The effects of ad libitum feeding of low- or high-palatable feed on the physical activity, bodyweight and feeding patterns of domestic cats.
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Obesity has become one of the most common disorders in companion animals with a 25% prevalence in some western countries. Obese cats have a much higher risk to develop serious illnesses like diabetes mellitus and hepatic lipidosis. Several risk factors have been known to facilitate the development of obesity, for example: neutering or underestimation of body condition by the owner. This study will focus on 3, still widely discussed, possible risk factors: an ad libitum feeding regime, physical activity and palatability. The aim will be to look for effects of ad libitum feeding with a low- (LP) or high-palatable (HP) diet on the physical activity, bodyweight and feeding patterns of domestic cats. And if the results of this study can help owners with controlling their cat’s bodyweight. Sixteen domestic shorthair cats were used. Each week two cats started the 3 week long course. The 1st and 3rd week were control weeks. The 2nd week was the test week where the cats had access to their personal feeding station with ad libitum either LP or HP food in it and feeding parameters were measured. Activity was monitored during all 3 weeks. Food intake was higher for the HP diet when compared to the LP diet (P=0.043). And number of meals increased as the days progressed (P=0.013). Total feeding time, average meal time and intake/requirement ratio had possible trends but variation between cats was too big. Both the HP and LP diet showed a lower activity count compared to the first control week (P=0.01 and P<0.001 respectively), the LP diet was also lower than control week 2 (P=0.003). The type of week (Control week 1, Control week 2, HP diet or LP diet), day of week and clock hour all had a significant interaction on activity counts. The lower activity count was probably due to a lower food anticipatory activity, which alternatively is the reason for a higher activity in meal fed cats. With the results of this study it was not possible to formulate a satisfactory answer to our research question. A subsequent more elaborative study in which physical activity, weight changes, and ad libitum feeding with a suitable adaptation period beforehand, should be studied so a definitive conclusion about the matter can hopefully be made.