7th October, 2011 – A team of researchers has shown that female kittens consume more food and are more likely to be overweight post-neutering when compared with entire littermates. In a 12-month study conducted by scientists at the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, neutered female kittens consumed more food than their entire littermates for an 18 week period post-neutering and exhibited increased body weight. Despite having very similar food intake beyond the 18 week post-neutering phase neutered kittens were on average 24% heavier than their littermates at 1 year of age. The research involved 12 pairs of 11 week old female kittens who were randomly assigned to 2 groups. One group of kittens were neutered at 19 weeks of age while the second group remained entire for the 1 year of the study. Across the developed world, cat obesity rates are rising, with recent figures indicating that up to 50% of cats are either overweight or obese. This research sheds new light on the factors influencing body weight in cats and could have important implications for developing feeding strategies to counteract weight gain in neutered kittens.
“This research suggests that neutered kittens may have a reduced metabolisable energy requirement. As such, they should not be given free access to food and owners should pay careful attention to their female kitten’s weight after neutering. Introducing portion control to maintain an ideal body condition score and substituting some wet kitten food into the diet are useful strategies for helping with healthy weight management in this context,” commented study author and WALTHAM scientist Dr Lucille Alexander. “The fact that a year later, neutered kittens were still heavier despite consuming the same amount of food as their entire littermates indicates that the 18 week post-neutering phase has long-term effects on body weight and may be of particular importance. This finding warrants further investigation.”
WALTHAM is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of companion animals. This research forms part of a wider programme of ongoing collaborative research into the effect of food and nutrition on body weight in both cats and dogs. In order to understand how dietary regimes and activity levels in kittens can ensure healthy weight levels, further research in this field is required. These findings were originally presented at the WALTHAM International Nutritional Science Symposium (WINSS), which took place in September 2010 in Cambridge, UK. The research has since been published as part of a special edition WINSS supplement to accompany the October issue of the British Journal of Nutrition and is now available in print or free online: Link to British Journal of Nutrition WINSS 2010 supplement
WINSS 2010, which was hosted in partnership with the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge University and The Nutrition Society, brought together many of the world’s leading experts on pets and nutrition to present and discuss the latest developments in the field of veterinary and nutritional science.