The Purrfect Calibration. How Often Do Cats Really Need Scales Adjusted?


Cat scales, also known as pet scales, are important tools used by veterinarians and cat owners to weigh felines and monitor their health. Like any measurement instrument, cat scales need to be properly calibrated on a routine basis to ensure accuracy and reliability of the weight readings. An uncalibrated scale may provide incorrect weight measurements, leading to improper diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

This article will provide an overview of cat scale calibration – explaining what calibration means, why it’s important to calibrate scales routinely, recommendations for calibration frequency, the calibration process itself, calibration services, do-it-yourself calibration, signs a scale needs recalibrating, and the importance of maintaining calibration for accurate weight tracking.

What is Calibration?

Calibration is the process of comparing a measurement device or instrument to a known standard to ensure its accuracy and precision. According to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), calibration is defined as an “operation that, under specified conditions, in a first step, establishes a relation between the quantity values with measurement uncertainties provided by measurement standards and corresponding indications with associated measurement uncertainties and, in a second step, uses this information to establish a relation for obtaining a measurement result from an indication” (source).

In simpler terms, calibration is the process of checking and adjusting an instrument by comparing it to a known standard. This ensures the instrument is providing accurate and reliable measurements within an acceptable margin of error. The instrument is first tested against the standard to identify any deviation. If a deviation is found outside of the acceptable tolerance, the instrument is then adjusted to match the standard as closely as possible.

Calibration provides a high degree of confidence in measurements by tracing them back to recognized physical standards. It is an essential part of quality control and is widely used in fields like manufacturing, healthcare, and engineering where accurate measurements are critical.

Why Calibrate Cat Scales?

Having an accurate weight for cats is extremely important for monitoring their health and properly dosing medications. As explained by veterinarian Dr. Sarah Wooten on PetMD, “Monitoring your cat’s weight on a regular basis is one of the easiest ways to evaluate their health.” (1) Gradual weight loss or gain often goes unnoticed to the naked eye, so routinely weighing your cat can help detect concerning changes.

Inaccurate cat scale readings could lead to improper dosing of medications and treatments. Most medications are dosed based on the cat’s body weight, so an incorrect weight can result in potentially dangerous over or under dosing. Per veterinarian Dr. Margareth Vieira, “monitoring weight in older cats and cats with chronic disease helps veterinarians properly dose medications.” (2) Routine scale calibration ensures proper dosing and safe medical treatment.

By regularly calibrating a cat scale, owners can trust the accuracy of the weight readings. This allows for attentive monitoring of a cat’s health over time and confident dosing of medications by veterinarians. Proper calibration is crucial for cat owners and veterinary professionals alike when weighing matters.

Calibration Frequency

There is no universal standard that dictates how often cat scales should be calibrated. Manufacturers and veterinarian associations provide general guidelines, but the optimal calibration frequency can vary based on factors like usage level and the type of scale.

Many cat scale manufacturers recommend calibrating veterinary scales at least once per year to maintain accuracy. For example, Arlyn Scales states in their product manuals that yearly calibration is ideal for their animal scales when used in normal veterinary practice conditions (source). Other brands like Brecknell recommend recalibrating every 1-2 years (source).

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) advises veterinary practices to establish standardized protocols for calibrating scales based on use level and manufacturer guidelines. For a high-volume veterinary clinic, the AAHA suggests calibrating small animal scales up to four times per year.

While yearly or biannual calibration is suitable for many clinical settings, more frequent calibration may be prudent for scales that are moved often or used heavily day-to-day. Talking to the scale manufacturer about calibration needs based on specific usage can help determine the right frequency.

Calibration Process

The calibration process for cat scales typically involves using certified test weights to check the scale’s accuracy and make any necessary adjustments. The exact steps may vary depending on the scale model and manufacturer instructions. Here is an overview of the typical cat scale calibration process:

First, the scale should be on a flat, level surface and zeroed out without any weight on it. The display should read 0.0 once properly zeroed. Next, certified calibration weights are placed on the scale platform one at a time, starting with the smallest weight. The displayed weight is checked against the known weight value and recorded.

If the scale’s displayed weight is off from the test weight’s certified value, then adjustments need to be made. This is done by locating the calibration button or potentiometer dial and carefully turning it until the display matches the certified test weight value. The process is repeated with progressively heavier test weights until the scale reads accurately across its full weighing range.

It’s crucial to follow the scale manufacturer’s instructions precisely when it comes to calibration. The number and size of test weights needed, location of calibration controls, zeroing procedure, and other details can vary. Attempting to calibrate a scale without proper training or reference to the user manual can result in further inaccuracies.

