FRANKLIN, Tenn. — A fat cat has seen the ounces melt away after working out on an underwater treadmill three times a week at an animal rehabilitation center here.
Buddha, a 6-year-old gray and white domestic shorthair, launched a new diet and exercise program last month. He now tips the scales at about 27.9 pounds, down from 31.4 pounds.
But he still has a ways to go to reach his target weight of 20 pounds.
"He's on there usually for 7 to 10 minutes at a time. He kind of dictates the timing," said Penny Adams, a volunteer with the Cat Shoppe/Dog Store in Nashville's Berry Hill community. "Otherwise, he'll just stop walking and you know he's done."
Adams, who also is the volunteer photographer at Metro Animal Care & Control, noticed the obese feline Aug. 2 in a cage. His family had surrendered him to the shelter after his owner died.
Since then, Adams brought Buddha to the nonprofit Cat Shoppe Rescue, affiliated with the store. He lives there now to get him in a more controlled environment for his weight-loss program. The regimen will go slowly; the goal is a pound a month. It's unhealthy for cats to lose weight too quickly.
"We tried to give him the gastrointestinal food, the metabolic food, but he didn't like it," Chris Achord, owner of The Cat Shoppe, said when Buddha came to the rescue group in early August. "Whoever owned him before must have been feeding him human food, and that is not good at all for a cat's health. I've been rescuing animals for over 25 years and I've never seen anything like this."
Unlike most of his species, Buddha doesn't seem to mind getting wet on his underwater treadmill excursions at Stonewater Rehabilitation at Animalia. He's a happy cat with a good disposition.
"He's a very friendly cat who's sleeping most of the time and recovering from all his exercise. And he's a talkative cat who rolls over on his back and seeks out belly rubs," Adams said.
Already, Buddha's story has traveled far and wide and he's become a local celebrity. People often will stop at The Cat Shoppe to get a gander at the hefty feline when he's available for meet-and-greets. But he spends Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in rehab.
"That's when we tell people he's at the gym," Adams said.