A study has revealed that while flavour is important initially cats learn to choose their food based on nutrition rather than flavour. The study published in Royal Society Open Science confirms that over time cats learn about the fat and protein content in their food and regulate their intake to reach a target ratio of these nutrients.
Scientists at WALTHAM and the University of Sydney, Australia offered cats foods with various ratios of fat and protein flavoured with fish, rabbit or orange. When first presented with the foods, the cats showed a preference based on flavour. However, over time they learnt about the nutrient composition and selected foods in order to reach a target ratio of protein and fat, regardless of flavour.
Adrian Hewson-Hughes from the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition at Mars Petcare, and lead author of the study said the findings have implications for the development of foods for cats: “This research has enabled Mars Petcare to understand more about developing foods for cats with both appealing flavours and the appropriate nutrient composition that ensures cats continue to eat foods in the long-term. This in turn feeds into what we already know about nutrition – and through our brands such as WHISKAS, SHEBA and ROYAL CANIN we are committed to developing pet foods that first and foremost ensure cats have access to the right nutrition in a format they enjoy”.
The full paper is open access and available at: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.160081