Chemical composition of selected insect meals and their effect on apparent total tract digestibility, fecal metabolites, and microbiota of adult cats fed insect-based retorted diets

Lauren M. Reilly, Yi Hu, Patrick C. Von Schaumburg, Maiara R.D. De Oliveira, Fei He, Sandra L. Rodriguez-Zas, Bruce R. Southey, Carl M. Parsons, Pam Utterback, Leah Lambrakis, Diego V. Da Costa, Antonio G. Bertechini, Flávia M.O.B. Saad, Maria R.C. De Godoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Insect meals are novel and potentially sustainable protein sources. The objectives of this study were to determine the chemical composition and standardized amino acid digestibility using the cecectomized rooster model of three selected insect meals (i.e., speckled cockroach [SC], Madagascar hissing cockroach [MC], and superworm [SW]) and to determine the effects of these insect meals on food intake, apparent total tract digestibility (ATTD) of macronutrients, fecal scores, and metabolites of adult cats fed insect- or chicken-based retorted diets. This study consisted of a complete randomized design, with 28 adult cats randomly assigned to one of the four experimental retorted diets: Control (chicken-based diet), SC diet, MC diet, or SW diet. All animal procedures were approved by the University of Illinois Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. All diets were formulated to be complete and balanced and meet or exceed the nutritional requirements of adult cats. The experimental period was 28 d, with the first 7 d allotted for diet adaptation. The total fecal collection was completed during the last 4 d of the experimental period. On day 21, a fresh fecal sample from each cat was collected for the determination of fecal metabolites and microbiota. Food was offered twice daily to maintain body weight and body condition score. Among the three selected insect meals evaluated, oleic acid, palmitic acid, linoleic acid, and stearic acid were the most prevalent fatty acids. Branched-chain amino acids and arginine were the most preponderant indispensable amino acids in these insect meals. ATTD of dry matter, organic matter, acid-hydrolyzed fat, and crude protein did not differ among treatments (P > 0.05), and all diets were well digested by the cats. Similarly, fecal scores did not differ among the treatments and were within ideal range. No differences (P > 0.05) in fecal metabolite concentrations or microbiota diversity were observed among cats fed different experimental diets; only a few genera from Firmicutes and Bacteroidota phyla differ (P < 0.05) in cats fed SW diet in contrast to other dietary treatments. In conclusion, the selected insect meals evaluated herein are rich in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid for cats. Insect-based retorted diets led to comparable results to those achieved with a chicken-based retorted diet, suggesting that these novel protein sources might be adequate alternative ingredients in feline diets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberskac024
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • alternative protein
  • chemical composition
  • fatty acid
  • feline
  • insect
  • nutrient digestibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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