People often tell me Sid Vicious, the Real Change office cat, is too fat. Occasionally I hear the opposite. My answer is, "I'm the guy who takes him screaming clawing and crying to the vet, and each time I do I ask the vet if he's too fat, and the vet says 'No. He's within normal range. He's a 6 on a scale of 0 to 10' -- and he refers to a chart on the wall." The chart is just like this one below from the Purina company (click on it for a larger version or go here for the original webpage.)
The chart shows 1-4 as being too thin, 6-9 as being too fat, but the vet says to ignore that. He says actually 4-6 is normal range and 6 should not be considered obese. He compared the scale to a human's Body Mass Index (kgs/m-squared = lbs*703/ins-squared), which also has a range of scores regarded as normal (18.5 to 24.5). 4-6 would correspond to the normal range, 7 would be definitely overweight, 3 underweight, and so on.
In the interest of full disclosure, like Sid, I am also in the upper part of the normal range, with a BMI of 23.9.
Notice that the Purina chart doesn't indicate the extremes of 0 and 10. Here's how you tell if your cat is at those extremes. If your cat is dead, and you can count his ribs without feeling them, he's a 0. If your cat is dead, and you can't see or feel his ribs without dissecting him, he's a 10.
All of this is just to warn you where I'm going with the title of this post. I speak a lot, and when appropriate I talk about the child abuse I survived, and I get told "that's the worse child abuse I ever heard of" a lot. Well, it's not the worst I've ever heard of. For one thing I read the papers. For another, I've personally met people who had worse stories. On the other hand, I've also met people who have said, "Oh yeah, I was abused as a kid too, but I got over it," and invariably their stories of child abuse are mild.
So, it seems to me, what we need here is something I would like to modestly call The Copyright Dr. Wes Browning Child Abuse Index. These guidelines are only tentative, but I hope they might already help settle the inevitable arguments that arise.
0 Spoiled beyond belief. Still expects someone to peel his or her hot dogs. Has never cleaned a room. No evidence of ever being told No. Pampered to the point of being unbearable. Often, these people are killed, and no one misses them.
1 Extremely Severe Non-Abuse. Thinks people who speak of being abuse survivors are complaining of being spanked.
2 Severe Non-Abuse. Thinks people who speak of being abuse survivors are complaining of being spanked too hard.
3 Strongly Insufficient Abuse. Thinks people who speak of being abuse survivors were refused alcohol, drugs, or pot by their parents or caretakers.
4 Mildly Insufficient Abuse. Parents beat but never simultaneously made fun of him or her or it, so there was very little emotional impact.
5 Normal Abuse. The ideal. Anyone who can say "Over it," without either bursting into tears or giggling or displaying the Thousand-Yard Stare.
6 Mildly Excessive Abuse. Signs of neurosis stemming from abuse, but a professional may be required to spot them.
7 Strongly Excessive Abuse. Visible physical or emotional scarring, plain to anyone after a few minutes with the victim.
8 Severe Child Abuse. Permanent physical disability, or long-lasting mental illness, or highly inappropriate piety.
9 Extremely Severe Abuse. That resulting in ongoing coma, stupor, or vegetative state.
I would classify as about midway between a 7 and an 8. I'm a 7.5. Not too bad, really.