Fiber refers to a type of carbohydrate that isn't digested by enzymes from a cat's gastrointestinal tract. Fiber is important for the health of cats, providing bulk to move the intestinal contents. Some types of fiber can be fermented (broken down by bacteria) in the intestinal tract. This process creates short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are an important energy source for the cells lining the intestinal tract.
Fiber That Is Good for Humans May Not Be Good for Cats
People are more aware of fiber and the role it plays in their diet. Studies showing the beneficial effects of higher fiber levels in humans influence the way many people think about their own food and the food of their pets. To meet this pet food market demand, some pet food manufacturers apply the recommendations of human nutritionists and make high-fiber diets for cats.
But cats have a much shorter digestive tract than humans. Unlike humans, cats are carnivorous (genetically speaking, humans are considered omnivores), meaning their nutritional needs are better satisfied with meat rather than plant materials. So the dietary needs of humans are not the same as the dietary needs of cats.
Fiber Levels and Fermentability
Eukanuba® research shows the optimal crude fiber level for healthy cats ranges from 1.4 percent to 3.5 percent. At these levels, nutrient digestibility is maximized. In unique situations, such as frequently occurring hairballs, higher fiber levels may be warranted.
An important characteristic of fiber is its fermentability—how well it can be broken down by the bacteria that normally reside in the intestine. This breakdown of dietary fiber produces SCFAs, which provide energy to the cells lining the intestines. Different types of fiber vary in fermentability. Fiber sources used in pet foods include cellulose, which is poorly fermentable; beet pulp, which is moderately fermentable; and gums and pectin, which can be highly fermentable. Research has shown that moderate levels of moderately fermentable fiber, such as beet pulp, provide the benefits of energy for the intestinal lining and bulk, without the negative effects of excessive stool or gas.
High Fiber and Weight Loss for Cats
High levels of poorly fermentable fiber are used in some weight-reduction cat foods to dilute the calories in a serving. Eukanuba research shows that this is not a good practice because high fiber levels can decrease the digestibility of other nutrients in the food and, therefore, reduce the nutritional quality of the diet. Pet owners also see a marked increase in stool quantity in the litter box due to the indigestible fiber.
Fiber and Eukanuba Cat Foods
When choosing a cat food, fiber is an important consideration. However, remember that the dietary fiber needs of cats are not the same as those of humans. A moderate level of moderately fermentable fiber, such as beet pulp, provides proven nutritional benefits for cats. Diets containing high levels of poorly fermentable fiber to dilute calorie content do not provide nutritional benefits.
All Eukanuba cat products are formulated with optimal levels of moderately fermentable fiber to promote a healthy intestinal tract and enhance the well-being of cats. In fact, our fermentable fiber system is the exclusive property of P&G Pet Care and is protected by U.S. Patent No. 5,616,569 for Pet Food Products Containing Fermentable Fibers and Process for Treating Gastrointestinal Disorders.