By Dr. Punith*
Providing proper care to dogs and cats is of great interest and concern to both pet owners and professionals who work with them. Just as it is important to provide proper healthcare and medical attention it is equally important to provide adequate nutritional care. In order for pet parents to provide the required amount of nutrition it is important to first understand their feeding behaviour.
Dogs’ hunting behaviour comes from their ancestors – the wolves, where wolves would hunt large prey and eat the hunt as quickly as possible. The same behaviour still prevails in dogs which leads them to rapidly eat their food. This tendency to eat rapidly can be a problem in certain dogs, since it predisposes them to choking or swallowing large amounts of air. Adding water to the dog’s food immediately before feeding decreases the speed of eating and minimises the chance of swallowing large amounts of air. A recommendation for pet parents would be to use a bowl that includes a central hub which would also help to slow down the eating process. Another key point of dogs’ ancestry suggests that an intermittent feeding schedule consisting of large meals interrupted by periods of fasting is the most natural way to feed dogs.
Many dogs consume garbage, carrions, insects and faeces that they encounter in the yard while walking. Plant eating particularly grass is also a common occurrence. Grass eating appears to be normal canine behaviour which functions to purge intestinal parasites as they travel through the gastrointestinal tract. Although scavenging garbage and coprophagy are considered to be normal, these behaviours can present a health and sanitation risk and should be prevented.
Cats are unique and fascinating animals and their behaviour varies largely from that of dogs. It is crucial to understand them, so we can provide our feline friends with the best possible nutritional care. When it comes to eating patterns, they retain the instinct of their ancestors which is wild cats and other members of the family Felidae. Firstly, cats are obligate carnivores which means they must have meat in their diet for survival. Secondly, cats are solitary hunters which means they feed on smaller prey. Wild cats could spend up to 12 hours in a day hunting.
Cats tend to consume smaller meals several times a day and a healthy domestic cat will go to its food bowl at least 12 to 18 times in a single day. In general, they are solitary eaters, so they prefer to eat alone although they will share their food with their offspring. They also prefer to eat in a private, isolated area away from distractions. Free-ranging cats may store any surplus food by burying it in dry leaves or dirt. This may explain some of the feeding behaviours in domestic cats, such as chasing and hunting small animals for food or digging around their food bowl after a meal. Cats generally require more protein in their diet which should ideally be around 2 g per kg of their body weight. Cats naturally showcase hunting behaviour which we often see by way of them bringing small sticks, leaves or small insects inside the house. Engaging cats with moving toys, providing them with feeders specially designed to make them play and then feed, making them drink running water in designed drinkers and feeding them more frequently with a fresh meal every time will solve many issues.
Dogs and cats just like humans need a balanced diet, which helps solve nutritional deficiencies and provides nutritional comfort with all the health benefits. Drools as a pet food brand offers all types of pet foods, such as Dry, Wet, Semi-Moist and even treats to train and reward your furries. Drools also provides a premium, regular and economy range of products that help in better health and great skin and coat.
*(MVSc Animal Nutrition) is an Asst. Product and Technocommercial Manager at Drools Pet Food Pvt Ltd. He handles product training and scientific communication of products and scientific inputs in new and developing products.