Gut microbiome of obese cats differs from lean cats

9 August 2022by Barış Özdinç

Cats, with their independent demeanor and mysterious allure, often keep their inner workings hidden from their human companions. However, one aspect of their physiology that has garnered increasing attention in recent years is their gut microbiome…

Just as in humans, the gut microbiome of cats plays a crucial role in their overall health and well-being. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of the cat gut biome, exploring its importance for digestive health, the role of beneficial gut bacteria, and how it differs between obese and lean cats.

Understanding the Cat Gut Microbiome: What You Need To Know

The gut microbiome refers to the vast community of microorganisms residing within the gastrointestinal tract. These microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, form a complex ecosystem that interacts with the host organism in myriad ways. 

In healthy cats, the gut microbiome is essential for various physiological functions, including digestion, nutrient absorption, immune system regulation, and even behavior.

Beneficial Gut Bacteria in Cat Digestive Health

At the heart of the cat gut microbiome are beneficial bacteria that play a central role in maintaining a cat’s gut health. These healthy cat-specific bacteria aid in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates, synthesis of vitamins, modulation of immune responses, and protection against harmful pathogens. 

A balanced gut microbiome, characterized by the presence of diverse beneficial bacteria, is crucial for ensuring optimal digestive function and overall well-being in cats.

Common bacteria found in healthy pet cats include:

  • Bifidobacterium animalis
  • Enterococcus faecalis
  • Faecalibacterium prausnitzii
  • Lactobacillus gasseri

In contrast, an imbalanced gut microbiome, also known as dysbiosis, can have severe consequences for a cat’s health. Dysbiosis is characterized by a decrease in beneficial bacteria and an overgrowth of harmful microorganisms, leading to digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Unlock the Power of the Microbiome today with the CosmosID-HUB. Get in touch now to find out more.

cat gut biome

Supporting Digestive Health in Cats

Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is essential for promoting the overall health and longevity of pet cats. Several factors can influence the composition and diversity of the cat’s gut microbiome, including diet, lifestyle, genetics, and environmental factors.

To support digestive health, pet owners can take proactive steps such as providing a nutritionally balanced diet, incorporating gut restore supplements, and ensuring regular veterinary check-ups.

Keeping an eye on potential signs of digestive issues, such as changes in appetite and stool consistency or weight loss, is also crucial in catching any imbalances early on.

Additionally, promoting a stress-free environment and encouraging physical activity can also help maintain a healthy gut microbiome in cats. Stress and anxiety can disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, leading to digestive issues.

Regular Veterinary Checkups

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for identifying and addressing any potential health issues in cats, including those related to the gut microbiome. A thorough examination by a veterinarian can help catch any imbalances or underlying conditions early on, allowing for prompt treatment.

During these check-ups, pet owners can discuss their cat’s diet, lifestyle, and any changes in behavior or appearance with their veterinarian. The vet may also recommend specific tests to evaluate the cat’s gut microbiome and overall digestive health.

By proactively monitoring and supporting their cat’s gut health, pet owners can help promote a balanced and diverse gut microbiome that is essential for their feline’s well-being.

cat sitting on the floor

Cat Health Gut Supplements

If your veterinarian identifies imbalances in your cat’s gut microbiome, they may recommend incorporating a cat health gut supplement into their diet. Probiotic supplements contain beneficial bacteria and other ingredients that can restore balance to the gut microbiome and promote digestive health.

Before adding any supplements to your cat’s diet that haven’t been recommended by a vet, always consult with your veterinarian first to ensure you are selecting the right product for your pet. 

The Role of Diet in Cat Gut Health

Diet plays a significant role in shaping the composition of the cat gut microbiome. Commercial cat foods come in a variety of formulations, ranging from dry kibble to wet food, each with its unique impact on the gut microbiome.

For example, diets rich in fiber promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, while excessive consumption of highly processed foods may disrupt the microbial balance. Choosing high-quality cat foods with natural ingredients can help maintain a healthy gut microbiome and support digestive health.

Obesity and the Cat Gut Microbiome

Obesity is a growing concern among pet cats, with nearly half of all domestic cats classified as overweight or obese. In addition to its detrimental effects on overall health, obesity can also impact the composition and function of the cat gut microbiome.

Recent research has shed light on the differences between the gut microbiomes of obese and lean cats, highlighting potential implications for feline health. Additionally, studies have shown that weight loss for obese cats can lead to positive changes in the gut microbiome composition and may help improve digestive health.

cat sitting

How Microbiome of Obese Cats Differs From Lean Cats

Cats are notorious for excessive food intake and lazing around all day. When combined with a lack of physical activity, excess calories take the form of adipose tissue, or fat. Domestic cat obesity is an epidemic with a current prevalence of 45%, meaning almost 1 in 2 domestic cats are obese.

