Kill Frequencies in Terrestrial Mammalian Carnivores: Species Differences and Implications for Feeding Regimes
2018 Joint EAZWV/AAZV/Leibniz-IZW Conference
Annelies De Cuyper1, PhD, Dr med vet; Marcus Clauss2, MSc, Dr med vet, DECVCN; An Cools1, PhD; Myriam Hesta1, PhD, Dr med vet, DECVCN; Geert P.J. Janssens1, PhD
1Laboratory of Animal Nutrition, Department of Nutrition, Genetics and Ethology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium; 2Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland


How often predators kill prey in the wild arguably has relevance for feeding regimes in captivity. An animal that is adapted to hunting and killing multiple times on a daily basis may become prone to obesity and reduced activity when fed high-energy diets once per day. In domestic cats, increasing feeding frequency is one (of several) strategies to manage obesity, leading to increased satiety signals as well as activity in an experimental setup.2,3 An animal that is adapted to killing only every few days and gorge-feeding may never experience the gastric distension typically associated with satiety when fed on a daily basis, which has been suggested as a possible reason underlying stereotypic behavior.4 While the latter hypothesis has not been tested, a desired weight reduction was achieved when shifting lions from a daily feeding routing to a gorge-and-fast feeding routine.1

Data on actually observed kill and feeding frequencies in free-ranging wild carnivores are scarce. Using published literature, we collected data on average prey size, hunting pack size, energetic requirements, prey energy content and gut capacity, and calculated the required kill frequencies for a large range of terrestrial carnivore mammalian species (from 135-g Mustela nivalis to 388-kg Ursus maritimus). For species whose prey exceeded their gut capacity (i.e., who could not ingest the whole prey, ‘large-prey feeders’), kill frequencies declined with increasing predator mass; i.e., larger carnivores had lower kill frequencies. In the smallest of these ‘large-prey feeders,’ some mustelid species, kill frequencies were between 0.5–2 times per day. For species whose prey did not exceed their gut capacity (‘small-prey feeders’), there was no change in kill frequency with body mass. These species were mostly but not exclusively smaller carnivores, and kill frequency averaged at 5 per day.

The data suggest no simple body-size-related pattern of kill frequency across terrestrial carnivores, but emphasize the relevance of species-specific concepts.

Literature Cited

1.  Altman JD, Gross KL, Lowry SR. Nutritional and behavioural effects of gorge and fast feeding in captive lions. J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2005;8:47–57.

2.  Deng P, Iwazaki E, Suchy SA, Pallotto MR, Swanson KS. Effects of feeding frequency and dietary water content on voluntary physical activity in healthy adult cats. J Anim Sci. 2014;92:1271–1277.

3.  Deng P, Ridge TK, Graves TK, Spears JK, Swanson KS. Effects of dietary macronutrient composition and feeding frequency on fasting and postprandial hormone response in domestic cats. J Nutr Sci. 2013;2:e36.

4.  Veasey JS. In pursuit of peak animal welfare; the need to prioritize the meaningful over the measurable. Zoo Biol. 2018;36:413–425.


Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker)

Annelies De Cuyper, PhD, Dr med vet
Laboratory of Animal Nutrition
Department of Nutrition, Genetics and Ethology
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Ghent University
Merelbeke, Belgium

MAIN : Ethics & Welfare : Kill Frequencies in Carnivores
Powered By VIN