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Average weight of cats on the rise, Guelph study finds

A new first-of-its-kind study from researchers at the University of Guelph has looked at when and how much weight a cat gains over its lifespan. The study looked at data from more than 19 million cats.

Researchers say study is a starting point to reduce cat obesity

This file photo photo provided by the Santa Fe Animal Shelter Meow shows a 2-year-old tabby named Meow that topped the scale at more than 17 kilograms (39 lbs). Adult cats typically weigh between three and 5.5 kilograms. (Ben Swan/Santa Fe Animal Shelter/The Associated Press)

Most cats continue to put on weight as adults, and their average weight is on the rise, a new study from the University of Guelph has found.

The researchers looked at data on more than 54 million weight measurements taken at veterinary offices on 19 million cats for the study to get an idea of typical weight gain and loss over a lifetime. Their findings have been published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

It's the first time researchers have looked at the issue, says professor Theresa Bernardo.

"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," Bernardo said in a release about the study. 

"Establishing the pattern of cat weights over their lifetimes provides us with important clues about their health."

Obesity can lead to other problems

The study found male cats reach a higher weight peak than females, while cats that are spayed or neutered were also heavier than cats that hadn't been spayed or neutered.

For the four most common purebred breeds of cats — Siamese, Persian, Himalayan and Maine Coon — the researchers found weights peaked between six and 10 years of age.

For common domestic cats, their weights peaked at eight years.

Adam Campigotto is the lead author of the study, and conducted the research as part of his PhD.

"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," he said.

"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."

Next up, the researchers plan to look at ways of reducing cat obesity, including using automated feeders that could include built-in scales.

The Fredericton SPCA took care of Tiny the cat in 2011. The cat went into the shelter at 13 kilograms and staff helped Tiny shed weight over the course of a year and kept off the weight after living with a foster family. Tiny died in 2017. (SPCA)

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