Forget fish or beef, scientists are recommending cats should be fed sheep wool - and humans might want to consider it as well.
The Royal Society of Chemistry has published a new study from AgResearch in its Food & Function journal that found proteins from sheep wool can help improve the digestive health of cats.
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Dr Jolon Dyer, AgResearch's Science Group leader for food and bio-based products, said there was a lot of work going on to discover new uses of sheep wool in New Zealand, including as dietary supplements.
"The research is telling us that sheep wool has many useful attributes, and one of those now appears to be proteins derived from the wool that could be used as a dietary supplement to improve digestion and nutrition, and therefore overall health," he said.
As a part of the study, a method of controlled hydrolysis was used to extract the wool proteins, which were then added into cat food.
Compared with standard cat food, the formula with added wool proteins showed "promise as a function ingredient", said the study's co-lead scientist Dr Santanu Deb-Choundhury.
Further research will be conducted to study the effect of the proteins on larger animals, which may potentially one day include humans.
"There's a lot of potential in terms of how it can add to the wellbeing of pets and other animals, and even people, but we do need to see how it stacks up in the further research," Dr Deb-Choudhury said.