Queenie looked in the mirror. There was something terribly wrong. Normally, she was an adorable, well-insulated cat of 18 pounds. She loved the way her flab folded over her feet and covered them like a blanket. But now Queenie only weighed 14 pounds, her feet were cold, and she was practically shriveling away to nothingness.
Had someone cast a wicked spell on her? After all, she didn't wave a magic wand to become 150 percent above her ideal body weight, instead it had taken focus and determination to get so beautifully round.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall," Queenie meowed, "why am I the skinniest cat of all?" The mirror didn't have an answer, so she went off to the food dish and began to eat.
After three months of continued weight loss, Queenie was now only 12 pounds -- and her coat was becoming rough and matted. An old picture of her from "once upon a time" showed how much she'd changed. She needed to see the veterinarian, but how to get her owner to notice?
Like most cats, she used a tried and true feline technique that says "I'm not happy" -- Queenie started defecating in the middle of the living room. In many cases, cats that eliminate in the center of a room are usually trying to send their owners a message.
It only took a week of leaving "messages" before Queenie's owner decided that maybe she should go to the vet. The doctor looked worried as he saw that Queenie's snow-white fur was now a drab yellow color.
"How is she feeling?" he asked.
"Good, actually," said her owner. "Really good. She's eating a lot and seems active. She has been vomiting more often, though. What does that mean?"
"Well, at least she's feeling good. There are a number of possibilities for why a cat loses weight, and we'll need to look at some blood work and a stool sample."
A few days later, we met at the clinic to look at Queenie's lab work. The vet said, "As I mentioned before, there are a lot of reasons why a cat might lose weight, including worms, hormone imbalances, bad teeth, poor quality diet, kidney or heart failure, and even cancer.
"Queenie is losing weight because she has a hormone imbalance ... she has an overactive thyroid gland. This is greatly increasing her metabolism -- so much that she can't even eat enough food to keep up with her body's demand."
"It sounds like a great way to lose weight, can I try it?" joked the owner.
"No, it's not healthy. After awhile, this extra workload will cause premature kidney or heart problems. There are a couple of great treatments for this problem. Within a month, Queenie will start to look like herself again."
One month later, Queenie took a look at herself in the mirror. She was regaining her beautiful figure and felt great. Her coat was once again a soft and lustrous snow white. Pleased with her reflection, Queenie curled up to take a nap. She really was a sleeping beauty.
Dr. Jon Klingborg is a veterinarian associated with Valley Animal Hospital in Merced. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.