By Dr. Becker
Recently researchers at the University of California-Davis published the results of a very interesting study that provides additional evidence of the importance of high moisture content in feline diets.
How the Study Was Conducted
The purpose of the UC Davis study was to determine how the water content in food affects the amount cats eat and their body weight.
Ten young, healthy, intact male cats were the subjects of the study.
For at least six months prior to the experiment, all cats were fed the same control diet of dry cat food.
Then two months before the study began, the general health and body weight of each cat was evaluated and their food intake measured.
Right before the study commenced, each cat was assessed to determine lean body mass, fat body mass and total body water.
The kitties were divided into two groups.
During the first part of the study, one group was fed a commercially available canned cat food with high moisture content.
The other group was fed a dry diet with low moisture content consisting of a freeze-dried version of the same canned food.
This was done to insure the diets contained virtually the same nutrient composition.
After three weeks, all the cats were put back on the control diet for three more weeks (called a washout period), and then the two groups were fed the alternate diet for another three weeks. (In other words, the group one cats got the freeze-dried food and the group two cats were fed the canned food.)
For most of each day during the study the cats were free-fed, and fresh water was available at all times. Food intake was measured daily.
Six additional young, healthy, intact male cats were the subjects of short duration palatability studies during the same time period. These kitties were offered two diets at the same time and their choices and food intake were recorded. The palatability tests were conducted multiple times to compare various canned and freeze-dried diets and the dry control diet.
Consumption of the canned food resulted in less food eaten and a decrease in body weight.
The researchers consider this to be a significant finding since there were no such results when the cats ate either the freeze-dried or control diet after the two-month pre-study period or after the washout period.
Body composition (lean body mass, fat body mass and total body water) of the cats did not change during the various experiments.
The UC-Davis researchers concluded canned (wet) diets result in cats voluntarily eating less and a corresponding reduction in body weight. Further, nutritional content and digestibility are not compromised, which is a big concern with low fat/weight loss dry cat food formulas.
The six cats in the palatability studies "greatly preferred" the canned (wet) diets to either of the other diets.
These study results make perfect sense.
Cats in the wild don't have problems with overweight or obesity. They hunt and eat the prey nature tells them to – prey that contains nutrients vital to their survival, including a high percentage of water.
It stands to reason that when the kitties in the UC-Davis study were fed food closer in digestibility and nutrient content to a species-appropriate diet, they needed fewer calories to feel full. They lost weight naturally without compromising healthy body composition.
Are You Still Feeding Dry Food to Your Cat?
I can't emphasize enough the importance of transitioning any cat still eating kibble to a canned food diet, and then hopefully, to a balanced, species-appropriate raw diet.
Regular readers here at Mercola Healthy Pets probably think I'm obsessed with this subject … and I am. I think many of the health problems pets suffer from today are a direct result of the processed convenience food they've been eating for several decades.
I don't think dogs should be fed kibble either, but for cats it's an even more potentially dangerous situation. There is little to nothing about dry cat food that is species-appropriate nutrition for felines, and the lack of moisture is especially detrimental.
So if you're still feeding dry food to your kitty, I strongly recommend you do a nice, slow transition from dry food to canned.
Many cats are picky eaters. Others are addicted to a certain type of poor quality pet food. There is a right way and a wrong way to transition your kitty from dry food to a more nutritious diet, and you can find the details in my two-part video series How to Win the Healthy Food Battle with Your Fussy Feline.
Perhaps your kitty is overweight, which many kitties are these days thanks in part to low quality, 'low fat' dry food diets loaded with fiber -- an entirely species-inappropriate ingredient when it comes to felines. My video titled Valuable Tips for Helping Your Heavy Cat can help you diet your cat down to a healthy weight very safely and slowly.