Raw meat diet may not be enough for cats or tigers

Animal scientists say a raw meat diet is a good source of protein for cats, but pet owners may need to supplement with other nutrients.

In a new paper in the , researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium analyzed the value of raw meat diets for cats and exotic felids. The researchers used several tests to evaluate the nutrients in meat from bison, cattle, horses and elk.

To test how the different diets affected cats, the researchers collected and fecal samples from and captive African wildcats, jaguars and Malayan tigers. The researchers also used cecectomized roosters to analyze amino acid digestibility in the different diets. Cecectomized roosters have had an organ called the cecum removed, which allows scientists to better analyze amino acids in their waste.

They found that raw meat diets met many nutrient requirements for cats, but there were some gaps. None of the diets contained the recommended levels of linoleic acid, the horsemeat did not provide the levels of arachidonic acid recommended for , gestating females and lactating females.

This research is important for animal scientists, zoos and pet owners.

The researchers explain that captive tigers, jaguars and African wildcats were traditionally fed horsemeat-based raw diets.

"With the closing of horse abattoirs in 2007, the availability of quality grade horsemeat in the United States has decreased, increasing the need for research on the digestibility and composition of possible alternatives," write the researchers.

There is also a growing trend of raw meat diets for domestic housecats. Kelly Swanson, associate professor in animal science at the University of Illinois and coauthor of the study, said the researchers are "a bit wary" of pet owners feeding homemade raw diets. He said pet owners risk exposing cats to increased pathogens and nutrient imbalances.

Pet owners often feed trimmed cuts of meat. These cuts lack fat, which is crucial in feline diets. According to the researchers, if feed raw meat diets, they will likely have to supplement it with other nutrients, including appropriate sources of fat and essential fatty acids.

A high-protein diet can also change the types of microbes in the gut. The researchers write that increased protein fermentation in the bowel may lead to more "odiferous" feces, depending on the digestibility of the protein.

Joe Taft, director and founder of The Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, IN, said he feeds raw meat to the 225 large cats at the center.

"We feed the cats meat with hide and fat and bone still on it," said Taft.

Taft aims to recreate their wild diet, but he also makes changes to keep cats healthy. with renal problems are given chicken, which is lower in protein. Taft also gives the felines vitamin supplements.

Taft said that though felines will eat "ripe" meat, his staff makes sure their raw meat is as fresh as possible. This caution can reduce the risk of pathogens in the meat.

The researchers recommend future studies on sources of fiber in diets. They also recommend studies on the concentration and digestibility of in different raw meats.

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Journal information: Journal of Animal Science

Provided by American Society of Animal Science
Citation: Raw meat diet may not be enough for cats or tigers (2013, February 19) retrieved 16 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-02-raw-meat-diet-cats-tigers.html
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Feb 20, 2013
This study is absurd. It assumes that the cats are being fed ONLY raw meat without any other ingredients or supplements. It obviously is a goal-directed study.

Feb 20, 2013
I do not recommend any of these meat sources for my domestic cat owner clients. The chicken, turkey, rabbit, quail, or cornish game hen needs to supplemented with trace minerals and additional taurine.I do not think these researchers should be making assumptions about trimmed meats and fat shortages about raw foods in general. This is irresponsible. Cats do not like "ripe" meats, at least the domestic cats I know, they have special taste buds and an aversion to "ripe" meat. Domestic cats like the fresh good meats! Furthermore, raw food safety is about proper sourcing and proper handling. IMO this is a short sighted study and waste of research money. I wonder who supplied the research dollars??? I do agree further research in cat nutrition is needed and should not be funded by the pet food industry.

Feb 25, 2013
rod and ron, thank you for your hysterical, non-sensical, and anencephalic commments. you both sound like fine, accomplished individuals, albeit highly biased and emotional. did either of you Einsteins read the study? do you understand the purpose of reseach? do you know the purpose of the study and the conclusions drawn? rod, by what means is the study "absurd"? is it because it allegedly offends your unsubstantiated ideas of what cats should eat? please cite the knowledge base from which you conclude such. and do you realize that all research is "goal-directed". ron, what "special taste buds" do domestic cats harbor? please define. what is "ripe" meat? is that a technical term? please define. how do you know that cats like "fresh, good meats"? do you talk to cats? do you realize that neither turkey, chicken, quail, rabbit nor cornish game meats were a part of the study? why would you comment on such? do you realize the role of cecectomized roosters in digestion studies?

Feb 25, 2013
Piet first politely identify yourself and you are absolutely right the original article is worse then this summary indicates. It is proven that domestic cats pick up the amino acids released during the putrefaction process. "Ripe" is the term for partially rotten meat in the original article. No large or small cat should be fed this garbage. This article references trimmings of meat sources not commonly used for feeding domestic cats raw meat. All raw meat diets need vitamin and mineral supplements. Not including the above mentioned meats means the researchers should not have categorized all raw meat sources together in their limited meat source study. As a cat veterinarian I do observe what cats like to eat or not like to eat. It is my obligation to do so. Also it is my obligation to my feline patients to watchdog studies like this that can be easily taken out of context by people like you.

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