Cats eat more during the winter and owners should give their pet more food during this time, according to University of Liverpool research.

Researchers from the university’s School of Veterinary Science, in collaboration with colleagues at the Royal Canin Research Centre in France, spent four years monitoring how much cats chose to eat, and found food intake increased in colder months and decreased during the summer.

The 38 cats studied each had a microchip on its collar, which allowed it to take as much food as it wanted from a dispenser that only opened for each individual cat. At the same time, this microchip recorded how much the cat had eaten and when.

Veterinarian and study author Alex German said: “Cats, like many humans, are more inclined to comfort eat when it’s cold outside, but, in their case, it’s likely to be due to the extra energy they need to keep warm when out and about.”

The study found cats ate approximately 15% less food during summer, and researchers concluded the extra effort to keep warm in winter and the temptation to rest during hot summer days contributed to the swing in activity levels during the year.

The cats were all inhabitants of a centre in southern France where they were allowed to play and exercise outside all year round, and were of mixed breeds, ages and genders.

Data on food was compared to the climate in the area using computer modelling to provide information about how the temperature changed over the year.

Seasonal food intake has also been examined in the past on farm animals, such as dairy cows, to establish new ways of increasing milk production, but this is the largest study that has taken place with domestic cats.

Dr German said: “People should consider the amount of food their cats need at different times of year as this can be part of helping them to maintain a healthy weight.”

The paper was published in the journal PLOS One:

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