Barsik the cat was surrendered to the shelter with another feline, named Sukie, when their former owners had to move and could not find a new home for their pets

By Kelli Bender
April 11, 2019 01:37 PM
Courtesy Angelique Iuzzolino

Angelique Iuzzolino of Yonkers, New York, has been fostering rescue cats for Anjellicle Cats, a New York City-based cat rescue, for seven years. She knows “a special project cat” when she sees one.

That’s what Barsik is. The 41-lb. feline was recently surrendered to a NYC Animal Care Center with another cat — 13-lb. Sukie.

“All we do know from his intake information from the shelter is that it appears to be one adult and one child (probably a teenager) and they surrendered him and Sukie because they were moving and couldn’t take them with,” Iuzzolino told PEOPLE about Barsik’s past.

Anjellicle Cats and Iuzzolino were also told that both cats were fed three times a day and that the pair received both wet and dry food. Barsik’s new foster mom suspects that the stocky cat was given “unlimited access” to dry food and likely didn’t have the same powers of self-regulation as his slimmer friend Sukie.

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“The biggest cat I’ve personally seen was 27 pounds.  I was a bit shocked when I first saw Barsik in person; he’s not just an average-sized cat who is overweight, he is large all over as well, from head-to-tail,” Iuzzolino said of her first impressions of the overweight pet. “This makes for some other challenges, like how to transport him safely for both him and I, and a proper litter box that can accommodate his size and mobility limitations.”

Iuzzolino took on those challenges and agreed to foster both Barsik — a popular name for cats in Russia — and Sukie until the pair can be adopted out together.

Before Barsik and his buddy can find a new home, Barsik is planning to slim down and get healthy.

“We need to make sure he doesn’t have any other health concerns (and get them under control if so) and once he is doing well on his prescribed diet plan, we will make him available and find an adopter who is truly committed to sticking to his plan,” Iuzzolino said of the cat’s future plans.

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Barsik will be visiting the vet on Friday and will likely get his diet plan then. For now, the cat is acclimating to his foster home and proving to be a big mush.

“He likes to lounge around and receive petting and belly rubs.  We’ve been trying to get him into playing with toys and such but he’s not too interested yet.  It’s a lot of changes at once for him,” Barsik’s foster mom said. “Surprisingly, he doesn’t spend a lot of time eating and is pretty picky about his food. He is a social eater and prefers us to be with him when he eats right now.”

Iuzzolino is dedicated to helping Barsik safely lose weight, and knows not to rush the process.

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“Losing weight too quickly is very dangerous for a cat so we don’t want to change anything until we speak with the vet and find out where he is medically,” she added.

Iuzzolino is keeping track of Barsik’s journey from toddler-sized foster cat to, hopefully, slimmed-down adoptee on a Instagram page she has created for the feline.

You can keep tabs on this big beauty at @BigBarsik, where he already has over 6,000 followers. If you would like to donate to Barsik’s medical expenses, you can do so here.