If you've followed my articles on Tips for Choosing Cat Foods and Understanding Cat Food Labels, you may have come to the conclusion that there is no perfect commercial food for your cat. Indeed, because of the heat processing necessary to meet government standards, even the best of these cook out some of the nutrients. What is a concerned cat owner to do, then?
Why Consider a Raw Food Diet?The simplest answer is, "Because it closely approximates the diet cats would get in the wild; the diet to which their physiology is naturally attuned." Cats eat a varied diet in the wild, including organs, brains, and occasionally, stomach and intestine contents:
- mice and other rodents
- small mammals
- snakes and other reptiles
However, for various reasons most feline caregivers do not have the resources, nor the time to offer live prey to their cats; others may feel squeamish at doing so (although frozen baby mice warmed to room temperature may afford a rare treat.) Enter the raw food diet, which most closely approximates the diet of felines in the wild.
An oft-cited study was done by Francis M. Pottenger, which left little doubt to the importance of enzyme-rich raw foods for cats.
Pottenger's CatsToward the middle of the 20th century, Dr. Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., drawing on the experiments of Weston Price in his treatments of respiratory disease, conducted a study on the effects of heat-processed foods on cats. His study was prompted by the poor health of cats he was using for adrenal studies; cats who were fed cooked meat scraps. As neighbors to his clinic in Monrovia, CA, kept donating cats for his study, his supply of cooked meat dwindled, and he found a source for raw meat scraps from a local meat packing plant. Dr. Pottenger observed within a few months that the cats receiving the raw meat scraps were in noticeably better health; thus his feeding study was born.
The controlled feeding experiment took place over ten years, between 1932 and 1942, and over 900 cats were eventually included. The optimum diet consisted of 1/3 raw milk, cod liver oil, and 2/3 raw meat, with one group receiving cooked food instead of raw. The findings were astounding. Within a few generations, the cats receiving cooked food exhibited:
- facial deformities: narrowed faces, crowded jaws, frail bones and weakened ligaments
- an excess of parasites
- all manners of disease
- female cats became more aggressive while males became docile
- difficulty with pregnancy, and after three generations, pregnancy failed
- kittens born of these pregnancies often did not survive to adulthood
- kittens showed skeletal deformities and organ malfunctions
Clearly, there was a direct link between the cooking of meat and the resultant evidence of malnutrition in Pottenger's cats.
Read further> Is raw meat safe for my cats?