It is not just cows and pigs getting attention at JAM2013 in Indianapolis, Ind., this week. As part of the George C. Fahey Companion Animal Symposium, A. Verbrugghe of the Ontario Veterinary College discussed the metabolic flexibility of cats. She explained that as obligate carnivores, cats' natural diet of small prey animals has led them to have unique nutritional requirements, such as taurine, arginine and arachidonic acid. Originally, cats consumed a diet that was high in protein, moderate in fat and low in carbohydrates, but most commercial diets for cats are high in carbos. Verbrugghe said cats may be ill equipped to deal with dietary carbs, which can lead to problems with obesity and diabetes mellitus.
Verbrugghe explained that carbs are not nutritionally essential for cats, but they do metabolize carbs similarly to other mammals. There are some key differences, though, such as not having a sweet sensory system, mainly relying on pancreatic amylase and having a limited relative length of the small intestine but greater absorptive surface area comparted to other species.
Verbrugghe concluded that in feline nutrition, more attention needs to be paid to normalizing cat owners' perception of a normal cat body size and feeding behavior than on specific macronutrients in the diet.