University of Guelph researchers track how cats' weights change over time

July 16, 2019

Are cats getting fatter?

Until now, pet owners and veterinarians didn't know for sure. Now University of Guelph researchers have become the first to access data on more than 19 million cats to get a picture of typical weight gain and loss over their lifetimes.

The researchers at U of G's Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) discovered most cats continue to put on weight as they age, and their average weight is on the rise.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, reveal that even after cats mature from the kitten phase, their weight still creeps up until they are, on average, eight years old.

This research -- the first of its kind to use such a large data pool -- provides important baseline information for vets and pet owners about cat weight changes, said Prof. Theresa Bernardo, the IDEXX Chair in Emerging Technologies and Bond-Centered Animal Healthcare.

"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. We simply didn't have the data," said Bernardo. "Establishing the pattern of cat weights over their lifetimes provides us with important clues about their health."

Lead author Dr. Adam Campigotto, along with Bernardo and colleague Dr. Zvonimir Poljak, analyzed 54 million weight measurements taken at vets' offices on 19 million cats as part of his PhD research. The research team broke down the data to stratify any differences over gender, neutering status and breed.

They found male cats tended to reach higher weight peaks than females and spayed or neutered cats tended to be heavier than unaltered cats.  Among the four most common purebred breeds (Siamese, Persian, Himalayan and Maine Coon), the mean weight peaked between six and 10 years of age. Among common domestic cats, it peaked at eight years.

As well, the team noted that the mean weight of neutered, eight-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 Campigotto.

"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."

The team noted that 52 per cent of the cats among the study group had only one body weight measurement on file, which may suggest their owners did not bring the animals back in for regular vet checkups or took them to a different veterinary clinic.

Bernardo said just as humans need to be aware of maintaining a healthy weight as they age, it's important to monitor weight changes in cats.

"Cats tend to be overlooked because they hide their health problems and they don't see a vet as often as dogs do. 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."

Discussions about body weight throughout a pet's lifetime could be a useful gateway for veterinarians to engage more cat owners in the health of their pets, she added.

"The monitoring of body weight is an important indicator of health in both humans and animals. It's a data point that is commonly collected at each medical appointment, is simple to monitor at home and is an easy point of entry into data-driven animal wellness."

For owners concerned about their cat's health or weight gain, Campigotto advises buying a scale and getting in the habit of weighing their pet.

"If your cat is gaining or losing weight, it may be an indicator of an underlying problem," he said.

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.

"We are ultimately changing the emphasis to cat health rather than solely focusing on disease," said Campigotto.

"As we investigate the data and create new knowledge, it will enable veterinarians to offer clients evidence-based wellness plans, allow for earlier identification and treatment of disease and an enhanced quality of life for their animals."
-end-


University of Guelph

Related Weight Gain Articles from Brightsurf:

How much postmenopause weight gain can be blamed on weight-promoting medications?
Abdominal weight gain, which is common during the postmenopause period, is associated with an array of health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.

Earlier gestational diabetes diagnosis, less weight gain
A new study has shown that initiating screening for gestational diabetes in high-risk women in the first trimester of pregnancy instead of the second trimester, allowing for treatment to start earlier, can help optimize gestational weight gain.

Research provides new insights into menopause and weight gain
Can women in menopause get the benefits of hormone replacement therapy without the health risks?

Study examines timing of weight gain in children
Recent studies suggest kids tend to gain the most weight in summer, but schools are chastised for providing unhealthy food and beverages, along with decreasing opportunities for physical activity.

New study shows why people gain weight as they get older
Many people struggle to keep their weight in check as they get older.

Being teased about weight linked to more weight gain among children, NIH study suggests
Youth who said they were teased or ridiculed about their weight increased their body mass by 33 percent more each year, compared to a similar group who had not been teased, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

Daily self-weighing can prevent holiday weight gain
Researchers at the University of Georgia have shown that a simple intervention -- daily self-weighing -- can help people avoid holiday weight gain.

Association between weight before pregnancy, weight gain during pregnancy and adverse outcomes for mother, infant
An analysis that combined the results of 25 studies including nearly 197,000 women suggests prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) of the mother was more strongly associated with risk of adverse maternal and infant outcomes than the amount of gestational weight gain.

Comfort food leads to more weight gain during stress
Australian researchers have discovered a new molecular pathway in the brain that triggers more weight gain in times of stress.

Women gain weight when job demands are high
Heavy pressures at work seem to predispose women to weight gain, irrespective of whether they have received an academic education.

Read More: Weight Gain News and Weight Gain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.