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Colossal kitty

The mission: turn fat feline Eddie into a healthier, trimmer tabby

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/3/2014 (1240 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There's no way around it -- Eddie is one fat cat.

At 10 kilograms (23 lbs), he's a real tubby tabby, a slow-moving gentle giant.

Dr. Pat Dorval and Alexis Betker take Eddie's measurements at Tuxedo Animal Hospital.


Dr. Pat Dorval and Alexis Betker take Eddie's measurements at Tuxedo Animal Hospital.

But that is about to change, because Eddie is the star subject in a unique weight-loss experiment now under way at Tuxedo Animal Hospital on Corydon Avenue.

Eddie's journey to better health began when Free Press deputy editor Julie Carl asked her veterinarian, Dr. Pat Dorval, a partner at the clinic, whether she knew a fat cat we could feature in the Fit Pet Project, our once-a-month series on the issues surrounding a growing epidemic of portly pets.

Dorval turned to Quagga Stray Cat Rescue on St. Mary's Road in St. Vital and -- presto! -- Eddie, a nine-year-old domestic, short-haired, grey-brown tabby became the newest -- and largest -- cat in residence at the Tuxedo clinic.

It would have been impossible to put an individual cat on a diet at the busy no-kill shelter. "It's a free-for-all there," the vet said when a Free Press crew showed up to meet Eddie on St. Patrick's Day. "They (the shelter cats) just eat when they want."

The clinic's goal is to see how much weight a cat can safely lose in a controlled environment over a single month, then use the lessons they learn to help other overweight feline clients shed unwanted pounds in a healthy manner. They also hope to find a loving home for their star patient.

"It's like a reality-show challenge -- Tuxedo Animal Hospital's Biggest Loser," Dorval jokes as Eddie slowly stretches out on an exam room table. "We want to see how much weight he can lose and how much better we can make him feel, because he's too heavy.

"I think we'd like to learn from it. We can monitor his weight loss on a daily basis. We set a date of a month to see what we can accomplish in that time. We rarely get a chance to do something like this.

"We know we can't get him to an ideal weight in a month, but we want to see if we can make some headway."

When Eddie arrived, he was given a full physical, which ensured he had no underlying medical condition to explain his obesity. An ideal weight for a tabby like Eddie would be closer to 6.5 kg (14 lbs).

"Some big cats should weight closer to 18 or 20 pounds, but not a normal house cat like Eddie," the vet explains.

On Day 4 of the experiment, when the Free Press drops in, Eddie is already a marginally smaller version of himself.

"He's lost six ounces," Dorval notes. "At the beginning, we'll probably see fairly rapid weight loss. We don't want it too quickly, because rapid weight loss runs the risk of serious liver problems in cats."

The goal for an overweight cat like Eddie is to lose about 225 grams to 450 grams (half a pound to a pound) per month.

While Eddie is the first fat cat to remain at the clinic for an extended weight-loss experiment, he's far from the only one to shamble through the doors.

"It's very common," Dorval says. "At least 40 per cent of our feline patients are overweight. We see more obesity in cats than we do in dogs now. About 20 to 30 per cent of the dogs we see are overweight. I think with dogs it's easier to exercise them and people notice obesity on their dogs more."

Being overweight leaves pets open to a host of debilitating diseases. "People are not very knowledgeable about the ramifications of an obese pet," Alexis Betker, an animal-health technologist at the clinic, warns. "There's so many diseases they can get. They think it (being pudgy) is cute."

Says Dorval: "The main problems with cats being obese are diabetes, constipation, mobility problems and a big one is personal hygiene; they can't clean themselves."

Step 1 in Eddie's health makeover is a prescription diet. "He has, through his life, eaten mostly dry kibble," the vet says, stroking the tabby's hefty belly. "While he's here, he's being fed a canned diet food. We figured out how many calories he should get a day -- 178 calories." (That's about the number of calories in a 156-gram can.)

Want your cat to lose weight? It's essential to feed them wet food because it's lower in calories and higher in protein. "Diet is the main thing," the vet stresses. "He (Eddie) is getting a measured amount of canned metabolic food a day. It (wet food) more closely simulates what a cat in nature would eat. Cats are carnivores. They don't naturally eat plant-based protein, but a dog is an omnivore, like humans, and can eat anything."

Exercise is part of the prescription, but Dorval, and our other experts, agree it's tougher to exercise a cat than a dog.

As for Eddie's weight-loss journey, we'll be checking back on him soon. When he's finished the month-long experiment, this slimmed-down cat will be available for adoption. Trust me, he'll inspire any would-be owner's quest for better health.

"He's very laid-back, very affectionate, very much a people cat," Dorval says as she stroked Eddie's fur. "He doesn't have a mean bone in his body."

Read more by Doug Speirs.


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