Cats are getting fatter every year according to a new study

The obesity epidemic isn't just affecting humans - research has found our cats are getting chunkier by the year.

A study from the University of Guelph in Ontario reveals household felines are heavier on average than they were 20 years ago.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, is the first of its kind. Researchers analysed 54 million weight measurements from 19 million domesticated cats weighed in vet clinics across North America.

The average weight of a spayed female cat increased by 24 percent between 1995 and 2005, while it went up 19 percent for males. Between 2005 and 2015 the numbers were steadier, but the average weight of a cat is still on the rise. 

The Telegraph reports these statistics are in keeping with human obesity rates in the US, which rose to around 35 percent of the population during the same period. 

Local chunksters Scruffball and Mango.
Local chunksters Scruffball and Mango. Photo credit: Emma Clark / Sophie Bateman

Researchers found that spayed cats tend to be heavier than unspayed, and males reach higher weight peaks than females. Weight can differ hugely among different breeds, with 4.5kg a typical weight for a domestic cat while bigger breeds like Maine Coons can weigh as much as 11kg and remain healthy.

Much like humans, cats tend to put on weight as they age, with common domestic cats peaking in size at around eight years old. The four most common purebred breeds (Persian, Siamese, Himalayan and Maine Coon) are at their heaviest between six and 10 years old.

This is a problem as obesity in middle age can be dangerous for cats, putting them at greater risk of diabetes and cancer.

Researchers are unsure why cats are getting chubbier, but possible factors include overfeeding and a growing tendency to keep cats indoors.

The study raised another problem: 52 percent of the cats had only been weighed by a vet once, indicating owners aren't great at keeping tabs on their health.

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

"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."

The researchers involved in the study intend to use the findings to develop automatic feeders that distribute food only at set times. The feeders could also include built-in scales so owners can keep an eye on their furry friends' weight.

How to tell if your cat is too fat


If you're concerned your puss may be looking a little too rotund, here's a checklist:

  • Can you easily feel your cat's ribcage without pressing too hard? 
  • Looking at your cat from above, do they have a curvaceous hourglass figure?
  • Looking at your cat from the side, is their stomach close to their body rather than low to the ground?

If you answered no to one or more of these questions, cut down on the Whiskas and break out the mini treadmill - you've got a portly cat on your hands, and they'll live a longer happier life with a few lifestyle tweaks.