July 19, 2019
If the members of your family are overweight, there is more than a “fat chance” that your cat is chubby, too.
A 2017 study conducted by the University of Washington-Seattle found that about 5% of all children worldwide and 12% of adults are obese. But what about the pets—specifically, the cats—that live in these households?
Now, a first-of-its-kind study—conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College— has found that, just as people in the United States and Canada have been overeating for years, they also have been over-feeding their feline pets.
Until recently, the problem had gone largely unnoticed because cats visit the vet less frequently than dogs and are less likely to be weighed. It is also harder to judge weight gain in a cat by eye.
“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 Theresa Bernardo, professor of Population Health at the college.
Her colleague, Dr Adam Campigotto, who led the research, added: “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.”
The team analyzed 45 million weight measurements on 19 million cats taken at vets across North America. The data showed that most cats steadily increase their weight up until the age of eight.
“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,” said Professor Bernardo.
Dr. Campigotto warned cat owners to weigh their pets more often: “If your cat is gaining or losing weight, it may be an indicator of an underlying problem,” he said.
The new research is published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA).
Research contact: @OntVetCollege