Nutrient digestibility and fecal characteristics are different among captive exotic felids fed a beef-based raw diet



Nutrient digestibility has not been well characterized in exotic felids. The objective of this experiment was to evaluate differences in nutrient digestibility and fecal characteristics in five large exotic captive felid species, including bobcats, jaguars, cheetahs, Indochinese tigers, and Siberian tigers. All animals were individually housed and adapted to a beef-based raw diet (Nebraska Brand® Special Beef Feline, North Platte, NE) for 16 d. Total fecal collections were conducted from days 17 to 20. Fecal samples were weighed and scored on collection. Diet and fecal samples were evaluated for dry matter, organic matter, protein, fat, and energy to determine total tract digestibility. Fresh fecal samples were collected to determine fecal pH, ammonia, phenol, indole, short-chain fatty acid, and branched-chain fatty acid concentrations. Fecal scores were greater (P<0.01) in Indochinese tigers when compared with all other species, and cheetahs had greater (P<0.01) fecal scores than jaguars and bobcats. Fat digestibility was greater (P<0.01) in Siberian tigers, Indochinese tigers, and bobcats (96%) compared with cheetahs and jaguars (94%). Digestible energy was greater (P<0.05) in bobcats and Indochinese tigers at 93.5 and 92.9%, respectively, compared with cheetahs and jaguars, 91.6%. Fecal pH was greater (P<0.01) in bobcats compared with all other species evaluated. Indole concentrations were greater (P<0.05) in cheetahs and jaguars compared with bobcats and Indochinese tigers. Fecal ammonia concentrations were increased (P<0.05) in cheetahs compared with all other species. The beef-based raw diet was highly digestible; however, differences in fat and digestible energy suggest that species should be considered when determining caloric needs of exotic felids. Zoo Biol 27:126–136, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.