Lucia’s Weight Loss Success Story – a Memoir of a Former Tubby Tabby

Rest in peace, Bailey - sweet ole girl!

I’ve never been a cat person. I grew up with a steady stream of reliable labradors and golden retrievers (and one random pug/daschund mix), but cats weren’t really a part of my world other than the quiet, shadowy felines that stalked our suburb at dusk. I had nothing against cats, but in a household ruled by dogs, they just weren’t a part of my world. While I’m allergic to everything under the sun, surprisingly I am not allergic to dogs and cats. As an animal lover, this is a very good thing.

Gumbo, the evil baby turtle.

When I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband), I was yearning for a pet. I wanted an animal that I could snuggle and harass, and our brief trial run with red-eared sliders was a snappy, messy failure. We bought these two tiny turtles from downtown LA, and were briefly enchanted with Gilligan and Gumbo, buying them a heating lamp and turtle pellets and all sorts of useless turtle accoutrements. Our weekends were consumed with trying to clean the 50-gallon aquarium, scrubbing algae off of artificial rocks, and as the turtles grew older and hissed more often… I learned that aquatic creatures were just not for me.

Lucia on the first day we got her. Bliss!

I began stalking Craigslist, my heart set on a gray female tabby with stripes and polka dots, with blue eyes and a little pink nose. I don’t know why I wanted a gray tabby, but I just did. In my mind, that was the quintessential “cat” – a perfect starter kitty for a lifelong dog lover like me. I eventually found her in Long Beach for $20, where she had been rescued from a 7-11 dumpster by a kind college student. When we picked her up, she ran out the front door towards us – and we were shocked at her size. She was the size of a fat hamster- absolutely tiny- barely weighing more than a baked potato. I picked her up, smooshed her squishy, soft little face between mine, and fell in love.

Lucia loves the lazy life

As Lucia grew up, her tendency to overeat and wait impatiently between meal times made me realize how alike we were. We both loved the lazy life, lounging around on weekends on the couch, getting our heads scratched, and laying in the sun. We both had squishy, soft tummies – hers more like a hula skirt that gently brushed the floor as she walked. At her yearly vet appointment, Lucia weighed in at 13.4 pounds. The doctor advised that we should “lay off the groceries”, and in my head, I justified my fluffy feline – she was just big-boned, after all. I was embarrassed that my kitty soul mate was also plagued with fatness, but in a way, we were kindred spirits. While she was never obese or in danger because of her weight, she had some extra chunk, enough that occasionally, visitors would remark on our “tubby tabby”. Concerned, we switched the cats to “Maintenance Cat” food, plastered with funny pictures of huge, hefty cats lounging on spilled sacks of grain.

"I'm not fat!"

At our last vet appointment, I asked with concern in my voice if she was overweight. The doctor pulled on her skin, pinching gently at the soft heap of skin on her belly. “No, actually.” he said. “She’s in perfect shape. She’s just a big cat.” Lucia weighed in that day at 12.4 pounds, a whopping one pound loss, which is huge for species that on average, weighs slightly more than a sack of potatoes. Victory was mine! Tubby tabby no more! Our efforts for Lucia’s slim-down had paid off! It was at that moment that I realized that all changes, no matter how small, eventually make a difference. Lucia’s lifestyle hadn’t changed dramatically, but a simple switch to her food helped make her a former flabby-tabby. Lucia’s weight loss helps to inspire me, because while one less order of french fries seems like a very, very small thing in the grand scheme of weight loss, I know that every little bit helps; and if my tubby tabby can lose weight, so can I.

A Fat Cat’s Fate: RIP Meow

Meow was a 39-pound cat forfeited at a shelter when his 87-year-old owner was no longer able to care for him. Meow was originally ridiculed when the media stumbled upon him, as one of his favorite foods was hot dogs and he often got stuck inside of things due to his size. Some of us look at this picture and think, “Aw! How cute!”. That’s fine. But the reality is, Meow died a sad and early death because his lungs failed due to the increased pressure on his vital organs from an overflow of fat.

Image from LAtimes.com - click to read the full story.

These are the types of things that remind me why I need to get healthy. It’s not just because of Meow, the fat cat, that I’m reminded what obesity can do to my body and organs. It’s because I had an allergy appointment this week and my blood pressure was high – a reminder that constant, chronic stress and obesity almost double my chances for heart disease. It’s because every now and then I get a dull ache in my right ankle – remnants of Plantar Fascia, a type of heel pain I had when I was 15 pounds heavier. It’s because I’m already severely allergic to environmental pollens, and if I gain more weight, the strain on my sinuses would get even worse. It’s also because I want to be a mother one day, and at my current weight, I’d be high-risk for gestational diabetes. I don’t want this post to be a downer, but Meow was a good wake up call for me this week.

We may laugh about a grossly obese cat or the morbidly obese women in bikinis on birthday cards, but it’s no laughing matter. Even though the tagline of this blog started out as “Because fat is funny and food is fun”, death because of obesity is clearly not funny. I’m not laughing about Meow’s death, and I hope you’re not either, because even though his situation was awkwardly uncomfortable and could prompt a few giggles, he’s gone now because somebody didn’t hold up their end of the pet-caretaker bargain. Had he been fed a suitable diet, he’d be alive and snuggling in somebody’s lap today. And when I think about why I want to lose weight, it’s not about wearing cute turquoise jeans or buying a size large. It’s about feeling the sunshine on my face well into my 70s, baking cookies for my grandchildren, and earning the privilege to become a cranky old lady. So tonight, I thank Meow for a painful but necessary prompt to remind me why I need to lose weight. Weight loss isn’t something I can do when I have “time” or when things calm down. I need to do it now, because I will ALWAYS have excuses, but I may not always have my health.

Rest in peace, Meow.