I believe that providing our pets with species-appropriate nutrition is one of the most important things we can do to help our pets live a long life, but also a high-quality, vital life. Sadly, due to lack of knowledge, misinformation spread by big pet food companies, or choosing our convenience over our pet’s health this does not always happen.
My wife and I have been eager students of pet nutrition long before we even knew we would enjoy careers in the pet care services industry. We had a dog with severe medical issues that were related to his diet ( FMI – http://bit.ly/Gus-Nutrition ) which caused us to devour everything we could learn from books, seminars, articles, people and more. We focused mostly on dogs at first then expanded to cats. When our newest cat, Boomer, developed nutritionally related health issues at a young age, we started looking for even more information on cats and nutrition. Like most things dog and cat, there is often less available about our feline friends.
Kymythy Schultze’s first book Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats has long been the book I recommend for clients that want to prepare a homemade diet for their pets. I like that it is short, simple, and easy to understand while at the same time being complete. When I heard about Kymythy’s latest book, Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purrfect Health I immediately added it to my “To Read” pile. As has happened more than once, I am kicking myself for not putting this book on the top of the pile sooner.
By reading Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purrfect Health, you will learn the how and why of feeding your cat for optimal health. Additionally, you will also learn about the relationship between veterinary schools, the veterinary community as a whole, and the big businesses that represent the vast majority of the pet food industry. The latter makes this book a “must read” for dog people in addition to cat lovers.
One of the things that I like best about Kymythy and her books is that they are based on common sense, something that seems to be disappearing from our world. For example, early on in the book, she states “A good diet for your cat is one that provides the correct nutrients, in the proper forms, that it needs to be healthy and happy. Plus, the regimen has to please you, too. If you’re uncomfortable with a particular way of feeding or if you don’t understand it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. How you feed your cat must fit into your personal comfort zone and be good for your cat as well.” Kymythy’s book provides the reader with expert advice on feeding a cat, but Kymythy recognizes that not everyone will have the resources to feed as she does and she makes that clear. She provides the reader with the information that they need, seldom provided by pet food companies or veterinarians, so that you can make an educated decision that will be in the best interests of both you and your cat. As she notes “The main goal here is to get some real food into your feline friend!”
Kymythy’s recommendations certainly have merit. We recently interviewed her on The Woof Meow Show ( FMI – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2017/07/31/podcast-pet-nutrition-with-kymythy-schultze-author-of-natural-nutrition-for-cats-the-path-to-purrfect-health/ ) where she told us that her most recent cat to cross the Rainbow Bridge lived to be thirty-two years old and that most of her cats lived into their mid-twenties. Kate and I were speechless for a few moments and those that know us, know that is a rarity. Kymythy obviously is on to something!
In Chapter 1, Kymythy starts by defining good health. She discusses the many health issues found in cat’s today (“Problems with skin, coat, parasites, teeth, weight, odor, digestion, kidney, thyroid, pancreas, diabetes, urinary, respiratory, and immune systems are not normal. They’re not signs of good health!”) which are all too often accepted as “normal” because they are becoming more and more prevalent. Then she discusses why what we feed our pets plays such a significant role in their health. Central to that theme is the importance of eating and feeding real food instead of processed products; “As both humans and felines have strayed from eating fresh foods, both our species have suffered a huge increase in obesity, diabetes, allergies, cancer, behavior problems, general ill health, and more.”
The book also discusses the anatomy and physiology of the cat and how that determines what food is biologically appropriate for them as a species. The cat is an obligatory carnivore which means that they MUST eat meat. Many of our cats who spend time outdoors routinely hunt, kill and consume what they have killed – preparing their meals just as nature intended. Mice and birds are a more natural source of nutrition for our cats than processed kibble which can be as much as 60% carbohydrates, something that the cat has no need for in their diet; “Even the National Research Council’s Subcommittee on Cat Nutrition states that “. . . no known dietary carbohydrate requirement exists for the cat . . .” Obesity is a major problem for both dogs and cats, and we all know the link between carbohydrates and obesity in humans. Pets are no different.
