Bruno Bartlett was on a weight loss journey, a gray polydactyl cat who likes to stand on his hind legs. They’re chonky, they’re fluffy, they’re softened, and they’re pawsitive to the body. They are round boys, floofs, and units that are absolute.
The new online animal trend celebrates the rotund and plump, with social media users focusing on the adorability of the rounded cheeks of a cat, the many rolls of a hamster, the rounded shape of a dog, and the voluptuous volume of a raccoon.
The Chonky Animals Instagram account has more than 409,000 followers, whereas the accounts of Round Boys and Round Animals are over 455,000 and 487,000 respectively. Every day, the Facebook group, This Cat is Chonky, has over 395,000 members and hundreds of new posts.
The trend raises concerns about overfeeding and for the sake of cuteness keeping a pet unhealthy. While humans can decide whether they are healthy at all sizes, animals will not be able to tell their owners if they need help. But it has also inspired a healthy movement to ensure that these animals, as well as cute, remain healthy. More and more accounts are now dedicated to specific chonky cats–and their efforts to lose weight.
“It’s pretty adorable to have a heavy cat,” said Mike Wilson, one of Bronson’s owners, a cat who was adopted at 33 pounds and is now 23 pounds a year later. “A big cat on a diet is a guilt-free way to follow an obese cat.” There’s Bruno Bartlett, the gray polydactyl cat who likes to stand on his hind legs, and his brother, Carlo, besides Bronson, who has more than 214,000 followers. Fat Laila’s efforts at the fat camp are lovingly documented on Facebook, as are her missteps–when she snakes into the closet for one night stealing treatments.
“There’s a reason why fat cats are so obsessed with the internet,” said Lauren Paris, Bruno and Carlo’s owner. “They’re so cute.” When stories about a “thicc” cat up for adoption last year went viral, Paris felt drawn to Bruno. She and her friend wrote a song, Give Me That Fat Cat, which not only ensured the adoption, but also the Instagram stardom of Bruno.
She knew, however, that when she met him she could not stay with his claim to fame–his chub.
“He was so adorable, but he was barely able to move,” said Paris. “The shelter did their best, but he lived with other cats in a room and would just eat their food.” Bronson has now slimmed down to 23 pounds. Photograph: Mike Wilson’s courtesy Because Bruno was so public already, he also made his weight-loss journey public. Paris posts when Bruno and tongue-in-cheek hashtags like “real cats have curves” lose a pound. She posts pictures of him searching for human food or meowing to cook bacon in the background.
“I won’t lie, I think fat cats are cute, but not so cute that they’re not supposed to be on a diet,” Paris said. “Bruno, we’re looking back at his old videos and we think,’ oh, he’s so cute,’ but now he’s really cute and he’s going to live much longer. That’s much better. “Megan Hanneman, the other owner of Wilson and Bronson, felt the same way when it came to the health of Bronson. He had to lie down to eat when they met him. “He looked just like a giant swollen ball,” said Wilson.
“He was 3 years old, weighing 33 pounds,” said Hanneman. “The standard cat weighs about nine pounds, so at the age of three he was about the size of three pretty big cats. Bronson used to cry for more food before Wilson and Hanneman switched him to a less caloric but more filling wet diet. Even worse when he was going to wake them up for feedings. “He would have come over at 3 o’clock in the morning and lay on us and purr in our faces,” said Hanneman.
They enjoy posting on his weight-loss journey because it is difficult to lose cat weight. If cats lose weight too quickly, they may develop fatty liver disease and typically sleep 18 hours a day and are difficult to exercise, said Shari O’Neill, the San Francisco Society’s chief shelter veterinarian for the prevention of animal cruelty. Cats are grazers as well, so it’s difficult to measure how much food they need to get through a day.
“It’s been a lot of fun sharing tips on weight loss and things we’re doing with Bronson, knowing that many people have this issue with their cat, even if it’s not that extreme,” said Wilson.
But there are trolls as with anything on the internet. “We saw it all,” said Paris. “We see,’ You abuse this cat.’ We also see,’ I miss when Bruno was fat.’ Some of the Facebook group’s top rules, This Cat is Chonky, do not include chonk-shaming, owner-shaming, and do not advise politics or medicine.
“People see a fat cat picture and think we’ve made it fat,” said Paris. “Or when we just started showing his weight-loss pictures, people who know nothing about cats will say,’ Oh, he just lost two pounds? Well, by now he ought to have lost more. “She continued:” You don’t know why a cat is fat. What diets have been tried, you don’t know. You don’t know if it has diabetes or not. “Wilson and Hanneman also post about adoptable cats across the country that are largely overweight between cute pictures of Bronson and videos of his monthly weigh-ins, something Paris thinks is a much-needed effort.
“What’s good about this internet trend is that it attracts attention to these traditionally passed pets,” she said. “From shelters came all these famous chonky cats. That’s a really good light, I think. Kittens are more likely to be adopted, but if these web-famous chonky cats are more likely to be adopted by adult cats, then we have done our jobs.