Prevalence of obesity and associated ‘feeding characteristics’ as risk factor for obesity in cats in Palmerston North.
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This study was conducted to identify feeding variables as risk factors for obesity in cats. Besides it could give an indication if prevalence of obesity in cats is increasing just as in humans and if this is due to a change in feeding characteristics or a change in environmental and management variables. A door-to-door survey was conducted within the city limits of Palmerston North and obtained data on the environment, health, behaviour and diet of 200 cats. The interviewers used a validated scoring system to assess the body condition of each cat and this was converted in a dichotomous dependent variable. The variables were grouped into four risk-factor groupings for stepwise logistic regression; cat characteristics, owner’s perception of their cat, household characteristics and feeding variables. From the feeding variables only feeding dry food was identified as a risk factor for obesity. All significant variables from each group (p < 0.05) were included in a combined model and assessed to control for confounding. In this model the feeding variables weren’t significant. This study didn’t support the hypothesis that the prevalence of obesity in the cat population of Palmerston North has increased, neither that this was caused by feeding variables. Since feeding characteristics were not identified as a risk factor for obesity, the accent of weight control programs should not lie in changing cats’ feeding pattern or food types, but adapted according other identified risk factors. However a lot of these factors, like age, gender and neuterstatus, are difficult to influence. Dietary management is one of the easiest and a practical method to adjust energy intake at critical times during a cat’s life, where a change in circumstances may result in a greater risk of developing obesity. So adjustments to feeding variables can prevent weight gain.