Keeping Cats Healthy (and some implications)

Back when medical research on animals was not questioned, Dr. Pottenger removed the adrenal glands of cats in his labs to test the effectiveness of his adrenal extracts. In an unintended consequence of having too many cats to feed, he made an amazing discovery about cat food.

Source: Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation

Between the years of 1932 and 1942, Dr. Francis Marion Pottenger, Jr. conducted a feeding experiment to determine the effects of heat-processed food on cats. His ten-year cat study was prompted by the high rate of mortality he was experiencing among his laboratory cats undergoing adrenalectomies for use in standardizing the hormone content of the adrenal extract he was making. Because there were no existent chemical procedures for standardizing biological extracts, manufacturers of such extracts necessarily had to use animals to determine their potency. As cats die without their adrenal glands, the dose of extract required to support their lives calibrated the level of the extract’s potency.

In his effort to maximize the preoperative health of his laboratory animals, Francis fed them a diet of market grade raw milk, cod liver oil and cooked meat scraps from the sanitarium. These scraps included the liver, tripe, sweetbreads, brains, heart and muscle. This diet was considered to be rich in all the important nutritive substances by the experts of the day, and the surgical technique used for the adrenalectomies was the most exacting known. Therefore, Francis was perplexed as to why his cats were poor operative risks. In seeking an explanation, he began noticing that the cats showed signs of deficiency. All showed a decrease in their reproductive capacity and many of the kittens born in the laboratory had skeletal deformities and organ malfunctions.

As his neighbors in Monrovia kept donating an increasing number of cats to his laboratory, the demand for cooked meat scraps exceeded supply and he placed an order at the local meat packing plant for raw meat scraps, again including the viscera, muscle and bone. These raw meat scraps were fed to a segregated group of cats each day and within a few months this group appeared in better health than the animals being fed cooked meat scraps. Their kittens appeared more vigorous, and most interestingly, their operative mortality decreased markedly.

The contrast in the apparent health of the cats fed raw meat and those fed cooked meat was so startling, it prompted Francis to undertake a controlled experiment. What he had observed by chance, he wanted to repeat by design. He wanted to find answers to such questions as: Why did the cats eating raw meat survive their operations more readily than those eating cooked meat? Why did the kittens of the raw meat fed cats appear more vigorous? Why did a diet based on cooked meat scraps apparently fail to provide the necessary nutritional elements for good health? He felt the findings of a controlled feeding experiment might illumine new facts about optimal human nutrition.

Here’s some more info on Dr. Pottenger from the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price, from a review by Steve Solomon.

Dr. Pottenger also noticed that cats on raw food lived very long, often 20 years. They also had good temperments and bred very successfully. When a cat that had been on raw food was placed on cooked food, its life was greatly shortened. The progeny of these cats began to change their appearance. Their overall size lessened, their teeth got poor, their reproductive organs did not develop well, they had smaller litters, and within three generations on all cooked food, they would barely reproduce, the females often refused to nurse or mother their young if they did get pregnant, and cooked-food cats developed nasty temperments.

The one study Pottenger reported that had the most profound effect on my awareness was when he took some cats that he had intentionally degenerated by feeding all cooked food for three generations. This group worsened to the point that they would barely reproduce. Pottender then took some of their young and began to feed them the ideal all-raw diet. After four generations of perfect feeding, only some of them began to look like fully-healthy cats. Degeneration is much easier to create than it is to recreate perfect health from degenerated stock. If these phenomena are expanded to include humans, then we could guess that after creating mass degeneration from mass mal-nutrition since the turn of the twentieth century, it will take humans several generations of near-perfect feeding to begin to virtually overcome the effects.This also suggests to me the reason why someone who has already developed a degenerative condition often can’t cure it simply by adopting dietary reforms.

via John Langlois

Here’s a review of the book Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition from Amazon:

Pottenger’s Cats is a classic in the science of nutrition. Dr. Pottenger discovered quite by accident that cats degenerated unless they were fed raw food. In his 10-year study of 900 cats, he found the optimal diet for his cats was 2/3 raw meat and 1/3 raw milk plus a little cod liver oil. If either the meat or the milk was cooked, the cats degenerated. And if both were cooked, the degeneration was much worse, and the cats could no longer reproduce by the third generation.

Some of the problems Pottenger found in the cats fed cooked food were: heart problems; nearsightedness and farsightedness; underactivity and inflammation of the thyroid; infections of the kidney, liver, testes, ovaries and bladder; arthritis and inflammation of the joints; inflammation of the nervous system with paralysis and meningitis. And in the third generation, some of the cats’ bones became as soft as rubber. Lung problems, and bronchitis and pneumonia were also frequent. Moreover, the females became irritable and even dangerous, and the males became passive and lacked sex interest.

Do many of these conditions sound familiar? Pottenger, of course, realized that his cat studies didn’t apply entirely to humans. He believed nonetheless that his findings for cats did have relevance for humans, and in his sanitarium he fed his patients much raw food, with considerable success. Weston A. Price reported in his book, "Nourishing Traditions" that all of the people’s he studied worldwide included much raw food in their traditional diets and were almost entirely free of the degenerative diseases that are rampant in our junk food society, such as tooth decay, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, digestive disturbances,etc.