Despite some midnight raids on the food pantry, Tiny Tim has probably done better than most of us with his 2012 resolution to take off pounds.
A gray tabby with a personality as big as his back side, Tiny Tim has been working on his diet-and-exercise regimen since New Year's, when he topped 35 pounds.
Now, with loving care and veterinary expertise at Southside Place Animal Hospital, the still-fat cat has made it to 27.6 pounds on the long way down to his goal weight.
"I think in an ideal world, he'd be like a 12-to-14-pound cat," said Dr. Jessica Reyna, one of four veterinarians caring for the big guy who's now a permanent resident at the clinic, where staffers call him Tiny.
Because rapid weight loss can be fatal in cats, Tiny's diet is closely monitored by the dozen clinic staff members.
He's allotted 300 calories a day, divided into two portions.
For the first five or six months of the year, his weight loss was slow but steady until he hit a puzzling plateau.
"We just couldn't get him below the 30-pound mark," Reyna said.
A staff member solved the mystery when she went to the storage closet that had become Tiny's bedroom. As she picked up an unopened, 28-pound bag of dog food for a client, food trickled out the bottom.
"We realized he had very surreptitiously chewed a hole in the bag, so at night when we would put him up, he would be having midnight snacks," Reyna said.
"He wouldn't do it in front of us during the day, and there would never be a scrap or a kibble left on the floor," she said.
Still quite food-driven, Tiny gets exercise walking back and forth to his food bowl at the front of the clinic. To make sure he keeps moving, staffers carry him to the front several times a day, releasing him to make his way to his bed in the back.
"He is still very stiff, but he is moving so much better and so much more than he did when we first got him," Reyna said.
Picked up by city animal control workers shortly before Christmas last year in far southwest Houston, Tim was so obese he could barely walk when he arrived at BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions, 3200 Carr St.
Members of the Friends of BARC volunteer group who brought dinner to the city shelter staff last Christmas Eve met the fat cat and quickly bestowed his ironic nickname.
The volunteers decided to take on his recovery as a project, starting with removal from the shelter.
The day after Christmas, Friends volunteer Tim Hebert delivered the stunningly large cat to the Southside Place clinic owned by Dr. Alice Frei. After fruitless attempts to find Tiny's previous owner and several months of treatment, Frei and the clinic staff decided to keep him.
"As heavy as he is, he's predisposed to become diabetic," Reyna said. "He's got some special needs, and of course now we've all fallen in love with him."
Friended by Tiny Tim
It's a natural response to a loving cat said Hebert, who still visits Tiny.
"I'll frequently go in there and lay down right beside him, because he can't jump in your lap," Hebert said. "He looks at you with such love and devotion."
Next up for the celebrity cat who has his own Facebook page, Tiny Tim at Spah, is fatty acid treatments for flaky skin.
"They can really help with skin problems, but they're caloric so we want to wait until he gets below 25 pounds before we add that on," Reyna said.