There are many kinds of pet food on the market, and it is difficult for people to make choices for their favorite pets. A study analyzed pets’ nutritional preferences and found what they really needed.
The study recruited 17 healthy dogs and 27 healthy cats. The researchers conducted a 28-day observation of them. Every day, every dog and cat faces four nutritious foods: high-fat, high-carbohydrate, high-protein, and balanced foods. The most important thing is that these foods have the same degree of deliciousness. Therefore, animals will choose according to their nutritional needs rather than their taste preferences. Every day researchers also change the location of food to prevent animals from preferring certain bowls and affect the results of the study.
Dogs eat one hour a day and eat as much as they like. Cats can always eat food, but they have limited calorie intake every day. This calorie restriction is to ensure that these animals gain the energy needed to maintain metabolism and body weight.
In the end, 41% of calories in dogs were derived from fat, and 36% came from carbohydrates, while 43% of cats were from carbohydrates and 30% from protein. This result is contrary to what people generally think is that cats need a lot of protein. This difference may be due to the different tastes of foods used in previous studies. In this study, cats actually eat more protein while dogs eat more fat. However, the ratio of calories consumed daily by cats and dogs is not the highest.
Jean Hall, a professor at Oregon State University’s Carlson Veterinary College, said: “The results of the study are contrary to popular belief. Some experts have suggested that cats need to have 40% or 50% protein in their daily diet. Our research results are different from the market, which will change the pet food industry.”
The age of pets and their muscle mass also influence their dietary preferences. Young cats have less muscle and they like proteins better than older cats. In contrast, young dogs eat the least protein, and dogs with higher body fats consume most of their calories from protein. Old cats don’t break down proteins very well, which means they can’t eat too much protein because their bodies can’t stand it. It is best for old cat owners to choose less protein for them.
The study believes that animals will choose the best food for them when they have a choice. It is difficult to say whether their food preferences necessarily mean more nutritious. Some animals eat something that is not always good for them (for example, dogs always like to eat chocolate). In the future, pet health research needs to be done.