When Patches arrived at the shelter, the staff was speechless. The lovable cat weighed 42 pounds. Now his new owner is sharing his inspiring weight loss journey, and it went viral. This is Patches' story.
There is nothing like the joy of rescuing a pet. It's a special experience for everyone and the animals involved. Every furry friend deserves a chance to be loved. For Patches the Cat, the same applied.
When the Richmond Animal Care and Control Shelter were given Patches, they had no idea how big of a phenomenon the cat would become. In fact, no one really did. It would only take one post and photo to be uploaded on Facebook for everything to change for this 40-pound feline.
Dropping Patches Off
When the original owners of the ginormous and lovable cat knew they could no longer provide for their beloved house pet, they had to make a difficult decision. They had to surrender him to the shelter. Eventually, they dropped him off at Richmond Animal Care and Control on April 4, 2023.
The RACC Outreach Coordinator, Robin Young, told Today.com in an email, "We were all shocked by his size. He's definitely the largest cat any of our staff has ever seen." When Patches arrived at the shelter, he weighed in at 42 pounds. For comparison, that's around the same weight as a sack of potatoes!
A Temporary Home
Richmond Animal Care and Control has been around for over a hundred years. The shelter, which is located in Richmond, Virginia, has been a staple in the community since its establishment. They provide care for more than 3,000 pets every year, from cats to dogs to even hamsters!
Adoption and Intake Coordinator, Savannah Hughes, told Today.com, "At first, he came in and he was kind of scared... He came out of his shell pretty fast." She also described him as "extremely sweet." The shelter staff then took on the task of trying to find Patches his new forever home.
Spreading the News
The staff posted Patches on their Facebook page. They wrote, "Did you wake up today and say, 'let's adopt the largest cat anyone has ever seen'? If so, we have the cat for you. Meet Patches; all 40.3 POUNDS of him!" One of the staff members held Patches in her arms to show him off, belly and all.
The caption continued, "He's been regulated to a very special diet, is on an exercise plan and is very sweet. He's neutered, tested, chipped and ready to go today!" They also shared an email to write to if anyone was interested in adopting. "Until then, we will marvel at his gloriously gluttonous body!" they wrote.
Keep the Comments Coming
The post was Patches' breakthrough role, as some would call it. RACC's Facebook post was immediately flooded with comments. One user commented, "What a magestic chonk! 10/10." Another wrote, "Patches looks like a sweetie. I bet he gives the best snuggles."
The post garnered nearly 1.9K comments and approximately 3.8K likes. People could not get enough of Patches. Yet, for one woman, she wanted to do something more than write a comment or like a post on the internet. She wanted to take action, and she did.
Meet Kay Ford
Kay Ford is the woman of the hour. She is a retired business owner and the proud mom of two adult children, plus a Yorkie named Bella and a cat named Wellesley. She resides in a suburb outside of Richmond, Virginia, and lives a pleasant and quiet life.
The idea of adopting a fat cat first originated when she was spending time with her grandchildren. Three years ago, she saw a cat from Pennsylvania on her Facebook feed. She said to USA Today that she told her grandkids she wanted to adopt the cat and name it Smörgåsbord, the Swedish word for a buffet-style meal.
"This Is Your Moment"
What started as a fun story for her grandchildren eventually turned into reality. Three years went by before she was able to fulfill her dream. When Ford's daughter saw the shelter's post on Facebook about Patches, she texted her mother, "This is your moment."
Ford told USA Today, "I just immediately texted her back and I said 'I have to have Patches.'" Ford went straight for her computer and typed an email to the shelter detailing her interest in the 40-pound cat. She sent in her application. However, Kay Ford wasn't the only one interested in Patches.
From West to East
People from all over the country were reaching out to Richmond Animal Care and Control. Everyone was falling in love with Patches. The shelter told Today.com that they "immediately starting receiving emails from interested adopters" after they posted Patches' photo on Facebook.
Potential adopters were emailing in from states like California and Maine. Every one of them wanted to take Patches home. There were countless applications to sift through. How would the team decide who would be the perfect owner for this fat cat? There were many qualified options.
One Stuck Out From the Crowd
There was one application that stuck out from the rest of the crowd. Young told Today.com, "We loved Kay's email describing how she would help Patches on his weight loss journey, and they would both lose weight together." Out of all the applicants, the shelter reached out to Ford for an interview.
That same day, Ford got into her car and headed to the shelter to meet Patches. She told USA Today, "I immediately went to go sit down with him. He was purring and I was loving on him. I fell in love with him." But what about the other applicants? Who would the shelter choose as Patches' new owner?
Adoption Success Story
It turns out there was no contest. Ford was chosen as Patches' new owner, and they were about to embark on a grand adventure together. RACC updated their Facebook post saying Patches had been adopted and uploaded a photo of Patches with his new mom, Kay.
After only spending a few weeks at the shelter, Patches had already found a loving family to call his own. He was extremely fortunate, and Ford was incredibly grateful for her new addition. Yet, there was one thing that Patches was going to have to get used to in his new home.
