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Feline fussy eaters? Cats pick and mix to achieve consistent intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate similar to diet of wild ancestors


WALTHAM®, UK - New research has found that cats will select and combine wet and dry foods to achieve a consistent intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate, i.e. macronutrient intake. Even when offered complex combinations of different foods, cats will regularly target an intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate that is similar to that of wild cats. The findings indicate that domestic cats have retained the capacity to regulate macronutrient intake to closely match the “natural” diet of their wild ancestors.

The research was conducted by scientists from the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition – the science centre underpinning Mars Petcare brands such as WHISKAS®, NUTRO® and ROYAL CANIN. It was undertaken in collaboration with scientists from the University of Sydney (Australia) and the Institute of Natural Sciences at Massey University (New Zealand).

“This research is important for owners as it shows that cats are able to select and combine foods to achieve their target intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate. In terms of products currently on the market, wet foods typically have higher proportions of protein and fat, while dry foods have a higher carbohydrate content,” commented Dr. Adrian Hewson-Hughes, study author and WALTHAM® scientist. “Providing cats with a combination of both wet and dry food enables cats to not only mix a diet in line with their preferred macronutrient target, but also express their desire to sample different foods.”

The experiments involved 4 wet foods and 4 dry foods which were offered to cats in different combinations across 3 experiments. Remarkably, the cats achieved the same balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate intake across all three experiments. This was despite the differences in the textures, moisture levels and macronutrient content of the foods offered, as well as the large number of bowls of food on offer.

The proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrate selected by the cats were in line with previous findings published in the Journal of Experimental Biology in 2011 showing that cats have a dietary macronutrient target of approximately 52% of their daily calorie intake from protein, 36% from fat and 12% from carbohydrate. These are similar to values previously reported for feral cats, indicating that domestic cats have retained the capacity to regulate macronutrient intake to closely match the “natural” diet of their wild ancestors.

WALTHAM® is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of companion animals. This research forms part of a wider programme of ongoing collaborative research into the feeding behaviour of cats and dogs.

The research has been published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology B and is available online here.

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

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About Mars, Incorporated:

In 1911, Frank C. Mars made the first Mars candies in his Tacoma, Washington kitchen and established Mars’ 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 $30 billion, six business segments including Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks, Symbioscience, and more than 70,000 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 And Nutro®; 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™, The Bright Tea Company™, Klix® And Flavia®; Symbioscience – Cocoavia®, Wisdom Panel™ And Seramis®.

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