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Delicious or disgusting?: Pleasing the pet palate

August 1, 2017

Is delicious pet food only about choosing the best ingredients? No. There are many factors that affect palatability in dogs and cat foods.

Pet foods have many goals. At a basic level, they need to meet nutritional requirements. Beyond that, they should include ingredients that differentiate the product on crowded store shelves and echo a brand philosophy to which consumers, particularly millennials, feel connected.

But, none of this matters if dogs and cats don’t like it.

Choosing ingredients is the easy part. Ensuring the food tastes amazing to Fido and Kitty is a whole other science that involves parameters such as:

  • Texture
  • Shape
  • Hardness
  • Surface area
  • Moisture
  • Particle size

Dogs and cats have different opinions on what makes their food taste good.

The cat’s cravings

Cats prefer a slightly acidic taste and a lower moisture content. As carnivores, it’s in their nature to have an affinity for animal protein, which is an excellent source of amino acids, contributing to an overall acidic taste. Organic acids, such as citric acid, can also be used as a finishing touch to provide cats with that “meow” factor!

The pooch’s preferences

Dogs prefer a product with a higher moisture value, around 8–10 percent. Historically, they are obligate omnivores with a diet comprised of animal proteins as well as high moisture content fruits and vegetables.

Dogs also enjoy a slightly sweet flavor. Using ingredients with a slightly sweet taste, such as a nutrient-dense yeast extract, can have a big impact on boosting palatability.

Cats and dogs agree on food shapes

We used to believe that cats and dogs differed greatly in their preference of food shape, too, but recent studies have shown that dogs and cats are surprisingly similar.

Dogs prefer round discs, while cats prefer ovals. This could be due to the fact that a round disc or oval shape has more surface area to distribute the delicious fats and coatings applied to the exterior of the kibble.

Kibble: Chunky and crunchy

The hardness of the kibble is important as well. Both cats and dogs appreciate a crunch, yet the kibble has to break into chunks in their mouth rather than flake apart.

No cat or dog wants to eat a kibble that has a grainy texture or an uneven texture. Small particle size is a key factor to developing a smooth kibble.

Fresh is best in pet foods

Lastly, make sure food is, and stays, fresh. Dogs and cats can detect rancidity or spoiled ingredients from a mile away. Using a natural antioxidant, such as mixed tocopherols, goes a long way in ensuring fats don’t deteriorate during the shelf life of the product.

Ironically, dogs will happily seek out whatever the neighbor’s dog has left on the lawn or sniff around the kitchen garbage. But, when it comes to what’s in the food bowl, our best friends demand the best to satisfy their exceptionally sophisticated palate.

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