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Local cat swims her way slim

Friday - 2/1/2013, 5:39pm  ET

holly_the_swimming_cat.jpg
Holly tentatively checks out an ABC 7 camera after her weekly swim in a therapy pool at Olde Towne Pet Resort in Sterling this week. Holly, 13, is trying to lose six to seven pounds. The swimming allows her to excercise without putting weight on her arthritic legs. (WJLA)

WASHINGTON - Holly needs to lose a few pounds. Make that six or seven pounds.

And her fitness journey has garnered a lot of interest on the Web. Not because of all the other worried pet owners struggling to help their own cats and dogs lose weight. But because of her unusual weight loss plan.

The 13-year-old feline is swimming her way to a slimmer Holly.

Her owner, Dani Lawhorne, tells ABC 7 that swimming is the only type of exercise the 20-pound cat will tolerate. She doesn't like the outdoors. She disdains cat toys. Not even the most potent cat nip will entice her to frolic.

Instead, she allows Lawhorne to strap her into a full-body life vest and guide her around a pet-sized therapy pool at Olde Towne Pet Resort in Sterling. Once a week she goes for a paddle.

And the results?

With the help of a low-fat diet, she has lost one pound in six months, which is about five percent of her body weight.

Alexandria emergency veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson brought viewers the story to highlight the needs of overweight pets. More than half of cats and dogs are overweight or obese.

"Obesity in pets is sky rocketing the same way it is in Americans, in humans," says Nelson, better known as WTOP's Dr. Pawz.

The cardio exercise of swimming burns plenty of calories.

Although cats typically aren't swimmers, Holly is more comfortable in the water than on dry ground because the water is easy on her arthritic hind legs, Nelson says.

"It's a non weight-bearing exercise so it's easy on her joints," she says.

Now Holly's story is spreading quickly.

Photos tweeted out Wednesday, when the segment was shot, attracted the attention of People magazine, Nelson says.

And the news segment of Holly's workout has been viewed a few thousand times on ABC 7's site wjla.com.

Olde Towne Pet Resort has received phone calls from around the world, including Finland. And the site BuzzFeed.com posted the news spot online Friday morning, she says.

"It's getting a crazy response. It's awesome. I hope it keeps on growing," Nelson says.

WTOP's Amanda Iacone contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)