At the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center in Topeka, KS, approximately 900 dogs and cats help ensure that Hill’s food provides an ideal balance of nutrition and satisfaction – but what does that really mean for these furry friends? Here’s a look at a typical day inside the “PNC”:
7:00 AM – TIME WAKE UP
The animal technicians start their work early, but the dogs of the Pet Nutrition Center are already jumping to get the day started. Barks and yelps from hundreds of canines fill the air as carefully selected groups of 20 take turns in the “potty yard.” After nature is done calling, it’s off to the bark park for playtime. While the dogs are out and about, the handlers take this opportunity to clean out the kennels and wash the bowls – after all, it’s almost feeding time.
Meanwhile, a much quieter wakeup occurs on the feline side of the facility. The cat area allows for a variety of playtime and relaxation options. Litter boxes are cleaned, fresh water is poured, and meals are set out for cats to eat at their leisure.
8:00 AM to NOON – LET’S EAT!
After working up an appetite in the bark park, the dogs are brought into the cafeterias for a solid 45 minutes of mealtime.
Both cats and dogs are presented with two different options for each meal. While dogs are given a specific feeding window, the cats have a leisurely 24 hours to pick their food of choice. Those choices become a valuable data set for future Hill’s products.
Feeding time is a crucial part of the day for the pets, as well as the research teams that also work inside the facility. Just above the chew toys, playgrounds and scratching posts lies an array of gas/liquid chromatograph machines, spectrophotometers and other impressive-sounding equipment that help food scientists identify the aromas and flavors these pets enjoy the most.
This intensive, ongoing process includes existing Hill’s pet foods, competitor foods, and new “prototype” recipe formulations made in the on-site experimental food lab. Test kitchens inside the PNC allow the Hill’s nutritionists to create test food in small batches, complete with smaller versions of a manufacturing plant, canning line, etc. to give these dogs and cats the same dining experience your pet would have from the store.
NOON to 3:00 PM – TAKING NOTES
About half of the pets at the Pet Nutrition Center are involved in taste tests. The other half helps the Hill’s research team with more long-term observations such as protein content, digestibility, antioxidant content, and overall nutritional adequacy. For older pets, factors like gene expressions are identified to determine the best anti-aging ingredients. These programs are usually carried out in groups of 10 dogs/cats with one food, and 10 with another. The research team tracks the differences between the two groups to create a scientific profile for each pet food formulation.
3:00 PM – TIME FOR REST
While the cats continue their day-to-day activities, the dogs are brought in from a hard day of play. From this point on, the loyal teammates are brought to their freshly-cleaned sleeping dens for quiet time.
The PNC can mean a lot of things for the different engineers, scientists, and technicians that work at the facility – but for the dogs and cats that live there, every day is a filling one.