There are fat cats, and then there are “Fat Cats”. 28-pound Wilford most definitely falls into the latter category. Weighing about the same as a two-year-old child, this giant ball of fur clearly has a love for food… although his giant appetite is one the Virginia-based Lost Dog and Cat Rescue are doing everything in their power to curb. 8-year-old Wilford was offered up to the shelter during the Christmas holidays and has been busy trying to find his forever home ever since. Currently being looked after by a local foster family, Wilford is as sweet-natured as he is cumbersome, with an affectionate nature and gentle disposition that any prospective new owner is sure to fall in love with… especially if his foster parents have anything to do with it.
As the faces behind the Instagram account @PokeyPotPie, Wilford’s foster parents can proudly claim to have given food and shelter to over a hundred cats since 2010… an amazing achievement and one we can all share in thanks to the never-ending series of cute pics they happily share with their 135,000 plus followers. Since taking Wilford in, the family has been keen to share news of his progress, documenting each little milestone he makes in his efforts to regain his waistline.
Despite being clear in their message that it’s not OK for a cat to be this obese, neither Lost Dog and Cat Rescue nor Wilford’s foster parents encourage any aspersions on his former owners. “Although it’s easy to make conclusions, I’d like people to look at the situation empathetically,” his foster mom told PEOPLE. “He’s amazing, and although he needs specialized care, I don’t imagine it was easy for his family to let him go. Instead of focusing on how he got so big, I prefer to look at how his family asked for help and that he’s now on a path towards better health.”
As indeed he seems to be. A big-time lover of catnip, belly rubs, and chin scratches (although by all accounts, no fan of bath time), Wilford has taken to his temporary home like a duck to water… which isn’t to say he’s not prone to acting the drama queen when the occasion calls. “He loves his routine and gets anxious when we deviate from that,” his foster mom tells PEOPLE. “For example, he’s got his own space, and is very comfortable and confident there. If we challenge him to come out of that space, he goes into full drama mode. He’ll whine, roll onto his back, paw at the door to his room… It’s adorable but hilarious.”
Despite some of the mild medical complications his obesity has caused (he was recently diagnosed with asthma, but thanks to the prompt actions of his foster family, his symptoms are now fully under control), Wilford’s foster parents are certain his sunny personality and big heart will land him a new home soon and are hopeful the diet and exercise regime he’s been prescribed will have him fighting fit in no time. While Wilford may be an extreme example, obesity in cats is a growing issue. It’s also one that, fortunately, can be dealt with swiftly and painlessly with the right treatment. If your cat is more tub than fur, take action now with these top tips.
- Make Time for Play: Unlike dogs, most cats won’t take kindly to being walked on a leash. To get their blood pumping, take advantage of the one kind of exercise they’re almost guaranteed to love: playing. Whether it’s with interactive puzzles, lasers, or fishing pole toys, 10 minutes of play can work wonders for their health, strengthening the respiratory and circulatory systems, aiding digestion, toning muscles, increasing flexibility, oxygenating tissues, and, most pertinently of all for fat cats, whittling their waistlines.
- Limit Treats: It might be hard, but if your cat’s piling on the pounds, the best thing you can do for their health is to scrap the treats, or at least limit them to special occasions only. Table scraps are a big no-no in any circumstance, and while specially designed kitty snacks have their place in training, it’s better to treat your cat with affection than it is with calorific nibbles.
- Monitor their Weight: Weight gain tends to creep up on cats, and can go unnoticed for a long time before it suddenly becomes an issue. Keep track of their weight by regularly popping them onto the scales: if you notice the numbers starting to climb, take action asap.
- Choose Food Wisely: Not all food is created equal, and not all cats have the same energy needs. While it can be tempting to simply give your cat as much food as they’ll eat, don’t. Not all cats will self-moderate, and in the case of calorie-dense foods like kibble, the consequences will soon show on their health. Equally, don’t treat the feeding guidelines on the back of food packs as the bible: couch potatoes may need less than advertised, while an indoor, neutered cat will have a very different set of calorie needs to an un-neutered, outdoor cat. Age can also impact on energy needs: as a rule, senior cats, who tend to become more sedentary as their age, will need far fewer calories to thrive than a kitten. As always, talk to your vet if you’re in any doubt about what, and how much, to feed.
- Check the Root Cause: Some cats get fat because they like food. Others get fat because they hate exercise. Some, however, may have an altogether more complicated reason for their weight gain. While overfeeding is behind most cases of obesity, underlying health conditions may occasionally be to blame. Although health-related obesity is rare, it’s always best to seek veterinary advice if you notice any sudden or unexplained weight gain (or conversely, weight loss) accompanied by a change in appetite.