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Sep 9, 2008 3:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Marlin is tipping the scales at town shelter

Sep 9, 2008 3:37 PM

Christine Russell admits that she was skeptical after being told last month that a stray cat that was to be brought to the Southampton Town Animal Shelter in Hampton Bays could not fit into a pet carrier.

However, the shelter’s assistant manager soon realized that she was mistaken after laying her eyes on Marlin, a domestic short-haired feline, for the first time.

“I said, ‘Oh, that’s a big cat!’” Ms. Russell recalled.

When Marlin was brought to the town’s animal shelter on Jackson Avenue, he weighed nearly 29 pounds and was twice the size of a normal housecat. Marlin was obese and, after being checked out by shelter veterinarians, was immediately placed on a diet that entitled him to six ounces of moist food a day. To date, he has lost more than four pounds.

“He gets one can a day,” said Alex Werner, a senior kennel attendant at the town shelter.

Now weighing in at around 24 pounds, Marlin is still the largest cat to ever stay at the town’s animal shelter, according to officials. But that could change in the near future, depending on the results of his diet. “We want to get him to 20 pounds,” Mr. Werner said.

Ms. Russell said the shelter has housed cats weighing as much as 18 pounds in the past, but Marlin is far and away the biggest feline to call the facility home.

When asked how a stray could get so large, Ms. Russell explained that Marlin was most likely a housecat at one point and overfed by his owner. “He had to have been owned,” she said. “There is no way a stray could have gotten this fat.”

According to Ms. Russell, strangers most likely continued to overfeed Marlin after he was abandoned, thinking that they were doing the correct thing. He also had a flea infestation that might have made him too weak to exercise. Marlin has since lost the fleas and has even started an exercise regimen, according to his handlers.

Ms. Russell said the best way to prevent obesity in cats is to make them exercise and tease them with toys. It is also recommended to limit their amount of food. “Don’t overfeed them,” Mr. Werner added.

Although he looks healthy, Marlin’s unusually large size could put him at risk for diabetes and heart problems. Marlin is between 3 and 5 years of age. “It could shorten his lifespan by 12 years,” Ms. Russell said, explaining that most housecats can live between 18 and 22 years.

The extra weight can also be uncomfortable for Marlin. The cat squirmed in Mr. Werner’s arms when he was held for a photo. “He’s uncomfortable when he’s picked up due to his weight,” Mr. Werner said.

Marlin is now staying in a cage, and away from the other cats, due to his diet and because he might draw the unwanted attention of smaller felines. “The other cats will attack him for his size,” Mr. Werner said. “They see him as a challenge.”

If someone were to adopt Marlin, Ms. Russell said that individual would have to anticipate the cat’s needs and be committed to helping him lose weight. They would also have to feed him separately from any other cats.

Marlin is not the first cat to draw attention because of his unusual size. Last month, newspapers began reporting that Prince Chunk, a 10-year-old cat staying in an animal shelter in Voorhees, New Jersey, weighed in at 44 pounds. It was later revealed that the cat weighed closer to 22 pounds.

Prince Chunk was abandoned after his original owner lost her home due to foreclosure; the feline found national fame after an appearance on the “Live with Regis and Kelly” television show and through local media coverage. He has since been adopted by a family.

Today, Marlin can be viewed at the shelter, sitting regally in his cage and dwarfing surrounding felines. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, I know I am the man,’” Ms. Russell said jokingly. He is currently eligible for adoption.

There is no charge to adopt a cat at the shelter through the end of September, and all cats come neutered or spayed, have microchips that track their location, and are vaccinated. To adopt Marlin, or any of the other 170 cats currently housed at the Southampton Town Animal Shelter, call 728-PETS.

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