USA: Cat Illness, Trends and Statistics

This is a page that gives some clues as to cat health trends in the USA backed up by statistics.

Banfield Pet Hospital is the world’s largest veterinary practice. It is an American business operating in America. The company has a poor policy on declawing, which I have to mention as they dealt with 430,000 cats in 2011. Message to Banfield: Come on Banfield, please stop declawing, period. Lead the way. It’ll make more money for the business in the long term, I promise.

However, because Banfield are so large they are able to compile information on trends that can be relied on due to the high number of cats treated. See full report – note: the page you are reading carefully summarizes the report in respect of cats.

Here are some trends and statistics about cats from Banfield that relate to 2011 showing trends since 2007.


This is my observation having read the report: If there are three things a cat owner can do to most improve the health of their cat it is to (a) feed them less and exercise them more and (b) take them to the vet when they are ill. Don’t try and fudge it. Spend the money but take charge of the consultation and (c) feed mainly high quality wet cat food. Only 28% of cat owners take their cat to the vet to manage “an existing condition or disease” (compared with 36% of dog owners). Of 6 cats and dogs seen at the hospital, only 1 is a cat (people don’t take cats to the vet anywhere near enough).

cat-obesity-by-usa-state usa-cat-obesity-trends-for-five-years


Since 2007 obesity has increased by 90% in cats (dogs by 37%). 69% of cat owners see their cat as having the correct weight. 22% of cat owners see their cat as overweight. About 20% of cats are overweight to varying degrees according to the chart above.

Comparison: a different survey states that 58.3% of US cats are overweight or obese1. 13.9 million cats in the USA are obese1. 33.9% of cats are an ideal weight1.

Comparison with UK: PDSA survey states that 25% of cats in UK are overweight.

As a food treat (human food) cheese is the most calorific.

Obesity in cats2 can have a knock-on effect on cat health with respect to: arthritis, diabetes mellitus, heart disease (heart murmur symptoms) and hypothyroidism (under production of thyroid hormone).


Of all the cats with arthritis, 37% of them are overweight.

There has been a 67% increase in arthritis in cats over the past 5 years. 73% of cat owners don’t realise that weight gain can lead to arthritis. Note: think of the overweight people you see who have difficult walking and have bad knees.

Chronic Illnesses

Most common chronic (long term) disease are: dental disease, dermatitis (skin infection), diabetes and ear infections (otitis externa). Chronic diseases are increasing.


Feline diabetes increased by 16% since 2007.

Most Common

The most common disease affecting cats and dogs is dental disease. It increased by 10% since 2007.

The second most common disease – ear infections – increased by 34% over the same period.

Kidney Disease

Cats are 7x more likely than dogs to have kidney disease. Over half of cat owners don’t know that cats can have kidney disease without looking as if they are ill. Arkansas, Colorado and Arizona had the highest levels of kidney disease in cats. 29% of cats with kidney disease had gum disease. 8.3% of geriatric cats had kidney disease.


Hyperthyroidism features in the Banfield report. This is an overactive thyroid gland producing too much thyroid hormone. It is on the increase – 13% since 2007. 1% of American cats have hyperthyroidism. The worst states are: South Dakota, Montana and Massachusetts. Signs: changes in coat, changes in appetite and “unusual urination”. Almost half of cat owners were not aware that these are signs of hyperthyroidism.


85% of cats seen are freeborn (random bred). Of the remainder the most common breeds were: Siamese, Bengal, Manx, Himalayan, Persian, Russian Blue, Maine Coon and Ragdoll.

Age Groupings – illnesses

Looking at age groups (a) 0-1 years of age, juveniles (b) 1-3, young adult (c) 3-10, mature adult (d) over 10, geriatric…and the prevalence of disease amongst these groups:

  • Conjunctivitis – mostly affects juveniles
  • Cystitis – mostly affects geriatric, least in juveniles
  • Dental tartar – mostly mature adult, least juveniles
  • Ear mites – mostly juveniles, least geriatric
  • Respiratory virus – mostly juveniles, least geriatric
  • Fleas – most juveniles, least geriatric
  • Healthy – most juveniles, least geriatric
  • Heart murmur – most geriatric, least juveniles
  • Hyperthyroidism – most geriatric
  • Kidney disease – most geriatric
  • Obese – most mature adult, least juveniles
  • Ear infection – most juveniles, least young adult
  • Overweight – Most mature adult, least juveniles
  • Gum disease – most young adult
  • Roundworms – most juveniles
  • Tapeworms – most juveniles, least geriatric.


  2. Obesity defined as being 20% or more above ideal weight.
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USA: Cat Illness, Trends and Statistics — 6 Comments

  1. I was at the vet yesterday with Bigfoot. His second visit in a month. He hates going, but doesn’t give me much trouble. He’s a good sport, but voices his protest. It is possible Bigfoot is hyperthyroid. I’ll find out today. It would explain a lot. He eats voraciously but is losing weight. And, he is a little grumpy. The treatment is simple and I understand cats do well. The question is why has it become so common. Is it because few owners noticed before? The vet seems surprised at the little changes I notice about him. Go figure.

    Here is hoping all is well with him.

    • Hi DW, I’ll do a page on what might cause hyperthyroidism this evening (GMT). The increase in cases is a modern phenomenon. Sorry to hear that Bigfoot had to go to the vet. You are more in tune with cat health issues than your vet ;).

  2. Excellent topic. Thanks a lot Michael.As they say “PREVENTION IS THE BEST CURE TO ANY SICKNESS”.Reading this topic cat owners can be aware of the medical deficiencies in their cats before it occurs and hence take preventive measures.

    • It’s interesting to see trends and the trend in the USA is overweight cats and the health problems caused. This is a modern problem. It is to do with modern life. 50 years ago there were much fewer obese cats. There were more outdoor cats, no dry food pellets high in carbohydrates, the pet market was less commercialised. Commericialism brings convenience and some health problems it appears. Hyperthyroidism is on the up and that may be caused by chemicals in packaging or in sofas – modern manufacturing. It could be argued: Less natural = less healthy.

  3. I’d like to see the statistics for the cats in the USA being overweight and for the cats with arthritis, broken down into clawed and declawed cats, I’d like to bet declawed cats are a high percentage of both those statistics, but of course the declaw vets won’t let that be known.

    • As you state there won’t be figures comparing declawed to clawed cats. What I will have a look at is comparisons between American and UK cats as that would include declawed and clawed cats.

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