As cat owners know, feline friends can be finicky. There may be some science behind the cat's gourmet behavior.

When presented with options during an experiment, cats picked out a mixture of wet and dry foods that provided them with a consistent intake of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Even when a combination of different quantities of wet and dry foods were presented, the cats were capable of keeping their diets consistent as opposed to just eating whatever was in front of them.

"This research has important implications for owners as it shows that cats are able to select and combine wet and dry foods to achieve their target intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate,” said lead author Adrian Hewson-Hughes of the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition in a press release. “In terms of products currently on the market, wet foods typically have higher proportions of protein and fat, while dry foods have a higher carbohydrate content."

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The Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition is associated with the maker of several brands of popular pet foods. However, the research didn’t make any overt promotion for any particular brand of pet food. The study was published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology B and included authors from the University of Sydney in Australia and Massey University in New Zealand.

In the experiments, cats were presented with a combination of wet and dry foods (1 wet + 3 dry; 1 dry + 3 wet; 3 wet + 3 dry). The foods were offered all together at first, then in a 3-day cycle. In all variations of the experiment the cats selected foods so that close to 52 percent of their daily calorie intake was from protein, 36 percent from fat and 12 percent from carbohydrates.

The diet the cats chose from the mixture of foods was similar to what feral cats had been observed to eat in earlier studies. The study authors noted that this may mean house cats have retained an instinctual ideal diet from their wild ancestors.

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The only major difference observed was in the amount of energy derived from carbohydrates. Feral cats had been observed to eat only approximately 2 percent of their calories from carbs. The authors suggested that domesticated cats ended up with a high carb diet because of the formulation of the foods presented in the experiments, not necessarily because the felines chose to fill up on bread.


A cat eating a combination of a canned food and dry food. (NekoJa, Wikimedia Commons)