Fat cat

Gretchen Mork’s cat, Anakin, last checked in at 22 pounds, despite a switch to diet food almost a year ago. “We were told early on that he would be big, and they were right,” Mork said.

Minnesota has a lot of fat cats. And we’re not talking about income inequality.

When it comes to having the fattest dogs and cats, Minnesota is ranked No. 1 in the U.S.

The ranking comes courtesy of a new report based on numbers collected by 975 Banfield-branded veterinary centers in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

And it turns out that Minnesota has the plumpest pets.

Veterinarians say 41 percent of the state’s dogs and 46 percent of its kitties tip the scales in the overweight or obese range. That compares unfavorably to the rest of the nation, where, on average, one-third of cats and dogs in the U.S. register as overweight or obese.

“Many pet owners don’t quite understand that their pet is overweight,” Kirk Breuninger, a vet with Banfield, told the Washington Post recently.

During the reporting of this story, the PB sent out a social media inquiry. And that’s how we discovered Anakin. There are big cats — and then there is Anakin.

Anakin is a very large cat, checking in at 22 pounds the last time his Rochester owner, Gretchen Mork, had him weighed. That was six months ago. This despite the fact that Puss, the cat’s nickname, has been on an expensive diet food for almost a year.

“We were told early on that he would be big, and they were right,” Mork said.

Puss has a personality as big and distinctive as his body.

Mork, a Rochester nurse, said Puss was nice just once in his life and that was when he was put up for adoption. Once they picked him up and brought him home, he stopped being nice and became a bit of an entitled, glowering prima donna.

Mork doesn’t care.

“I love my cat, probably more than my kids. Yes, they know it,” Mork said.

The cat’s large size and surly personality have made him a celebrity among Mork’s friends, who have urged her to create a Facebook page devoted to all the crazy things he does and “just how mean he is.”

“Everyone’s goal in life is to make friends with this cat, and they all think they can and they can’t,” Mork said. “He will let them put their hand out. He’ll sniff it, and the minute they try to (pet) him, he clamps on their arm.”

As Mork described her cat in a phone interview, Mork said Puss walked up to her looking up to be fed.

“I just came home to feed him lunch, and he’s looking at me like, ‘Get to it,’” Mork said.

Mork doesn’t think that her cat’s weight and his orneriness are related, because Puss has been like that from the beginning.

“He was just over a pound when we got him at six weeks old, and he was mean then, too,” she said.

But we digress.

Veterinarians point to a number of culprits for today’s generation of abundantly sized cats and dogs. They cite excessive treats, “normalization” of bigger pet bodies, genetics and confusion about diet.

Fat cats and dogs suffer the same adverse health side effects that fat humans do. Just like people, overweight dogs get easily overheated and sluggish. Cats that are obese can suffer from degenerative joint disease and bad hips and knees, said Dr. Brad Treder, a veterinarian at Northern Valley Animal Clinic in Rochester.

Treder says he has seen no conclusive data that Minnesota cats and dogs are fatter than those in other states. The methods for rating obesity can be subjective. Even so, “we see plenty of obesity-type problems.”

Treder says it doesn’t hurt for a pet owner to schedule an appointment with a veterinarian, especially if your pet has never seen one before.

“We’re kind of (strict) when it comes to animals getting overweight,” Treder said. “What I tend to see as far as an obese pet coming in, most of the time it’s an animal we’ve never seen before.”

Treder said there are certain variables concerning pets that pet owners can’t control, such as genetics, breed and pre-disposition. But there are three things that owners can control. They include an animal’s weight, keeping its teeth clean and making sure the pet is mentally and physically exercised.

A once-fat cat or dog can be transformed once it sheds its unnecessary blubber.

“We have animals that really get tuned,” Treder said. “Now the dog’s eight or 10 years of age, and they were a slug for so many years. And now they’ve got all this energy.”

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Matt, a graduate of Toledo University with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, got his start in journalism in the U.S. Army. For the last 16 years, he has worked at the PB and currently reports on politics and life.