Animal fibre: the forgotten nutrient in strict carnivores? First insights in the cheetah

J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2013 Feb;97(1):146-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2011.01252.x. Epub 2011 Nov 10.


As wild felids are obligate carnivores, it is likely that poorly enzymatically digestible animal tissues determine hindgut fermentation, instead of plant fibre. Therefore, faecal concentrations of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA, including branched-chain fatty acids, BCFA), indole and phenol were evaluated in 14 captive cheetahs, fed two different diets differing in proportion of poorly enzymatically digestible animal tissue. Using a cross-over design, the cheetahs were fed exclusively whole rabbit or supplemented beef for 1 month each. Feeding whole rabbit decreased faecal propionic (p < 0.001) and butyric (p = 0.013) acid concentrations, yet total SCFA was unaltered (p = 0.146). Also, a remarkably higher acetic acid to propionic acid ratio (p = 0.013) was present when fed whole rabbit. Total BCFA (p = 0.011) and putrefactive indole (p = 0.004) and phenol (p = 0.002) were lower when fed whole rabbit. Additionally, serum indoxyl sulphate, a toxic metabolite of indole, was analysed and showed a quadratic decrease (p = 0.050) when fed whole rabbit. The divergent SCFA ratios and the decrease in putrefaction when fed whole rabbit could be caused by the presence of undigested tissue, such as skin, bone and cartilage, that might have fibre-like functions. The concept of animal fibre is an unexplored area of interest relevant to gastrointestinal health of captive cheetahs and likely other felids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acinonyx* / blood
  • Acinonyx* / metabolism
  • Animal Feed / analysis*
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Animals, Zoo
  • Cattle
  • Diet / veterinary*
  • Dietary Fiber* / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fiber* / classification
  • Female
  • Fermentation
  • Indican / blood
  • Male
  • Meat / analysis*
  • Rabbits


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Indican