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Fat felines: we all love a ‘chonky’ cat – but the online trend has to end


Name: Fat cats.

Age: Probably no older than 10, given their propensity to die young.

Appearance: Fat.

Surely you mean delightfully cuddly. Oh, who’s a pretty boy then? Roll over and let me tickle your tummy. Don’t be so ridiculous. That’s just the sort of attitude that is KILLING CATS.

What are you on about? The internet is now full of pictures of fat cats that their owners think are adorable but are actually health disasters, barely able to fit through a cat flap, let alone jump on to a ledge. In fact, the only time they jump is when their owner fills their feeding bowl.

The cat sat ...
The cat sat … Photograph: Benoit Daoust/Alamy Stock Photo

That’s not ideal. In any case, flabby felines should not be encouraged, as, I’m afraid to say, Instagram accounts such as Round Boys and Round Animals, with their hundreds of thousands of followers, do.

And who is kicking up a fuss about meaty moggies? The pet food company Purina, part of Nestlé, seems to have got this ball rolling.

That’s odd – you would think such companies would want to sell as much as pet food possible. Fat cat capitalism. Quality, not quantity, is Purina’s mantra. Libby Sheridan, veterinary technical affairs manager at Purina UK and Ireland, says cat owners have a “skewed perception” of what constitutes a healthy weight. “People think their pets should be cuddly,” she says. But cuddliness can kill! “It’s particularly an issue with cats,” says Sheridan.

Why? The fat finger of blame is being pointed firmly at the internet craze for posting pictures of tubby tabbies. Not just Round Boys on Instagram, but the Facebook group This Cat Is Chonky, which is devoted to the larger cat and has amassed more than 850,000 members since its launch in May 2018.

Fat Red CatA very fat cat is lying on the сarpet on its back. This is red Ameriacan Wirehair male cat. Flat lay.
Poor Tom … a red American wirehair. Photograph: Maria Fedotova/Getty Images

Chonky? Internet-speak for chunky. The “chonk scale” became a meme in 2018, with “chonkness” measured on a BMI chart that went from “A fine boi” to “OH LAWD HE COMIN”.

Sounds fun. Indeed, and rule one of Chonk club is: “No chonk shaming.” But the new pet puritans reckon some pet (and owner) shaming is now in order.

Brutal. Any exceptions? Fat cats on diets are probably OK. A cat called Bronson has amassed 267,000 followers on Instagram since his owners, Megan Hanneman and Mike Wilson, brought him home from a cat shelter in Michigan almost three years ago, when he weighed 15kg (33lb). They have charted his weight loss online, and he is now only half the cat he was. “A big cat on a diet is a guilt-free way to follow an obese cat,” says Wilson. Cat porn with a purpose.

Not to be confused with: The pictures of fat dogs, penguins, seals and hedgehogs that also abound online.

A full length photo of an overweight brown tabby cat looking at the camera
Tabby tummy trouble … Photograph: Nikki O’Keefe Images/Getty Images

Do say: “C’mon, kitty, time for your hour on the treadmill.”

Don’t say: “Purrfect!”





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