The cats need for water from the food that they eat is also addressed, something that cats do not get in sufficient quantities from dry food and treats. We also discussed this on The Woof Meow Show with Kymythy where she noted: “If your cat is going to a water bowl frequently it is likely they are not getting enough water in their food and may be dehydrated.” The cats instinctual need for water in their food is yet another example of why feeding fresh meat, or a quality canned food, at least as a supplement, is a better choice than only feeding your cat dry food.
In Chapter 4, Kymythy addresses pet kibble, cans, and the major pet food manufacturers. She discusses how pet food regulations are developed and how these regulations are, in her opinion, lacking. In reference to those that establish the regulations she states “The authors actually say, “Few nutritional requirements are known for the adult cat for maintenance or for pregnancy and lactation.” Kymythy then discusses how these commercial kibbles are tested, in a feeding trial where “Quality of life and longevity aren’t part of the test, and even a year-long feeding trial may not expose imbalances that take longer to affect a cat.”
If you are interested in pet food regulations and the scary underbelly of the pet food industry I would encourage you to watch the documentary Pet Fooled: A Look Inside A Questionable Industry ( FMI – http://www.petfooled.com/ ).
Kymythy addresses what is in the bag in chapter six, explaining why “veterinarian recommended” on the bag is not as helpful as many assume. She reviews common ingredients used in cat food and tells you what to look for and more importantly what to avoid. As Kymythy states “One might think it reasonable to assume that the premium price of this brand of food and the fact that it’s sold through veterinarians would assure us of better-quality protein. But I suppose the lesson is: Don’t assume!”
The concept of feeding our pets something that is not cooked is hard for some, especially veterinarians, to understand. In Chapter 7 Kymythy explains how cooking food for our pets, especially at high temperatures and pressures, can be detrimental. She states: “Research at the National Cancer Institute and John Hopkins University in the U.S. and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in London, and other studies— including those conducted by experts in Japan and Europe— show that cooking meat with high temperatures creates chemicals that aren’t present when it’s raw. Seventeen different carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds develop that collectively are called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These HCAs interfere with the body’s genetic structure and are proven to cause cancer in animals. They’re specifically linked to cancer of the stomach, pancreas, colon, heart, and breast. The substances are even found in nursing youngsters, so we know they travel through breast milk.” She also cites a study by Dr. Paul Kouchakoff that examined the effect of cooked and raw food on the immune system; “After much research, he concluded that raw food was viewed by the immune system as “friendly,” and cooked food was viewed as dangerous.” Lastly, Kymythy discusses the 10-year study by Dr. Francis Pottenger that demonstrated that cats fed an entirely raw-food diet were vastly healthier than those fed a cooked diet.
She concludes Chapter 7 stating “It’s ironic, really, how all these years later, many cat lovers are actually still repeating this research by feeding cooked petfood products to their cats. And not surprisingly, many are seeing the same ill-health effects that Dr. Pottenger saw in his cooked-food cats. These people certainly don’t intend to hurt their animal friends, it’s just that the cooked-product companies are very large, powerful, and convincing in their marketing. So who’s to blame for our cats’ health problems?”
In Chapter 8 Kymythy discusses responsibility and the fact that as our cat’s guardians, we are ultimately responsible for their health. She also discusses, as she did on The Woof Meow Show, many of her concerns about the pet food industry and the overly close relationship they have with veterinarians, especially veterinary schools. Kymythy notes in the book: “…when I was studying animal nutrition at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine a few years ago, only a couple of my professors weren’t paid employees of petfood companies.” Like Kymythy, I find this corporate bias in our educational system very alarming.
In our interview with Kymythy, she also talked about how little time was spent in her nutrition classes at Cornell learning about real food; whole unprocessed, food in its natural form. However, when one considers that most of these “nutrition classes” are taught by a pet food company employee and that those companies do not use real food in their product, I guess one should not be surprised, although I would hope everyone would be disappointed.
In Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purrfect Health Kymythy also discusses the brilliant marketing strategies used by big pet food companies. What she says is so important I am quoting her below.
