Fatcat Slim

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The Independent Culture
UNLIKE THE animals who used to hang out with our ancestors, today's pets lead sedentary lives. Nobody asks them to bite the throats out of black bears, or defend our households from packs of wolves. Most of them can get away with a life of dozing in front of Richard and Judy with a belly full of choc-o-drops and processed horse meat. The result? Labrador love-handles and poodle paunches.

Over half of our household pets are overweight - that's 7.8 million obese cats and dogs. So, in 1991 the Pet Slimmer of the Year competition was launched by Hill's, a manufacturer of prescription pet foods formulated to help fight feline and canine flab. This year's final will be held at Kensington Roof Gardens on Wednesday. Twenty finalists -including Basil the cat and Elsa the dachshund (pictured right) will parade along a catwalk, and be assessed by a panel of judges - which includes Rosemary "Hip and Thigh Diet" Conley.

Elsa's vet Fiona Maclean believes that her patient should be named top dog because "she has done better than any other animal I've helped lose weight" (11kg to 7kg in nine weeks). But Basil's story is perhaps the more dramatic. He was hauled into the Barton Lodge veterinary centre in Hemel Hempstead with a bodyweight of 9.2kg. "The owner thought he had some sort of medical problem," explains Barton Lodge nurse Glen McIntosh. "He was lethargic and not doing normal cat-type things. So we ran some tests for diseases associated with obesity, and found that he was normal. Just very fat." So fat, in fact, that he once got stuck in his own catflap, pulled it from its housing, and went waddling down the street with it jammed around his cat gut. Sticking to the prescribed regimen was a problem. Basil's owner, Mrs Catlin (no, really), discovered him up to his whiskers inside a 5kg bag of diet cat food. Slices of banana cake also proved a great temptation. Today, however, he is a svelte 5.6kg and has stopped his nasty habit of growling at children.

"People get extremely worried that their animals are too thin, and feel guilty that they're not feeding them enough," says Glen McIntosh. "My father is always worrying about his poodle being underweight, but it's a perfectly healthy dog."