A hefty D.C.-area cat who went viral over his adorable face and very fluffy appearance has landed a new home.
Wilford, an 8-year-old gray and white cat, rocketed to fame in early February when DCist published a story about the husky hunk looking for a home. Now Wilford has found that home, and it couldn’t be more purrrrfect.
Kiah Berkeley and Peter Sorkin are the couple who adopted Symba the “tubby tabby,” an orange cat who made headlines in 2017 after winding up at D.C.’s Humane Rescue Alliance weighing a whopping 35 pounds. The couple renamed him Vito and were helping him gradually lose weight. Unfortunately, Vito died in January after fluid was found in his abdomen, and was mourned by not only his owners but thousands of online fans. But the couple announced some happier news on Vito’s Facebook page last week.
“While no cat will ever replace Vito — we still miss him every day — we do know we can give a loving and healthy home to Wilford, DC’s latest chonky celebrity,” read the announcement on Vito’s Facebook page, now titled “Symba the tubby tabby and Wilford, too.”
“We had recently lost our beloved Vito and were looking to fill the fat-cat-sized hole in our hearts,” Kiah said to HuffPost in an email. “Wilford, of course, does not replace Vito and Vito will always be my best boy ― but obviously Wilford is a spectacular cat and we didn’t want to pass up the opportunity.”
And she told DCist that she and her husband “have experience in slimming a morbidly obese cat down.”
Wilford’s former foster parents, Jen and Ian, are thrilled. Jen, who prefers not to have her last name published for privacy reasons, told HuffPost that Wilford had wound up at a local animal shelter in December, when his former owner was unable to continue to care for him. From there, he went to Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation, a nonprofit where Jen volunteers. Wilford was one in a long line of felines that Jen and Ian, who share their fostering adventures on the Instagram account @pokeypotpie, have taken in while the cats are in the process of finding forever homes.
Wilford’s sudden fame meant a massive number of adoption inquiries rolling in. After narrowing the field to local applicants ― since Wilford’s weight-related health issues make it hard for him to travel far ― his foster parents focused on ensuring potential adopters were prepared for his needs.
“We reached out to people and let them know that, yes, Wilford is absolutely adorable, the cutest thing in the world, totally huggable ― but he is a cat with special care he needs to get on a daily basis to keep him healthy, keep him happy and keep him clean,” Jen said.
Wilford has a “lovable and loving” demeanor that makes his “grumpy old man face” even cuter, she said. But he needed a family that would be committed to helping him lose weight in a healthy matter ― he was 28 pounds when he was first surrendered to the shelter, and now has a goal weight of around 14 pounds. He also needed someone who would keep up with his asthma treatment and help him get clean after using the litter box, since his size prevents him from grooming himself effectively.
Unlike a lot of cats, Wilford actually enjoys baths (“As long as you pet him and scratch his neck and back while you’re soaping him up,” Jen told DCist) but nevertheless, regular poop-cleanings were a dealbreaker for some potential adopters.
But Kiah and Peter had it in the bag.
“They’d gone through that with Vito, they understood the cleaning needs, the grooming needs,” Jen said.
Wilford is “settling in nicely,” according to Kiah, who added that he is currently residing primarily in the guest bedroom while they undergo the gradual process of introducing him to the household’s other two resident cats.
Photos from Wednesday show him lolling on his back, contentedly tucked into bed.
Jen and Ian noted they hope that those moved by Wilford’s story will be inspired to take action to help animals in similar situations who might not be as famous.
“He’s gotten the benefit of being super adorable, photogenic and having a good PR system to help him get the attention he wants,” Jen said. “But there are absolutely Wilfords in just about every shelter and rescue around the U.S. ... Maybe their Wilford isn’t an obese grandpa cat, but a three-legged cat ... or the brown tabby who’s been there for a year.”
Ian chimed in to advise people to “look for the cats that slipped through the cracks.”
Jen added, “Wilford’s not slipping through any cracks.”