Domestic cats over 7-years-of-age prefer wet food at 37°C

A scientific study confirms that ageing cats, over seven-years-of-age, prefer warmed up wet food and particularly wet food at 37°C (98.6°F). Like many people, I know that warming wet cat food makes it more palatable to all cats and particularly ageing cats who may lose their appetite as it brings out new flavours and aromas. The study confirms this.

Heated wet cat food is more palatable to ageing cats

Heated wet cat food is more palatable to ageing cats. Image: MikeB

The study published, by the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour was set up to determine if the temperature of a domestic cat’s meal impacted on their feeding preferences.

The scientists used chunks in gravy. They served it at three different temperatures: 6°C, 21°C and 37°C. They used a two-bowl difference test. They measured the viscosity i.e. the thickness and stickiness of the gravy, using a viscometer. They measured the “volatile compounds” that were emitted from the food using various devices and techniques including a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry machine. Volatile compounds affect the smell of the food.

They found that the viscosity of the gravy didn’t vary despite the temperature differences. However, they found that there were big changes in the volatile compounds measured at different temperatures. Eleven out of fifteen of the compounds changed significantly. Comment: in my language this means the food smelled more and was therefore more attractive. It indicates that wet cat food might not always be smelly enough. What about in cold homes for instance? Or in cold places?

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They concluded that warming “may increase the attractiveness by changing and/or enhancing the flavour profile for ageing cats”.

Further comment: the study confirms what many of us we know, in truth, namely that if you want to make cat food more attractive to domestic cats it certainly pays to warm it up, perhaps in the microwave for a very short time (several seconds perhaps – run a test). I don’t know whether microwaved wet cat food hardens up or goes off more quickly but even a very short burst of microwaves will warm it up.

There is one website which says that microwaving food destroys the nutrients. They don’t present any evidence for that. The Science Focus website says the opposite, namely that there is nothing about microwaves that damages food more than other cooking methods. They even say that microwaving can actually preserve nutrients. I think, therefore, that gentle i.e. a matter of seconds only with some stirring to make sure that the wet cat food is evenly cooked, is going to be acceptable. You don’t want to put wet cat food into an oven to heat it up. It is a waste of time and electricity, an important consideration when we are thinking about reducing CO2e global warming gases.

I can’t think of a better way to heat up wet cat food than in a microwave in terms of convenience and speed. It just needs to be done gently and I would suggest some testing to see how long it takes to heat wet cat food up to 37°C.

If your ageing cat (or even a young cat) is a poor eater I’d advise warming up their wet food as it is likely to work wonders.

The study is called: Aging cats prefer warm food. It was carried out by: RyanEyre, Melanie Trehiou, Emily Marshall, Laura Carvell-Miller, Annabelle Goyon, Scott McGrane.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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