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J Anim Sci. 2014 Mar;92(3):1271-7. doi: 10.2527/jas.2013-7235. Epub 2014 Feb 3.

Effects of feeding frequency and dietary water content on voluntary physical activity in healthy adult cats.

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  • 1Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana 61801.


Low physical activity has been identified as a major risk factor for the development of feline obesity and diabetes. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of increased meal frequency and dietary water content on voluntary physical activity in cats fed to maintain BW. Ten adult lean neutered male cats were used in 2 tests, both crossover studies composed of a 14-d adaptation period, followed by a 7-d measurement of physical activity from d 15 to d 22 using Actical activity collars. Cats were group housed for most of the day, except for times when they were individually housed in cages to access their diet under a 16:8 h light:dark cycle. In Exp. 1, the difference in voluntary physical activity among cats fed 1, 2, 4, or a random number of meals per day were tested in a 4 × 4 Latin square design in 4 individual rooms. In Exp. 2, the effect of increasing dietary water content on voluntary physical activity was tested in a crossover design including a 5-d phase for fecal and urine collection from d 22 to 27. Cats were randomly assigned to 2 rooms and fed a dry commercial diet with or without added water (70% hydrated) twice daily. Activity levels were expressed as "activity counts" per epoch (15 s). In Exp. 1, average daily activity level for 1-meal-fed cats was lower than 4-meal-fed (P = 0.004) and random-meal-fed (P = 0.02) cats, especially during the light period. The activity level of cats during the dark period was greater in 1-meal-fed cats compared with cats fed 2 meals (P = 0.008) or 4 meals (P = 0.007) daily. Two-hour food anticipatory activity (FAA) before scheduled meal times for 1-meal-fed cats was lower (P < 0.001) than for the multiple-meal-fed cats. In Exp. 2, average daily activity level of cats fed the 70% hydrated diet tended to be higher (P = 0.06) than cats fed the dry diet, especially during the dark period (P = 0.007). Two-hour FAA before the afternoon meal for cats fed the 70% hydrated diet was lower (P < 0.05) than for cats fed the dry diet. Cats fed the 70% hydrated diet had greater daily fecal (P = 0.008) and urinary (P = 0.001) outputs and lower (P < 0.001) urinary specific gravity compared to cats fed the dry diet. In conclusion, increased feeding frequency and dietary water content, without changing energy intake or dietary macronutrient composition, appear to promote physical activity, which may aid in weight management in cats.

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