Look what the cats are dragging in

Cats with a fondness for gourmet meals are threatening fish supplies, an Australian scientist has said.

Deakin University scientist, Dr Giovanni Turchini, has discovered an estimated 2.48 million tonnes of forage fish — a limited biological resource — is consumed by the global cat food industry each year.

“That such a large amount of fish is used for the pet food industry is real eye-opener,” Dr Turchini said.

“What is also interesting is that, in Australia, pet cats are eating an estimated 13.7 kilograms of fish a year which far exceeds the Australian average (human) per capita fish and seafood consumption of around 11 kilograms.

“Our pets seem to be eating better than their owners.”

Wild forage fish, which includes sardines, herrings and anchovies, are an important link in the marine food chain, as part of the diet of larger fish like tuna and swordfish.

Overfishing of marine resources is a concern to conservationists and the fishing industry.

“While much of the criticism has been on the grounds that forage fish could be better used for human consumption directly, particularly amongst the poorer nations of the world, rather than in the production of food for farmed fish, little attention has been paid to the amount of forage fish used by the pet food industry,” Dr Turchini said.

She said she believed the pet food industry was moving towards marketing premium and super-premium products.

“These gourmet pet foods contain a significant amount of fish that may be suitable for direct human consumption.”

Different raw material, such as by-products of the fish filleting industry, would be better used in pet food.

A more objective and pragmatic approach to the use of decreasing fish stocks was needed, she said.

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