Cats are obligate carnivores - strictly meat eaters. They have not fared well on a processed-pet food diet which is largely made of grain-based filler. Why? From Feline Nutrition Education Society, the true story of cat nutrition revealed by Pottenger's Cats:
Between 1932 and 1942, Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., M.D. researched the use of adrenal hormones in respiratory complaints such as asthma. Because cats cannot live without their adrenal glands they were used as laboratory animals to standardize the extracts. Pottenger maintained his cats on what was considered to be a high quality, nutritionally complete feline diet. The cats were fed cooked meat scraps, consisting of liver, tripe, sweetbreads, brains, heart and muscle, from a local sanatorium, raw milk and cod liver oil. Commercial cat food did not appear on the markets until the 1960's. In Pottenger's time, domestic cats either hunted for their food or were fed table scraps.¹
Compared to the stainless steel cages laboratory cats live in today, Pottenger's cats dwelt in agreeable quarters. They lived in large outdoor pens overlooking the San Gabriel Valley. The outdoor area was covered with chicken wire for adequate sun exposure. They had a trench filled with clean sand for a litter box. The back of the pens was sheltered and contained a wooden floor and bedding. Caretakers removed the cats' uneaten meat and bones and cleaned and refilled the water containers daily.²
Even though they received such good care, Pottenger could not understand why the cats were such poor operative risks. Many died in surgery or recovered slowly.³
When the cats donated to Pottenger's study outnumbered the food available from the sanatorium, Pottenger placed an order at a local meat packing plant for raw meat scraps, again including the viscera, muscle and bone.⁴
The good doctor devised a more extensive nutrition test for cats and continued this study for 10 years. He proved conclusively that cats fed a raw meat diet live longer, healthier lives.Pottenger fed the raw meat scraps (including raw milk and cod liver oil) to a segregated group of cats, keeping the remainder of his cats on the cooked meat diet. Within a few months the differences between the cats fed raw meat and those fed cooked meat became evident. The raw meat fed cats and kittens were more vigorous and survived surgery better than the cooked meat fed cats.⁵
The raw meat fed cats were uniform in size and skeletal development from generation to generation. Over their life spans, they were resistant to infections, fleas and various other parasites and had no signs of allergies. In general, they were gregarious, friendly and predictable in their behavior patterns. They reproduced one homogeneous generation after another with the average weight of the kittens at birth being 119 grams (4.20 ounces). Miscarriages were rare and litters averaged five kittens with the mother cat nursing her young without difficulty.⁷
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