Even when provided with complex combinations of different wet and dry foods, cats are able to select and combine the foods in different amounts to achieve a consistent intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate, i.e. macronutrient intake. Published this month in the Journal of Comparative Physiology B, the research shows that cats regulate their macronutrient intake by altering their food selection despite differences in the macronutrient content, moisture level and texture of foods.
The research was conducted by scientists from the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition – the science centre underpinning Mars Petcare brands such as WHISKAS®, NUTRO® and ROYAL CANIN. It was undertaken in collaboration with scientists from the University of Sydney (Australia) and the Institute of Natural Sciences at Massey University (New Zealand).
In a series of three experiments, cats were provided with wet and dry foods in different combinations. Within each experiment, cats were offered the wet and dry food combinations in two (naïve and experienced) diet selection phases where all the foods were offered simultaneously. This was separated by a phase in which the foods were offered in pairs (1 wet with 1 dry) sequentially in 3-day cycles. The findings showed that the cats achieved the same balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate intake when provided with pairs of foods over 3 day cycles as they did when offered all the foods simultaneously. Importantly, this macronutrient balance was remarkably consistent across all experiments despite the very different food combinations offered.
The proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrate selected by the cats were in line with previous findings published in the Journal of Experimental Biology in 2011 showing that cats have a dietary macronutrient intake target of approximately 52% of their daily calorie intake from protein, 36% from fat and 12% from carbohydrate. These are similar to values reported for feral cats, indicating that domestic cats have retained the capacity to regulate macronutrient intake to closely match the "natural" diet of their wild ancestors.
Commenting on the impact of the research, study author and WALTHAM® scientist, Dr. Adrian Hewson-Hughes noted: "This research has important implications for owners as it shows that cats are able to select and combine wet and dry foods to achieve their target intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate. In terms of products currently on the market, wet foods typically have higher proportions of protein and fat, while dry foods have a higher carbohydrate content."
Dr. Hewson-Hughes continued: "Providing cats with a combination of both wet and dry foods enables them to not only mix a diet in line with their preferred macronutrient target, but also express their desire to sample different foods."
WALTHAM® is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of companion animals. This research forms part of a wider programme of ongoing collaborative research into the feeding behaviour of cats and dogs.
The research has been published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology B and is available online here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00360-012-0727-y/fulltext.html
About the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition:
The WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition is a leading scientific authority in pet nutrition and wellbeing and has been advancing the frontiers of scientific research into the nutrition and health of companion animals for nearly 50 years. Located in Leicestershire, England, the renowned state-of-the-art science institute focuses on the nutritional and behavioural needs of companion animals and their benefits to humans, enabling the development of innovative products which meet these needs in a practical way. WALTHAM® has pioneered many important breakthroughs in pet nutrition, and in collaboration with the world's foremost scientific institutes, supports leading Mars brands such as WHISKAS®, PEDIGREE®, NUTRO®, TRILL®, CESAR®, SHEBA®, KITEKAT®, AQUARIAN®, WINERGY® and the ROYAL CANIN brand.
For more information, please visit www.waltham.com.
About Mars, Incorporated:
In 1911, Frank C. Mars made the first Mars candies in his Tacoma, Washington kitchen and established Mars' 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 net sales of more than $30 billion, six business segments including Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks, Symbioscience, and more than 70,000 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®, KITEKAT®, BANFIELD® Pet Hospital and NUTRO®; 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 ROASTERS™, THE BRIGHT TEA COMPANY™, KLIX® and FLAVIA®; Symbioscience – COCOAVIA®, WISDOM PANEL™ and SERAMIS®.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Abigail Stevenson, Head of Value Transfer, WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition
Tel: +44 1664 415 400 Email: Abigail.Stevenson@effem.com
Journal of Comparative Physiology B