Brother and Sister
Patches wasn't going to be an only child. He would have to share his new home with Kay's two pets. Her vast experience as a pet owner is one of the reasons the shelter chose her. Kay was already the mother to a 13-year-old Yorkie named Bella and a 2-year-old cat named Wellesley.
Although things between the two cat brothers were a bit rocky at first, according to what Ford told USA Today. They are getting along swimmingly now! She said, "Now, I'll find myself coming around the corner and they're lying nose to nose. It looks like they're conspiring to do something naughty."
Visiting the Vet
The first order of business after adopting Patches was getting him to the veterinarian. Thankfully, the shelter had already taken in the 40-pound cat to get checkups when he was put into their care. They discovered he had no significant health issues, like diabetes or thyroid problems.
When Ford took him to the vet, they discussed an action plan to get Patches into a healthier routine. This also included a visit to a certified feline specialist, per USA Today. Everyone is working together to get Patches' health on track. While it may be hard work, Ford is determined to make it happen.
The Feline Diet
One part of Patches' plan to get into better shape is to eat the right foods, just like humans. However, Patches won't be regulated to only eating lettuce, quinoa, or something from the keto diet. His diet is currently experimental, per what his mom, Kay Ford, told USA Today.
Ford said, "We do have some specific foods that we are experimenting with that are good, high quality foods." So far, Ford has discovered that Patches enjoys pâté and liver. Ford also told Today.com, "He is not a voracious eater... so for now I'm just making sure that he is in fact, eating."
Let's Get Physical
As important as a balanced and nutritious diet is, Ford also has to make sure that Patches is working out regularly. Since Patches can't join a gym or ride a bike around the neighborhood, how does Ford ensure he gets all the activity he needs? Cue a Rocky-style workout montage!
Well, minus the matching gray sweatsuit. Every day, Ford tries to get Patches to walk and play around a little more than the previous day. Slowly but surely, he will make progress. Ford told USA Today that one of her tricks is putting his food bowl across the kitchen so he has to walk to it.
Ford created a Facebook page so whoever wanted to could follow along on Patches' weight loss journey and life. Many people wanted to see his progress. After only a week, the page acquired 5,000 followers. It currently has approximately 39K followers, and the number only seems to be growing.
In the introduction post, Ford wrote from the perspective of Patches, "Welcome to my page! I know everyone is going to want to follow my progress as I go from Loveable Honkin' Chonk to Fit and Fabulous Feline!" She also wrote, "I'm glad to have you on the journey with me."
"I See in His Eyes"
The bond between the feline and his new owner is undeniable. Although they haven't been a family for all that long, they have grown to love each other. Ford, especially, has adored her role as Patches' mother and takes it very seriously. She is incredibly bonded with the cat.
When she spoke with Today.com, Ford said, "I see in his eyes, I see it I see that he's uncomfortable. And I see a beautiful, exciting, vibrant personality just waiting to be manifested once, he sheds the weight." It is so lovely to see how close the pair is.
As more followers joined along and interest grew, Patches became more of a celebrity by the day, so much so that Kay Ford set up a P.O. Box for him. This way, fans from around the world could send their messages, questions, pictures, stories, and more to Patches.
If it wasn't clear by now, Patches was on his way to becoming a mega-superstar. Kay wrote on Facebook, "If you are compelled to send a letter or card of support, we would absolutely love to hear from you." Besides being a celebrity, what does this cat get up to?
A Night Owl
As they have spent more time together, Ford is picking up on many of Patches' personality quirks and habits. One of his habits gave his new mom quite the scare at first. When she went looking for Patches in his usual spot in the pantry, he wasn't there. Where could the 40-pound cat have gone?!
Eventually, Ford found Patches underneath her bed on the other side of the house. Patches didn't dare to move until the sun went down, though, leading Ford to believe that Patches is slightly nocturnal. Ford wrote about the moment on Patches' Facebook page, Patches' Journey.
More than anything in the world, Patches loves having a good cat nap. Who can blame him? After all, it is named after cats! Kay Ford often finds him lying down and basking in the afternoon sun or hiding in a cardboard box fast asleep. Every surface is a potential bed for Patches.
Encouraging him to move around more is part of his workout regime, but sometimes he is simply too cute to move. Look at that face! Patches loves a lazy day, just like anyone else. Ford did admit to Today.com that he does need some prodding to start moving. A lazy cat, indeed.
Celebrating National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day
A special day for Patches and his new mom was National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day. Not only was Patches adopted from a shelter, but so were many family members. Both of Ford's other pets, Bella and Wellesley, were rescues. Her son and daughter also rescued their pets.
Ford wrote on Facebook, "Each and every one of these glorious creatures has brought so much joy into our lives. If you believe that you can find a place in your heart and home for a new family member from a shelter or from a situation that may not be best for them, please consider the joy that they could bring to your life."
