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What Can We Learn About Food From Pottenger’s Cats?

TLDR: When you fail to feed a species-appropriate diet, you cause harm to that species. 

Dr. Pottenger’s 900 Cats and Not Being Able To Feed Them Raw

In the 1940’s a doctor by the name of Dr. Francis M. Pottenger was studying tuberculosis in humans. He was using cat adrenal extract to see if it would make his patients feel better.  

When word got out about his study, people started to dump cats on his doorstep.  

And he ended up with 900 cats.

Dr. Pottenger found himself in a predicament. Because he could not feed these cats.  

So he decided to start another study – and that is to see what would happen to the cats when he stopped feeding them a species-appropriate raw diet.

And so he separated the cats into multiple groups.

  • One group ate only a raw diet
  • The other a mix of two-thirds cooked meat and a third raw milk.   

He wanted to see the effects of how this diet would affect the cats over four generations of cats.  

Raw Fed Cats Remained Healthy

The raw-fed cats stayed healthy for all four generations. He attributed this to their raw fed diet.

The Cats On Cooked Food Developed Disease

The cats fed a non-species-appropriate diet on the other hand, didn’t do so well.  

First Generation

  • They developed degenerative diseases and became lazy towards the end of life.  

Second Generation

  • They developed degenerative diseases and illnesses in the middle of life and had some loss of coordination.  

Third Generation

  • What previous generations were experiencing later manifested earlier by the third generation. These cats developed diseases and illnesses in the beginning of life, and many died before they were six months of age.  
  • They also experienced blindness and weakness from birth
  • Reproductive issues
  • Parasites
  • Skin disease
  • Allergies increased from 5% to 90%
  • The fur of the deficient cats lost its sheen and shedding was noticable
  • Males became docile while females became more aggressive
  • Soft pliable bones
  • Adverse personality changes

Fourth generation

  • Was never produced as the parents were either too ill, sterile or aborted at death.  

The Pottenger cats also had a host of other problems:

  • Respiratory issues
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Constitutional problems and disorders
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Inflammation
  • Dental malocclusions

Real Food Made These Cats Healthy Again 

Dr. Pottenger wanted to see what would happen if he brought the cats back to a raw diet. So he took some of the first and second-generation cats and fed them raw again. 

He found that after four generations, the cats were able to regenerate back to normal health.  

Second generation back to raw:

  • Improvement in resistance to disease

Third generation back to raw:

  • Allergies were persisting 
  • Skeletal and soft tissue changes were still noticeable but to a lesser degree

Fourth-generation back to raw:

  • Most of the ailments, deficiency symptoms disappeared but seldom completely.  

Studies Were Different 80 Years Ago

Even though I’m sharing this study here, studies were very different during that time. 

There were no good scientific controls, and since the cats were “donated” he didn’t have a history of these cats.   

Additionally, this study was done before we knew the importance of taurine.  

So What Can We Learn From Pottenger’s Cats?

When a non-species-appropriate diet leads to the decline of that species, extinction will occur if that diet is followed over several generations.  

What Does This Have To Do With Dogs

Kibble took off in the 1960’s when The Pet Food Institute (a lobby group) began a campaign to get people to stop feeding their dogs anything but packaged dog food. They funded “reports” that appeared in magazines detailing the benefits of processed dog food and even produced a radio spot about “the dangers of table scraps.”

When Colgate came onto the market, they took what they learned in getting dentists to recommend toothpaste and used veterinarians to start recommending kibble.   

What Are We Seeing After Generations Of Dogs Fed A Diet that Is Non-Species Appropriate

We now have generations of dogs that have been fed a high carbohydrate, non-species-appropriate diet. And we’re starting to see:

  • Dogs with degenerative diseases in the middle of their life
  • More dogs with inflammation 
  • More dogs having skeletal problems (hip dysplasia and TPLO surgeries)  
  • Infertility problems
  • Hypothyroidism  

Who Will Sound The Alarm

The kibble industry’s top two companies are owned by Mars (a candy bar company) and Nestle (another candy bar company). They also own veterinary hospitals, research companies, and animal labs.  

These top companies in 2016 brought in the majority of sales:

Mars: $17 billion in sales

Nestle: $12 billion in sales

Smuckers: $2.3 billion in sales

Hills: $2.2 billion sales

General Mills $1.1 billion in sales 

And the pet food industry is not set up in our favor. All of the decision-makers are private corporations to keep processed food going while the consumer and dog and cat parent are left out of the decision-making process.   

So The People Who Make The Food Influence the Veterinarians Who Treat Our Dogs and Keep Recommending Kibble

Over $17 billion in pet food sales in 2016. Mars also owns over 1,000 Banfield and Blue Pearl veterinary clinics, and with their new addition of VCA, this adds another 750 veterinary hospitals under their control. With the VCA purchase, Mars also gains control over Antech Diagnostics, “the industry’s biggest laboratory.

It’s no wonder that when you see a veterinarian, they keep recommending kibble.  

  1. They know no other way to feed our dogs
  2. They are owned by candy bar companies, who make our dog’s kibble.

It is of my personal opinion that the only business the kibble companies are in – is to make more kibble.  

And the only business our veterinarians are in, is to keep making sure dog owners feed kibble.  

Let’s Return To a Species Appropriate Diet For Our Dogs

I’d love to see what would happen once we return to feeding our dogs as nature intended them to be fed.

I speculate that the degenerative ailments we have been seeing as of late will start to disappear.

But sadly it may take several generations.

Because feeding a fresh, species appropriate diet means you will have to go it alone.

You won’t have support of your veterinarian.

And you won’t have support of the kibble industry nor will they fund any studies to show how fresh food stacks up next to kibble.

And since these same kibble companies own the veterinarians who treats our dogs, then we’ll really never be shown a different way.

So it’s truly a journey that one will have to take on their own.

Will you be brave enough to start feeding real food?

Unquestionably if we love our dogs as much as we say we do, we’d advocate what is best for them.   

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