Yes, the network known for such shows as "River Monsters" and "Tanked," is planning a program about pets that have packed-on the pounds, hence the name of the new show, “My Fat Pet.” US Weekly aptly describes the new series as “The Biggest Loser makes its way to the animal kingdom.” In other words, for everyone who has grown bored of watching just people shed pounds, it will now also be possible to see pets slim down.
More specifically, “My Fat Pet” will feature animal trainer Travis Brorsen, who “will work with families and their pets to create individualized exercise and diet plans” aimed at making the animals thinner and healthier, all within a period of about four months. Along the way, Brorsen promises to employ some unconventional motivational tactics like making owners wear weighted vests so they can experience the extra weight that their chubby canines, felines, and other animals are carrying.
Although the idea of furry friends shedding fat may seem kind of funny, obesity is a serious problem for all those who suffer from it, humans and animals alike: “Obesity increases an animal’s chances of getting diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, just like in humans.” Overweight pets are also prone to pancreatitis and joint disorders. Ultimately, these animals are “risking their lives at their current weight.”
It’s also important here to recognize the positive impact that pets have on many people’s lives. In the United States, about 62% of households have pets, which often provide companionship and are sometimes seen as family members. In addition to this social good, certain health benefits also can accrue to animal owners, such as reduced: blood pressure, anxiety, cholesterol, and depression.
So, there’s truth to the idea of “man’s best friend,” and there's something to be said for keeping furry friends fit. Does that mean, though, that there should be a TV show about fat pets? As important as the wellness of our creature companions may be, and notwithstanding their positive impact on people, there are good reasons to not sit around watching others’ plump pets battle the bulge.
Overweight pets really are a first-world problem. We live on a planet where one in nine people (11.1%) suffer from chronic undernourishment. Individuals who can’t find enough food for themselves probably aren’t pet owners, and they certainly aren’t overfeeding animals. Of course, those struggling to survive aren’t the audience for “My Fat Pet,” but in light of their plight, it seems insensitive for the other 88.9% of us to enable animal obesity and elevate it to TV show status.
Granted, the apparent purpose of “My Fat Pet” is not to celebrate overweight creatures but to trim them down. Still, in a media-crazed society in which so many people are looking for “Likes” and seeking their 15 minutes of fame, it’s unfortunately possible that at least a few unbalanced people will find owning an overweight pet a way of gaining recognition. If you think such speculation is silly, checkout My Fat Pet on Facebook.
Moreover, there are undoubtedly more efficient, effective, and discrete ways for the owners of heavy hamsters and other animals to get help, e.g., on websites like bestfriends.org and from veterinarians.
There’s also something sadly ironic about a television audience sitting around on recliners and couches, watching other people’s pets try to lose weight. Sedentary lifestyles and lack of exercise are a big part of the obesity problem for humans and animals. Whether one is an overweight pet or a person, replacing TV time with more active interests can be a significant contributor to weight loss.
Finally, some may be thinking, as I am, “Who are you to tell people what to watch?” Chances are, some would find the sports or other programs I like to watch unenjoyable or unedifying. People do have widely different tastes in entertainment, and for the most part, we should respect those preferences. Still, that doesn’t mean that any slice-of-life that can be produced for television, should be. Some topics are just too trivial or tactless, even though there are people willing to watch them.
Despite satisfying some demand, I doubt that “My Fat Pet” will attract an adequate long-term viewing audience. There probably are not that many owners of obese animals who are serious about solving their pets’ weight problems, and I suspect that the vast majority of pet lovers will have more discriminating TV viewing tastes. As a result, Animal Planet’s “My Fat Pet” seems like a cancellation in-waiting and a case of “Mindless Marketing.”