Something is Lost in the Fire.
That ingredient is, for lack of a fancier term, “life.”
All foods that appear in a bag, box, or can are cooked. Cooked to death in a real sense, and very different from what Spot’s ancestors ate in the wild: prey.
Just Who Is This I’m Feeding?
It turns out that dogs are very close genetically to their ancestors and cousins, the wolf. This was actually borne out in a study of many different breeds of dog from very small to very large.1 Genetically speaking, they were all extremely similar to the wolf, almost carbon copies, whether they had bodies that were now Chihuahuas or Poodles or Great Danes.
All we have changed genetically is appearance, by selecting and breeding for characteristics we like, like the cute round head of the Cocker Spaniel, or the long legs and lean body of the Racing Greyhound.
And cats have come from a similar wild background. If we go back far enough, we will find a wild feline carnivore. I like to use the Bobcat or Mountain Lion as my model for illustrating points of nutrition, though I don’t think the genetic comparison has been worked out as in the dog/wolf model.
So, if you will, we can easily say that the voice crying out in both dogs and cats, from the depths of their genetic code, is asking,
“Hey, where’s the prey?”
That’s what they “know” to be real food, food that matches what they genetically “expect” from millenia of evolution on the planet. And, as domesticated as we have made them (the term used very loosely in the cat!), they have not lost this voice nor this need.
Sick Cats Tell No Lies
This was most clearly illustrated in Dr. Frances Pottenger’s work on cats in the 1930s.2 Pottenger was an M.D. studying human nutrition, but, luckily for us, used the cat as his model animal. A very large group of cats, in fact, as some 900 were in his study of several years!
He began feeding the cats what was assumed by the experts of the day to be a complete diet, consisting of cooked meat, boiled milk, and cod liver oil. The diet was such that all the nutrient needs of the cat should have been met.
Well, by two generations into the experiment, this group of cats became ill in a number of ways. They developed:
- Coat and skin abnormalities, including allergies
- Poor teeth, gums, and malformed facial and jaw structures
- Thyroid disease
- Reproductive failure
- Behavioral disturbances, including violence and irritability
- Parasitic infestation
To his credit as a researcher, Dr. Pottenger carefully changed only one variable at a time, in various groups of these cats.
In the best outcome group, the meat and the milk were left uncooked. Proportions remained the same, but the diets were now raw.
In a matter of four more generations, this group of cats got well, in all respects, losing the health problems of the main group.
Pottenger’s conclusion? The cooking of the food lost something, and that something was vitally important to health.
We can reasonably say today, looking at his data, that one lost ingredient was enzymes. Small molecules that catalyze and aid digestion, enzymes are in fact lost with even moderate cooking of food. A mere 118° will inactivate enzymes, and pet foods go through far more than that to come out in a uniform little chunk or a can. Another likely loss was in proteins that became denatured or less available, like the amino acid taurine.
Let’s Make This Simple
But I think we can easily draw a much simpler conclusion from this data, even if we never heard of enzymes or amino acids. It is this:
This need was even shown to be dose related, in a group of Pottenger’s cats fed half cooked and half raw diets. This middle group was not as ill as the all-cooked food fed group, nor as healthy as those fed all-raw food.
So, to get the missing ingredient of “life” in your pets’ diet, you can either feed:
- A balanced all-raw diet, following the guidelines of books (Recommended Resouces) or in this website. Concerned about the safety of raw meat?
- The Kibble Plus plan, using the healthy, all-natural diet (click here) I recommend and adding some life to it.
Here’s an easy way to Add Some Life to any cooked or purchased food.