Obesity is considered the second most common health problem in pet cats in developed countries. Previous studies investigating risk factors for feline obesity have been cross-sectional, where reverse causality cannot be ruled out. This study is the first to use prospective data from a large scale longitudinal study of pet cats ('Bristol Cats') to identify early-life risk factors for feline overweight/obesity at around one year of age. Data analysed were collected via three owner-completed questionnaires (for cats aged 2-4 months, 6.5-7 months and 12.5-13 months) completed between May 2010 and August 2013. Owner-reported body condition scores (BCS) of cats at age 12.5-13 months, using the 5-point system, were categorised into a dichotomous variable: overweight/obese (BCS 4-5) and not overweight (BCS 1-3) and used as the dependent variable. Cat breed, neuter status, outdoor access, type of diet, frequency of wet and dry food fed and frequency of treats fed were analysed as potential risk factors. Of the 966 cats for which data were available, 7.0% were reported by their owners to be overweight/obese at 12.5-13 months of age. Descriptive data on type of diet fed at different cat ages suggest that a dry diet is the most popular choice for UK domestic cats. Significant potential explanatory variables from univariable logistic regression models were included in multivariable logistic regression models built using stepwise forward-selection. To account for potential hierarchical clustering of data due to multi-cat households these were extended to two-level random intercept models. Models were compared using Wald test p- values. Clustering had no impact on the analysis. The final multivariable logistic regression model identified two risk factors that were independently associated with an increased risk of feline obesity developing at 12.5-13 months of age: restricted or no outdoor access and feeding dry food as the only or major (>50%) type of food in the diet at age 12.5-13 months. The same relationship was revealed when only variables containing prospective data were included in the multivariable model. The study highlights the importance of a cat's early environment in the risk of obesity developing in early adulthood. The amount of food fed, opportunities for exercise and BCS of cats with no or restricted outdoor access and cats fed a dry diet should be monitored, especially whilst cats are aged below one year, to reduce the risk of overweight/obesity developing.
- Outdoor access