Dogs Dinners and Cat Cuisine
01 Nov 2011
Pet food is big business. Despite the economic downturn, global
sales of cat and dog foods continue to grow.
The strength of the pet food market is not difficult to
understand; almost 1 in 2 UK households includes a pet. UK dog and
cat populations are estimated to be around 8 million each, and in
the US, there are about 77.5 million pet dogs and 93.6 million pet
cats. Pet ownership is also increasing in other parts of the world.
Brazil, for example, is expected to become one of the largest pet
food markets by 2014, second only to the US, and other markets
predicted to grow in the future include India, Russia, Romania,
Morocco, Thailand, South Africa, Indonesia, Slovakia, China and
Most dog and cat foods can be categorised as either 'complete',
providing an animal's entire nutritional needs, or 'complementary',
meaning that they can only be used in combination with other
nutrient sources. The majority of commercially available products
come in wet, dry or semi-moist form. Wet pet food generally
contains 60-90% moisture and is sold in cans or pouches. It is
thought to be more palatable than dry pet food, but its greater
moisture content means that it contains smaller amounts of
nutrients and must be eaten in larger amounts.
Dry pet food, or kibble has a moisture content of approximately
6-10% and often contains more fillers and less meat that its moist
or semi-moist counterparts, but is cheaper, more nutritionally
dense and more convenient to use. It may also provide dental health
benefits because the grinding action required to chew it helps to
keep teeth clean. However, dry cat foods often have a higher
carbohydrate content (30-40%) than wet cat foods, leading to
concerns that they are too far removed from the natural feline
carnivore diet and may increase the risk of diabetes. This is not
such a great concern for dogs, who are natural omnivores, like
Semi-moist cat and dog foods contain approximately 25-35%
moisture. The process for their manufacture is similar to that for
dried pet foods, but instead of being dried, they are allowed to
cool naturally. They include many pet treats and are not
recommended by some experts because they tend to contain high
levels of sugars and chemical additives.
One of the key trends driving pet food development over the last
few years is humanisation. Cats and dogs are increasingly regarded
by their owners as companions or family members with equal status
to humans. This, together with the rising cost of veterinary bills
and the growing elderly pet population, has led to the development
of a widening range of products, including natural, organic and
'wellness' foods and pet treats.
Natural pet foods are offered by many specialist companies trading
on the internet, but can also be found on supermarket shelves. They
may also be organic and often contain 100% natural ingredients,
such as meat or fish with vegetables and rice. Many natural pet
foods do not contain refined grains, allowing manufacturers to
claim they are hypoallergenic. Other claims associated with natural
pet foods include local sourcing of ingredients, absence of
artificial additives and use of recyclable packaging.
Some overlap exists between natural and wellness foods, many of
which offer general health benefits, relating to long life, high
energy levels and maintenance of a healthy skin and coat. More
specifically, some pet foods are tailored towards young or old
pets, individual breeds, working dogs or animals with particular
health problems. Examples include dog foods with added glucosamine
to improve joint health and mobility, cat foods with a special
mixture of ingredients aimed at promoting urinary tract health, and
low calorie pet foods for the increasingly common overweight or
Treats on offer for cats and dogs range from specially formulated
chocolate drops with low levels of theobromine, which is toxic to
dogs, to chews providing dental benefits; these can be made from a
range of products, including fish skin, pigs' ears and chickens'
feet. Humanisation is also driving the demand for niche products
designed to appeal primarily to humans and mirror their preferences
rather that those of their pets. These include kosher dog and cat
foods, halal cat foods, roast dinners, gravy for dried pet foods,
gourmet meals and treats in the form of fairy cakes and decorated
cookies. In complete contrast to this trend, some owners believe
their cats and dogs should be fed diets consisting of raw meat and
bones, similar to those encountered by their feral ancestors, the
wolf and the African wild cat.
Whether cat and dog owners see their pets as 'people' or animals,
there are plenty of products to choose from and the future looks
promising for our furry friends and for the pet food
Examples of some FSTA records related to
- Market update: natural and organic petfood.
- Bioavailability of lysine for kittens in overheated casein is
underestimated by the rat growth assay method.
Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition
- Preparation, storage stability and palatability of spent hen
meat based pet food.
Journal of Food Science and Technology
- Digestibility and palatability of dog foods containing
different moisture levels, and the inclusion of a mould
Animal Feed Science and Technology
- Work wonders. Feed your dog raw meaty bones.
Lonsdale, T. (2005)
- Pet Food Politics.
Nestle, M. (2008)