So there’s a conflict between what one writer calls two competing truths: on the one hand, we think fat cats are adorable and, on the other, we worry that their excess weight might be harming them — and we look for someone to blame for being insufficiently disciplined in a fat animal’s care, just as we tend to make moral judgments about overweight people.

Jean Petrucelli, the director of the Eating Disorders, Compulsions & Addictions Service of The William Alanson White Institute in New York City, told me that we do attribute (sometimes without thinking about it) a dark side to obese animals. She said that “people gawk at things they feel horrified about and often can’t look away — our society has new rules for what is considered scandalous and what is normative — and the ante keeps getting upped.” We don’t just think fat animals are cute — even if they are — but part of the attraction to stories about them is that we are scandalized by the humans who “allowed” them to get that way.

It seems like, in the end, our attraction to stories about fat pets is just another facet of our outrage and public shaming of the people who we consider to be fat, based on our projections about fatness.