On 27/11The Inspector, Sven Pagaria on Radio 2, interviewed Professor Hale of the University of Ghent, in connection with the effects that high-quality food can have on the health of cats.

You can read the full interview below.

Can animal food can have spectacular effects (on energy levels, skin and coat)?
The food you give to your cat is of course very important for the health of your cat. You will of course have the greatest effect if you switch from low quality food to a higher quality food. The higher the quality of your food, the more palatable that food is, and the less waste must be excreted and thus the smaller the amount of stools excreted.

Can other cat food also make your cat more energetic or give it a healthier skin and coat?
More energetic, that might be rather subjective and a bit more difficult. Skin and coat is certainly possible. To have good skin and coat you need many different nutrients, just think of the proteins that contain certain amino acids, certain essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, trace elements. So if you give a complete and balanced nutrition you will also notice that in the coat. This requires time of course, the time it takes for a hair to grow, from when it shaved until it is fully grown. That, of course, takes time so those effects on skin and coat, you will see them especially in the longer term. Effects on stools, that is something you can see very quickly. We're talking about days that you definitely can see a clear difference.

There are also differences in price. Is cheap as good as expensive? 
I think we can assume that in Flanders, traditional commercial food is nutritional and balanced.  But of course there will be also be differences between cheaper and more expensive food. With the more expensive food the quality of the ingredients used will obviously be a bit higher, which then of course can be reflected in the palatability of the nutrients, which you then can see in the stools, as I said earlier. With more expensive food we also see, for example, that "functional foods" are used, these are supplements that are added and of course all that costs money. Those are not cheap. For example, a supplement to support the joints in older cats, certain fibres which can be supplemented in food and so on ...

A lot of people give table scraps to their cats. A good idea?
That's actually not such a good idea because our cats are strict carnivores. Many cats, however, are considered part of the family and people are going to think that they have the same dietary habits. But cats need other nutrients than people. […] It's all about what you give and how much you give. So basically if you give a balanced diet, it must contain all the nutrients the cat needs. If you give too many treats you can upset the balanced nutrition and that can therefore lead to imbalances in nutrients but also e.g. to excess weight if give all that on top.

Is giving your cat milk wise?  Milk and cats are not such good friends. 
That is true. Sugar is present in milk and an adult cat, unlike a kitten, cannot digest milk sugars that well so if you give too much milk, your cat can get diarrhoea.   

Why do neutered cats put on weight after castration, altough they continue to get the same amount? 
A neutered tomcat or female cat will need less energy. In literature we see that the energy needs can drop by an average of 30%, a fairly big effect on those energy needs. You therefore have to give neutered cats less energy but of course ensure that all the nutrients that the cat needs, that it absorbs it in that smaller quantity. So actually it's even better to give appropriate food for neutered cats because that is actually better than just give less.   

And better forget about treats or do they actually contain something nutritious for the cat?
As I just said giving something extra is in principle not necessary if you give your cat a balanced diet but we know of course that many people like to give something extra and we have therefore a rule of no more than 10% of the energy requirements as a little extra, table scraps, treats etc.  And you can also reward cats in a different way by playing with them or stroking them.