Can Pet Health Technology Improve Outcomes in a Multi-Cat Household Weight Management Program While Preserving the Human-Animal Bond?

Kenneth J. Lambrecht bio


Kenneth J. Lambrecht, DVM

West Towne Veterinary Center, Madison, WI



To help veterinarians solve feline obesity treatment and prevention, a pilot study with a “Pet Health Technology Ecosystem,” was tested in-home with 14 cats. This system helped achieve favorable weight loss rates, a lower weight loss program "dropout rate", and cat and pet owner acceptance of home health technology while keeping the human animal bond intact.

Key points

  • Weight loss target for cats is generally 1 to 2% per week from the initial weight. Dropout rates in home weight management programs (WMP) have been reported at 41% in cats in a 12-week study, with 86% of the dropouts due to lack of clinic follow-ups.
  • For clients, there are five major challenges with in-home WMPs:
    • Clear veterinary recommendations
    • Getting the right amount of food to the right cat
    • The need for interim metrics, especially BW
    • The impact on clients of cat behaviors during caloric restriction (cats begging, fighting, vocalizing)
    • Getting cats to exercise.
  • These challenges led to the “Bug Gym Pilot study,” which used a home health technology ecosystem consisting of an electronic scale, smart feeder, an activity monitor and a webcam/treat dispenser. Eight veterinarians supervised households of two indoor-only cats with at least one cat having a BCS of 7-9/9.

    Study results included: 
    • Good satisfaction with devices
    • Average weight loss was 0.85% over a four-week period for the 14 cats
    • Dropout rate was 22%.
  • Technology solutions/challenges:
    • Smart feeders to deliver the correct amount of food multiple times per day to the correct cat
    • Digital home scales and emerging smart scales for body weight assessment
    • Using/choosing apps to keep track of metrics/online diary
    • Cat activity tracker
    • Motion/sound activate webcams to keep track of feeding related behaviors/intercat behaviors
    • Smart exercise devices to increase cat activity
    • Finding the best combination of products for each individual cat household is a project in itself
    • Cat clients reported that using technology for weight loss has positive effects on the human-animal bond.
  • Future tools: “digiceuticals,” DNA testing/microbiome manipulation and telehealth.

Clinical relevance

The feline overweight and obesity rate is over 60%. With a better understanding of feline feeding behavior and home health technology system options, practicing veterinarians can be more successful implementing feline weight-management programs, especially in multiple-cat households.

This document contains summaries of presentations from the Companion Animal Summit, held May 2-4, 2019 in San Jose, Costa Rica. Please note that these summaries represent overviews of the presentations and may include opinions and research of presenters, which do not necessarily reflect those of the Nestlé Purina Petcare Company.
Produced by the Purina Institute, May, 2019

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