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Panther (3yo, female, not yet spayed) has started to carry a bit of extra padding. I can still feel her ribs, but just barely. Through the belly area, she kind of looks like she still has kittenlike "baby fat." She gets around and plays with her sister and everything just fine, there's just a little more of her than there probably should be.

I free-feed dry, because I don't really trust myself to do the scheduled feeding thing because I forget about my own meals sometimes. I don't think they're eating tooooo much; a feedbag lasts a long time here. I give the two a can of Friskies Meaty Bits at dinnertime when I think of it, which is every day or two, and when I cook chicken (which is often because I'm trying to use up a Costco pack before I move) I set aside a little for the cats.

She goes into heat a lot--could hormones be the problem? Do cats do anything like how humans crave chocolate for that, or could it be partly bloating or something? My tentative plans as of now are to get her spayed over Christmas break (I'm a teacher) because I expect to have the cash on hand then. I would have liked to already have had it done by now, but when I've had the spare money I haven't had the time away from work to supervise their recovery, so I decided against it. I want to be home for a few days afterward because if they tear a few stitches out somehow while I'm supervising, I can throw a bandaid on them and take them back to the vet to be re-sewn, but if I leave for work at 7 and it happens at 7:30 and I get home at 5:30 that's a lot of time to lose blood. I am NOT putting off spaying to have "just one litter" or any nonsense like that--I want more cats eventually but I know there's no need to make them from scratch. It's just that, moment by moment, it hasn't been the right time yet. I keep her 100% indoor to prevent accidental kittens.

Should I try to get her to lose the padding before I get her fixed, or should I wait and see if that clears things up? If I need to do something else, what should I do? Obviously I can't put Panther on a treadmill. I've tried running her around the room with a laser pointer, which her sister loves, but Panther mostly watches it in fascination rather than chasing it.