May 29, 2014
How Much Food Does Your Cat Really Need? More During Winter Months, Less In The Summer
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Most pet owners feed their animals the same amount of food every day, regardless of the season. A new study from the University of Liverpool, however, reveals that this might not be the right strategy for our feline friends.
The findings, published in PLOS ONE, show that cats eat more during the winter in the wild, so owners should feed them accordingly.
A team of researchers from the University of Liverpool's School of Veterinary Science worked with the Royal Canin Research Center in France. Together, they spent four years monitoring the eating habits of 38 cats with microchips in their collars to determine how much the cats chose to eat. The research team discovered that during the winter, the cats' food intake increased.
The microchip allowed the cats to take as much food as they wanted from a dispenser that would only open with the chip. The chip also recorded when the cat ate and how much.
According to Dr. Alex German, University of Liverpool veterinarian: "Cats, like many humans are more inclined to comfort eat when it's cold outside but, in their case, it's likely to be due to the extra energy they need to keep warm when out and about."
During the summer, cats were found to consume about 15 percent less than they do during the winter months. The researchers believe the different activity levels required during these seasons — the extra effort needed to keep warm in the winter, and the temptation to be lazy due to the heat of summer — made the difference.
The cats, which were of mixed breed, age and gender, live at a center in southern France where they have the opportunity to play and exercise outside all year round. Food intake data was compared to the local climate using computer modeling to determine the correlation between temperature fluctuations and consumption.
Previous studies have examined the food intake of farm animals, such as dairy cows, in order to determine new ways of increasing milk production. The current study, however, is the largest study yet undertaken with domestic cats.
Dr. German said, "People should consider the amount of food their cats need at different times of year as this can be part of helping them to maintain a healthy weight."
Before changing your cat's food intake, check with your veterinarian to learn the proper amounts needed by your individual pet.