn’t have food so she was fed more,” he said.

Chrissy’s story is not unique.

A recent survey by Hill’s Pet Nutrition found that Covid-19 had a profound effects on pets by fuelling obesity.

Hill’s pet behaviour expert Marycke Ackhurst said 50% of pets are overweight, and it was alarming that 90% of pet parents didn’t realise this.

Recent research undertaken in the US revealed that more than 71% of pet professionals said the pandemic has affected the way pets were eating. More than 30% of pet parents surveyed who have overweight pets said their pets had become overweight since the start of the pandemic.

Monalisa Senne, an owner of three dogs, said she has noticed two of the dogs gained weight during the lockdown.

“I have had the two for a year and they have gained a lot of weight. I didn’t understand why. I used to walk my dogs but during the lockdown it didn’t happen. We could no longer walk so when they gained weight I thought it was because of that,” said Senne.

The 28-year-old said she has been feeding her dogs the same amount of food they had  been eating before lockdown.

“I won’t say I have been feeding them extra. I have fed them the same way for years. I didn’t think it was something I should worry about. I thought it was because they were happy with me at home,” she said.

Cath Jenkin, Durban-based writer and stay at home dog mom, said: “Yoda has deeply enjoyed the experience of having his humans at home 24/7 and has relished the experience of regular snacks. Possibly a little too much, so it’s back to more walks with his mom and dad soon.”

“On ‘love your pet day’, celebrated on February 20, Hill’s Pet Nutrition is drawing attention to pet obesity and that, contrary to popular belief, your pet’s love for you is not associated with food,” said Ackhurst.

She said pet parents get an emotional boost when feeding or giving treats to their pets.

“Having an emotional relationship with food can both create the problem of pet obesity and ultimately solve it by changing what’s in their bowl. One of the easiest steps is to start with better nutrition and to be more aware of your feeding habits and the effect these have on your pet,” said Ackhurst.

The survey showed 49% of pet parents said they would be willing to go on a diet to help their pet lose weight, while 31% said they would be willing to stop checking their social media for a month to help their pet lose weight.

Vets advise pet parents of the following to help manage their pet’s weight:

  • 92% say giving fewer treats will help dogs and cats lose weight;
  • 91% say exercise is an important element; and
  • 49% agree with pet parents that keeping their pets at a healthy weight during the pandemic is harder than before.