Social Media Influencer
Now that Patches has been posting regularly, he made the natural pivot into being a social media influencer. Brands reached out to partner with Patches and Kay Ford on his journey. Healthy Pet Connect gave them a scale, measuring cups, and access to their app to help with Patches' weight loss.
They aren't the only ones interested in partnering with this celebrity cat. Ninja Cat Toys Factory also gifted Patches a few Star Wars-themed toys. Not only that, but Patches has merch available for purchase. Fans can buy stickers, mousepads, shirts, coffee mugs, magnets, and many more items.
Learning With Patches
In addition to influencing other cats and their owners, Patches has been helping with education, too. A teacher in Washington State was inspired by Patches' story and incorporated it into her lesson. Kay Ford shared the wonderful news on Patches' Journey.
Ford expressed her gratitude on Facebook and wrote from Patches' perspective, "I could never have foreseen anything like creative and fun classroom education blooming from my story. Mama and I are beyond honored." The class eventually had a Zoom call with Patches and Ford.
For most cats, playing around with lasers or jumping on countertops is not a big deal. In fact, it's actually expected of them. However, for a 40-pound cat trying to lose weight, it's a noteworthy event when he plays with a toy for an extended period of time or leaps onto furniture. With Patches, it is the small wins that count.
Kay Ford loves to celebrate Patches' wins, no matter how small they may seem to anyone else. On May 20, she posted on Facebook that Patches jumped on a chair himself. She also shared that Patches stood up for a long time to eat and the first instance where he could sharpen his nails with his mouth. Every moment is magic!
A Local Celebrity
Patches has been hard at work securing his place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Well, he's not at that stage yet, but he has been treated like a local celebrity. He's become a social media icon and influencer in his own right, and Patches decided to stop by a local senior living center to say hi to some of his fans.
Kay's father lives at the home, and the residents were ecstatic to get a visit from Patches. Ford wheeled him around in his red wagon as he greeted visitors. She wrote on Facebook, "Patches was PURRfect!" She continued, "Needless to say, they invited us back. Needless to say, we accept the invitation."
Not only is Patches a local celebrity, but he's a viral star. Kay Ford and Patches have appeared on a local news show, Good Morning America, Today Extra in Australia, a morning show in New Zealand, and Tokyo. Their story has also been published on Today.com, USA Today, CNN, and more.
Ford was even interviewed by one of her favorite journalists. She wrote on Facebook, "It wasn't a dream come true because I would NEVER have dreamed that I would ever be interviewed by my journalistic idol, Jeanne Moos. Well it happened…" How has Patches been able to cope with global fame?
Just a Regular Dude
Despite the worldwide attention and stardom, Patches is just like any other cat. His new mom describes him as "a dude." She told USA Today, "He's got a lot of confidence. He is completely secure with who he is. He knows he's on a journey. He knows he's going to be feeling a lot better." What an inspiration to us all!
She continued, "As we move forward, I believe with every fiber of my being that he knows this and he believes it. There is this dude cat that is emerging and I love it." Patches is just a dude cat who wants to live life, whether he's taking a cat nap or playing with his siblings.
With so many followers and fans, keeping up with all the work of being Patches' mom can be challenging. Kay never expected her cat's journey and life to take off this way, and great responsibility comes with great power. She told NBC 12, "I never realized that I was going to be accountable to tens of thousands of people."
She continued, "But I think, 'Hey, if that's one way to do it, that's one way to do it and darn it, I'm going to do it!' If he can do it. I can do it." Ford also makes sure that she makes time for herself between answering fan mail, monitoring the Patches' Journey page, and taking care of her pets.
15 Week Check-In
Progress can be hard to make, but anything is possible with hard work and dedication. Patches proved that. When Kay took him in for his 15-week check-in, he hit 33 pounds. Ford exclaimed on Facebook, "Holy Maboly!" With diet and exercise, Patches is making significant strides in his weight loss journey.
Ford shared in her post, "His activity level has increased immensely! He is even more social every single day." Although he has made impressive progress, there is still a long way to go. The goal is for Patches to lose 20 pounds, which Ford estimates will take over a year. Each day is a step in the right direction.
Bringing Out His Personality
Not only has Patches' weight changed since living with his new family, but he has really come out of his shell. When participating in a Q&A for The Washington Post, a guest asked Ford about Patches' personality and how it has changed since she brought him home.
Ford responded, "He is much more confident now. I think he is aware of his studliness! He was quiet at first, and now he is using his voice to communicate that he's happy and also to demand belly rubs and of course, food." Patches is proving himself to be the man of the town.
Plenty of Gratitude
Patches' journey is not only his own. This 40-pound cat has impacted many lives. His story has reached people from all over, from his owner, Kay, to families across America to his fans overseas. Perhaps the person whose life he has affected the most is his mom, Kay Ford.
Ford shared on Facebook the touching message, "15 weeks ago today Patches joined our family. I cannot imagine our lives without him. Please know how much we enjoy bringing our world to you. The continuation of support, kindness and encouragement humble us and bring us such joy." We're all rooting for Patches!