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Tracking Body Weight in Cats

Elizabeth A. Berliner, DVM, DABVP (Shelter Medicine Practice & Canine and Feline Practice), Cornell University


|December 2019

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In the Literature

Campigotto AJ, Poljak Z, Stone EA, Stacey D, Bernardo TM. Investigation of relationships between body weight and age among domestic cats stratified by breed and sex. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2019;255(2):205-212.


Feline obesity is of growing concern and mirrors similar trends in humans and other pet species.1,2 A 2006 US study reported 35.1% of cats older than 1 year to be overweight or obese, with obesity occurring most frequently between the ages of 5 and 11 years.3 Obesity in cats has been identified as a risk factor for arthritis, urinary tract disease, skin disease, diabetes mellitus, neoplasia, and hepatic lipidosis.3-5

This retrospective study* analyzed a dataset of 19,015,888 adult cat records from clinics in the United States and Canada between 1981 and 2016 and represented 52,945,410 recorded body weight (BW) measurements. The objective of the study was to characterize BW changes over a pet’s lifespan and investigate associations between BW and breed, sex, and spay/neuter status.

When data from 1995 were compared with data from 2005, peak BW occurred between 6 and 10 years of age in neutered Siamese, Persian, Himalayan, and Maine Coon cats, then declined. When data for short-, medium-, and longhair domestic cats were evaluated, small but significant increases in mean BW were noted in spayed and neutered cats as compared with intact cats. Confounding factors (eg, diet, lifestyle, health status) were not considered in the analysis but could play a role in BW alteration over time. In addition, because this study focused on BW measurements and not body fat or BCS, conclusions could not be made regarding the prevalence of obesity in this population. Of note, 52% of cats had their BW measured only once, which suggests that BW was not routinely recorded at visits or that regular visits were not occurring. The high number of missing BW measurements suggests that this important component of feline health monitoring is routinely being missed in the clinic.


Key pearls to put into practice:


Monitoring BW is an important component of feline healthcare. Tracking changes in BW over time can help guide clinicians and owners in risk assessment for disease and in developing personalized care plans for cats.


BW is an objective measurement that can be useful in tracking the health status of an individual cat. As compared with BW, BCS is more closely correlated with representing body fat but requires staff be trained on how to obtain BCS measurements to be reliable.6,7


Communicating with owners about their cat’s BW is an important but sometimes difficult aspect of an annual examination. A positive attitude and patient-directed speech (ie, directly addressing the cat in an empathetic and amusing manner) have been demonstrated to aid in successful clinician– owner interactions regarding weight gain in cats.8

*This study was supported by the IDEXX Chair in Emerging Technologies and Bond-Centered Animal Care.


For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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