Hamper BA, Kirk CA, Bartges JW. J Feline Med Surg. 2016 Dec;18(12):991-996.
Objectives: The aim of the study was to evaluate overall dry matter, organic matter, crude protein, crude fat and gross energy digestibility of a feline commercial raw diet and a homemade raw diet compared with a canned, heat-processed diet.
Methods: Six domestic shorthair kittens (20-28 weeks old) were fed three different diets in a Latin square crossover design. Diet A was a commercially available, canned, heat-processed diet. Diet B was a complete commercial, prefrozen, raw diet (commercial raw), and diet C was a raw diet supplement mixed with ground raw meat obtained locally (homemade raw). Both diets A and B were formulated to meet nutritional profile levels for cats at all life stages. Kittens were given specific diet amounts to maintain a 2-4% weight increase per week. Food was measured before and after feedings to determine the amount eaten, and all feces were collected, weighed and frozen prior to submission. Composite food samples and all feces were submitted to a national laboratory for proximate analysis of crude protein, crude fiber, ash, crude fat, moisture and caloric density.
Results: Significantly higher digestibility of dry matter (P <0.001), organic matter (P <0.001), crude protein (P <0.001) and gross energy (P <0.001) was seen in the raw diets compared with the heat-processed diets. This difference resulted in significantly less fecal matter (P <0.001) despite similar levels of intake and kcal ingested, and evidence of no difference in fecal scores.
Conclusions and Relevance: Higher dry matter, organic matter and protein digestibility was seen in two commercial raw diets compared with a heat-processed diet. Digestibility differences could have been due to variance in dietary protein, fat and carbohydrate concentrations between the diets, variance in dietary ingredients or quality, alterations in protein structure secondary to heat processing, as well as alterations in gastrointestinal flora. Future research examining digestibility in diets with the same macronutrient proportions and ingredients, and mechanisms for any differences, is warranted.