This article originally appeared in Pets and the City Magazine - By Aspen Anderson
Did you know cats share over 99% of their DNA with their larger counterparts like lions, panthers, and tigers? While their outward appearance varies greatly, anyone with a cat knows that sometimes they have the self-confidence of cougars! We know the ancient Egyptians worshipped cats, beginning a cultural phenomenon that continues today, but how did that come to be?
DNA comparisons show that cats were domesticated about 10,000 years ago, from wildcats. Archeological evidence of the first civilizations does not go back much further. Coincidence? Absolutely not. The two phenomena are intertwined because of grain storage. Without an abundance of food, there is no time for scholars, and without scholars, science, technology, mathematics and the study of stars, forms of writing, etc. cannot be developed.
Cats became beneficial to the human goal of food storage because they don't eat grain, but they do eat the rodents who eat the grain. So humans provided shelter to cats, who protected the food while not posing a threat to the grains themselves, and a mutually beneficial relationship began.
What does that mean for our Tabbies, our Ragdolls, and our pampered fur babies who no longer serve the purpose of rodent protection? Well, first off, it means feeding them dry kibble filled with corn, wheat, and soy makes no logical sense. Despite the marketing, most dry foods are low in meat and even lower in quality, and extremely dry for a species that evolved getting their moisture from their food. It also explains why it can be so hard to get cats to drink water – that’s not their natural source of hydration.
From this evolutionary perspective, the concept of dry food becomes illogical. It makes sense, then, that many common diseases can be better managed with a moisture-rich diet of meat, preferably high-quality raw:
- Obesity is a major problem in cats and can lead to diabetes, joint problems, thyroid concerns, etc. A high-carb diet is difficult to digest and creates insulin resistance, disrupts gut bacteria, and leads to weight gain. A low-carb diet of meat is easy to digest, promotes healthy weight, and avoids complications.
- Urinary, kidney, and bladder issues can often be traced back to a lack of moisture. Because of their desert evolution, cats don't have a well-developed sense of thirst and live in chronic dehydration. This puts stress on the kidneys and makes it difficult to move bacteria through the urinary tract. They need more moisture in their food!
-Cancer feeds on sugar, and refined carbohydrates are basically digested as sugars. Again, a low-carb diet rich in moisture will drastically reduce the likelihood of cancer appearing.
- Dental disease can also be better managed when you move away from dry food. Kibble does NOT clean teeth – if that were true, you wouldn't need nearly as many expensive dental cleanings for yourself! In fact, carbohydrates stick to the teeth, leading to inflammation and expensive surgeries. You have to get ahead of your cat's teeth before they become inflamed, and a raw diet of meat and bone do better at exfoliating the teeth and keeping them clean naturally.
- The last common health issue I want to discuss is vomiting. It is very commonly a result of dry food. When cats are young their stomachs can stretch to accommodate the food they eat. But without moisture to soften the food, dry food irritates the stomach lining and over time it begins to harden so the cat begins to throw up excess food instead of being able to keep it down. Adding moisture (and a good probiotic) can go far in addressing this concern.
By looking back to what cats ate before pet food became an industry in the early 1900s, we can identify many of the ways modern feeding has strayed from the way cats were biologically programmed to eat. Let's use that information to make our cats healthier, happier, and quirkier than ever!
This post originally appeared in SALT Magazine, January 2018
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I may sell pet food, but I also have a Master's Degree in History. Anyone want to talk British Navy stuff? No? You just want the pet food stuff? Ok...