Faecal sample study

Thank you to everyone who has provided a faecal sample from their cat for our study. As you know, we have been looking at the intestinal flora of cats and whether certain factors affect the kind of bacteria that they carry in their intestine. We have been concentrating on the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These are microorganisms that you have probably heard of as having a beneficial effect on the health of humans. The bacteria in the intestine of cats are thought to be quite different and we wanted to see if these two types of probiotic bacteria are also present in healthy cats, which would suggest that they may also have a beneficial effect on the health of cats. To do this we have been testing the faecal samples for different bacteria.

The test we use is very different from a diagnostic test that your vet might use on a sample to investigate diarrhoea, so we are not able to diagnose any illnesses with this kind of test.

Owners of ‘Bristol Cats’ have sent in 272 samples and we have analysed the first batch of 209. We found that the probiotic profile of cats can be divided into four groups:

38% of cats had both of the probiotic bacteria that we tested for
16% had only Bifidobacterium
19% had only Lactobacillus and
27% had neither of these bacteria.

So our early results indicate that these “probiotic” bacteria, which you would expect to find in any healthy human, are not present in many cats.

We also scored the consistency of the faecal samples using the Nestle Purina faecal scoring system that you might be interested to see . These scores range from 1 (very hard and dry stools) to 7 (watery, no texture stools). Of the samples analysed to date, the percentage of samples in each score were:

Score 1: 10%
Score 2: 49%
Score 3: 20%
Score 4: 11%
Score 5: 6%
Score 6: 3%
Score 7: 1%

Similarly to humans, faecal consistency can be an indicator of gut health (linked to the bacterial profile of the gut). At the moment our preliminary results have found no indication of any association between the bacterial profile of cats and their gut health (as indicated by faecal consistency). Although still at an early stage, this study appears to confirm what was suspected, that the intestinal microflora of cats is very different from that of certain other species, for example dogs and humans. Thus what is appropriate or considered as a probiotic in other species may not be the case in cats.

We also analysed whether the type of food (dry/wet/cooked/raw) and frequency of feeding these different types of food (see table below) were associated with intestinal probiotic bacteria, but initial results did not reveal any clear associations.

Frequency of feeding Type of food fed to cats
‘Wet’ ‘Dry’ Cooked meat/fish Raw meat/fish

Likewise, while just over 60% of cats had access to the outdoors (and therefore hunting opportunities) this had no significant association with the presence of probiotic bacteria.

Samples are still being received and processed and we are particularly keen to obtain more faecal specimens from cats fed raw meat/fish. We are planning to carry out more tests to look for other types of bacteria to help us gain a better understanding of which bacteria may have a beneficial effect on cat health as this important information is not yet known. Updates of our findings will be posted on this website.

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