Santanu Deb-Choudhury and his team at AgResearch have discovered that proteins from sheep wool fibre can help improve the digestive health of cats.
Dr Deb-Choudhury extracts the proteins from crossbred wool.
"We get about 90 percent extractability so if you started with 100 grams of raw wool you would end up with 90 grams of protein powder in a state that can be used for further applications."
The proteins are then added in powder form to a pet food formulation made for cats and have been tested against a standard cat food. Only a small amount of powder was used in the tests.
"We started with two percent (of wool powder in the pet food formulation) and we compared the results with two percent of dietary fibre in another formulation and the results were similar, so it was nice to see that wool does have an effect on cat gut health."
The tests were done on cats faeces at Massey University's Feline Institute where cats are kept under controlled conditions and feeding regimes are monitored.
The positive findings are opening up exciting possibilities for new uses of wool to improve digestive health for a broader range of animals, and potentially human beings.