Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Estimation of the dietary nutrient profile of free-roaming feral cats: possible implications for nutrition of domestic cats

  • Esther A. Plantinga (a1), Guido Bosch (a2) and Wouter H. Hendriks (a1) (a2)

Cats are strict carnivores and in the wild rely on a diet solely based on animal tissues to meet their specific and unique nutritional requirements. Although the feeding ecology of cats in the wild has been well documented in the literature, there is no information on the precise nutrient profile to which the cat's metabolism has adapted. The present study aimed to derive the dietary nutrient profile of free-living cats. Studies reporting the feeding habits of cats in the wild were reviewed and data on the nutrient composition of the consumed prey items obtained from the literature. Fifty-five studies reported feeding strategy data of cats in the wild. After specific exclusion criteria, twenty-seven studies were used to derive thirty individual dietary nutrient profiles. The results show that feral cats are obligatory carnivores, with their daily energy intake from crude protein being 52 %, from crude fat 46 % and from N-free extract only 2 %. Minerals and trace elements are consumed in relatively high concentrations compared with recommended allowances determined using empirical methods. The calculated nutrient profile may be considered the nutrient intake to which the cat's metabolic system has adapted. The present study provides insight into the nutritive, as well as possible non-nutritive aspects of a natural diet of whole prey for cats and provides novel ways to further improve feline diets to increase health and longevity.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Estimation of the dietary nutrient profile of free-roaming feral cats: possible implications for nutrition of domestic cats
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Estimation of the dietary nutrient profile of free-roaming feral cats: possible implications for nutrition of domestic cats
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Estimation of the dietary nutrient profile of free-roaming feral cats: possible implications for nutrition of domestic cats
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr Esther A. Plantinga, fax +31 30 253 7970, email
Hide All
1 CA Driscoll , M Menotti-Raymond , AL Roca , (2007) The Near Eastern origin of cat domestication. Science 317, 519523.

4 JD Vigne , J Guilaine , K Debue , (2004) Early taming of the cat in Cyprus. Science 304, 259.

6 CA Driscoll , DW Macdonald & SJ O'Brien (2009) From wild animals to domestic pets, an evolutionary view of domestication. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106, 99719978.

7 WJ Murphy , S Sun , ZQ Chen , (2000) A radiation hybrid map of the cat genome: implications for comparative mapping. Genome Res 10, 691702.

8 SJ O'Brien & N Yuhki (1999) Comparative genome organization of the major histocompatibility complex: lessons from the Felidae. Immunol Rev 167, 133144.

10 MJ Lipinski , L Froenicke , KC Baysac , (2008) The ascent of cat breeds: genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide random-bred populations. Genomics 91, 1221.

12 ML Macdonald , QR Rogers & JG Morris (1984) Nutrition of the domestic cat, a mammalian carnivore. Annu Rev Nutr 4, 521562.

13 DL Zoran (2002) The carnivore connection to nutrition in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 221, 15591567.

14 G Zaghini & G Biagi (2005) Nutritional peculiarities and diet palatability in the cat. Vet Res Commun 29, 3944.

20 E Kienzle (1993) Carbohydrate metabolism of the cat. 1. Activity of amylase in the gastrointestinal tract of the cat. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr 69, 92101.

21 E Kienzle (1993) Carbohydrate metabolism of the cat. 2. Digestion of starch. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr 69, 102114.

22 T Washizu , A Tanaka , T Sako , (1999) Comparison of the activities of enzymes related to glycolysis and gluconeogenesis in the liver of dogs and cats. Res Vet Sci 67, 205206.

24 X Li , W Li , H Wang , (2005) Pseudogenization of a sweet-receptor gene accounts for cats' indifference toward sugar. PLoS Genet 1, 2735.

25 AW Trites & R Joy (2005) Dietary analysis from fecal samples: how many scats are enough? J Mammal 86, 704712.

27 BM Fitzgerald & BJ Karl (1979) Foods of feral house cats (Felis catus L) in Forest of the Orongorongo Valley, Wellington. N Z J Zool 6, 107126.

28 AF Malo , J Lozano , DL Huertas , (2004) A change of diet from rodents to rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Is the wildcat (Felis silvestris) a specialist predator? Zool 263, 401407.

30 PC Catling (1988) Similarities and contrasts in the diets of foxes, Vulpes vulpes, and cats, Felis catus, relative to fluctuating prey populations and drought. Aust Wildl Res 15, 307317.

32 B Triggs , H Brunner & JM Cullen (1984) The food of fox, dog and cat in Croajingalon National Park, south-eastern Victoria. Aust Wildl Res 11, 491499.

34 KC Scott , JK Levy & PC Crawford (2002) Characteristics of free-roaming cats evaluated in a trap-neuter-return program. J Am Vet Med Assoc 221, 11361138.

36 SB Eaton & M Konner (1985) Paleolithic nutrition – a consideration of its nature and current implications. N Engl J Med 312, 283289.

37 SB Eaton , SB Eaton & MJ Konner (1997) Paleolithic nutrition revisited: a twelve-year retrospective on its nature and implications. Eur J Clin Nutr 51, 207216.

39 LA Frassetto , M Schloetter , M Mietus-Synder , (2009) Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter–gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr 63, 947955.

40 N Mann (2000) Dietary lean red meat and human evolution. Eur J Nutr 39, 7179.

44 MA Potter , WH Hendriks , RG Lentle , (2010) An exploratory analysis of the suitability of diets fed to a flightless insectivore, the North Island brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli), in New Zealand. Zoo Biol 29, 537550.

45 L Schley & TJ Roper (2003) Diet of wild boar Sus scrofa in Western Europe, with particular reference to consumption of agricultural crops. Mamm Rev 33, 4356.

46 DJ Brightsmith , D McDonald , D Matsafuji , (2010) Nutritional content of the diets of free-living scarlet macaw chicks in southeastern Peru. J Avian Med Surg 24, 923.

47 WH Hendriks , S O'Conner , DV Thomas , (2000) Nutrient composition of the crop contents of growing and adult grey-faced petrels (Pterodroma macroptera): a preliminary investigation. J Roy Soc New Zeal 30, 105111.

49 AK Hewson-Hughes , AT Miller , SR Hall , (2011) Geometric analysis of macronutrient selection in the adult domestic cat, Felis catus. J Exp Biol 214, 10391051.

52 S Pearre & R Maass (1998) Trends in the prey size-based trophic niches of feral and house cats Felis catus L. Mamm Rev 28, 125139.

53 M Pierpaoli , ZS Biro , M Herrmann , (2003) Genetic distinction of wildcat (Felis silvestris) populations in Europe, and hybridization with domestic cats in Hungary. Mol Ecol 12, 25852598.

55 E Blas & T Gidenne (2010) Digestion of sugars and starch. In Nutrition of the Rabbit, pp. 1938 [ C de Blas and J Wiseman , editors]. Wallingford, UK: CABI Publishing.

56 J Carabaño , J Piquer , D Menoyo , (2010) The digestive system of the rabbit. In Nutrition of the Rabbit, pp. 118 [ C de Blas and J Wiseman , editors]. Wallingford, UK: CABI Publishing.

57 AE Livingston (1914) The relation of the gastro-intestinal tract and contents to the body weight in rabbits. J Exp Med 19, 339344.

58 AD Danielson , RK Newman , CW Newman , (1997) Lipid levels and digesta viscosity of rats fed a high-fiber barley milling fraction. Nutr Res 17, 515522.

59 R Molsher , A Newsome & C Dickman (1999) Feeding ecology and population dynamics of the feral cat (Felis catus) in relation to the availability of prey in central-eastern New South Wales. Wildl Res 26, 593607.

60 JG Powers , WW Mautz & PJ Pekins (1989) Nutrient and energy assimilation of prey by bobcats. J Wildl Manage 53, 10041008.

61 CL Bennett , SD Booth-Binczik & SRE Steele (2010) Nutritional composition and digestibility by ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) of whole animals and a commercial diet. Zoo Biol 29, 753759.

62 JK Levy , DW Gale & LA Gale (2003) Evaluation of the effect of a long-term trap-neuter-return and adoption program on a free-roaming cat population. J Am Vet Med Assoc 222, 4246.

65 EA Plantinga , N Van Dijk , MHF Van Niel , (2003) Relationship between the amount of linoleic acid in the diet and that in the adipose tissue of adult cats living freely in households. Vet Res Commun 27, 603610.

68 A Vicenti , M Ragni , A di Summa , (2003) Influence of feeds and rearing system on the productive performances and the chemical and fatty acid composition of hare meat. Food Sci Technol Int 9, 279284.

69 CJ Conway , WR Eddleman & KL Simpson (1994) Seasonal changes in fatty acid composition of the wood thrush. Condor 96, 791794.

70 A Cobos , L Delahoz , MI Cambero , (1995) Chemical and fatty acid composition of meat from Spanish wild rabbits and hares. Z Lebensm Unters Forsch 200, 182185.

72 JC Bond & DG Lindburg (1990) Carcass feeding of captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus): the effects of a naturalistic feeding program on oral health and psychological well-being. Appl Anim Behav Sci 26, 373382.

73 DS Huang , DF Li , JJ Xing , (2006) Effects of feed particle size and feed form on survival of Salmonella typhimurium in the alimentary tract and cecal S. typhimurium reduction in growing broilers. Poult Sci 85, 831836.

74 LL Mikkelsen , PJ Naughton , MS Hedemann , (2004) Effects of physical properties of feed on microbial ecology and survival of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium in the pig gastrointestinal tract. Appl Environ Microbiol 70, 34853492.

75 TA Quilliam , JA Clarke & AJ Salsbury (1971) The ecological significance of certain new haematological findings in the mole and hedgehog. Comp Biochem Physiol A Physiol 40, 8994.

76 F Garcia , J Ramis & J Planas (1984) Iron content in starlings, Stunus vulgaris L. Comp Biochem Physiol A Physiol 77, 651654.

78 JJ Cosgrove , DH Beermann , WA House , (2002) Whole-body nutrient composition of various ages of captive-bred bearded dragons (Pogona vitteceps) and adult wild anoles (Anolis carolinensis). Zoo Biol 21, 489497.

80 E Jones & BJ Coman (1981) Ecology of the feral cat, Felis-catus (L), in Southeastern Australia. 1. Diet. Aust Wildl Res 8, 537547.

81 N Alterio & H Moller (1997) Diet of feral house cats Felis catus, ferrets Mustela furo and stoats M. erminea in grassland surrounding yellow-eyed penguin Megadyptes antipodes breeding areas, South Island, New Zealand. J Zool 243, 869877.

82 Z Biro , J Lanszki , L Szemethy , (2005) Feeding habits of feral domestic cats (Felis catus), wild cats (Felis silvestris) and their hybrids: trophic niche overlap among cat groups in Hungary. J Zool 266, 187196.

84 E Bonnaud , K Bourgeois , E Vidal , (2007) Feeding ecology of a feral cat population on a small Mediterranean island. J Mammal 88, 10741081.

86 I Brickner-Braun , E Geffen & Y Yom-Tov (2007) The domestic cat as a predator of Israeli wildlife. Isr J Ecol Evol 53, 129142.

88 CB Campos , CF Esteves , KMPM Ferraz , (2007) Diet of free-ranging cats and dogs in a suburban and rural environment, south-eastern Brazil. J Zool 273, 1420.

90 BJ Coman & H Brunner (1972) Food habits of the feral house cat in Victoria. J Wildl Manage 36, 848853.

95 JM Gil-Sanchez , G Valenzuela & JF Sanchez (1999) Iberian wild cat Felis silvestris tartessia predation on rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus: functional response and age selection. Acta Theriol 44, 421428.

98 S Hutchings (2003) The diet of feral house cats (Felis catus) at a regional rubbish tip, Victoria. Wildl Res 30, 103110.

99 RD Kirkpatrick & MJ Rauzon (1986) Foods of feral cats Felis catus on Jarvis and Howland Islands, Central Pacific Ocean. Biotropica 18, 7275.

100 NPE Langham (1990) The diet of feral cats (Felis catus L) on Hawkes Bay farmland, New Zealand. N Z J Zool 17, 243255.

101 O Liberg (1984) Food habits and prey impact by feral and house-based domestic cats in a rural area in southern Sweden. J Mammal 65, 424432.

103 GR Martin , LE Twigg & DJ Robinson (1996) Comparison of the diet of feral cats from rural and pastoral Western Australia. Wildl Res 23, 475484.

104 R Matias & P Catry (2008) The diet of feral cats at New Island, Falkland Islands, and impact on breeding seabirds. Polar Biol 31, 609616.

