Although decades of research have given nutritionists a solid foundation for developing companion cat diets, much is needed in the field of exotic cat nutrition. Most zoos feed exotic cats a raw beef-based diet, regardless of species. These raw meat diets do contain additional ingredients and supplements to meet domestic cat requirements; however, little is known how exotic cats utilize the specific nutrients in various meats.
In 2006, the Comparative Nutrition Department at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo along with researchers in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, began studying how various cat species digest the nutrients from a variety of different meat-based diets including beef, bison and elk. These studies have been replicated in domestic cats in order to determine the similarities and differences that exist between the species.
Additionally, further studies are being conducted to determine the specific energy requirements of individual exotic cat species in order to maintain ideal and healthy body condition. The results of all of the large cat nutrition research will be presented to other AZA institutions, in addition to publication in nutrition journals.