A cat and water for exercise sound like a recipe for disaster, but not when it comes to Holly, a cat in Northern Virginia.
The 13-year-old cat is not afraid to jump in the water as she tries to shed the nearly eight pounds from her 18-pound frame that experts have advised her owners she needs to lose.
Holly began swimming laps in the indoor pool at the Olde Towne Pet Resort in Dulles, Va., in May after her owner, Dani Lawhorne, became concerned that she was not active enough. Lawhorne, who works at Olde Towne, an upscale pet resort and boarding facility, noticed that Holly didn't mind taking a bath so thought maybe she could use the pool to cure her couch-potato cat.
"Over time she put two and two together and thought, 'I wonder what would happen, since she's comfortable in bath water, if I placed her in the pool,'" said Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, a publicist for Olde Towne who was the first to notice the unusual sight.
"The experiment was a success," she said. "I came in one day and saw it and was floored. I could not believe this cat could swim."
Ever since that first dip into the pool in May, Holly has been a fixture at Olde Towne, coming every four to six weeks for a 15 to 30 minute swim, wearing a cat-sized life vest and all.
"She [Lawhorne] gently walks her into the pool and stays with her, to acclimate her to the water," Ruiz-McPherson said. "And then, once she and Lawhorne have that comfort connection, she will gently glide her and then lets the cat go and the cat paddles or swims or somehow maneuvers."
Holly, who has lost about one pound since the start of her swimming regime, is the only cat in the center's pool program but officials who have watched her in action confirm she holds her own among the dogs.
"Holly came and completely took over the pool," Ruiz-McPherson said. "She's very cute. It's all about trying to incorporate some physical capability into her day."