Team Fat Pad

It’s been bothering me ever since I saw the doctor last month. I guess it’s one thing to know something in your heart, and it’s entirely another to hear it uttered from the mouth of a medical professional.
But there it is – I can’t deny it any longer. My cat is not big boned. He’s not a growing boy. He doesn’t just have a lot of skin. Medically speaking, he has a fat pad that almost drags to the ground. In a nutshell, he’s obese, and I need to do something about it.
fat pad
When I went to the pet store the next day looking for some new toys and diet food, the overly eager 25-year old “pet consultant” gave me a pursed frown and lectured me that no matter how many times my cat begged me for more food, no matter how much he cried, I would have to remain strong for his sake.
“It’s not your fault, you know. You were just doing what you thought was right. You just love him too much.”
I wanted to tell him that I didn’t feed my cat whenever he begged; I fed him exactly what it said to feed him on the back of the cat food bag, which my vet just informed me is twice as much as a cat should eat. I wanted to tell him that I knew it wasn’t my fault, it was Iams’.
And I wanted to tell him that I didn’t come there for his psychobabble reverse guilt trip bullshit. I came there for some low-cal food and a plastic stick with some feathers on the end. And maybe that laser pointer.
But instead, I just nodded my silent confession.
As I shared my story with some friends this past week, I looked across the table and recognized that same look of guilt on Asia’s face.
“My cat is fat, too. I need to put her on a diet, but she’s already been eating diet food for the past two years.”
“I know – it’s just really hard with cats. They don’t want to do anything. How do you even get a cat to exercise?”
As we sipped our drinks, an idea suddenly struck us. What our cats needed was motivation. They needed a reason to exercise, a reason to get fit. What they needed was the American dream: a bitter competition, with the promise of moderate celebrity and personal financial gain in the end.
And thus, the idea was born: Biggest Loser Feline Edition™
The rules are simple – we have three months to get our cats into shape through a healthy diet and strict exercise regimen. No diet pills or gastric bypass surgeries are allowed. The cat with the highest percentage of body weight lost will win.
So what does the Biggest Loser win?
1. Certificate of Achievement
2. Catnip mouse
3. $20 gift certificate to Petsmart
4. Bragging rights
5. Cat scarf knitted by the losing team
Clearly a prize package worth competing for.
We will weigh our cats once a week and post photos on Flickr. I’m also taking my cat’s measurements because sometimes it’s not about the pounds, it’s about the inches, and I want him to be able to celebrate his minor successes along the way.
The competition began on March 1st with the official weigh-in and measurements. This is going to be a life-altering three months for our cats, and I felt it was only right that I no longer hide my cat’s identity behind a blog pseudonym. He’s going to need all the support he can get during this challenging time.
Orange Team
Trainer: Jenny
Contestant: Miso
Starting weight: 15.0 lbs
Green Team
Trainer: Asia
Contestant: Willie
Starting weight: 14.2 lbs
After just three days, I can already tell this is going to be an uphill battle. I have feathers, glitter balls, furry mice, lasers and cat tubes, but so far, the only time Miso showed a remote interest in exercise was when I was trying to measure his belly and he ran off with the tape measure.
I see now that being a personal trainer is an enormous responsibility, and it’s all about understanding and adapting to the personality of your clients in order to tap into what will motivate them.
Asia is an accomplished athlete and a fierce competitor, so her approach as a trainer is a bit different than mine. She proposed going the psychological route by leaving Cat Fancy Magazine centerfolds all over her house, as a constant reminder to her cat Willie of what she might one day look like. Personally, I worry that this could trigger a downward spiral into low self-esteem and bulimia brought on by the unattainable standards set by the media, but that’s just me. Looking at this photo stolen from Asia’s Flickr site, Willie doesn’t seem resentful at all, so who am I to argue?
Miso is more cerebral than physical, so I decided that he needed to visualize his progress, which is why I bought him his own personal white board. Here you can see him studying a photo of himself seven years ago, before his weight problems began. We’ve been trying to get at the root of his overeating, and so far, I think it may stem from some early abandonment issues.
[click to enlarge]
I’m not implying that one approach is better than the other, but let’s just say that I’m not worried about knitting cat scarves anytime soon. Go Orange!

