Here Comes The Chonk: Study Shows Cats Are Getting Fatter

Melanie Woods
A large orange cat reclines on a couch.

Everyone loves fat cats. You can snuggle your face into their little tummies. Roll them around on the floor. Gently tap them like you’re playing the bongos. Watch them fill boxes like they are liquid. 

Just me?

Well if you also love fat cats, you’re in luck — it turns out our cats are getting a little bit bigger on average, according to a new study out of the University of Guelph. 

Researchers looked at veterinary office weight measurements from over 19 million cats between 1981 and 2016. They tracked typical weight loss and gain over a cat’s lifetime and found that felines today are, on average, about a quarter of a kilogram heavier than they were in the 1990s. 

The study also found that cats tend to peak in weight at around eight years old. 

“And then afterwards they start to lose weight,” said University of Guelph professor Teresa Bernardo, who worked on the study. 

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Tiny the cat, whose owners live in Rusagonis, N.B., made headlines around the world for his weight-loss journey. He's pictured here in 2012.

Accidental discovery 

The study’s lead author Adam Campigottto says that the discovery about increased cat weight gain was relatively unintentional. 

“We wanted to look at chronic diseases,” he told HuffPost. “A lot of people come into emergency vets worried about their cats losing weight. So we wanted to look at when these cats start becoming skinny old cats.” 

But in addition to gaining information on weight loss in older cats, researchers discovered the trend of cats getting fatter since the ’90s. 

Campigotto says the increase in average cat weight over time could be the result of various factors, including more cats living less-active lifestyles and owners overfeeding.

“People treat them like they’re their kids — they want to show that they love them,” Campigotto said. “And food is often a great way people think they can show love to their animal. So a lot of times will overfeed, unknowingly.” 

He stressed though that while overweight cats can face health challenges like diabetes or arthritis, there are dangers in a cat being underweight as well. 

 

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Learning and growing

Campigotto says that the study will hopefully help cat-owners become more aware of their pets’ weights, and also spur research into ways to maintain cat health. 

“We’re actually looking at some different technologies like automated feeders, and how we can maybe use these to help keep our cats at a healthy lifestyle rather than waiting until they get sick,” Campigotto said. 

As for their own cats? Both Campigotto and Bernardo admitted they’re allergic to cats.

“I enjoy cats at my mother’s house, but I became allergic in vet school,” Bernardo laughed. “Increased exposure, I guess.”

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