Do Domestic Cats Chew Food Enough?
The modern domestic cat no longer needs to chew food and therefore doesn’t. Is that correct? If it is correct, is it a bad thing? Or is it a natural thing that domestic cats don’t chew food? Do wild cats need to chew? If wild cats do not need to chew we cannot say that the domestic cat does not chew because of the food he is given.
[Update: please read Sarah Hartwell’s comment. Cats shear food and bone with the teeth at the rear of their mouth. I have used the wrong language as “chew” implies mastication. I mean biting and breaking up. I have made some small amendments to reflect this.]
The wildcat eats bone and therefore, it seems, must chew (bite) to break it into smaller pieces. The wildcat is the wild ancestor of the domestic cat.
Conclusion – Appraisal
My initial appraisal is that domestic cats do chew (biting action) but less than humans and the amount of chewing depends on the cat and the food. Commercial cat food can encourage cats not to chew, depending on the individual cat. If a domestic cat is meant to be using his jaw in a more energetic way to masticate food – raw flesh and small bones – commercial cat food may have long term detrimental, anatomical effects on the species (Felis silvestris catus – domestic cat) over thousands of future years.
In the wild, lions don’t eat large bones but probably eat small bones. Captive lions are apparently fed bones, even large bones and therefore need to chew on their food.
Domestic cats eat all of the captured mouse, including the small bones, except the gall bladder and tail perhaps. There is some chewing going on.
The molars at the back of the mouth are designed to masticate food aren’t they? Answer: No. They are used to shear off flesh and break up bone and tough food. If you watch a domestic cat eating a chicken leg they will bite on the bone using their rear teeth. This is probably a good thing as it is natural.
Commercial Cat Food
Modern cat food doesn’t need chewing. Wet food is 70% water and sloppy. Cats lick off the jelly or whatever and swallow the rest. Dry cat food is made of small pellets that cats can, if they wish, simply swallow. I first believed that cats just swallowed dry food pellets because the pellets were too small. That must be logically true but I wonder if a domestic cat would eat dry cat food if the pellets were bigger so that they could not be swallowed. A cat might reject the food completely.
All manufactured food doesn’t need chewing. Homemade cat food probably does need some chewing because of a high meat content. The only time my cat chews on food is when I give him ham or chicken. He does chew it using his rear teeth (see video). But he does not chew that much.
Some cats will even swallow pieces of ham without chewing it. Is this normal or has the cat got into the habit of not chewing her food?
Valley Girl (VG) a PoCer – a regular visitor has these ideas
VG who lives with Tootsie. VG gave me the idea for this article. She says this about why domestic cats don’t chew:
I am now wondering to what extent domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) actually chew their food, what ever its constitution. Maybe the reason cats don’t chew hard food pellets is simply that they don’t chew food! Nothing to do with the design of the hard food itself. So, the representation by cat food makers that hard food of any kind is good for cleaning teeth is uh, bullshit, generally.
Granted this is only based on my observation of one cat.
However, it you think about the evolution of cats, from big cats to small domestics, why should they chew food? They might tear it apart into smaller pieces then swallow it. Other than that, why would big cats, wild cats, hang around their prey carefully chewing up the meat and entrails before swallowing? No good reason I can see. The longer time they hang around the prey, the longer time they are in one place. Thus they risk attracting animals who might prey on them, plus opportunistic predators who would take advantage of their kill- stealing it away from the cats. Buzzards, for example? Final factor in my reasoning is that, aside from previous two, even a closely associated group of cats (lion pride?) present at the kill, those who eat the most rapidly (no chewing) will acquire the most food, the most benefits.
I can see the same evolutionary logic for Felis silvestris catus especially when they’ve killed found rats and other vermin around grain supplies. No reason to lose the wild bid cat habit of eating as rapidly as possible. No selection advantage for hanging around and spending time chewing each piece of meat ripped off the carcass. Cats can smell food! Eat it as fast as possible before the other cats get there!
So VG leans towards the idea that domestic cats naturally don’t chew (bite on food) much. It is an inherited trait. The alternative view is that cat do chew but manufactured cat food trains cats to not chew and over 1000 and more years, will it have an anatomical effect on the domestic cat?