18 Responses to “Team Fat Pad”

  1. Pants Says:

    I can’t wait to hear more!
    I’d play along with my Mister Jack but my mother insists on using the cat food buffet.
    Know what’s sexy? Talking about your mother and cat (online) when you’re thirty-two.

  2. mainja Says:

    Go team Orange!
    The key is to use things you enjoy for exercise, so please feel free to chew the measuring tape to ribbons…

  3. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    Here’s an idea. Attach a small harness to an equally small cart. Strap said harness to cat. Gradually load more and more rocks into cart as days pass. Play ‘Eye of the Tiger’ in the background during cat-cart action.
    After a month of that, you can take the cat to Philly in May and let him run up the steps of that place with the statue of Rocky and do the little dance. It’ll be like that movie, but with less boxing and more cat.

  4. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    Here’s an idea. Attach a small harness to an equally small cart. Strap said harness to cat. Gradually load more and more rocks into cart as days pass. Play ‘Eye of the Tiger’ in the background during cat-cart action.
    After a month of that, you can take the cat to Philly in May and let him run up the steps of that place with the statue of Rocky and do the little dance. It’ll be like that movie, but with less boxing and more cat.

  5. Don Says:

    My feline weight loss program consists of “forgetting” to feed the cat and responding to her sweet meows with, “Yer an outdoor cat, go catch a mouse.” Or lizard, if it’s summertime. This is the sort of tuff love that results in lean cats — and unpredictable scarring action if I let her get too close.

  6. Hilly Says:

    This is the most awesome concept! I can’t wait to see the live results show!

  7. jenny Says:

    pants: you know what’s even sexier? being (almost) 37 and creating elaborate online game show contests for your fat cat, while avoiding your own lack of exercise. it’s amazing i’m able to fight off all the suitors.
    mainja: i know! i thought about letting mice run wild in my apartment, but was advised against that.
    sir: i like the way you think. are you available as an assistant trainer?
    don: see, you’ve got an outdoor cat. that makes all the difference (although i’m sure lizards can add up in calories after a while). i need a vacation home.
    hilly: the live results show will be packed with emotions and excitement. it’s sure to be a ratings hit!

  8. Tracy Lynn Says:

    I showed this to Los Gatos,in the hopes of inspiring them to be more active, but instead they’ve developed a betting syndicate on the outcome.
    I hope we don’t get raided by the Feds again. Damn cats.

  9. Cheryl Says:

    What do you do if–through no fault of your own other than having lesbian DNA–you ended up in a household with three cats, and one is really skinny and the other is a tad more Miso-esque? Mix diet food and regular? Encourage them to pool their money and bet on Orange?

  10. Fluffycat Says:

    You might look to getting a higher quality diet cat food than IAMS, something with more protein and less fillers. Or switch your cat to wet food, which goes better with their natural diet. Not to give a big lecture, but cats are naturally carnivores, and seem to lose weight easier on a diet more based on what they’d eat in the wild.
    Good luck.

  11. jenny Says:

    tracy lynn: hey – when you find out what the odds are, let me know, will you? i might want to throw $50 on willie for the win.
    cheryl: don’t try to blame this on genetics. that pet store guy says that means you love one of those cats way more than the other two… fess up! ;) but i actually am faced with this exact dilemma, as miso’s sister is much slimmer. i’ve been giving them half diet/half regular food, at least until they get used to it. if i start seeing ribs on her, i’ll have to figure out a plan b.
    fluffycat: that’s funny – because i used to feed my cats science diet until my vet told me to switch to iams because it was higher quality. but you’re like the 3rd person who’s told me to try the wet food diet. problem is they don’t like wet food. i’ll have to give it another shot, or start buying little birds for them to munch on.

  12. sibyl! Says:

    I really wanted to adopt a fat cat just so I could participate but Tyler pointed out that the chances of me finding an overweight cat at the shelter wasn’t very high. I’ll just have to watch from the sidelines this time.

