Have a fat cat? Virginia Tech has a weight loss plan for feline friends

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) It's beach body season but for some cats, getting up off the couch may be a chore.

Virginia Tech is helping fat cats work on their figures. But then, there's food. Meal time's a favorite time of day. If the food isn't there when they want it, pets beg, cry, and look so sad. But when should owners say enough.

"Everything has to be cut back," said Dr. Lauren Dodd, a Clinical Nutrition Resident at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

Cutting back or cutting out certain foods is a hard decision to make.

"We've had weight loss plans and some of them are doing fine and then other times we are wondering, why is this pet not losing weight," Dodd said.

Turns out the owner kept feeding it a little extra. Virginia Tech researchers from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine are now looking to keep cats and their owners happy at home while helping felines lose weight.

They're studying the perception of a weight loss plan. Researchers say owners may become discouraged and stop any new diets if their pet appears to have, what they call, a poor quality of life.

Food shouldn't be what gains a cat's love. That's why, over the course of nine months, owners get a new diet plan for their fat cats and they're required to make monthly check ins.

Owners can't give in to those groans for extra food or purrs for a treat. Humans play a big part of this study too.

A big challenge, no cheating allowed, and no extra food.

"Treats consist of, does the animal get table food? Pill pockets are a big thing to help administer medication, those all contain calories," Dodd said.

But keeping food away from pets can lead to destructive food seeking behavior. Researchers are hoping this study leads to a breakthrough that makes the weight loss process less stressful for all involved.

Researchers need 60 fat cats to help them with their study. If you'd like to get involved and help the health of your cat, email felinenutrition@vt.edu or call 540-231-1775.