The cats were placed in their individual cages only during mealtimes so that the researchers could accurately monitor their food intake. During the activity monitoring times, the cats had limited interaction with people.
The researchers evaluated the cats' food anticipatory activity (FAA), which included the activity of each cat two hours before meals were given. During the dry kibble experiment, they noticed that the cats were much more active during those anticipatory times, especially those fed four meals per day and those given meals at random times.
"If they know they are going to get fed, that's when they are really active, if they can anticipate it," Swanson said.
The cats showed an even greater spike in physical activity in the second experiment when they were fed meals with the added water. However, Swanson said the biggest difference in peak activity times with this group occurred in the periods after they had eaten. He added that the researchers had not determined why this was, though factors such as increased use of the litter box, for example, could have come into play.
"I think veterinarians will be interested in this information because it gives them evidence to be able to recommend something to pet owners that could help with feline obesity and diabetes," Swanson said. "When cats are allowed to feed ad libitum, it's difficult to prevent obesity. It is important to identify the right diet. Many owners are accustomed to dumping a pile of food out for multiple cats, just once per day.
"The owner does have an active role in helping with weight management," he added.
Owners often overfeed their cats, assuming that the small amount of food needed isn't going to fill their cat or dog. "Because most pet foods are so digestible and nutrient dense, owners s
|Contact: Kelly Swanson|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences