The rise of obesity in our pets has paralleled the obesity epidemic in people. Considering obesity is rare in nature, we must seriously question how and what we feed our furry friends to ensure they are nourished with a diet that allows them to live to their fullest potential.
Whenever I am invited to lecture about diet and nutrition, I often ask the audience to tell me the ideal diet for a cat. If a cat were to live with the fullest expression of its genetic potential, what should it eat? I always give my audience a hint – it’s not Purina. It doesn’t take long before someone responds with mice or birds, thinking of a feral cat. This may seem obvious, but this very question was the subject of a ten year long research project.
Francis Pottenger was a mid 20th century doctor who studied the diet of cats over the course of three generations to observe the health of the individual cats as well as how diet might affect the genetic potential of subsequent generations. His primary trial contrasted cats fed a raw food diet compared to one fed a diet of cooked meat and/or pasteurized dairy. His findings were unequivocal in that the cohort of cats consuming a raw meat/milk diet had robust health and were relatively free of degenerative disease. The cats consuming the cooked foods showed obvious signs of degeneration including arthritis and, in the latter generations, infertility. Reproduction is the ultimate biological imperative, so for a species to lose this ability, the malnutrition must have been profound and indicative of a weakening occurring with each subsequent generation.
The implications are clear; there are nutrients within raw meat that cats need to live and live well. Considering I have never seen a cat roasting a mouse on an open fire, I will assume they are instinctively aware of this point. Despite such an obvious (and humorous) conclusion, it has not stopped pet food companies from taking massive liberty in formulating processed food-like products that contain all manners of substances our pets are not designed to eat. At the top of that list are grains. Here again, I have never seen a wild cat or dog tending rice paddies or cultivating wheat. Not only are grains unnatural to their diet, they cause the same pathological process to their metabolism as an overabundance of grains does to our own. Weight gain ensues under the influence of elevated insulin. A cat or a dog can get insulin-resistant diabetes, something that simply does not exist in nature. That point alone should give us pause for our paws.
Pet food is manufactured and packaged for our convenience, but that doesn’t mean we need to compromise the vital nutrition our pets need to thrive. Holistically trained veterinarians and progressive pet shops have stepped forward to offer consumers nutrient-dense choices. In our area, End of the Leash in Mukwonago offers a full line of raw and frozen pet foods that very conveniently provide optimum nutrition for your cat or dog.
Being mindful of this, we must extend this discussion into our own lives and deeply question the processed food-like products lining grocery store shelves and realize that we too are weakening our species. Degeneration is all around us. Most children born today will require glasses and/or braces to correct conditions caused by malnutrition in their parents.
As for our pets, I don’t think we will be seeing canine orthodontics anytime soon, but we do owe it to them to give them the best possible nutrition with which to flourish. From normalized body weight to a rich shiny coat, you will be amazed with the results.