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Title:Nutritional evaluation of raw meat and whole prey diets for domestic and exotic cats
Author(s):Kerr, Katherine R.
Director of Research:Swanson, Kelly S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Fahey, George C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Swanson, Kelly S.; Dikeman, Cheryl L.; Parsons, Carl M.; Pan, Yuan-Xiang
Department / Program:Nutritional Sciences
Discipline:Nutritional Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):whole prey diets
raw meat diets
domestic feline
captive exotic feline
fecal fermentative end-products
Abstract:For captive exotic felids, the predominant diet types fed are raw meat-based and whole prey diets. These diet types are not the most common fed to domestic cats, but there has been increased interest in feeding alternative diet types, including raw and whole prey diets. There is a paucity of peer-reviewed literature examining nutrient composition, apparent total tract macronutrient digestibility, and bioavailability of raw meat-based and whole prey diets in felids. A majority of research pertaining to raw diets has focused on raw beef- and horsemeat-based diets, with little research focused on alternative protein sources (e.g., other species, whole prey diets) or other dietary ingredients (e.g., fiber sources and concentrations, micronutrients). The overall objective of this research was to evaluate raw meat and whole prey diets for use by domestic and captive exotic cats, including diet compositional analyses, and effects on blood metabolites, nutrient digestibility, N metabolism, microbiota composition, and fermentative end-products. Our first aim was to evaluate traditional (beef; horse) and alternative (bison; elk) protein sources for use in raw meat-based diets for captive exotic and domestic felids. Our second aim was to evaluate common fiber types and concentrations utilized in raw meat-based diets for captive exotic felids. We evaluated cellulose and beet pulp as fiber sources at 2 or 4% of the diet. Our third aim was to determine nutrient composition and digestibility of common whole prey items fed to captive exotic felids. Firstly, we compared apparent total tract macronutrient digestibility of whole-prey chicks, whole ground chicken, a chicken-based canned diet, and a chicken-based extruded diet. Our final study was performed to determine the nutrient composition of 20 commercially available protein sources used in raw meat-based and whole prey diets. In general, all diets were well utilized by all exotic and domestic felids, regardless of protein source, fiber type and concentration, or processing method. All animals were able to maintain body condition while being fed these raw meat-based or whole prey diets. Additionally, when fed raw meat-based, whole prey, or traditional canned or extruded diets, domestic cats maintained body weight (BW), N balance, and the majority of blood metabolites within reference ranges. In our first aim, we determined that traditional (beef trimmings; horse trimmings) and alternative (elk meat; bison trimmings) protein sources utilized in raw-meat based diets containing cellulose had high apparent total tract organic matter (OM) and crude protein (CP) digestibility (>85% and > 95%, respectively) in domestic and captive exotic cats, high standardized amino acid digestibility in roosters (total essential amino acid digestibility > 90%), and high amino acid scores (81 to 95). We also determined that while all raw meat-based diets were adequate sources of α-linolenic acid, none met the recommended levels of linoleic acid (NRC, 2006). Additional deficiencies were observed in total fat, EPA, DHA, and arachidonic acid concentrations. For our second aim, we demonstrated that increasing the inclusion of cellulose (2 vs. 4%), a non-fermentable fiber source, in place of beef trimmings, in the diets of captive exotic species decreased (P ≤ 0.05) apparent total tract OM digestibility (86% vs. 80%) without impacting apparent total tract CP digestibility (95%). Inclusion of beet pulp, a fermentable fiber, however, did not decrease apparent total tract OM digestibility (85 to 87%), but decreased (P ≤ 0.05) apparent total tract CP digestibility (93%) compared to cats fed cellulose (95%). Additionally, apparent total tract dry matter (DM), OM, fat, and gross energy digestibility decreased (P ≤ 0.05) linearly with BW independent of fiber type. Apparent total tract CP digestibility decreased (P ≤ 0.05) linearly with BW when exotic cats were fed beet pulp, but not when fed cellulose. Exotic cats fed diets containing beet pulp had decreased (P ≤ 0.05) fecal pH and fecal DM, and increased (P ≤ 0.05) fecal score, fecal volume, and fecal short- and branched-chain fatty acids, and ammonia concentrations compared to cats fed diets containing cellulose. In the first study of our third aim, we observed that when comparing apparent total tract OM digestibilities in traditional canned (86 to 87%) and extruded (86 to 88%) diets, whole ground chicken excluding feathers was highly digestible (94%), while whole 1 to 3 d-old chicks had lower digestibility (83 to 85%). In the final study, we observed that all whole prey contained adequate concentrations of CP, and a majority had adequate concentrations of amino acids; however, taurine concentrations were low in whole prey rabbits. Additionally, a majority of whole prey samples had mineral (K, Na, Cl, Mg, Cu, Mn, Zn) concentrations below AAFCO (2012) recommendations for domestic cats. Zoo staff and owners have a responsibility to provide proper nutrition of animals in their charge by supplying the dietary nutrients necessary for cellular repair, growth, and health management; however, the ability of raw meat-based and whole prey diets to meet feline nutrient requirements has been understudied. This research identified important deficiencies in essential fatty acids, minerals, and amino acids in whole prey and raw meat ingredients. Additionally, we elucidated the role of fiber type and concentration in raw meat-based diets of domestic cats and large and small exotic felids. Undoubtedly, the investigations herein uncovered differences in composition and digestibility that will have important implications for diet formulation in domestic and captive exotic felids.
Issue Date:2012-06-27
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Katherine R. Kerr
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-06-28
Date Deposited:2012-05

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