Cats Adapt Food Selection To Meet Demands Of Lactation

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Cats Adapt Food Selection To Meet Demands Of Lactation

Research finds cats adapt protein, fat and carbohydrate intake to meet the changing demands of pregnancy and feeding a litter

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Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 6:00pm

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CONTENT: Press Release

October 3, 2013 /3BL Media/ - Lactating cats not only increase their total calorie consumption, they also significantly alter the make-up of their diet to meet the demands of feeding a litter, research from the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition has shown. The research provides intriguing insights into cats' feeding behaviour and strong evidence that they are able to adapt their macronutrient intake, i.e. their intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate, to meet their physiological requirements.

"It's no surprise that, just like humans, cats require more energy during pregnancy and when feeding their young. However, this research shows that lactating cats, particularly those with large litters, select their foods to alter the proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrate they consume", commented lead scientist Dr Adrian Hewson-Hughes, WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition. "If given the choice, cats with large litters will significantly alter their diet composition when feeding kittens to ensure a much greater proportion of energy is obtained from fat."

In the study, seventeen adult female cats were offered a choice of three nutritionally-complete wet foods with different proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrate. During pregnancy, the cats significantly increased their total energy intake, and the amounts of protein and fat consumed also increased linearly. When lactating, the cats with large litters of four or five kittens further increased their energy intake, consuming a significantly higher proportion of energy from fat and reducing the proportion of energy from protein and carbohydrate. Total fat intake tripled for the cats feeding large litters, and doubled for cats with smaller litters of one to three kittens.

Previous research has shown that non-reproducing adult cats with normal energy requirements have a limit to the amount of carbohydrate they will consume in a day (Hewson-Hughes et al. 2011). Specifically, cats' "carbohydrate ceiling" was found to be approximately 20g of carbohydrate per day. The present study expanded on these findings and showed that, while cats increased their intake of protein and fat during pregnancy and lactation, their carbohydrate intake did not exceed this limit of 20g per day. The research therefore shows that cats' "carbohydrate ceiling" still applies during the increased physiological demands of gestation and lactation.

The study was conducted by scientists from the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition, the state-of-the-art science institute for Mars Petcare, and the University of Aberdeen. It was presented at the WALTHAM® International Nutritional Sciences Symposium (WINSS), taking place from 1–4 October in Portland, Oregon, USA. WINSS brings together leading experts in the fields of nutritional and veterinary science to address critical issues in the field of pet health and nutrition.

The study forms part of a wider body of WALTHAM® research examining the feeding behaviour and nutritional needs of cats. It builds on previous WALTHAM® research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology showing that, if given the opportunity, adult cats will consistently compose a diet that is high in protein and fat.

 

References:
Hewson-Hughes, A. et al. Geometric analysis of macronutrient selection in the adult domestic cat, Felis catus.Journal of Experimental Biology 15, 1039-51 (2011).

Hewson-Hughes, A. et al. Consistent proportional macronutrient intake selected by adult domestic cats (Felis catus) despite variations in macronutrient and moisture content of foods offered. Journal of Comparative Physiology B 183, 525-36 (2013).

 

About the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition
Celebrating 50 years of innovative science, the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition serves as a leading scientific authority in advancing the frontiers of research into the nutrition and health of companion animals. Located in Leicestershire, England, the renowned state-of-the-art science institute for Mars Petcare generates knowledge that enables the development of innovative products that meet pets’ needs in a practical way. Since the publication of its first original research in 1963, WALTHAM® has pioneered many important breakthroughs in the field of pet nutrition and human-animal interaction, resulting in more than 1,700 publications, including over 600 peer-review scientific papers. Today, WALTHAM® continues to collaborate with the world’s foremost scientific institutes, driving Mars Petcare’s Vision to make A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS® and providing the science and expertise that underpins leading Mars Petcare brands such as WHISKAS®, PEDIGREE®, NUTRO®, TRILL®, CESAR®, SHEBA®, DREAMIES®, AQUARIAN®, WINERGY®, BANFIELD Pet Hospital® and the ROYAL CANIN® brand.

About Mars, Incorporated
In 1911, Frank C. Mars made the first Mars candies in his Tacoma, Washington kitchen and established Mars’ first 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 $33 billion, six business segments including Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks, Symbioscience, and more than 72,000 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, NUTRO®, SHEBA®, DREAMIES® and CESAR®; 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 coffee, THE BRIGHT TEA CO.® tea, DOVE®/GALAXY® Hot Chocolate, and FLAVIA® brewer; Symbioscience – COCOAVIA®, WISDOM PANEL® and SERAMIS®.

For more information, please visit www.mars.com.  Follow us: facebook.com/mars, twitter.com/marsglobal, youtube.com/mars.

