WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition sheds new light on feeding behavior of domestic cats

24th February, 2011 — In the most extensive study of macronutrient regulation yet undertaken on any carnivore, scientists have found that healthy cats regulate the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrate they consume, i.e. their macronutrient intake. Researchers at the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition, the fundamental science centre supporting Mars Petcare brands such as WHISKAS® and ROYAL CANIN, have shown that cats consistently demonstrate a macronutrient target very close to that of their natural prey, such as mice and birds.

This research furthers understanding of the factors that influence the feeding behaviour of domestic cats and could have important implications for designing feeding regimes for companion animals. In terms of products currently on the market, wet foods are generally higher in protein and lower in carbohydrate and often very similar to the macronutrient intake selected by cats, while dry foods offer textural variety and may also benefit oral health.

Furthermore, this research adds to the growing appreciation that carnivores, like herbivores and omnivores, regulate macronutrient intake. Establishing that predators such as cats can regulate their intake of multiple nutrients – even after thousands of years of domestication – is a fundamental issue for nutritional ecology. “This is a fascinating discovery and we are intrigued to know more about why cats have the ability to do this,” commented lead study author Dr. Adrian Hewson-Hughes.

Over 100 adult domestic cats participated in a series of nine feeding studies over the course of two years. In these feeding studies, the cats were able to select food from three bowls, each containing a different diet that had varying predetermined levels of protein, fat and carbohydrate. The studies found that cats have an intake target that they will consistently select if given the opportunity.

This target was found to be approximately 26g/day for protein, 9g/day for fat and 8g/day for carbohydrate, which is within the National Research Council nutrient guidelines for cats (2006). This equates to approximately 52% of their daily calorie intake from protein, 36% from fat and 12% from carbohydrate. It was also found that cats have a carbohydrate ceiling of approximately 300kJ/day and once this level is reached further food intake is suppressed.

WALTHAM® intends to pursue further research in this area and will now focus on the selection of these key nutrients in other cat life-stages including gestation, lactation and growth, as well as in dogs.

The analysis of the data from these studies was carried out in collaboration with two leading scientists in this field, Professor Steve Simpson based at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Australia and Professor David Raubenheimer at the Institute of Natural Sciences, Massey University, New Zealand.

The research has been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology and is now available for free online: http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/content/full/214/6/1039

The print copy will appear on the 28th March 2011.

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 world leading scientific institutes, supports leading Mars brands such as WHISKAS®, PEDIGREE®, NUTRO®, TRILL®, CESAR®, SHEBA®, KITEKAT®, AQUARIAN®, WINERGY® and the ROYAL CANIN brand.

About Mars, Incorporated:

Mars, Incorporated is a private, family-owned company founded in 1911 and employs more than 65,000 associates at over 370 sites, in 72 countries worldwide. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, U.S.A., Mars, Incorporated is one of the world’s largest food companies, generating global sales of more than $30 billion annually and operating in six business segments: Chocolate, Petcare, Wrigley Gum and Confections, Food, Drinks, and Symbioscience.

For more information, please visit www.mars.com

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Abigail Stevenson, Head of Value Transfer, WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition

Tel: +44 1664 415 409

Email: Abigail.Stevenson@effem.com

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