The biggest petfood companies hire brilliant marketers to sell their products. After all, what could be better than having experts (veterinarians) endorse your product? How did this come about? Well, one of the parent companies that’s become very involved with vets also makes toothpaste. Do you remember the old advertisement that boasted eight out of ten dentists recommend a particular brand? It was a brilliant campaign and put this firm at the top of toothpaste sales.
At the time, the company also had a very small petfood division they were about to sell, but an executive came forward with a great idea: If they could use the same tactic with this branch as they had with their toothpaste, they’d be equally successful. So they used the pharmaceutical industry’s practice of spending tons of money to woo doctors. In fact, a retired sales executive from the petfood company commented on why this marketing strategy works so well: “It’s just like taking drugs: You go to the doctor, and he prescribes something for you, and you don’t much question what the doctor says. It’s the same with animals.”
They know that the trust cat guardians have in vets is so strong that they’ll feed what they’re told without question. So the manufacturer spends a great deal of money enforcing that connection. In fact, other than universities, this company is the country’s largest employer of vets! They fund research and nutrition courses and professorships at veterinary colleges and offer a formal nutrition-certification program for technicians. They’ve also written a widely used textbook on animal nutrition that’s given free of charge to veterinary students, who also receive stipends and get products at zero or almost-zero charge.
This relationship doesn’t end after graduation. The corporation sends veterinarians to seminars on how to better sell their products, provides sales-goal-oriented promotions, gives them lots of promotional tools, and offers big discounts so that vets make more money on product sales.
Although not discussed in Kymythy’s book, as it is a recent development, a major pet food company is now purchasing veterinary clinics adding, even more, bias and pressure for the veterinarian, who will now be an employee of that company, to exclusively promote the company’s products. This direct financial relationship affects not only pet food but also vaccines. ( FMI – http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2017/06/25/pets-over-vaccination.aspx )
In Chapter 9, Kymythy discusses how she decided to feed her cats by making her food at home, instead of relying on any commercial product. As she points out, while some call feeding pets real food a fad, commercial pet food is a relatively new idea. For hundreds of years, people with dogs and cats fed their pet’s real food that they prepared themselves. Some in the veterinary community will argue that there is no proof that feeding a pet a raw diet or homemade diet is safe. Kymythy states: ”There’s no proof that feeding your cats a processed pet food is better for them than a properly prepared meal of fresh, species-appropriate food. And anyone who says cats are living longer today because of those processed products also has no proof. Certainly, a cat may live longer today if it’s not outside being hit by a car or attacked by another predator. But the cats of my grandmother’s day were frequently living well into their late 20s without benefit of processed products. Feeding real food is really just the longest used way of feeding cats.” The fact that no studies exist to support that feeding processed foods provides optimal nutrition are also made by veterinarians Dr. Karen Becker and Dr. Barbara Royal in the documentary Pet Fooled: A Look Inside A Questionable Industry. ( FMI – http://www.petfooled.com/ )
Kymythy concludes the book by discussing how you can start making food for your cat. “The C.A.T. diet— CatAppropriate and Tasty! It’s a simple combination of raw meat (muscle and organ), bone, and a few supplements (or “supps” as we call them at my house). The ingredients provide every known nutrient, and the meal is easy to prepare.” She discusses shopping for supplies, preparing the food and how to transition your cat to their new diet.
