Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Fat Tony’s “Big” Adventure


This is the story of an exceptional cat.

Tony, a fairly ordinary-looking orange tabby cat,  began his life as the runt of a litter found in someone’s back yard.  But he was rescued (the only one of his siblings who survived), despite an eye problem that led to the later surgical removal of one eye, and went on to become the much-loved pet of his new owner.

At that point, you might have dubbed him “Lucky Tony.”

But a few years later, things started to go wrong.  Tony’s loving owner was diagnosed with cancer, underwent multiple surgeries and, because of her own illness, began to have such difficulty caring for him that she simply left large bowls of food out and couldn’t do much else.  And Tony started to gain weight.  More and more and more weight.  Finally, faced with yet another surgery of her own, as well as Tony’s mounting health issues, Tony’s owner realized she could no longer care for him and surrendered the now “Fat Tony” to the South LA animal shelter.

Hancock Park Vet Clinic Veterinary Assistant Kristen Dawson with Tony when he arrived weighing 30.6 pounds (Photo courtesy of HPVC.)
Hancock Park Vet Clinic veterinary assistant Kristen Dawson with Tony when he arrived weighing 30.6 pounds (Photo courtesy of HPVC.)

You might think a 7-year-old, one-eyed, obese cat – who was also known to be “cranky” and aggressive at the shelter (employees there could barely touch him) – wouldn’t have much luck in that situation.  But the shelter volunteers saw something in Tony, who was in imminent danger of being euthanized, and e-mailed the “no kill” Stray Cat Alliance rescue group, begging them to take the big guy.

The Alliance lined up a foster home in Colorado (a requirement since it has no facility of its own), claimed Tony from the shelter and brought him to the Hancock Park Vet Clinic, which immediately embraced all 30.6 pounds of the very needy feline.

And it was a match made in heaven.

According to HPVC’s owner, Dr. Tania White, Tony’s bad shelter mood disappeared immediately and he was, from day one, “Super social. Loves to be around people.  Loves to be petted and snuggled.”

But he was also so obese by this point that he could barely walk (the clinic staff had to entice him to move by placing food just a few inches out of his reach).  And the weight was causing asthma-like breathing problems, spinal pain, and itchiness, because Tony couldn’t reach the rear half of his body to clean himself.

Tony receiving acupuncture treatments. (Photo courtesy of HPVC.)
Tony receiving acupuncture treatments. (Photo courtesy of HPVC.)

The HPVC staff decided to take on Tony’s challenge.  The staff committed to 9 weeks of cat care and treatments to help Tony lose some weight and get ready for the journey to his foster family.  The program includes a special diet, acupuncture for his arthritic spine, laser therapy for additional pain relief in his back and hips, exercise (he now not only walks, but swims every couple of days), a Chinese herb to help with his metabolism and lots and lots of love and snuggles from everyone on the clinic staff.

Tony goes for a swim.

So far, after three weeks at the clinic, Tony has lost about 2 1/2 pounds and now loves to run around the clinic offices and hang out under staff members’ desks and lunch tables, rubbing against their feet (clinic staff call it his “foot fetish”) and providing “love nips.”

Dr. White is thrilled with his progress.  She says his goal is to lose about 1% of his body weight per week for the nine weeks he’ll be at the clinic, with a goal weight in the “mid-20s” by the time he leaves six weeks from now (his ultimate goal weight, after continued weight-loss management, is about 16 pounds).  She notes, however, that like humans on intense weight loss programs, Tony is “losing weight quickly right now because we just started, and making all the changes really helps to kickstart any weight loss.”  However, she says, “the closer he gets to the goal, the slower it will get.”

For now, though, things are going very well.  Tony has not only become a staff favorite, but is quickly becoming a star with customers and others, who are following his journey both in person and on the clinic’s Facebook page (which includes both photos and videos of Tony and his treatment). And others are contributing as well – the clinic is donating all of its services (including the acupuncture by Dr. Kelly Fishman), Hill’s Science Diet is donating his food (a special metabolic/urinary tract health formula), and his swim vest was donated by Two Hands Four Paws.

Post-swim snuggles.

People are also starting to re-think letting him go so far away when he leaves. Avarie Shevin, director of operations at Stray Cat Alliance, confirms that because Tony is becoming such a local star, there may indeed be a chance for him to be adopted permanently here in Los Angeles after his stint in foster care.

Finally, although this story about Tony’s “big” adventure seems headed toward a happy end, it’s also a cautionary tale.  While many people believe that, unlike dogs, cats can easily self-regulate their feeding, Dr. White says this is not true.  “Do not free-feed cats,” she says.  “All cats should have their food measured.  The average cat only needs to eat about 1/2 cup of dry food per day.  Fat cats are much more likely to become diabetic, have liver failure, arthritis and urinary issues.”

Ms. Shevin adds that add that a cat who overeats to this extent is also probably bored and being neglected, and “needs more human attention and stimulation such as toys, cat trees, windows to look out of, etc.”

So Tony’s story provides another reminder as well:  if you have a friend, family member or neighbor with a serious illness, or who has become incapacitated in some other way, check on their pets and think about ways you can help them maintain their animals’ heath when they can no longer do so.  You may be able to help prevent another potentially “Fat” Tony.

Dr. Tania White with her clinic’s star resident. (Photo courtesy of HPVC.)

 Hancock Park Veterinary Clinic
5178 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 936-6952

Stray Cat Alliance 
PO Box 41021
Los Angeles, CA 90041

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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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  1. I love this! More stories like this please! Like the “Good News” site on Huffington Post…we all need good news about the neighborhood and the planet!

  2. Thanks for the super great article! We just confirmed this morning that on 10/17 Tony WILL be going to his foster him in Colorado – assuming he gets along with the family it will be his FOREVER home! They even bought him a special collar and tag! Yay Tony!


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