A study at the University of Guelph involving over 19 million cats suggests most animals will continue to put on weight after they reach adulthood, and their heaviest weight is higher now than it was two decades ago.

Dr. Lesley Sawa says most cats she encounters are overweight. Similar to humans, diet, genetics and lack of exercise can play a role in feline body composition.

“What I would recommend would be to decrease the diet, increase the exercise and consider feeding a special diet,” Sawa, veterinarian with the Animal Clinic of Regina said. She added that she’s not surprised by the findings of the study at Guelph, as diet plays such an important role in the health of pets.

Dr. Sawa examined Charlie the cat, who is nine years old and weights approximately 15 lbs. The vet advised that Charlie shed four lbs to maintain her health.

If obesity is not managed, cats can get diabetes that needs to be controlled with insulin, liver disease and experience infections as a result of not being able to properly groom themselves.

Foods specifically for weight loss are available, and Sawa recommends slowly transitioning the cat to the new feed. The vet says be mindful of extra calories such as table scraps and treats, but the easiest way to control your pet’s weight is by controlling the amount consumed.

“If she’s telling you she’s hungry it’s best to redirect the behaviour,” Sawa said. “Instead of giving her more food and giving in, you can distract her with a laser pointer as a way to redirect her.”

“Increase exercise and activity, take them outside on a harness to move around or a feather on a string is a great way to get them jumping burning more calories.”

Laser pointers are a great tool to get an overweight feline moving about, and when it comes to exercising a pet, the options are many.

According to a local pet store, interactive or electronic toys are a great way to keep a cat active while the owner is away or out for the day.

“An automatic laser pointer is great, it’s really nice to be able to just let it go and know that the cat will be kept active,” Juliette Brouzes with the Cathedral Pet Stop said.

"It might not seem like much but half a pound is still a significant amount for a cat," Adam Campigotto, the study’s lead author said. They say the study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association last week, is the first of its kind to use such a large pool of data.

With files from the Canadian Press and CTV Regina’s Cally Stephanow.