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Cats are unique, complicated creatures. Researchers are continuously doing studies to learn more about cats. Professionals shared the results of some of these studies at the Petfood Forum in Kansas City on September 24, 2021.
Aging in domestic cats; a lifelong study
Like humans, domestic cats and dogs also live longer.
“It is not uncommon for a cat to live up to 17 years of age and life expectancies are similar for smaller dogs,” said Emma Birmingham of AgResearch Ltd Care. “
Birmingham presented their research from a lifelong study of aging in domestic cats. She said extending the lifespan of pets comes with risks – more common health issues like obesity, sarcopenia, and diabetes. More than 40% of pets are considered obese today.
Birmingham’s study looked at the effects of diet on the cat’s microbiome to understand if there were long-term effects on the cat’s health. The study compared commercial cat food – a high quality extruded kibble – to a canned product.
The study found a trend that cats fed extruded food were heavier than cats fed canned food from the age of 1 year. This is partly due to the fact that cats fed extruded food stop losing / gaining weight by age 7 due to seasonal changes. Birmingham said the study suggests older cats may be able to tolerate high levels of excess energy or dietary carbohydrates less.
In cats fed extruded food, protein digestibility increases after 1 year of age and then remains constant. In cats fed canned food, digestibility is more constant throughout the cat’s life.
“In conclusion, we have seen a number of changes in cats with age and diet certainly plays a role,” said Birmingham. “It appears to be eight years old when the cat undergoes a physiological change.”
The enjoyment of cat feeding informs about the preference of the food components
AFB International conducted a study to better understand how individual components of a whole meal affect how cats enjoy eating, and a follow-up study to determine whether cats prefer to lick their meals. Chris Wildman, Senior Manager of the Custom Engagement Team, presented the results.
“Enjoying food offers an individual dimension of taste performance and can lead to product improvements and help us understand what a comfortable eating experience is for cats,” said Wildman.
Cats have been observed to lick gravy but leave chunks behind. AFB investigated why cats prefer sauce over chunks, looking at the initial attraction and continued interest. The study found that anything with sauce was preferred and continued interest. Chunks appeared appealing and were likely addressed first, but interest didn’t persist.
The follow-up study found that cats consumed slightly more compound feed than the original forms because they were easier to eat. But primitive forms kept cats more than mixed up and a lot of it consisted of licking the sauce.
Potential Benefits of Choline Supplementation in Cats
Obesity is a huge problem for the pet population, said Alexandra Rankovic, a graduate student at the University of Welf. Approximately 60% of US cats are overweight. Feline hepatic lipidosis is the most common liver disease in cats in North America and is most commonly caused by anorexia.
Choline is an essential nutrient found in eggs, wheat germ, soybean meal, and offal. It can also be a supplement in pet food.
The currently published requirements for choline intake range from 2,040 to 2,550 mg / kg TS. Animals at risk for choline deficiency include those on unconventional / home-made diets, restricted diets, obesity or weight loss, and growing animals.
Rankovic and colleagues conducted three studies on the subject of choline. The first study looked at adding more choline five times over the required range for obese cats. Research has shown that supplementing obese cats with additional choline can help eliminate liver fat and increase the breakdown and mobilization of fat.
The second study looked at choline supplementation in post-neutered kittens when free-fed for 12 weeks. Choline reduced food intake, body weight, and fat gain in growing kittens. Choline above the minimum required levels can help reduce the risk of obesity in neutered kittens.
The third study looked at the response to choline doses in overweight cats. The aim of the study was to determine the minimally effective choline dose to promote fat utilization in overweight cats. The results of the study suggest that dieting six and eightfold choline in overweight cats may increase liver fat transport, improve liver health and function, and improve amino acid balance.
Jim Winter is the Digital Content Director at WATT Global Media.