 

Abridged Q&A
1. What was the nature of this research - what was found? 
The research provides intriguing new insights into cats' feeding behaviour. It shows that not only will cats increase their calorie consumption to meet the changing demands of pregnancy and feeding a litter, they are also able to adapt the make-up of their diet, adjusting their intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate.

2. Why do this research?
The WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition is committed to pursuing collaborative research to advance understanding of pet health and nutrition. This study builds on previous WALTHAM® research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology demonstrating that, if given the opportunity, adult cats will consistently compose a diet that is high in protein and fat. This recent work adds to our current understanding by demonstrating that cats are able to adapt this target in response to the changing demands of pregnancy and feeding kittens.

3. Why are these findings important? 
The research shows that not only will cats increase their calorie consumption to meet the changing demands of pregnancy and feeding a litter, they are also able to adapt their intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate. The research provides intriguing insights into cat's feeding behaviour and strong evidence that they are able to adapt their macronutrient intake to meet their physiological requirements.

4. Does feeding cats a diet in line with their preferred macronutrient target have any health benefits?
This research provides us with the knowledge that cats are able to adapt the composition of their diet to meet the changing physiological demands of pregnancy and feeding kittens. There is currently no evidence linking the diet selected by cats in this study with any health benefits.  

5. What should owners do in light of these findings?
This research provides us with the knowledge that cats are able to adapt the composition of their diet to meet the changing physiological demands of pregnancy and feeding kittens. However, there is no evidence that a diet formulated to provide the levels of protein, fat and carbohydrate selected by the cats in this study is any better for their health. Mars provides a range of foods that are designed to provide complete and balanced nutrition for cats during pregnancy and when feeding their kittens.

6. Are Mars pet foods made in line with this target?
All Mars pet foods are designed to provide complete and balanced nutrition for cats based on the latest scientific knowledge. This research provides us with the understanding that cats are able to adapt the composition of their diet to meet the physiological demands of pregnancy and feeding kittens. However, there is no evidence that this is linked to health.

7. Does WALTHAM® have plans to continue research in this field?
There are currently no plans to pursue further research on this topic. However, the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition is committed to pursuing collaborative research to advance understanding of pet health and nutrition. This work forms part of a wider body of research examining the feeding behaviour and nutritional needs of cats.

8. Was the study conducted in line with established animal and human welfare guidelines?
Yes. The study was reviewed and approved by the WALTHAM® Ethical Review Committee.

 

Abstract – Oral Presentation
Macronutrient intake regulation during gestation and lactation in domestic cats

Adrian Hewson-Hughes
Introduction
We previously described a macronutrient intake target in adult domestic cats. If the amounts of macronutrients eaten are to meet the metabolic requirements of the animal then the intake target should change in response to physiological demands of the animal. Here we investigated whether macronutrient intake changed during gestation and lactation in cats.

Materials Methods
Seventeen adult female cats were offered a choice of 3 different wet foods (% metabolizable energy from protein/fat/carbohydrate for each food: 42/24/34; 70/25/5; 41/55/4; all nutritionally complete for gestation/lactation) in separate bowls throughout gestation and lactation. A mixed model was fitted for 7 measures (energy intake (kJ); protein, fat and carbohydrate intake (g and % energy)) in each phase (gestation, lactation) with day, day2, litter size (small = 1-3, large = 4-5 kittens) and their interactions as fixed effects and cat as the random effect. The threshold p-value for statistical significance was corrected to 0.05/14 = 0.003571.

Results
Protein, fat and total energy intake increased significantly with no effect of litter size during gestation. A significant effect of litter size was seen on total energy intake during lactation (0.001). Protein intake in lactation increased from 28.3g (95% confidence interval 24, 33.4) to 50.7g (43.1, 59.6) in cats with small litters and from 44.6g (39.4, 50.6) to 79.8g (70.5, 90.4) in cats with large litters. Fat intake doubled during lactation from 9.2g (7.3, 11.7) to 18.4g (14.5, 23.3) in cats with small litters but tripled in those with large litters from 14.6g (12.2, 17.5) to 43.4g (36.3, 52). During lactation the % energy from fat selected in the diet significantly increased while % energy intake from protein and carbohydrate declined.

Discussion Conclusion
These data confirm that the energy demands of lactation were greater than gestation particularly as the number of offspring to support increased. In response to these changing energy demands cats altered their macronutrient intake accordingly, progressively shifting towards composing a diet providing a greater proportion of energy from fat.

Contact: 
Jeanette Fielding
Global Director Communications
Mars Petcare 
T: +32 491961941 
E: jeanette.fielding@effem.com

Contact

Ryan Bowling
+1-0019089141702
Mars, incorporated
Keywords: Pharma News, Research & Solutions | Mars Incorporated | Pharma News, Research & Solutions | Research & Policy | Reserach findings | Waltham | Waltham International Nutritional Sciences Symposium (WINSS) | cats | diet | nutrition

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