Helping a cat lose weight and find a home

Overweight cat is put on a diet and exercise routine to help her lose weight and reduce her risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.
By Nicole Hamilton

Best Friends in Los Angeles works collaboratively with animal rescue groups, city shelters and passionate individuals who are all dedicated to the mission of making Los Angeles a no-kill city. As part of this mission, Best Friends hosts adoption and fundraising events, manages two pet adoption centers, and leads the No-Kill Los Angeles (NKLA) initiative. Together, we will Save Them All.

When Tortie the cat was at the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles, she had quite the reputation as a happy yet highly opinionated feline who didn’t hold back on sharing her thoughts with others. It’s what some call “tortitude.”

For example, Tortie didn’t appreciate having to wait her turn while her fellow felines meandered about the room when it was their time to roam. “She thought she should be the only one let out,” says Natalie Culbreth, cat caregiver at the center. “And she’d let you know in a really loud voice.”

She had to wait her turn, however, because playtime for most of the other cats included snacks, and part of the reason that Tortie needed lots of time outside of a cage was that she came to center seriously overweight. That put her at risk of developing serious medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes. So, the staff kept a watchful eye on Tortie and created a plan to help her lose the pounds and, ultimately, gain a home.

One cat’s diet: less food, more love

Before coming to Best Friends, Tortie ended up at Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) as a senior with a lot of love still left to give. But a home can be hard to find when you’re an older cat with some health issues. At the shelter, she was surrounded by younger cats also looking for homes, and that put her at a disadvantage.

Tortie more than deserved a new family, too, and because Best Friends partners with LAAS to save L.A.’s homeless cats and dogs, she was brought to the adoption center. There, Tortie would have all the time she needed to get adopted, plus the necessary attention to help her slim down.

Tortie the cat peeking out from behind a wall

Helping a cat reach her ideal weight

The first thing the cat team did was place her on a prescription diet. Luckily, she doesn’t have a picky palette, so she ate the prescribed food (almost) as enthusiastically as she would a can of tuna.

She also found an advocate and friend in Natalie, who had just started working at the center when Tortie arrived. The two newcomers hit it off right away, and Natalie became Tortie’s champion.

“Some of the volunteers were a little nervous around her,” says Natalie, who kept treats in her pockets to give Tortie on special occasions. “I saw her and fell in love.”

Constant monitoring of Tortie’s eating along with an exercise regimen that included filling her two-story kennel with lots of toys and routine strolls around the cat room helped her start to lose weight and get healthier. The only thing left to do was find her a home.

Learn how we’re making L.A. a no-kill city

In search of an older, spunky cat

David Lilly reaching into a cabinet with Tortie the cat reaching up as wellDavid Lilly and his wife, Josie, were visiting the adoption center one day looking for an older cat with personality. Like Natalie, they fell in love with Tortie as soon as they met her. And the fact that Tortie would need to maintain her diet of prescription food didn’t intimidate them one bit.

Nowadays Tortie goes by Jordy. And along with that new name, she has a new, wonderful life with David and Josie. David says it took her about 15 minutes tops for her to come out from under a bed (where she had retreated after arriving at her new home)  and reclaim her tortitude.

“She snuggled up in our laps, rubbing her face against ours and buried her face in our necks and licked us,” says David. “She loves sitting on the couch next to us and loves to play. She’s also very vocal when she wants your attention.”

Most of the time, you can find her hanging out with her two good friends — the family’s lovebird and bearded dragon, and both of them are as interested in her as she is in them.

You know Tortie has found a special home because, although David and Josie make sure Tortie stays on her special diet, they love her just the way she is. The way they see it, there’s just more of her to love.

Adopt your next pet

Tortie the cat peeking out from the top of a red bucket

Photos by Lori Fusaro and David and Josie Lilly

Cat Sanctuary