When Chester the cat first moved in with my parents, he was four years old and just shy of 30 pounds. "He’s actually skinnier than he used to be," said my cousin, whose mother was Chester’s previous owner. "Last year he got so fat he couldn’t even fit through his cat door."
"He should lose at least nine pounds," the veterinarian told my mother. My mom gritted her teeth, hefted Chester back into his cat carrier, and started him on a strict weight-loss regimen that very night. Two years later, Chester is down to a healthy 21 pounds. After some close observation over the holidays, I have concluded that Chester’s weight-loss regimen holds lessons for non-felines, too. Though his willpower was never a factor (my parents, who are otherwise nurturing, butter-loving, dessert-pushing types, made all his healthy choices for him), the basic tenets of Chester’s slimmer lifestyle are as follows:
1. Eat four small meals throughout the day, not one big one.
Chester gets a tiny spoonful of food four times a day: one at 9 a.m., one at noon, one at 4 p.m., and one before bed. He has this schedule memorized and prowls around meowing at mealtime. Routines are good; learn to take pleasure in them.
2. Slow down the food-inhalation process. Use any means necessary.
Chester will rapidly consume any food placed before him, to the point where he gets sick and throws up afterward. As a preventative measure, my mom put a racquet ball (which is small and rubber, but big enough that he can’t eat it) in his food dish, forcing Chester to nudge the ball around with his nose while he eats, thereby slowing him down. Now, even without the ball present, Chester eats at a civilized pace.
3. Exercise should be fun, but if you can’t pull that off, try adding desperation and/or danger.
Chester has a particular fondness for a feather toy attached to a long wand that my parents wave around for him. Most of the time he just watches, though, too lazy to get off his duff and lumber after it. But his constant hunger has resulted in a new calorie-burning hobby: hunting. While most cats leave dead animals as presents for their owners, Chester actually consumes his prey, leaving only a grisly remnant on my parents’ doormat — a beak, say, or a tail — which seems more like a “Fuck you, I’m starving” than a loving gift. But my parents consider this behavior positive: “Think of all the calories he must’ve burned chasing after that thing,” says my mom, cheerfully sweeping a sad little pile of sparrow feathers into a plastic bag. "I know he ate it in the end, but there couldn’t have been much meat there."
4. Substitute physical contact for food.
Chester gets lots of pats every day, even though he’s always grumpy and never actually wants to stay in your lap after he finds out you’re not going to share your snack with him. Human contact is almost as good as food.
5. Don't aim for perfection.
At 21 pounds, Chester would hardly be described as svelte, but he's always been big-boned, with meaty paws and a melon-size head. He now has several rolls of loose tummy skin that puddle at his feet when he sits down. It reminds us all how far he's come, and it's even sort of cute.
6. Accept that crankiness is inevitable.
Chester is constantly resentful and, despite his jolly orange tummy, is not that into snuggling. He is constantly awaiting his next meal and gets annoyed when it’s not time yet. But the truth is that it’s almost impossible to lose weight without being hungry, and not being able to eat what you want really sucks. Which is why I’m very glad I’m not a cat and very glad it’s pie season.
Most Viewed Stories
Can We Finally, Officially, Say That Amber Heard and Elon Musk Are Dating?
The 26-Year-Old Couch-Surfing After a Breakup
Why Everyone Loves the Alpha Girl
Will We Abandon Women’s Rights in the Name of Progressive Politics?
When Women Pursue Sex, Even Men Don’t Get It
Gigi Hadid’s Family Celebrated Her Birthday by Bringing Out the Baby Pictures
Madame Clairevoyant: Horoscopes for the Week of April 24
Ivanka Trump’s Line Relabeled by Retailer, Distributor
I Was the Queen Bee: 3 High-School Bullies Describe Their Reigns of Terror
Fox News Racial-Discrimination Suit Alleges Black Female Employees Were Forced to Arm Wrestle
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesA Holiday Season Weekend Through London
A good guide for avid The Crown fans.It’s About Time You Learned Tove Lo’s Name
The singer has crafted pop hits you’ve heard a thousand times by now.Marina Abramovic Has Outlasted Her Lovers and, She Hopes, Her Critics
The world's most famous performance artist at 70.The Wing: Do Women Still Need a Space of Their Own?
This exclusive social club for women, is part sorority, part start-up.In Virtual Reality, Women Run the World
A new generation of female artists is making VR the most diverse corner of the male-dominated tech space.The Novelist Disguised As a Housewife
Shirley Jackson wrote 17 books while raising four children — and she couldn't have had a successful career without them.Ava DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.Don’t Mess This Up, Mischa Barton
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.