Study: Cats Are Plumping Up
Andreas Almstedt from Pixabay
Even as cats mature, pounds continue to stack on until they are, on average, 8 years old, according to new research from the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College. The average weight of cats is also on the rise, said researchers, who accessed data on more than 19 million cats.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, provides important baseline information for veterinarians and pet owners about cat weight changes, according to college professor Theresa Bernardo, the Idexx chair in emerging technologies and bond-certified animal health care.
“As humans, we know we need to strive to maintain a healthy weight, but for cats, there has not been a clear definition of what that is,” Bernardo said. “We simply didn’t have the data. Establishing the pattern of cat weights over their lifetimes provides us with important clues about their health.”
Male cats tended to reach higher weight peaks than females, and spayed or neutered cats tended to be heavier than unaltered cats, according to the study. The mean weight of Siamese, Persian, Himalayan and Maine Coon cats peaked between six and 10 years of age, while domestic cats peaked at eight years, the study also found.
In addition, researchers noted that the mean weight of neutered, 8-year-old domestic cats increased between 1995 and 2005 but remained steady between 2005 and 2015.
“We do have concerns with obesity in middle age, because we know that can lead to diseases for cats, such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and cancer,” said Adam Campigotto, DVM, lead author of the study. “Now that we have this data, we can see that cat weights tend to follow a curve. We don’t yet know the ideal weight trajectory, but it’s at least a starting point to begin further studies.”
Just as humans need to be aware of maintain a healthy weight as they age, the same is for cats, Bernardo added.
“Cats tend to be overlooked because they hide their health problems and they don’t see a vet as often as dogs do,” Bernardo said. “So, one of our goals is to understand this so that we can see if there are interventions that can provide more years of healthy life to cats.”
The research team plans to study ways of reducing cat obesity including looking at the use of automated feeders that could dispense the appropriate amount of food for a cat. These feeders could even be equipped with built-in scales.