Like most celebrities, Eddie loves a good belly rub.
In his case, there's a lot of belly to rub because Eddie has waddled into the spotlight as this city's most famous fat cat.
The obese nine-year-old domestic, short-haired, grey-brown tabby is the star patient in a unique weight-loss experiment at Tuxedo Animal Hospital on Corydon Avenue.
He was loaned to the Tuxedo clinic last month by Quagga Stray Cat Rescue on St. Mary's Road in St. Vital as part of the Free Press Fit Pet Project, a once-a-month series on the growing epidemic of obese pets.
The clinic's mission was to see how much weight a house cat could safely lose in a controlled environment in a single month, then use the lessons it learned to help other feline clients shed pounds in a healthy manner.
Since the Free Press began chronicling Eddie's weight-loss journey in the Fit Pet Project, the tubby tabby has dropped a few pounds and gained legions of fans.
Veterinarians at the Tuxedo clinic noted Eddie the Fat Cat's journey has been featured in local TV news segments and calls have been pouring in from Canadian cat lovers interested in adopting the portly pussy.
"There have been several calls from out of province about Eddie's availability, but the shelter (Quagga) would like to keep him close by to not totally lose touch with him," says Dr. Jonas Watson, an associate vet at the clinic.
Eddie's newfound fame has even led to kind-hearted passersby dropping in just to spend a few minutes stroking the clinic's star attraction, who has a cosy home in the physiotherapy/acupuncture room.
"People come in just to visit him," Watson says, scratching Eddie's bountiful belly. "Just people who have heard of him. They'll go into the sunroom and spend time with him."
A sign on the sunroom door urges visitors to talk to the front desk if they're interested in meeting the famously fat cat. "Belly rubs are always welcomed," the sign purrs. "Meow."
On a recent weekend, an elderly man stopped by simply to see how Eddie's quest for a slimmer waistline was going. He spent several minutes petting his new feline friend. On his way out, even a hardened journalist became misty-eyed when the gentleman quietly declared: "I love you, Eddie."
The unexpected outpouring of affection has definitely touched the heart of Dr. Pat Dorval, a partner at the clinic. "I'm not completely surprised, because he's so adorable," Dorval says as Eddie puttered around. "But people coming in off the street just to visit with him is a bit of a surprise."
When we first met Eddie, he tipped the scales at a whopping 10.4 kilograms (23 pounds), while the ideal weight for a typical tabby is closer to 6.6 kg (14 lbs). By Day 4 of the experiment, he was off to a hot start, dropping 170 grams.
At the one-month mark, April 14, Eddie had lost one kilogram (just over 2 lbs), weighing in at 9.4 kg.
"It's excellent," Dr. Dorval says. "Usually the goal is about half a pound a month and we got four times that amount. That's because he had so much to lose at the start. If they have a lot of weight to lose, it'll come off fast at the beginning."
"After two weeks, he started to plateau and stop losing weight. After that went on for a week, we dropped him down from 204 calories (13/4 cans of wet cat food) to 175 calories (11/2 cans) per day. Then he started to lose weight again."
The clinic is taking great care to ensure the patient doesn't lose weight too fast, because rapid weight loss can lead to serious liver damage in cats. In smaller animals, even shedding a few pounds is a big deal. "Two pounds is like 10 per cent of Eddie's body weight," Dorval says. "It's like a 180-pound man losing 18 pounds."
Eddie's makeover involved a change in diet and increased activity. He was placed on a prescription metabolic food (Hill's Science Diet) high in soluble fibre and protein, but low in calories.
His exercise program involved prowling around the clinic and even the occasional stint on a balance board. "I think they (the staff) were working out his core," Dr. Watson quips. "I don't think he really enjoyed it, but I hate doing a plank, too."
As the experiment ended, Eddie still had a ways to go, but he's already a new cat in many ways. "He seems to like moving around more," Dorval says. "He's more active now and his coat looks much nicer, too. He's smoother."
The best news: Eddie will be staying at the clinic until a permanent adoptive home is found. If you're interested, call Quagga Stray Cat Rescue at 204-237-1958.
"Successful weight loss is achievable in a cat," Dorval says. "Some people may not realize that. It was quite simple -- we measured the amount of food he should have and stuck to it.
"Even the biggest and fattest cats can lose weight in a healthy way if you feed them the right food and right amount and you stick to it. It disproves the idea you can't get them to lose weight."