Bronson the cat is losing weight and gaining social media followers.
The overweight cat from Grand Rapids, Michigan, rose to internet fame the spring of 2018 after news outlets picked up his adoption story. At 33 pounds, the rescue cat was nearly three times the size of an average housecat. Bronson’s new family immediately put him on a weight loss plan and started an Instagram account to shine a light on feline obesity. Since then, he’s lost more than 4 pounds, and he’s become quite the Instagram star with more than 158,000 followers.
These next few months, Pet Central will be checking in with Bronson’s parents, Mike and Megan Wilson, for exclusive updates on his progress. To help the hefty 3-year-old cat reach his monthly goals, which is about a pound a month, Chewy will be sending him special care packages.
We caught up with Mike to get the scoop on where Bronson’s weight-loss journey started, where he is now and what is coming up these next few months.
Where did you first see or hear about Bronson?
Last April, we went to the [Michigan] Humane Society in hopes of finding a new kitten. We own a cat furniture company, so we were looking for an energetic cat who would have fun playing on our shelves. When we went inside and started looking around, we came upon this blonde gentle giant sleeping with his back to us.
What drew you to him?
He was definitely the biggest cat either of us had ever seen, and we knew we had to meet him.
Bronson was so excited and happy when we came in to visit him. He started kneading the plush bed he was in like crazy and was purring really loud. He seemed so gentle, sweet and kind, but it also was sad to see him barely able to walk around. He got up to eat and headed right back to his bed, only being up for about a minute.
We started talking about him, and since Megan and I are both into enrichment, we thought it would be a fun project to help him lose the weight.
Do you know how Bronson got so overweight?
The humane society told us that his [previous] owner had passed away and their family had brought him in. They were guessing his past owner was an elderly person but weren’t sure how he had gained so much weight in three short years.
His original name was Fat Kat, so it didn’t seem like they viewed his obesity as a serious medical issue, but we don’t know. We’ve heard of situations where elderly people with memory loss forget that they already fed their cats and unintentionally end up overfeeding, so this may have been the case.
When did he start his weight-loss journey?
Bronson’s weight-loss started as soon as we got home. We started playing with him twice a day for as long as he would stay intrigued and went to two 10-minute play sessions each day, once he was up for it. Since he already was going to be stressed out moving in with us, we were asked to keep him on the same food that they had him on.
What’s Bronson’s goal weight?
His vet said it is 12-15 pounds. He has a pretty large frame, and she said as he loses weight and gets closer to his goal, we’ll have a better idea of [what] his healthy weight [should be].
What’s his personality like?
Bronson is very loving and sweet but also can be like a grumpy old man. If he’s sleeping and you pet him, he’ll make a grunting noise before he opens his eyes and sees it’s you.
He can be very peaceful with the other cats—Ickle, Heisen and Gwildor—sleeping next to them without any issue, but dinnertime is serious business for Bronson. Once it’s time to eat, he walks in the kitchen and approaches the other cats with his chest out and paws at them.
What made you start an Instagram account for Bronson?
When we first got Bronson, we didn’t know a lot about feline obesity, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to connect with other people trying to help their cats lose weight. We certainly never thought it was going to grow to what it has become. We’ve gotten so many people offering tips and ideas, so it’s been such a valuable resource for us.
Bronson has such a nice community helping him through his weight-loss journey, and it feels great to help others who are trying to help their cat lose weight. His fans are so invested and supportive of him—it’s really heartwarming.
Why is sharing Bronson’s story so important to you?
We really want to help spread awareness about feline obesity and help anyone who is trying to get their own cat down to a healthier weight. Every once in a while, we get questions from people … wanting to know his secret sauce.
It’s really important for us to educate others that his weight holds him back from having a fulfilling life. For instance, when we first brought Bronson home, he was so big that he could barely walk. He had so much weight in his chest that he looked like an overly stuffed animal, and he couldn’t fit both of his front legs underneath him at the same time.
