Cats are notoriously finicky eaters, but our scientists at Waltham Petcare Science Institute are shedding light on their picky preferences. The research can help us improve our pet care products and the advice veterinary teams give pet parents. All in the name of supporting our purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS.
Check out the highlights of our fascinating findings!
Cats know their macros.
In one study, Waltham Petcare Science Institute scientists found that when given the choice, cats will consistently select food that’s nutritionally similar to their natural prey, like mice and birds. The results tell us that healthy pet cats instinctively regulate the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates they consume.
Another study revealed that while flavor is initially important, cats ultimately choose their food based on nutrition. The study confirms that, over time, cats learn about the fat and protein content in their food and adjust their intake to reach a target ratio of these nutrients.
"It’s particularly remarkable that, even after thousands of years of domestication, when given the opportunity cats still select a diet nutritionally similar to their natural prey,” says Dr. Richard Butterwick, Global Nutrition Advisor at Waltham.
So even though your feline friend might spend her days lounging in the sun, she still needs to feed her inner hunter.
Finicky feline seniors prefer their food warm, thank you very much.
For fussy older felines, insights from a new Waltham study may make mealtime easier. And the solution is simple: Just warm their food above room temperature. As cats age, their sense of taste and smell are thought to decline, which likely impacts appetite. In our study, warming the food made a significant difference to the amount of food they ate. And that’s great news for helping older cats get the nutrition they need for better health.
“Part of the study helped us understand how the food and its aroma change as it was heated. We found, for example, that heat released more sulphur-containing compounds. From previous studies, we know these compounds are extremely important in meat flavor – so they might make the difference to the pets,” says Dr. Scott McGrane, Research Manager at Waltham. “Also, cats may have evolved to prefer food at body temperature, which could indicate that their ‘prey’ is fresh or has been recently caught.”
Warm cat food for the win!
Cats can’t taste sweet. But they love Japanese cuisine!
You’re likely familiar with the four basic tastes in food: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. But did you know cats can’t taste sweet? In one study, our researchers found that, unlike most mammals, cats may be genetically unable to detect sweetness. But our research also shows cats can taste (and love!) a fifth flavor profile, umami – that savory taste of cooked meats and broths. What’s more, they can taste kokumi, often used as a taste enhancer in Japanese food. Kokumi is described as “mouthfulness, heartiness and thickness,” giving that satisfying sensation of butter and fats coating the tongue and mouth.
What do these findings tell us? Dr. Anni Laffitte, Senior Research Scientist at Waltham, explains.
We love pets, so we’re putting our expertise and science toward creating nutritionally balanced, appealing meals to help keep cats healthy,” she says. “Also, if cats devour their daily meals, there’s less waste from leftovers. As we constantly strive to reduce our environmental footprint at Mars, we’re also looking at how we can create tasty, nutritious pet food that’s also sustainable through new products, such as Lovebug, which is made from insects.”
We’re picky about feeding our feline foodies!
At Mars, we want to better understand pets’ needs through science, so we go directly to the source – pets! And we take pride in sharing our key findings, helping pets around the world benefit from our work. Stay tuned for more eye-opening stories about our pet care science.