Proper calibration ensures accuracy for weighing pets during veterinary exams and for monitoring at home. It also meets legal requirements for commercial scales used in trade or commerce. Following a routine calibration schedule prevents gradual drift and keeps cat scales weighing within tolerance.

Calibration Services

Note that many retailers offer calibration services for the scales they sell. Pet equipment retailers like Shor-Line and Scales Plus provide calibration services to ensure their products remain accurate over time. These services are often performed onsite at the retailer’s facility using certified weights for traceability. A calibration certificate is provided after service.

Some veterinarians also provide calibration services for scales used at their practices. They may have the necessary equipment and expertise in-house to perform these calibrations periodically. This helps ensure that any pet weight measurements done at the vet’s office remain precise. Vet offices that provide this service will sometimes advertise it on their website or let pet owners know during visits. However, not all vets offer scale calibration services.

DIY Calibration

Pet owners can calibrate scales at home if needed, though this may affect the accuracy compared to professional calibration services. To calibrate a scale at home, you’ll need calibration weights of known amounts. Coins or other household items with standardized weights can work in a pinch, like U.S. nickels that each weigh 5 grams. Place the calibration weight on the scale and adjust it until the display matches the known weight [1]. Repeat this process with multiple calibration weights to check accuracy across the scale’s range. When finished, make sure to recalibrate if the scale is moved to maintain accuracy [1]. Though DIY calibration is possible, using professional services periodically can help ensure your pet is weighed accurately.

Signs a Scale Needs Calibration

One of the most common signs that a veterinary or pet scale needs calibration is inaccurate or inconsistent weight readings. According to American Scale, “Keeping your scale calibrated protects the animal as well as any fault that may accompany inaccurate measurements.”

If the scale shows major fluctuations in an animal’s weight from day to day or weighing session to weighing session, even though the actual weight is unchanged, it likely needs recalibration. As noted by Tristar Vet, “If an animal has suddenly dropped or gained weight according to the scale but everything else about them seems unchanged, it’s a sign your scale needs calibration.”

Other signs that calibration is needed, according to Rice Lake, include the scale not turning on or off properly, a malfunctioning or broken display, buttons not working, and connectivity issues. Problems like these indicate there could be other internal issues affecting weighing accuracy and precision.

Additional signs outlined by American Scale include weight drifting slowly up or down during a stationary weighing, the scale not returning to true zero after an animal is removed, and recorded weights varying based on the animal’s position on the scale. Any of these could signify components have drifted out of calibration.

In summary, inaccurate, inconsistent, or fluctuating readings are the primary signs a vet or pet scale requires recalibration. But operational issues like power or display problems also indicate potential internal malfunctions that could affect precision.

Importance of Routine Calibration

Routine and periodic calibration is crucial for ensuring pet scales provide accurate weight measurements over time. As scales age and undergo heavy use, they can begin to drift from their original calibrations. This gradual inaccuracy can have major implications for pet health.

Veterinarians rely on precise weights to calculate medication dosages, monitor growth, and develop treatment plans. A scale that is even slightly off can lead to improper medication levels and hinder a vet’s ability to track subtle weight changes signaling emerging health issues. Missed diagnoses and incorrect medical treatment can result when scales are not calibrated regularly.

According to veterinary scale calibration experts, scales that are more than just a few pounds off can start generating incorrect weights. To keep weights precise for optimal pet health, veterinary professionals recommend calibrating scales at least once a year. More frequent calibrations may be needed for older scales or those experiencing heavy use.

The small investment of periodic calibration helps avoid inaccurate weights that can lead to detrimental health consequences. Routine scale maintenance gives veterinarians confidence they are basing critical health decisions on dependably precise measurements.


Regular calibration of cat scales is crucial for maintaining accuracy in weight monitoring and proper medication dosing. As scales are used over time, normal wear and tear can throw off their precision. Environmental factors like changes in temperature and humidity can also impact scale readings.

To keep your cat scale performing at its best, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for calibration frequency. Many experts suggest checking calibration at least once per year, or more often if the scale receives heavy use. Routine checks by a technician can catch any inaccuracies before they become a problem.

By sticking to a regular calibration schedule, cat owners can have peace of mind that their scale is providing reliable data. Accurate weights allow vets to prescribe medications at the proper dosages and track any concerning fluctuations in weight. For the health and wellbeing of feline friends, calibration helps cat scales live up to their important purpose.

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