FREDERICTON - Losing weight is hard enough, but try doing it with the world watching and when you'd rather be dreaming of mice.
Tiny, a very large and lovable grey house cat, has become an international celebrity since he was left in a box outside the Fredericton SPCA on Dec. 30. But no one at the shelter was quite prepared for a cat the size of Tiny, or the media attention he has received since.
"We thought someone was bringing in donations, such as computer paper or newspaper, things that we need, and they set down the box and they left," said LeeAnn Haggerty, the SPCA's education co-ordinator. "Then we heard the box meow.
"We opened the box and out popped Tiny's head, which was small when compared to his large size. ... Lifting Tiny out we realized he was a very large cat, probably one of the biggest we've seen."
He weighed 13.7 kilograms.
Haggerty said her shock quickly changed to concern for his health. So Tiny was moved to a foster home and placed on a diet of special food and exercise.
His efforts to shed weight is aimed at helping other animals at the shelter. A Facebook page called Tiny's Weight Loss Challenge now has close to 1,700 friends and had raised about $1,900 by Friday.
The money will help provide surgeries for animals left at the shelter.
"It's really important to have a fund such as Tiny's Weight Loss Challenge to help us give the care," said Haggerty.
She said Tiny has lost about 2.25 kilograms so far and has prompted some staff members, including Haggerty, to stick to their own New Year's resolutions to lose weight.
Tiny's progress is turning into a good news story that has drawn national and international media attention, including CNN and People magazine's website.
"We know that cats are pretty popular on the Internet but we weren't expecting this," Haggerty said.
Some of Tiny's supporters have entered him in a best cat contest on Ellen DeGeneres's website, but Haggerty said they haven't received a reply yet.
She said the news coverage has brought attention to the importance of keeping pets healthy.
Tiny is a happy cat with a personality that's big enough to match his girth. He enjoys chasing a laser pointer, which Haggerty says is a great way for him to get some exercise.
The goal is for Tiny to slim down to about nine kilograms over the next 12 to 18 months.
"The goal is a slow and steady weight loss because we want to make sure his weight loss is healthy," she said.