Owner psychology as a risk factor for feline obesity

BA, BVSc (Hons I)

University of Sydney Graduate, 2012

Massey University - New Zealand; ACVN residency and PhD

* Please skip to minute 12:31 for Meredith Wall's talk. For fullscreen streaming please click on the Vimeo logo in the bottom right hand corner of the video.


There are many reasons why an increased focus on obesity prevention in cats is critical. Attempted weight reduction in later life often fails, and many risk factors for obesity (such as neutering or indoor confinement) actually provide substantial benefit to the owner, the animal itself, and occasionally the environment. The consequences and costs of obesity are well-established and include the development of multiple associated diseases, reduced quality of life and even a decrease in the cat’s lifespan.


Relatively little is known about the factors that may cause owners to overfeed their cats. Psychological variables, indicated by measures of personality, attitude and behaviour, have been strongly implicated in obesity risk in both adults and their dependent children. However, the complex relationship between owner psychology and the risk of feline obesity has not been comprehensively explored. My aim is, therefore, to demonstrate that there are particular psychological factors that are strongly correlated with the development of overweight or obesity in cats. It is hoped that a better understanding of owner-related risk factors for feline obesity will promote an increased focus on prevention, rather than treatment, of obesity and provide insight into possible methods of creating a practical, owner-focused prevention program.


In the first study completed as part of a PhD, a large multinational, internet-based survey was administered, with 8400 cat-owners answering questions designed to assess owner psychology and socio-demographics, the human-animal bond, cat health, diet, and feeding practices. Final results and consequences from this study are pending and will provide extensive information on the behaviour and personality traits of both overweight and healthy-weight cat owners. This presentation will briefly discuss the problem of feline obesity and the importance of this research, as well as some preliminary results and future research directions.

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