- Combination of wet and dry foods allows cats to meet macronutrient needs.
- Study corroborates previous research with domesticated and feral cats.
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, according to the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition.
Published recently 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 pet center, which supports the Mars Petcare brands, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Sydney in Australia and the Institute of Natural Sciences at Massey University in 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 (naive and experienced) diet selection phases where all of the foods were offered simultaneously, the announcement said. This was separated by a phase in which the foods were offered in pairs of one wet with one dry food sequentially in three-day cycles.
The WALTHAM center said the findings showed that the cats achieved the same balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate intake when provided with pairs of foods over the three-day cycles as they did when offered all of the foods simultaneously.
What is important is that 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, WALTHAM noted.
These are similar to values reported for feral cats, indicating that domesticated 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 said, "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.
"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," Hewson-Hughes added.
The WALTHAM pet center, located in Leicestershire, England, has been involved in scientific research into the nutrition and health of pets for nearly 50 years. The state-of-the-art institute focuses on the nutritional and behavioral needs of pets and their benefits to people, enabling the development of innovative products that meet these needs in a practical way.