Posted at 12 July 2018

Cats are obligate carnivores adapted to high-protein diets, but are commonly fed diets rich in carbohydrate. The aim of this study was to examine the food intake choices of cats when diets with different protein and carbohydrate contents were offered. Thirty-nine cats participated in voluntary dietary intake studies.

Four foods were formulated to provide between 24% and 53% of metabolizable energy as protein, between 43% and 11% as carbohydrate and holding dietary fat constant with a contribution of approximately 36%. Foods were offered either singly to evaluate voluntary food intake or in pairs to compare food intake between pairs of diets. Cats regulated their macronutrient intake to attain an overall diet composition that provided 53% of metabolizable energy as protein, 11% as carbohydrate and 36% as fat. The protein contribution corresponded to approximately 6 g of protein/kg body weight/day.


High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets were always eaten preferentially over low-protein/high-carbohydrate foods. When low-protein/high-carbohydrate diets were offered, cats limited their food intake to limit daily carbohydrate intake to less than 3 g of carbohydrate/kg body weight. This carbohydrate ceiling may limit protein and even energy intake when only low-protein/high-carbohydrate diets were offered.

The inclusion of palatability enhancer in the diets increased food intake but did not change protein or carbohydrate intake patterns, indicating that macronutrient intake can be regulated regardless of the use of palatability enhancers in cats. Cats can discriminate between diets based on macronutrient composition and regulate their intake to maintain maximal protein intake but limit carbohydrate intake.

Authors: F. Salaun1, G. Blanchard2, L. Le Paih1, F. Roberti1 and C. Niceron1

1 Diana Pet Food, Elven, France,
2 Animal Nutrition Expertise SARL, Antony, France

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