Portland, Ore., USA (October 3, 2013) --- Lactating cats not only increase their total calorie consumption, they also significantly alter the make-up of their diet to meet the demands of feeding a litter, research from the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition has shown. The research provides intriguing insights into cats' feeding behaviour and strong evidence that they are able to adapt their macronutrient intake, i.e. their intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate, to meet their physiological requirements.
"It's no surprise that, just like humans, cats require more energy during pregnancy and when feeding their young. However, this research shows that lactating cats, particularly those with large litters, select their foods to alter the proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrate they consume", commented lead scientist Dr Adrian Hewson-Hughes, WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition. "If given the choice, cats with large litters will significantly alter their diet composition when feeding kittens to ensure a much greater proportion of energy is obtained from fat."
In the study, seventeen adult female cats were offered a choice of three nutritionally-complete wet foods with different proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrate. During pregnancy, the cats significantly increased their total energy intake, and the amounts of protein and fat consumed also increased linearly. When lactating, the cats with large litters of four or five kittens further increased their energy intake, consuming a significantly higher proportion of energy from fat and reducing the proportion of energy from protein and carbohydrate. Total fat intake tripled for the cats feeding large litters, and doubled for cats with smaller litters of one to three kittens.
Previous research has shown that non-reproducing adult cats with normal energy requirements have a limit to the amount of carbohydrate they will consume in a day (Hewson-Hughes et al. 2011). Specifically, cats' "carbohydrate ceiling" was found to be approximately 20g of carbohydrate per day. The present study expanded on these findings and showed that, while cats increased their intake of protein and fat during pregnancy and lactation, their carbohydrate intake did not exceed this limit of 20g per day. The research therefore shows that cats' "carbohydrate ceiling" still applies during the increased physiological demands of gestation and lactation.
The study was conducted by scientists from the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition, the state-of-the-art science institute for Mars Petcare, and the University of Aberdeen. It was presented at the WALTHAM® International Nutritional Sciences Symposium (WINSS), taking place from 1 October in Portland, Oregon, USA. WINSS brings together leading experts in the fields of nutritional and veterinary science to address critical issues in the field of pet health and nutrition.
The study forms part of a wider body of WALTHAM® research examining the feeding behaviour and nutritional needs of cats. It builds on previous WALTHAM® research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology showing that, if given the opportunity, adult cats will consistently compose a diet that is high in protein and fat.
Hewson-Hughes, A. et al. Geometric analysis of macronutrient selection in the adult domestic cat, Felis catus. Journal of Experimental Biology 15, 1039-51 (2011).
Hewson-Hughes, A. et al. Consistent proportional macronutrient intake selected by adult domestic cats (Felis catus) despite variations in macronutrient and moisture content of foods offered. Journal of Comparative Physiology B 183, 525-36 (2013).
About the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition
Celebrating 50 years of innovative science, the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition serves as a leading scientific authority in advancing the frontiers of research into the nutrition and health of companion animals. Located in Leicestershire, England, the renowned state-of-the-art science institute for Mars Petcare generates knowledge that enables the development of innovative products that meet pets' needs in a practical way. Since the publication of its first original research in 1963, WALTHAM® has pioneered many important breakthroughs in the field of pet nutrition and human-animal interaction, resulting in more than 1,700 publications, including over 600 peer-review scientific papers. Today, WALTHAM® continues to collaborate with the world's foremost scientific institutes, driving Mars Petcare's Vision to make A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS® and providing the science and expertise that underpins leading Mars Petcare brands such as WHISKAS®, PEDIGREE®, NUTRO®, TRILL®, CESAR®, SHEBA®, DREAMIES®, AQUARIAN®, WINERGY®, BANFIELD Pet Hospital® and the ROYAL CANIN® brand.
About Mars, Incorporated
In 1911, Frank C. Mars made the first Mars candies in his Tacoma, Washington kitchen and established Mars' first roots as a confectionery company. In the 1920s, Forrest E. Mars, Sr. joined his father in business and together they launched the MILKY WAY® bar. In 1932, Forrest, Sr. moved to the United Kingdom with a dream of building a business based on the objective of creating a "mutuality of benefits for all stakeholders" — this objective serves as the foundation of Mars, Incorporated today. Based in McLean, Virginia, Mars has six business segments including Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks, Symbioscience, and more than 72,000 Associates worldwide that are putting its Principles into action to make a difference for people and the planet through its performance.
Mars brands include: Petcare – PEDIGREE®, ROYAL CANIN®, WHISKAS®, BANFIELD Pet Hospital®, NUTRO®, SHEBA®, DREAMIES® and CESAR®; Chocolate – M&M'S®, SNICKERS®, DOVE®, GALAXY®, MARS®, MILKY WAY® and TWIX®; Wrigley – DOUBLEMINT®, EXTRA®, ORBIT® and 5™ chewing gums, SKITTLES® and STARBURST® candies, and ALTOIDS® AND LIFESAVERS® mints. Food – UNCLE BEN'S®, DOLMIO®, EBLY®, MASTERFOODS®, SEEDS OF CHANGE® and ROYCO®; Drinks – ALTERRA ® Coffee Roasterscoffee, THE BRIGHT TEA CO.® tea, DOVE®/GALAXY® Hot Chocolate, and FLAVIA® brewer; Symbioscience – COCOAVIA®, WISDOM PANEL® and SERAMIS®.
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