You won’t find the bags of cat food for sale at HEAL Veterinary Hospital anywhere near the bottom shelf. That’s because the resident cat, Skinny—who rose to fame a year ago when he was brought to the Richardson Animal Shelter as a 41-pound stray—will still do whatever he can to find a tasty treat.
Skinny has lost 13 pounds in a year thanks to a strict diet, daily walks on an underwater treadmill, acupuncture treatments and other therapies, but a serious “food addiction” will make his weight management a lifelong process said veterinarian Brittney Barton, who adopted Skinny late last year.
“When it’s time to eat, he’s like a little bowling ball,” she said.
That alone is accomplishment. When Barton began working with Skinny at East Lake Pet Orphanage after the Animal Shelter sought help for his care, he could barely walk. Now, Skinny jumps on the couch to cuddle with clients in the lobby at HEAL, where he stays during the week. On weekends, he goes home with Barton and is a beloved member of the family.
Barton opened HEAL in June because she has a passion for using rehabilitative therapies to work with animals like Skinny. The clinic offers thermotherapy, therapeutic stretching, medical massage and other specialized techniques to treat everything from pain to obesity.
In all of her years working as a vet, however, Barton said she has never seen a cat as big as Skinny, whom she estimates at six years old. Fortunately, he has not developed any other medical problems, such as diabetes, that are often linked with obesity.
“He’s probably the healthiest chubby cat I’ve seen, and he has maintained that,” said Barton, adding that she expects Skinny to live the rest of his years as a normal, fit feline.
Barton never dreamed she’d be the owner of a world-famous cat, but she’s used the spotlight to raise awareness about the dangers and treatment of pet obesity. She urges pet owners dealing with the problem to have a veterinarian assess the pet’s overall health, make a nutritional plan, promote an active lifestyle and keep track of the progress. She offers more details and tips on her blog, petpausewithdrb.com.
Weight loss is more difficult in cats than dogs, because it must be done slowly to be safe, and it’s harder to encourage a cat to exercise. But Skinny’s story proves that even the most relaxed cat can claw his way to success.
“He’s pretty cool,” Barton said. “He’s a very, very laid back cat.”
Except when he hears the rustle of a food bag.