Tag Archives: Feeding

Cat market fish.

Veterinary community releases tips and tricks on how to properly feed your cat

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) released a Consensus Statement yesterday, advising cat owners on how to better feed their pets.

Cat market fish.

Image via Pixabay.

Aren’t cats awesome? They pad into our lives on their little feet one day, and proceed to make everything better. We want to take good care of them in return, but the way we feed our cats may cause them all sorts of problems, the AAFP explains. Luckily for us, the association has also released a “how to feed” guide to help keep our pets in good health.

Pawsitively educational

“Currently, most pet cats are fed in one location ad libitum, or receive one or two large and usually quite palatable meals daily. In addition, many indoor cats have little environmental stimulation, and eating can become an activity in and of itself,” says the Consensus Statement’s chair, Tammy Sadek.

“This current type of feeding process does not address the behavioral needs of cats.”

The manner in which most people feed their cats is a poor match for the behaviors these animals have evolved with, the document explains. Cats are naturally tailored to hunt and forage for their food. They tend to eat small but frequent meals, and generally do so in a solitary fashion. It may be quite time and effort intensive to create these feeding conditions for your cat, but it does pay off — allowing cats to exhibit these feeding behaviors regularly can help alleviate or prevent stress (and obesity) related issues such as cystitis, inactivity, and overeating.

A more natural feeding program can also help anxious cats mellow out. This will have particularly beneficial effects for anxious cats that share a household with other felines — and so may not access the food frequently enough, causing weight loss.

“Appropriate feeding programs need to be customized for each household,” Sadek adds, “and should incorporate the needs of all cats for play, predation, and a location to eat and drink where they feel safe.”

The Consensus Statement is accompanied by a small brochure that offers some helpful tips on how to provide a feeding environment that keeps cats happy and well (but not over-) fed.

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  • Using puzzle feeders and hiding kibbles around the home gives your cat some exercise, keeps it entertained and stimulated (both mentally and physically), and improves weight management without too much hassle on your part. Simple, easily manipulated puzzle feeders should be introduced first.
  • Placing bits of food in different or new locations, including elevated areas when the cat’s physical status allows, can help offer cats forage opportunities and engage their senses in searching for food.
  • A cat’s daily food allowance should be split into multiple small meals over a 24 h period.
  • The caloric needs of your cat will vary over time — talk to your vet, monitor your pet’s condition, and adjust food portions accordingly. Food can be measured when filling feeding stations and again 24 h later to determine how much your cat has eaten.
  • Treats shouldn’t exceed 10% of the pet’s daily caloric intake, in order to avoid dietary imbalances. Small treats work best since they’re easily consumed, your cat enjoys them, and they’re low on calories.
  • Have separate watering stations throughout your home.
  • Cats generally like to eat alone. They tend to view the feeding area as their safe space. In multi-cat households, separate feeding areas (it’s important that they are visually separated, i.e. out of sight of each other) can help reduce anxiety, stress, and their associated health complications.
  • Feeding stations should not be close to litter boxes.

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The Consensus Statement also highlights the importance of feeding programs, and the criteria they should take into consideration. If you want to set up a feeding program for your pet, the AAFP recommends you set a clear goal — ‘my cat needs to lose weight’, ‘I want to improve its nutrition’, etc. — and then work with a veterinary professional to design the program.

All in all, I’m definitely going to implement a few of these tips when I get back home today.

The paper “Feline Feeding Programs: Addressing behavioral needs to improve feline health and wellbeing” has been published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.

Bamboo Shark.

Bamboo sharks really have to put their back into eating — literally

Lacking a tongue, bamboo sharks (Chiloscyllium plagiosum) swallow with their shoulder bones. Other tongue-less sharks and fish species likely use a similar method of swallowing.

Bamboo Shark.

Image credits Steve Childs.

The finding comes from the lab of Ariel Camp, a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Using state of the art X-ray imaging technology, Camp and her team filmed the internal going-ons of bamboo sharks having lunch. These tongueless critters, it seems, rely on their shoulder-blades to create suction when it’s time to swallow.

“They have this long pharynx, and they have to keep food moving down it,” Camp explains.

“We think this is part of a ‘hydrodynamic tongue.’ Sharks and fishes that don’t have a tongue control the motion of fluid within their mouths to manipulate food.”

Put your back into it!

Bamboo sharks’ “shoulder girdle” is made up of a U-shaped assortment of cartilage and muscles which they both for swallowing and control of their front fins, the paper explains. They’re one among several oceanic species that use a suction system to feed. It comes in handy when prying uncooperative pray, for example fish hidden in rocky crevices or dug into the ocean floor. By placing their mouth over the hiding spots, then rapidly opening it — sometimes with help from muscles deeper into their bodies — they create the suction needed to reel a meal in.

While the bamboo sharks’ suction system was documented in literature, whether or not their shoulder girdles played apart was a matter of some debate. The structure serves to support the sharks‘ frontal fins, which they use in a sort-of walking motion to position themselves over prey. As it’s not directly connected to the jaws or any other part of the head, however, it was assumed to remain still and play no part in the feeding process.

But through a method known as X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology (XROMM), which combines skeletal CT scans with high-speed, high-fidelity X-ray “movies” observing tiny implanted markers, Camp’s team was able to create very detailed visualizations of how the sharks’ bones and muscles move while feeding. They fed three sharks pieces of squid and herring, then used XROMM imaging to get a better understanding of how they swallow.

They observed a surprising swing of the shoulder girdle in all three sharks: after closing their mouths, the cartilage quickly rotated backwards from the head by about 11 degrees. While the study only used bamboo sharks, Camp says other suction-feeding sharks probably swing their shoulders in a similar fashion.

Understanding how the sharks’ girdle functions could help explain why and how it evolved in the first place, for them and other species as well. Ultimately, as the structure enables such animals to “walk” around on the seabed, the research could uncover part of the story of how animals eventually made it from the ocean to dry land.

“The girdle shows up [in the fossil record], around the time that jaws evolved,” Camp said.

“We aren’t sure exactly what structures it evolved from or how that happened. Part of understanding that history is understanding what were the functions this structure had to carry out.”

 

The paper “Dual function of the pectoral girdle for feeding and locomotion in white-spotted bamboo sharks” has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.