  13. Fiorello La Guardia Says:

    Poor little cats…and so how is that “substitute Iams with canned green beans” diet coming along?
    Ha ha ha!
    I think that you should send the little dumplings over to me, a really good old timer cat lady. Would it be OK if I let them run wild and eat like gluttons, just like I do with my grandkids?

  14. shari Says:

    Ooooooh, can I be team Red?? My cat is embarrassingly obese, and I AM a personal trainer. Dear god, help me. I will attempt to photograph her, but since she lives mostly outdoors (by choice) I may have some difficulty. Her name: Sapphira. Starting weight? I’ll tell you tomorrow, because right now I don’t know, but the lawn maintenance guy calls her “la gata gorda.”

  15. jenny Says:

    sibyl: see, i still think that’s a good idea. i’ll bet there are tons of fat cats just waiting to be adopted and immediately put on a strict diet and grueling exercise regimen. but will we have to arm wrestle over who gets to be the orange team?
    fiorello: you can let them run wild, just not the glutton part. they could use the exercise!
    shari: i’m surprised sapphira hasn’t damaged your credibility as a personal trainer. good thing you’ve got those big guns and abs of steel to prove your mettle. welcome aboard red team! happy to have you!

  16. asia Says:

    Willie and I have been too busy hitting the sparring bag and chasing the laser dot to post about our fitness goals.
    I think she might be already loosing weight, either that or she just looks smaller because Owen moves around really quick and the stress of it all makes her shed.

  17. Gecko Says:

    I have to go with Fluffycat on this… Plus my girl-cat is pawing at me saying “Daddy, tell them what you told us”. I’m thinking… ok, but if they think I’m a crazy-cat-food-guy, it’s you’re fault. Of course her response is to stare at me with her huge eyes and quip “le mew”. She’s trying to convince me that she was born to French royalty and kidnapped by gypsies as a kitten. I humor her by calling her princess… and puffball… she’s poofy.

    First remember that there is nothing to feel guilty about. Cats are a different species and taking care of them is a learning process. The good news is the solution is fairly simple. Cats are basically miniature lions, not miniature people. They are strict carnivores and their digestive tract is simply too short to metabolize anything but muscle, fat and bone. Also their immune and digestive system is a lot stronger than ours. They do best on fresh protein, the fresher the better and the best is raw. You don’t need some fancy since lab food. Just Google “raw cat food diet”. The next best is to go with a high quality wet food. The stuff in grocery stores is basically the equivalent of twinkies. Google “cat nutrition”.

    When you give them wet food, add water to it. Cats are historically desert animals and they’re inclined to hydrate from their food, not a bowl. There is no need for expensive low-cal diets. Just give them 1/3 of a can twice a day. Add some water to fill their tummies. If you feel guilty, mulch a few baby carrots as a filler. It won’t give them any nutrition, but the fiber won’t hurt. You can also squirt some salmon oil (good fat) from a capsule to interest them. At first they’ll go “what the heck is this” so introduce them to the food bit by bit. Sit with them and stroke them until they relax and eat the food. It may take 30 minutes, but they’ll eat once they realize it’s safe.

    In the end I have to admit that it takes more time (about the same cost though) to feed them high quality food. The reward is healthy, friendly cats with shiny fur and bright pink wet noses. They’ll probably live longer too, so I think it’s worth it. As for exercise… good luck. Cats are like lions. They are biologically designed to save calories by sleeping except when they’re hunting or socializing. I suggest you simply focus on reduced calorie intake and let nature do it’s thing.

    Ok boy-cat just bumped with his head “way to go dad”… girl-cat licks her little nose as a sign of approval. I’m fairly certain that everyone thinks I’m a little bonkers. I hope this help a little in your quest to slim down your kitties. Lots of luck, love your blog Jen!

  18. jenny Says:

    asia: you guys have a sparring bag? NO FAIR! does she wear tiny boxing gloves, because i want photos!
    gecko: okay, first of all, you won the title for longest comment ever on runjenrun. :) but you have a lot of great info in here, and i’m definitely going to start doing some research. it all makes a lot of sense – thanks for the comment!

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