105 AM Meckstroth , AK Miles & S Chandra (2007) Diets of introduced predators using stable isotopes and stomach contents. J Wildl Manage 71, 23872392.

107 FM Medina & R Garcia (2007) Predation of insects by feral cats (Felis silvestris catus L., 1758) on an oceanic island (La Palma, Canary Island). J Insect Conserv 11, 203207.

108 FM Medina , M Lopez-Darias , M Nogales , (2008) Food habits of feral cats (Felis silvestris catus L.) in insular semiarid environments (Fuerteventura, Canary Islands). Wildl Res 35, 162169.

109 J Millan (2010) Feeding habits of feral cats Felis silvestris catus in the countryside of Majorca Island, Spain. Wildl Biol Pract 6, 3238.

110 M Moleon & JM Gil-Sanchez (2003) Food habits of the wildcat (Felis silvestris) in a peculiar habitat: the Mediterranean high mountain. J Zool 260, 1722.

114 M Nogales , M Abdola , C Alonso , (1990) Premières donneés sur l'alimentation du chat haret (Felis catus L., 1758) du Parc National du Teide. Ténérife (Iles Canaries) (Initial data on the feeding of feral cats (Felis catus L., 1758) Teide National Park. Tenerife (Canary Islands)). Mammalia 54, 189196.

116 R Paltridge , D Gibson & G Edwards (1997) Diet of the feral cat (Felis catus) in central Australia. Wildl Res 24, 6776.

117 DR Peck , L Faulquier , P Pinet , (2008) Feral cat diet and impact on sooty terns at Juan de Nova Island, Mozambique Channel. Anim Conserv 11, 6574.

118 RB Phillips , CS Winchell & RH Schmidt (2007) Dietary overlap of an alien and native carnivore on San Clemente Island, California. J Mammal 88, 173180.

123 P Sarmento (1996) Feeding ecology of the European wildcat Felis silvestris in Portugal. Acta Theriol 41, 409414.

126 CR Tidemann , HD Yorkston & AJ Russack (1994) The diet of cats, Felis catus, on Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Wildl Res 21, 279286.

128 TC Douglas , M Pennino & ES Dierenfeld (1994) Vitamin E and A, and proximate composition of whole mice and rats used as feed. Comp Biochem Physiol A Physiol 107, 419424.

129 NJ Clum , MP Fitzpatrick & ES Dierenfeld (1996) Effects of diet on nutritional content of whole vertebrate prey. Zoo Biol 15, 525537.

133 J Thomas , B Glatt & ES Dierenfeld (2004) Proximate, vitamins A and E, and mineral composition of free-ranging cotton mice (Peromyscus gossypinus) from St. Catherines, Georgia. Zoo Biol 23, 253261.

134 DM Bird , SK Ho & D Pare (1982) Nutritive values of 3 common prey items of the American kestrel. Comp Biochem Physiol A Physiol 73, 513515.

135 L Fortun-Lamoth , C Lamboley-Gaüzère & C Bannelier (2002) Prediction of body composition in rabbit females using total body electrical conductivity (TOBEC). Livestock Prod Sci 78, 133142.

137 D Barker , MP Fitzpatrick & ES Dierenfeld (1998) Nutrient composition of selected whole invertebrates. Zoo Biol 17, 123134.

138 MD Finke (2002) Complete nutrient composition of commercially raised invertebrates used as food for insectivores. Zoo Biol 21, 269285.

139 S Donoghue (1998) Nutrition of pet amphibians and reptiles. Sem Avian Exotic Pet Med 7, 148153.

140 RJ Beyers , MH Smith , JB Gentry , (1971) Standing crops of elements and atomic ratios in a small mammal community. Acta Theriol 16, 203211.

143 HM Grimshaw , JD Ovington , MM Betts , (1958) The mineral content of birds and insects in plantations of Pinus silvestris L. Oikos 9, 2634.

144 HJ Skar , S Hagvar , A Hagen , (1975) Food habits and body composition of adult and juvenile meadow pipits [Anthus pratensis (L.)]. In Ecological Studies vol. 17, part 2, Fennoscandian Tundra Ecosystems, pp. 160169 [ FE Wielgolaski , editor]. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 163
Total number of PDF views: 690 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1263 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.