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University of Guelph study finds cats are getting fatter

Cats have been packing on more pounds than usual, according to a recent study.

Researchers at University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College accessed data on more than 19 million felines and found that they’re not only increasing in weight as they age, but the average weight for the animals is also climbing.

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

Theresa Bernardo, an author in the study, said in a press release that the research provides a starting point on cat weights for vets and pet owners.

“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,” she said. “Establishing the pattern of cat weights over their lifetimes provides us with important clues about their health.”

The data was broken down to identify differences in gender, neutering status and breed.

Researchers found that male cats tended to reach higher weight peak than females. Spayed or neutered cats also tended to be heavier than cats that weren’t.

For pure breeds such as Siamese, Persian, Himalayan and Maine Coon, the average weight peaked between six and 10 years of age. Data revealed that common domestic cats’ weight peaked at eight years.

Dr. Adam Campigotto, lead author of the study, said obesity in middle aged cats often leads to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and cancer.

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

Researchers also noted that 52 per cent of the cats that were part of the study only had one weight measurement on file. This showed that these cats were not making regular visits to the vet or were not taken to the same regular clinic.

Campigotto said it’s important for cat owners to monitor their pet’s weight and advised buying a scale to make it part of a regular routine.

For future studies, his team plans to look into reducing cat obesity. This includes studying the use of automated feeders with built-in scales.

“We are ultimately changing the emphasis to cat health rather than solely focusing on disease,” he said. “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.”