If you want to learn how you can make healthy, nutritious meals for your cat or if you just want to find out more about cat nutrition and the good and bad of the pet food industry, I highly recommend Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purrfect Health by Kymythy Schultze
Pet Nutrition – What Should I Feed My Pet? – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2017/06/04/pet-nutrition-what-should-i-feed-my-pet/
What do you feed your dog? – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/05/31/pet-nutrition-what-do-you-feed-your-dog/
Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gus – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2017/04/03/pet-nutrition-some-myths-and-facts-part-1-my-story-with-gus/
Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 2 – In the Spring 2017 issue of Maine DOG Magazine, Coming here soon! –
Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 3 – Look for this article in the Fall 2017 issue of Maine DOG Magazine, Coming here soon! –
Pet Nutrition – Should I Feed My Pet A Raw Diet? – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/09/11/pet-nutrition-should-i-feed-my-pet-a-raw-diet/
Video – The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton – A video of animal nutritionist, Dr. Richard Patton’s presentation, The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition, presented by Green Acres Kennel Shop in Bangor, ME on April 28th, 2016. – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/09/10/pet-nutrition-the-science-and-dogma-of-pet-nutrition-with-dr-richard-patton/
Reflections on 20 Years as a Pet Care Professional – Changes in Pet Food and Nutrition – part 1 – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2015/11/23/reflections-on-20-years-as-a-pet-care-professional-changes-in-pet-food-and-nutrition-part-1/
Reflections on 20 Years as a Pet Care Professional – Pet Food and Nutrition – part 2 – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2015/12/15/reflections-on-20-years-as-a-pet-care-professional-pet-food-and-nutrition-part-2/
Book Review – Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack – The paradox of pet nutrition by Richard Patton – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/03/16/book-review-ruined-by-excess-perfected-by-lack-the-paradox-of-pet-nutrition-by-richard-patton/
Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 1 – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2014/06/01/nutrition-which-brand-of-pet-food-is-the-best-part-1/
Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 2 – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2014/07/01/nutrition-which-brand-of-pet-food-is-the-best-part-2/
Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 3 – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2014/08/01/nutrition-which-brand-of-pet-food-is-the-best-part-3/
Nutrition – Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2012/05/04/nutrition-why-rotating-diets-makes-sense/
Nutrition – Determining True Pet Food Costs – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2008/11/08/nutrition-determining-true-pet-food-costs/
Pet Nutrition – How Much Fat Is In Your Pet’s Food? – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2014/10/12/pet-nutrition-how-much-fat-is-in-your-pets-food/
Pet Nutrition – New Zealand dog diet study a wake-up call for dog nutrition – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2017/05/19/pet-nutrition-new-zealand-dog-diet-study-a-wake-up-call-for-dog-nutrition/
Pet Nutrition –Vital Essentials® Pet Food – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/08/14/pet-nutrition-vital-essentials-pet-food/
Shared Blog Post – FDA on a Witch Hunt Against Commercial Pet Food? A Little Spritz of This Makes Pet Food Far Safer – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/11/28/shared-blog-post-fda-on-a-witch-hunt-against-commercial-pet-food-a-little-spritz-of-this-makes-pet-food-far-safer/
Pet Nutrition – From Dr. Karen Becker – A Vegetarian or Vegan Diet Is Not Healthy For Your Dog or Cat – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2015/09/27/pet-nutrition-from-dr-karen-becker-a-vegetarian-or-vegan-diet-is-not-healthy-for-your-dog-or-cat/
Podcast – Pet Nutrition with Kymythy Schultze Author of Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purrfect Health – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2017/07/31/podcast-pet-nutrition-with-kymythy-schultze-author-of-natural-nutrition-for-cats-the-path-to-purrfect-health/
What do you feed your pets? – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2017/04/22/podcast-encore-what-do-you-feed-your-pets/
Podcast – Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2016/04/03/podcast-pet-nutrition-with-dr-richard-patton/
Podcast – Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry with Kohl Harrington – http://blog.greenacreskennel.com/2017/05/06/podcast-pet-fooled-a-look-inside-a-questionable-industry-with-kohl-harrington/
Beginnings – Getting Your Dog and Cat Started on a Raw Diet by Melinda Miller and Honoring Your Cat’s Natural Diet by Terri Grow < Click here for a free download >
Feline Nutrition: Nutrition for the Optimum Health and Longevity of your Cat – Lynn Curtis
Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purr-fect Health – Kymythy Schultze
Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats – The Ultimate Diet – Kymythy Schultze
Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack – Dr. Richard Patton
See Spot Live Longer – Steve Brown and Beth Taylor
The Truth About Pet Foods – Dr. Randy Wysong
Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet – Steve Brown
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