Cat gains a home, loses pounds

Lilibet the cat lying on the corner of a desk
Lilibet came to Best Friends overweight, and that was impacting her health. But now she’s inspiring her adopters to slim down, too.
By Nicole Hamilton

One of the first things you’re apt to notice about Lilibet are her beautiful blue eyes that match the color of the sky on a sunny day. Spend a little time with the senior feline, though, and you’ll quickly learn that her loving personality is a big part of what makes her beautiful, too.

That’s what drew Stephanie Huang to her when she first met Lilibet at Best Friends in New York City. Never mind the fact that Lilibet needed to lose some weight. If anything, that only made Stephanie want to adopt her more.

Helping a cat slim down

When Lilibet came to Best Friends from Animal Care Centers of NYC last summer, the veterinary team discovered that, in addition to being obese, she had severe dental disease. Her fur was matted and dirty as well, likely due to her extra weight, which made it difficult for her to clean herself completely.

Lilibet had five teeth removed, which helped restore her oral health, and the team at the lifesaving center began grooming her regularly to keep her fur clean. As for helping Lilibet lose weight, that was going to take some time.

To start, the team helped Lilibet get comfortable in the free-roaming room at the lifesaving center, where she’d have every opportunity to be active. Lilibet was also weighed regularly, and the team kept track of how much Lilibet ate, although this was often a challenge given that Lilibet was in a room with feeding stations. They’d had to choose between isolating her to control her diet or giving her more space to be active.

[Overweight Dogs and Cats: Pet Obesity Risks]

“The good thing is that she had lots of space to move around and play in the free-roaming room,” says Best Friends veterinarian Dr. Michelle Lugones. “Once she was in a home, it would easier to monitor and control her diet exactly.”

In the meantime, the team set out to find a home for Lilibet with someone who would make helping her lose weight a priority while seeing beyond her weight issues to who she truly is: a gentle, friendly cat who loves affection and readily gives it in return.

An adopter who likes a good challenge

Stephanie wasn’t planning on adopting a cat the day she visited the lifesaving center, considering she was still grieving the recent loss of her cat. She figured meeting other cats might cheer her up and get her interested in adopting again someday. But then she saw Lilibet, and her plans changed.

“I watched a volunteer interact with her, and she looked so sweet,” says Stephanie about Lilibet. “Those big blue eyes drew me in.”

Stephanie made note of Lilibet’s extra weight and knew that if she adopted her, she’d have to help her lose it. “I was up for the challenge," she says, noting that two of her five cats were in the process of losing weight, too. In fact, she and her husband, Alex, were trying to slim down for their upcoming wedding celebration that had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Stephanie discussed Lilibet’s health with the team, and the more she learned, the more she was confident she had the experience and the dedication needed to usher Lilibet on her weight loss journey. That day, instead of leaving the lifesaving center alone like she’d planned, she left with Lilibet.

A feline queen of the castle

One of the first things Stephanie did after welcoming Lilibet to the family was give her a new name. At the center, she’d been called Darla, but Stephanie thought she needed a name fit for royalty. She chose Lilibet in honor of the late Queen Elizabeth.

Next, Stephanie placed Lilibet on a special diet. Since two of her other cats are also on diets to lose weight, Stephanie follows a process to help all three. First, she weighs each of their food servings individually, and then she serves their meals in separate locations so they can’t sneak food from each other’s bowls. To make sure Lilibet loses weight safely and slowly (rapid weight loss for cats can cause serious health problems), Stephanie takes her to the veterinarian for regular checkups.

[Total transformation for a declawed, chubby kitty]

So far, Lilibet has lost two pounds, down to 16 from 18 pounds when Stephanie first adopted her. Now, Lilibet is noticeably more active and appears to be happier, says Stephanie. With her newfound energy, Lilibet is able to play nonstop with her fellow feline housemates. She’s able to groom herself now, too, although Stephanie cleans her regularly as well.

More than just a number on the scale

Since Stephanie and Alex are trimming down for their wedding, Lilibet helps keep them on track. Says Stephanie, “It’s only fair that we’re strict with our diet, too.” But Stephanie is also quick to point out that Lilibet is more than just her weight. Much more. “I didn’t see her for her weight when I met her,” she says. “I mostly saw her blue eyes, and then when I spent time with her, I saw how special she is.”

The fact is that Lilibet’s weight doesn’t define her. At home, Lilibet is seen as a kind, sweet, and playful cat who shows nothing but love to her people and her fellow cats. Her new name fits. “She’s quite the light in our life,” says Stephanie. “She’s our queen.”

Bring home a fluffy new family member

No matter whether they are large or small, adopting a homeless pet will change lives ― theirs and yours, too.

Adopt a pet near you

Read more

Helping a cat lose weight and find a home

The 20-pound cat with 1,000 nicknames

Big cat, big love