Norm Lopez takes a bath on the sidewalk in front of his house after his breakfast early Tuesday morning, Aug. 13, 2013 in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Sacramento Bee, Sue Morrow)

Fat cats? New study shows cats’ heaviest weight higher now than in 1990s

Male cats generally hit higher weight peaks than female cats

A new study involving more than 19 million cats from across Canada and the United States suggests most of the animals continue to put on weight after they reach adulthood, and their heaviest weight is higher now than it was two decades ago.

Researchers at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph analyzed 54 million weight measurements taken at vet offices between 1981 and mid-2016 to get a sense of the typical weight gain and loss pattern over the course of a cat’s life.

They say the study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association this week, is the first of its kind to use such a large pool of data.

Overall, the data showed cats’ mean weight reached its peak between six and 10 years of age for the most common purebred breeds — Siamese, Persian, Himalayan and Maine Coon — and at eight for domestic cats.

Male cats generally hit higher weight peaks than female cats, and cats that were spayed or neutered tended to be heavier than those that weren’t.

The findings showed a difference of about one kilogram between age one and the peak. As well, the mean weight of neutered, eight-year-old domestic cats rose about 1/4 of a kilogram between 1995 and 2005 and then remained steady for the next decade.

“It might not seem like much but half a pound is still a significant amount for a cat,” said lead author Adam Campigotto.

The study is meant as a starting point for further research and did not look at what caused the changes in weight, nor did it establish what a healthy weight is, said Campigotto.

Some possible, untested explanations for the shift include that more people may have begun to keep their cats indoors in that time period, or that changes were made to the palatability of cat food, or in pet owners’ feeding behaviours, he said.

“Treats can have a big impact on weight for their animals and often people associate giving treats as a kind of love,” he said.

The researchers said slightly more than half the cats involved in the study had only one weight measurement in their veterinary file, which they said suggests the animals’ owners may not have scheduled regular vet visits or may have switched clinics.

However, the sheer number of records collected meant researchers were able to fill those gaps by combining all values for each year of age, the team said.

Another of the study’s authors, Theresa Bernardo, who is also a professor at the college, said pet owners may want to begin weighing their cats at home if it isn’t being done at the vet. Weight changes may be linked to other health issues, though those correlations were not drawn in this study, she said.

One of the next steps will be to look at how to manage cats’ weight, Bernardo said.

“We have another project where we’re looking at using technology like automated feeders,” she said.

“In many cases, there are multi-cat households and sometimes one cat is eating a good share of the other cat’s dinner, so there are feeders now that will actually feed each cat separately, which helps you get a hold of that kind of situation.”

The study’s findings can help vets discuss health issues related to weight with cat owners, the researchers said. More work is needed to explore the links between cats’ body weight and various conditions, they said.

READ MORE: Meow hear this: Study says cats react to sound of their name

READ MORE: South Surrey woman camps for days to find lost cat

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

First Energy Metals set to start gold exploration work in the West Kootenay

The work will be conducted at two of its sites near Nakusp and Nelson

Nelson skateboarders charged with assaulting Trail police officer

Incident happened at the skate park in Trail

RDCK closes all indoor recreational facilities until at least August 18

The district said closures are necessary to meet financial plan and to deliver safe programming

Flooding: Why the RDCK ordered hundreds of properties evacuated

All evacuation orders have now been rescinded

Broadwater Road residents allowed to return home after evacuation order

Area near Castlegar evacuated due to flooding risk

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Bateman program encourages people to sketch outside, connect with nature

#MyNatureSketch initiative encourages Canadians to become ‘bright-eyed three year olds’

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

Most Read