Two frozen, raw horse meat–based diets fed to captive exotic felids at Brookfield Zoo were irradiated to determine the extent of microbial destruction and whether radiation treatment would affect consumption and/or fecal consistency in exotic cats. Fifteen cats, two African lions (Panthera leo), two Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica), one Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), two clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa), two caracals (Felis caracal), one bobcat (Felis rufus), and five fishing cats (Felis viverrinus), housed at Brookfield Zoo were fed nonirradiated and irradiated raw diets containing horse meat with cereal products and fortified with nutrients: Nebraska Brand Feline and/or Canine Diet (Animal Spectrum, North Platte, Nebraska 69103, USA). Baseline data were obtained during a 2-wk control period (nonirradiated diets), which was followed by a 4-wk period of feeding comparable irradiated diets. Feed intake and fecal consistency data were collected. An estimated radiation dose range of 0.5–3.9 kilograys reduced most microbial populations, depending on specific diet and microbe type. Irradiation had no overall effect on either feed consumption or fecal consistency in captive exotic cats, regardless of species, age, sex, or body mass. Data indicate that irradiation of frozen horse meat–based diets (packaged in 2.2-kg portions) result in microbial destruction in these products but that product storage time between irradiation and sampling may also affect microbial reduction. However, irradiation would be an appropriate method for reducing potentially pathologic bacteria in raw meat fed to exotic cats.
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Vol. 32 • No. 3