Feline Obesity: Food Toys and Owner Perceived Quality of Life During a Prescribed Weight


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Virginia Tech


The prevalence of overweight and obesity in the feline population is estimated to be 25.7% and 33.8%, respectively. Feline obesity is associated with comorbidities such as insulin resistance and hepatic lipidosis. Several risk factors are associated with obesity including middle age, neuter status, decreased activity, and diet. Obesity management is multifaceted and includes client education, diet modification, and consistent monitoring. Successful obesity management may be dependent on owner perception of their cat's quality of life during a prescribed weight loss plan. Poor quality of life perception may result in failure to complete the weight loss process. Food toys may be used to enhance environmental enrichment, allow cats to express their natural predatory behavior and overall improve owner-perceived quality of life. Therefore, we set out to investigate the role of food toys in owner-perceived quality of life of obese cats during a prescribed weight loss plan.

Fifty-five cats with a BCS > 7 were enrolled in a double-blinded weight loss study and randomized into one of two groups: food toy (n=26) or food bowl (n=29). Each cat was provided a prescribed weight loss diet and instructions. Body weight and body condition score were evaluated monthly. Additionally, owners completed a monthly questionnaire to assess their cat's quality of life.

Of the 44 cats in the final analysis, 66% (n=29) successfully completed the study and lost > 2 BCS points and/or achieved an ideal BCS of 5/9. Low-calorie vegetables were offered to the majority of cats (n= 32) due to owner reports of disruptive food seeking behavior. Of the cats offered vegetables, 87.5% (n=28) cats required a commercial palatant to consume the vegetables. All enrolled cats had a higher (p<0.0000) owner-perceive quality of life at the final visit/recheck/end of study (median QOL=110.0), as compared to the initial weight loss appointment (median QOL=126.0). The increase in quality of life was primarily driven by improvement in moving from one place to another, grooming and scratching, engaging in social activities, and playing and hunting. There was no effect (p=0.27) of food toy on owner-perceived quality of life.

Prescribed weight loss improves owner-perceived quality of life of obese cats. A single food toy (ball-style) was included in this study and did not appear to influence owner-perceived QOL. However, the role of food toys needs further investigation as there are several food toy styles that have not yet been investigated during a prescribed weight loss plan. We suspect that most/all of the 32 cats fed vegetables would have withdrawn from the study. Therefore, including vegetables in the prescribed weight loss plan appears to improve success of weight loss in obese cats.



Feline, Obesity, Weight loss