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Friday, 15 April 2011

For Julie and maybe Dr. No.

The Pet as Predator

Felis Catus

Whilst the NHS burns, under the blinded eyes of the populous, I thought I would deviate from my rants about politicians and doctors and look closely at what we do to one of our closest companions in the this life; our cats.

As a long time lover and keeper of cats, having had ten of them, it seems we do a lot of damage to their health and well being, by foisting our own nutritional stupidity upon these denizens of the back garden. Long domesticated,  they have enjoyed a relationship with humanoids that is unique, in that they often still forage for food within the environs of our (and their) homes. For an animal that is usually fed quite regularly by its owner, if we could ever 'own' a cat, this is somewhat strange behaviour and has fascinated me as to its reasons. Dogs, unless they are trained to hunt, rarely display this trait, except when perhaps abandoned in the wild and of a breed adapted to hunting.
Teeth Adapted for Hunting

Well, it seems that this trait is part of an instinct of self preservation. When fed an over abundance of the sort of diets, that we in our wisdom endeavour to feed them. they naturally, it seems, self select that which suits their metabolism and almost perfectly balance the intake of protein, fats and carbohydrate, to ensure they survive. When they hunt it seems they do so (in my view) to supplement any deficiencies in the food we provide. I well remember, that many of my cats, despite a diet that I was feeding them, alleged to be replete with all the requirements of the feline metabolism, still hunted and ate their prey. Well except of course the one's that they brought home for me! They always had a tendency to 'raid' the butter dish too, if it was left undefended by a cover!
  
When given the power of self selection however, it seems from  a study funded by the pet food manufacturer Waltham, which seems to have been well conducted, interventional and lasting some two years, that our cats decide to balance their intake to a similar one they would utilise in the wild. As 'obligat carnivores', we do them a dis-service if we do not give them the diet that is as close to prey food as is possible. This may not sit too well with the vegans and vegetarians, I know, but we are not talking about you, but your pets. So it seems the ideal is, 52% protein, 36% fat, and 12% carbohydrate. The latter would normally be provided from the stomach contents of prey and already be part digested, because cats are unsuited to the digestion of carbohydrates because of their physical make-up.

They have no salivary amylase to metabolise starches, and they have intestines that can only take up low ratios of glucose. They also do not have any 'sweet taste' receptors, so they should not be given anything with sucrose in it. Nor they should they ever be given chocolate although they may take it offered, especially if young and inexperienced. It is poisonous to cats and dogs and can be fatal!

What then to feed them? Well as close a diet to one they would eat as a predator. That means meat, fish and organ meats with a small amount of vegetable carbohydrates. Raw is best, but to ensure parasites are destroyed, if you do go 'raw' then freeze it first for at least three days, which kills off any parasites. If your cat has been eating dried food, then introduce gradually, using lightly cooked meats initially. But cook any vegetables you add, to ensure partial breakdown of the starch and fibre and keep the content low.

A Near Eastern Wild Cat (just like yours)
Cats do not often drink, except when it's hot, or if you feed them dried foods. And dried food is well, 'dry',and as cats obtain most of their water from their prey food,  the food that we feed should also be 'wet', otherwise we are storing up a lot of problems for our cats. These include, kidney and liver disorders, together with gastric problems. In addition, diets high in carbohydrates, will cause obesity, especially in older cats, together with thyroid problems, pancreatitis, diabetes, and vascular problems. And whilst this 'self selection' process will always occur to some extent, as cats get older they will hunt less and accept the diet you give them more readily, so get it right. Enjoy your cat, it's the wildest thing you are likely ever to have a relationship with, so keep it fit and healthy, not like us.

Hope you found a cat Julie!

3 comments:

  1. Oh jeez,

    That first picture reminds me of when I was about four and my nearest sister was ten. Out cat caught a bird and it died. We buried it in a small patch in the garden and for the next few days we kept digging it up to 'see how it was getting on'. My mum finally got fed up and threw it in the bin. Nature red in tooth and claw. And no, I haven't got a cat yet (but am still thinking about it).

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  2. Cats kill for pleasure and practice of their killing instincts.
    Responsible cat owners should ensure their cat wears a decent quality bell on a collar when allowed out of the house.
    Millions of wild birds are unnecessarily killed by cats, seriously affecting the wild bird population.
    I hope that your cats are equipped with bells Black Dog. Sadly the majority aren't.

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  3. Alas Bill, all of my cats are now dead. The last lived well beyond 20 years and almost never hunted because I fed her the diet from the wild; organ meats, beef,lamb and fish, supplemented with Omega 3 oil.

    I also did equip, all of my cats with bells and kept spares available, as they were won't to lose them often. I heartily endorse the need to do all we can to prevent the decimation of the wild bird population, except perhaps the pigeon. Feeding a diet to cats, that mimics the wild as close as possible does help, because they are driven to hunt to satisfy their needs, unmet by diet. Eliminating that need by correct feeding although it will not entirely prevent predation, will reduce it considerably.

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