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May 28, 2014 01:14 PM EDT

Cats Eat More During The Winter

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Cats should be fed more in the winter, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool's School of Veterinary Science, in collaboration with colleagues at the Royal Canin Research Centre in France found that cats eat more during the winter and owners should give their pet more food during this time.

"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," Dr. Alex German, study author and veterinarian, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers collected data from 38 cats of mixed breeds, ages and genders. The pets involved in the study had a microchip on their collar which allowed them to take as much food as they wanted from a dispenser which only opened for them. At the same time, this microchip recorded how much the cat had eaten and when.

The cats involved in the study were all inhabitants of a center in southern France where they were allowed to play and exercise outside all year round.

The study found that cats ate approximately 15 percent less food during summer, and the veterinarians have concluded that 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.

Researchers compared data on food to the climate in the area using computer modeling to provide information about how the temperature changed over the year.

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," German said.

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 researchers said this is the largest study that has yet taken place with domestic cats.

The findings were recently published in the journal PLOS One.

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