Obesity in cats is associated with many health conditions including insulin resistance, urinary diseases, neoplasia, cardiovascular disease and reduced lifespan. These conditions, as well as obesity, are also known to be associated with the gut microbiome in humans. More than 20 studies have investigated the link between obesity and the cat gut microbiome with 16S rRNA gene sequencing but no previous study has investigated this relationship using WGS.

Besides allowing more robust taxonomic results than 16S rRNA gene sequencing, WGS also provides a prediction of the community’s functional capacity since all genetic material is sequenced. Ma et al. (2022) used WGS on gut microbiome samples from 8 obese/overweight and 8 normal weight cats. Alpha diversity analyses of the feline gut microbiome illustrated that obese cats harbored less microbial diversity and a lower Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio than lean cats. The decrease in the ratio appeared to be due to decreased Firmicutes relative abundance in obese cats.

Interestingly, the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio shift was the opposite of obese human and mouse models. Functional metagenomic data suggested that obese cats had more copies of fatty acid synthesis-related pathways than lean cats. Altogether, the results indicated a clear divergence between lean and obese cats in taxonomic and functional gut metagenomics.

Nonetheless, the findings should be approached with caution, as there are significant differences between the lean and obese cat cohorts. The obese cats included in the study were all neutered males of 6 years of age which were on the LabDiet laboratory feline diet 5003. The lean cats were of ages 4 months to 6 years, reproductively intact, and were fed on Hill’s Science Diet Adult Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food, with no mention of the sexual demographics of the lean cats.

These differences make it unclear whether the taxonomic and functional differences identified are due to obesity itself or to the age and sex demographics of the two cat groups. Further work in this field, with matched age, sex, and diet cohorts, could clarify these results.

Implications & Outcomes for Feline Health

Understanding the relationship between obesity and the cat gut microbiome has important implications for feline health and wellness. By identifying specific microbial signatures associated with obesity, veterinarians and pet owners can develop targeted interventions to restore gut health and promote weight management in obese cats.

Strategies such as dietary modifications, probiotics, and a gut restore supplement may help rebalance the gut microbiome and support overall digestive health in overweight and obese cats.

Research like the study highlighted above also paves the way for more personalized and tailored approaches to feline nutrition and gut health management. By harnessing the power of the gut microbiome, we can work towards ensuring our beloved feline companions live long, healthy lives.

cat sitting on a table

Top Tips To Support Your Cat’s Health

  • Ensure your cat maintains a balanced diet, enriched with natural ingredients to support a healthier gut microbiome.
  • Regularly consult with your veterinarian to monitor your cat’s gut health and adjust their diet or supplements as needed.
  • Always consult your veterinarian before making any significant changes to your cat’s diet or starting supplements.
  • Keep an eye on your cat’s weight – overweight and obese cats are at a higher risk for health issues related to the gut microbiome.
  • Consider adding a Vitamin E supplement to your cat’s diet, which can support their immune system and overall health.
  • Look for cat foods and supplements with chicken liver flavor to encourage finicky eaters to consume their necessary nutrients.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into your cat’s routine to prevent obesity and promote a healthy gut microbiome balance.
  • Explore probiotic supplements specifically designed for cats to help maintain the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Closing Thoughts

In summary, the cat gut biome is a fascinating and complex ecosystem that warrants further exploration to unlock its full potential in promoting the health and longevity of our beloved feline friends. The cat gut microbiome plays a crucial role in maintaining digestive health, nutrient metabolism, and immune function in pet cats.

While obesity can disrupt the delicate balance of the gut microbiome, leading to alterations in microbial composition and function, targeted interventions can help restore gut health and promote weight management in obese cats. 

By understanding the intricate interplay between diet, gut microbiome, and feline health, pet owners can take proactive steps to ensure the well-being of their furry companions for years to come.

Unlock the Power of the Microbiome today with the CosmosID-HUB. Get in touch now to find out more.

Barış Özdinç

Barış Özdinç analyzes microbiome research with his educational background in genetics and evolution. As a research analyst for CosmosID, he combines metagenomics and data analyses to identify microbial biomarkers in disease cohorts and evaluate microbiome research tools. His work involves curating microbiome data and creating interesting microbiome content for newsletters and blog posts. Barış Özdinç received his bachelor’s degree in genetics and master’s degree in biodiversity, evolution, and conservation from University College London (UCL). Currently, he lives in Istanbul, Turkey, where he lives with his cat, Delight, and mentors female students in their STEM career pursuits.