Body composition of lean outdoor intact cats vs lean indoor neutered cats using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry

J Feline Med Surg. 2019 Jun;21(6):459-464. doi: 10.1177/1098612X18780872. Epub 2018 Jun 18.


Objectives: The objectives for this study were to compare the body composition of adult indoor neutered domestic cats with outdoor intact cats with an ideal body condition score using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, and to report the body composition findings of free-roaming cats, as this has not been previously reported. Most domestic house cats differ from free-roaming cats as they are confined indoors and neutered. Indoor neutered cats have reduced activity and hormonal alterations that may result in lower muscle mass and higher body fat percentages vs outdoor intact cats, despite similar body condition scores.

Methods: Twenty-one outdoor intact cats (10 male, 11 female) were selected from a trap-neuter-return program and 16 indoor neutered domestic cats (10 male, six female) were client-owned. Inclusion criteria included an estimated age between 1 and 6 years, complete blood count, biochemistry panel, urinalysis, total thyroxine, feline leukemia virus/feline immunodeficiency virus screening and a body condition score of 4-5/9.

Results: Indoor neutered cats had a higher body fat percentage (22.1% [range 17.3-28.2%]) than outdoor intact cats (17.3% [range 10.0-33.6%]; P = 0.002). Indoor neutered male cats had a higher body fat percentage ( P <0.001) than outdoor intact cats. No difference in body fat percentage was observed in female cats ( P = 0.159). Indoor neutered domestic cats had a higher bone mineral density than outdoor intact cats ( P = 0.023).

Conclusions and relevance: The results of this study suggest indoor confinement and neutering increase body fat percentage and bone mineral density in cats with an ideal body condition score.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / veterinary*
  • Animals
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Cats
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Male