To walk, Bronson had to hold his arms out to the side a little and kind of waddle to walk around. Due to how awkward this was for him, he only walked when he had a specific destination in mind. He couldn’t play with other cats, clean or even itch himself. We want to show his struggle, along with his life-altering achievements, to raise awareness of why it’s important to help cats stay at a healthy weight.
What have been some major milestones Bronson has reached since his weight-loss journey began?
Bronson has had several big milestones over the last few months. Up until about a month ago, he could clean only a few inches around his face and wherever his front paws could reach. Now he can bend himself over to clean his back legs and even itch his ear with his back paws. Bronson can jump up onto the bed without help, walk up and down the stairs in one go (rather than taking breaks) and fit under our couch, which is only 5.5 inches!
What have been some challenges?
When we first brought Bronson home, a major challenge was to get him to walk. He would get up only to use the litter box and to eat. As soon as he got to his food dish, he would lay down to eat.
Our biggest challenge these days is making sure Bronson only eats his food and not his brothers’ food. We got him an automatic feeder with a collar microchip reader when we first brought him home, but he had trouble fitting through the arch comfortably since he is a big guy. Also, wet food can be out for only 20 minutes before it should be put away, so now we just stay in the room while he eats. He’s not shy about taking his time, either, so it can end up being quite time-consuming.
Has Bronson had more energy since losing weight?
Bronson’s energy level has been increasing steadily since we brought him home, and we noticed a huge change once we switched him to wet food. Even though he is a big guy, he always has loved toys and catnip, and he is very frisky. We think the play sessions helped bring his energy level up over time, and sometimes he plays with his toys like he is a kitten.
How does Bronson exercise?
We play with Bronson twice a day, with various toys he is interested in that day for 10 minutes. His favorite toys are catnip-filled canvas toys and string toys.
The awesome thing about Bronson is that even though he’s a big guy, he’s just as playful and frisky as any other cat, and he absolutely loves toys.
He does have a few automatic toys we got for him, which he will solo-play with, but we found that he is the most engaged when we are interacting with him and whatever toy he is playing with.
Bronson is very food-motivated, so we incorporate a few exercises throughout the day using kibble or freeze-dried chicken treats to entice him to walk around and climb obstacles in our home. He really gets into it when we toss treats across the floor, and he hunts them down incredibly fast like he is racing to get the treat before any other cat realizes it’s there.
What products have helped you during Bronson’s weight-loss journey?
We have to give the most credit to his diet; Weruva makes a very high-quality wet food that’s so low calorie that he’s able to eat until he’s full and not go over his calorie limit. If he starts getting close to his limit, we start mixing it with warm water to make a gross stew, and he loves it.
When we first brought Bronson home, it was difficult to get him to engage in play, so we started getting all kinds of toys to see if he liked a certain type of toy. We found that Bronson loves to chew on canvas toys and is crazy for Yeowww! catnip toys, which he will play with on his own.
We keep a lot of these toys around because Bronson loves these so much that eventually they all turn brown due to being chewed on and the catnip inside getting wet and saturating the fabric. He also loves is his rainbow ribbon toy by Cat Dancer.
What are Bronson’s goals for January?
We are hoping that Bronson will be down to 27.5 pounds by January so he can get on his flea and tick medicine, and we are going to start taking him on exploration walks around our home. We have taken Bronson out for a test walk, and he ran around like crazy, exploring and smelling all of the new things.
We feel like he is going to have so much fun outside, and we want to encourage anything he shows interest in. He really doesn’t like his harness, so we’re also going to play around with different brands to find one that fits him better. We’re going to start having him wear his harness around the house for 10 minutes a day to try and get him used to it.
To see if Bronson meets his goals for January, follow his Instagram account (@iambronsoncat) and check back next month for exclusive updates.
Lindsay Schencker, Pet Central Associate Editor
The moment Lindsay started her career here at Chewy, she hit the ground running in customer service; she knew that this is the company she wanted to grow with from then on. When Lindsay isn’t spending her time writing for Pet Central, she’s most likely binge-watching a Netflix series and cuddling up with her 80-pound fur baby, Dexter.
Featured Image and Video Assets: Courtesy of Mike and Megan Wilson