Categories: stomach

University of Guelph’s one cat meal a day study ignores the size of the stomach

The domestic cat’s stomach is too small for a big, one meal a day mild fasting, feeding regime as suggested by the University of Guelph researchers. I discuss this. You may have read about the well-publicised study carried out by the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada in which the researchers came to the conclusion that there are health and behavioral benefits for a domestic cat if you feed them once per day. They suggest that there are “several promising outcomes to improve the quality of life of indoor cats… By controlling appetite and limiting feed intake”. They list other possible benefits such as improved protein synthesis and “more sustained response in appetite-regulating hormones”. Cats begged less for food it is suggested.

They also refer to the possible beneficial effects of fasting. Feeding one meal a day may represent a form of mild fasting for domestic cats, which the scientist appear to accept. Incidentally, if they accept this as a form of fasting then they are admitting that the domestic cat requires more than one meal a day! A point worth noting.

Update the next day: I have bumped into an article in The Times newspaper, which reports on a dieting technique popular with celebrities called “intermittent fasting”. People each during an eight-hour window daily. It is meant to help with weight loss. However, researchers at the University Of California followed 141 people for 12 weeks and came to the conclusion that “there was no greater weight last with time-restricted eating”. Compared to people who had three meals a day there was no advantage except both groups lost weight and the fasting group lost more muscle mass.

Size of cat’s stomach. Image: PoC.

Stomach size

The point of this article is that the scientists appear to have ignored the size of the domestic cat’s stomach. It is said to be the size of a ping-pong ball and we know how small that is. Such a small stomach indicates that evolution has created a predator that is going to feed more than once per day. The ping-pong ball-sized stomach is about the perfect size for one mouse; the classic and ideal prey animal for a domestic cat. The mouse has the perfect nutrient balance for a domestic cat.

Designed for indoor, overweight cats?

I note too, that their this study refers to the life of indoor cats and the benefits of fasting as mentioned. It seems that what the researchers are saying is that the one meal a day regime is artificial but when bearing in mind the accepted view that too many domestic cats (particularly full-time indoor cats) in the West are overweight, such an artificial feeding regime, although a natural, brings benefits in terms of weight control.

Ramadan

In one section of their report which you can read online on Plos One, they even refer to Ramadan, the strict fasting observed from sunrise to sunset for four weeks by Muslims. The participants’ metabolic rate drops after the first week of fasting during Ramadan. It is suggested that this kind of fasting improves fat metabolism rather than carbohydrate metabolism as a source of energy. This will reduce the weight of humans. For humans controlled fasting has health benefits which is probably one reason why Ramadan exists.

Ramadan fasting improves health with weight loss. Photo in public domain.

Emphasis

This is my take on the study. I have emphasised certain sections over others which paints a different picture to the one that you read the news media online. The key issue that interests me is that this one meal a day feeding regime goes against the evolutionary nature and anatomy of the domestic cat as their stomach is too small for it. The study write up does not mention the size of the domestic cat’s stomach.

The study: The daytime feeding frequency affects appetite-regulating hormones, amino acids, physical activity, and respiratory quotient, but not energy expenditure, in adult cats fed regimens for 21 days by Alexandra Camara, Adronie Verbrugghe, Cara Cargo-Froom, Kylie Hogan, Trevor J. DeVries, Andrea Sanchez, Lindsay E. Robinson, Anna K. Shoveller. Note: thanks for publishing it openingly and without the need to pay for access to it.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • The suggestions by the University of Guelph show a complete ignorance of a cat's digestive system and hunting behaviour. A domestic cat's limited size, strength, and small stomach limits the type of prey to several small items spread throughout the day such as rodents, insects, and birds. Are they in fact guilty of extrapolating the eating habits of the big cats, such as lions, and tigers who can and must eat several kilos of meat at a time? A big cat can only make a kill every few days and the ability to quickly ingest large amounts of meat sufficient for several days is essential otherwise hyenas and other predators can run off with it. Guelph is very disappointing.

    • "Are they in fact guilty of extrapolating the eating habits of the big cats, such as lions, and tigers who can and must eat several kilos of meat at a time?" - I think that you have hit the nail on the head with that question, Harvey. I think they are getting a little bit mixed up with general wild cat species behaviour. The one meal a day suits the big cats but it nowhere suits the smaller wild cat species. Thank you for commenting, Harvey, and I hope that you are keeping well during these difficult times stop

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