The Best Cat Food

As a cat lover/owner, I'm still obsessing over the cat food scandal. The source of the poison cat food is in wheat gluten from China. The amazing thing, to me, is why are pet cats eating so much wheat gluten? Have you ever seen a cat beg for a piece of bread? I have, but only stray, starving cats who will eat anything. Cats are carnivores. They don't need wheat or corn or "garden vegetables". My cat's favorite veggie is catnip, which he eats until he passes out in a happy stupor.

I'm not the only one questioning the ingredients in commercial cat food. Cat owners all over America are buying more "organic" commercial cat foods and/or making their own.  Come to think of it, when I was a child, lots of people only fed table scraps to their cats, and those cats lived long lives. There weren't many choices when it came to commercial cat food. My mother used to buy Puss ‘n Boots. The cats liked it, but it reeked to high heaven of rotten fish.  For a special treat, we gave the cat a raw egg or raw chicken liver. That was before salmonella and factory farming.

With people making their own cat food, veterinarians are warning that cats may not get the optimum nutrition that commercial foods provide, because commercial cat food is based on "research."  I'd like to know what optimum nutrition for cats comes from wheat gluten. But they have a point. How is the average person supposed to assure their cat gets the perfect diet?

After ruminating about it for a few days, it finally hit me. The best meal for a cat is a mouse. After all, that's why they were first domesticated about 5,000 years ago. It wasn't because they make great lap warmers, or for their quirky personalities. It was because they were hunters -- and rodents were their preferred prey.  By that time, humans had made the dietary shift to a grain-based diet, and huge stores of wheat and barley were endangered by ravenous, multiplying hordes of rats and mice. The rodents attracted cats and the cats saved the day. 

People started leaving scraps of food out for the wild cats and eventually cats became part of the fabric of society - being seen as protectors of the home. There were even two cat goddesses - Bastet and Sekhmet. One of the good things about those early domesticated cats was that they did not compete with humans for their grain. They weren't interested in eating wheat gluten. For more information on cats in ancient Egypt, follow this link.

I have to admit that I've thought about this before the cat food scare, but it was more abstract. Why, I wondered, are we feeding cats the meat from animals that they wouldn't eat in the wild -- beef and chicken, especially?  There is a rat problem in this country; why not trap the rats and make them into cat food?  A few years ago, I conducted a casual survey, asking cat owners if they would buy canned rat for their pets. Everyone I asked thought it was a terrific idea and said they would not hesitate to buy it.

Since the cat food scare, I've stopped discouraging my cat from hunting. We live in a wooded neighborhood and we have lots of wildlife -- birds, squirrels, bunnies, possums, raccoons, snakes, mice, rats and voles.  OK, I don't like it when they hunt birds, but Coriander the Cat seems to prefer the taste of fur to feathers.  My next-door neighbor, a cat-crazed mother of four cats and two human children, agrees that hunting is a healthy, normal activity. She also doesn't mind being the family undertaker as much as I do.  I really hate cleaning up the remains of a half-eaten kill, but it's better than doing laundry.

When I was a teenager, a male friend of mine got a pet boa constrictor. This was a strange pet, but Stephen thought it was very cool. He especially liked feeding days -- the boa ate two live mice a week. Stephen started raising white mice to save trips to the pet store. I know, it's gory, but if you have an indoor-only cat, it might be an option. On a couple of occasions, our house was invaded by rodents, and the cat thoroughly enjoyed playing exterminator. Hubby and I would go to bed and wake up the next morning to find bits of fur and bone next to the fireplace and a slumbering cat on the sofa.

I always feel sorry for indoor-only cats, because their lives are so boring. This would be a good way to give them healthy food and exercise and a rip-roaring good time, too.

Deborah Duchon, PhD is a nutritional anthropologist. She appears frequently on Food Network television program "Good Eats".
As a cat lover/owner, I'm still obsessing over the cat food scandal. The source of the poison cat food is in wheat gluten from China. The amazing thing, to me, is why are pet cats eating so much wheat gluten? Have you ever seen a cat beg for a piece of bread? I have, but only stray, starving cats who will eat anything. Cats are carnivores. They don't need wheat or corn or "garden vegetables". My cat's favorite veggie is catnip, which he eats until he passes out in a happy stupor.

I'm not the only one questioning the ingredients in commercial cat food. Cat owners all over America are buying more "organic" commercial cat foods and/or making their own.  Come to think of it, when I was a child, lots of people only fed table scraps to their cats, and those cats lived long lives. There weren't many choices when it came to commercial cat food. My mother used to buy Puss ‘n Boots. The cats liked it, but it reeked to high heaven of rotten fish.  For a special treat, we gave the cat a raw egg or raw chicken liver. That was before salmonella and factory farming.

With people making their own cat food, veterinarians are warning that cats may not get the optimum nutrition that commercial foods provide, because commercial cat food is based on "research."  I'd like to know what optimum nutrition for cats comes from wheat gluten. But they have a point. How is the average person supposed to assure their cat gets the perfect diet?

After ruminating about it for a few days, it finally hit me. The best meal for a cat is a mouse. After all, that's why they were first domesticated about 5,000 years ago. It wasn't because they make great lap warmers, or for their quirky personalities. It was because they were hunters -- and rodents were their preferred prey.  By that time, humans had made the dietary shift to a grain-based diet, and huge stores of wheat and barley were endangered by ravenous, multiplying hordes of rats and mice. The rodents attracted cats and the cats saved the day. 

People started leaving scraps of food out for the wild cats and eventually cats became part of the fabric of society - being seen as protectors of the home. There were even two cat goddesses - Bastet and Sekhmet. One of the good things about those early domesticated cats was that they did not compete with humans for their grain. They weren't interested in eating wheat gluten. For more information on cats in ancient Egypt, follow this link.

I have to admit that I've thought about this before the cat food scare, but it was more abstract. Why, I wondered, are we feeding cats the meat from animals that they wouldn't eat in the wild -- beef and chicken, especially?  There is a rat problem in this country; why not trap the rats and make them into cat food?  A few years ago, I conducted a casual survey, asking cat owners if they would buy canned rat for their pets. Everyone I asked thought it was a terrific idea and said they would not hesitate to buy it.

Since the cat food scare, I've stopped discouraging my cat from hunting. We live in a wooded neighborhood and we have lots of wildlife -- birds, squirrels, bunnies, possums, raccoons, snakes, mice, rats and voles.  OK, I don't like it when they hunt birds, but Coriander the Cat seems to prefer the taste of fur to feathers.  My next-door neighbor, a cat-crazed mother of four cats and two human children, agrees that hunting is a healthy, normal activity. She also doesn't mind being the family undertaker as much as I do.  I really hate cleaning up the remains of a half-eaten kill, but it's better than doing laundry.

When I was a teenager, a male friend of mine got a pet boa constrictor. This was a strange pet, but Stephen thought it was very cool. He especially liked feeding days -- the boa ate two live mice a week. Stephen started raising white mice to save trips to the pet store. I know, it's gory, but if you have an indoor-only cat, it might be an option. On a couple of occasions, our house was invaded by rodents, and the cat thoroughly enjoyed playing exterminator. Hubby and I would go to bed and wake up the next morning to find bits of fur and bone next to the fireplace and a slumbering cat on the sofa.

I always feel sorry for indoor-only cats, because their lives are so boring. This would be a good way to give them healthy food and exercise and a rip-roaring good time, too.

Deborah Duchon, PhD is a nutritional anthropologist. She appears frequently on Food Network television program "Good Eats".