Keith the cat’s owner has spent ‘tens of thousands of pounds’ trying to get him to lose weight and has even had to put child locks on the fridge to keep the two-stone moggy out.
When rescue cat Keith was adopted by Sara Matthews for her daughter Charlie’s tenth birthday, Sara knew he came with some medical issues.
What she didn’t know what that, just months after bringing the big guy home, the 47-year-old personal assistant would have to put childproof locks on her fridge to stop Keith from getting in when he was feeling snacky.
Despite all her best efforts, including multiple diets and vet visits, the black and white moggy has gone from 11lbs to a staggering 24lbs – roughly the weight of a medium-sized dog – over the last seven years.
Sara, from Bristol, says: ‘We’ve had child locks on the fridge ever since we got Keith.
‘At first, he would clamber in when you opened it, and I was just so worried he’d get trapped without us noticing.
‘As it’s gone on, we’ve had to put more and more locks on every cupboard with food in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a circular knob handle or a pulley, he will find a way in.
‘One of the last cupboards I Keith-proofed had a heavy bag of litter in front of it. He managed to move this bag out of the way and got into his bags of food.
‘I’ve now had to put all of his rations in plastic tubs with click-down lids. We’ve tried puzzle feeders to slow him down, but he’s just tipped them over.’
When Keith was first brought to the rescue centre where Sara was volunteering, the poor guy was very undernourished and had gastro problems, so he had to be put on a special diet.
Even then, crafty Keith used to sneak out of his cage and steal other cats’ food, which could make him unwell.
Sara adds: ‘Charlie fell in love with him straight away, so I adopted him for her as a surprise birthday present.
‘Right from the start, he would eat anything, even weird things. He loves green foods, so any vegetables weren’t safe from him, even if they were on the stove.
‘Straight away the vets put him on a diet with veterinary food, and we bought feeders for our other cats that meant only they could get in because of a chip in their collars.
‘He just carried on getting bigger though. We found out he’d been going through neighbours’ bins because he didn’t think he was getting fed enough at home.
‘If I offered him fresh meat or fish, he wouldn’t eat it. But he loved to scavenge, anything like pizza crusts and things like that. We had to put tags on him asking people not to feed him.’
When Sara moved house, she decided it was best to have Keith be an indoor cat from then on to stop him poisoning himself with scavenged food, but this meant he became less active.
Sara says: ‘We’ve spent tens of thousands of pounds on him over the years. He was on so much medication in his first year trying to sort problems with his eyes and ears as a kitten.
‘At one point we had food specially made for him as he had a urinary problem and the usual food for that is so high in calories I couldn’t risk him eating it.
‘The food was £70 a bag, and he was on that for three years. In 2020, we paid £2,500 for blood tests for Cushing’s disease, diabetes and more, but they all came back negative.
‘Keith has had lots of tests at the vets over the years but nothing has proven conclusive. We thought he might have a problem with his pituitary gland, but that hasn’t been confirmed.
‘There is a chance it’s a neurological problem, but it would be thousands and thousands of pounds to have those tests done, and his insurance doesn’t cover that.
‘Because of his size, there is also a concern he might not wake up from any anaesthetic he has.
‘Even if they told us there was something wrong with his brain, there would be no treatment for it.
‘It’s a vicious circle with him. When he is on antibiotics it causes him further stomach problems, so he has to have food with an appetite stimulant to make him want to eat, which exacerbates the weight issues.
‘When we used to take him to the vets to get him weighed, I’d cry because we were doing everything, and he was just getting heavier.’
Keith might be limited to 50g of food a day, but he can still show great determination when it comes to supplementing his diet by sneaky means.
Sara said: ‘I bought microchip feeders for my other cats which should only be accessible for the cat wearing the specific collar. Keith has found four different ways to get into them.
‘When I rang the manufacturer, they told me they had never heard of an animal doing that. He had worked out a way of hooking his claw underneath the feeder and pulling the whole tray of biscuits out.
‘They told me to put sticky-sided tape on the bottom but in less than 24 hours he had worked out he could just get his claw in and flick the food out individually.’
Even though he’s more than twice the size of a standard adult cat, his size hasn’t stopped him from being happy and active, and he loves playing with Sara’s daughter Charlie, who has autism.
Sara said: ‘He’s a really happy cat though. I don’t think he sees his weight as an issue. He pretty much lives a normal cat life. Keith is a lot more energetic than my other two cats.
‘He loves running around and playing fetch. Sometimes I think he’s more like a dog than a cat in that case.
‘Charlie has autism and Keith has been her best friend ever since he came home. He’s by her side all the time, comforting and playing with her.
‘She struggled with homeschooling via Zoom last year, but Keith was always by her side when she was on the laptop.
‘It’d be amazing to get him down to 7kg, but at nine years old it would be good to get any weight off him.
‘Currently, he doesn’t have any medical issues due to his size, but we’re worried about what might happen in the future. We don’t want him to develop diabetes or anything like that.’
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