A study by Mars Petcare has revealed that, while flavor is important initially, domestic cats learn to choose their food based on nutrition rather than flavor. The study, published in Royal Society Open Science, confirms that over time cats learn about the fat and protein content in their food and regulate their intake to reach a target ratio of these nutrients.

Scientists at WALTHAM Centre of Pet Nutrition, Mars Petcare, and the University of Sydney, Australia, offered cats foods with various ratios of fat and protein flavored with fish, rabbit or orange. When first presented with the foods, the cats showed a preference based on flavor. However, over time they learned about the nutrient composition and selected foods in order to reach a target ratio of protein and fat, regardless of flavor.  

Adrian Hewson-Hughes from the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition at Mars Petcare, and lead author of the study, said the findings have implications for the development of foods for cats: “This research has enabled Mars Petcare to understand more about developing foods for cats with both appealing flavors and the appropriate nutrient composition that ensures cats continue to eat foods in the long term.”