Our poor cats are getting chunkier every year according to a study from the University of Guelph in Ontario.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, is the first of its kind. Researchers studied 54 million weight measurements from 19 million domesticated cats weighed in vet clinics across North America, and found that household cats are heavier on average than they were 20 years ago.
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.
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.
So how can you tell if your cat's too fat?
- 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 chubby cat on your hands, and they'll live a longer happier life with a few lifestyle tweaks.