Of biologically-appropriate food and evolution

Some weeks back, an old friend contacted me to ask if I knew where to buy vegetarian food for dogs and cats. I immediately told him that dogs are omnivores, so while some dogs are known to be able to live on a vegetarian diet (provided it is nutritionally balanced), cats are obligate carnivores and absolutely cannot be vegetarians. So, please…do not feed a vegetarian diet to cats. As for dogs, it is “iffy”, but personally, I would not feed a vegetarian diet to dogs too.

I’ve only had five dogs all my life. My childhood dogs were Willie (a street dog), Puffin (a mixed Pekinese) and Remirth (a mixed Pomeranian). Puffin and Remirth were both gifted to us by friends when we were living in Kampar. I was told that when I was born, my parents had a few dogs but I do not remember them. I only remembered their names as Kaiser, Frisky and Lady. Then later, when my children were old enough, we had Mac and Bobby. None of our dogs was ever on a vegetarian diet, so I cannot comment on a vegetarian diet for dogs. We used to cook meat, a little bit of vegetables and rice for our dogs.

If I were to ever adopt dogs again, I don’t think I would put them on a vegetarian diet as well, for the simple reason that dogs evolved from wolves and wolves are carnivorous. Dogs are classified as omnivorous, so I would feed them a diet of 60% meat and 40% vegetables, now that I know more about nutrition. I would start them off on a raw diet too.

As for cats, there is no two ways about it. They are obligate carnivores. If they need some fiber, then 96% meat, 4% vegetables. Otherwise, it can even be 100% meat (including organs and grinded bones).

Then, cats (as well as dogs) also need protein rotation. Otherwise, food allergy might arise after being on certain proteins for too long. That’s what happened with Indy a few years back when he had bloody diarrhoea for 7 weeks only to be cured by switching him to 100% raw rabbit (being a novel protein).

Here is the life-saving article I chanced upon which saved Indy’s life: http://savingcatsdogsandcash.com/how-i-cured-my-cats-diarrhea/

So I was telling a friend how switching to rabbit literally saved Indy’s life when he had the food allergy problem. This friend said it wasn’t right of me to give rabbit because the rabbit is a very mild-mannered and tame animal and should not be given as food. I told her that cats are obligate carnivores and have to eat meat, and protein rotation is required with some novel protein too. As much as I wished they were not, rabbit, being a rodent, happened to be an ideal and biologically appropriate food for cats. And using her argument about the rabbit being tame and mild-mannered, I could say the same of chicken, fish, lamb (which she feeds all her dogs), right? Aren’t they all mild-mannered animals too? Turkey, pig, cow, duck – all mild-mannered. Which animal that is used as meat isn’t mild-mannered? They all are.

If one wants to be absolutely unharmful to all living beings, then, one should stop eating entirely and just starve to death. Even vegetable farming kills millions of insects and vermin. And while plants do not have pain receptors or a brain so we say they cannot feel pain as we do, they are conscious in their own way. For one, they give out defense signals and scents when they are cut to “ask for help” and to warn other plants. Plants definitely communicate with each other. I think this is why the Native Americans respect all life, and even inanimate entities like rocks, mountains, rivers and the air – everything has a spirit, they believe. They also apologise to the animal before killing them for food, and they kill the weakest. It’s survival. Maybe the “spirit” that the Native Americans refer to is what we now call “consciousness”.

Some humans try to be as harmless as they can be, so they eat only fruit that has dropped from the tree. But the fruitarian diet is lacking in many essential nutrients for humans, and it isn’t recommended.

So, as humans, we can choose to eat less meat thereby causing less killing for meat, or be 100% vegetarian so that slaughterhouses can close down and living beings with a face and who have parents need not be slaughtered anymore. That is why we promote Meatless Mondays – it’s not aggressive or judgmental, and yet, it helps a lot. It is very doable.

So while humans can be vegetarians since they evolved from apes and some species of apes are herbivorous (our closest cousin is the chimpanzee and they are omnivorous), cats cannot be vegetarians. Cats are obligate carnivores. If we choose to look after them, we have to feed them biologically-appropriate food, ie. meat. Otherwise, we are doing them a create disservice which is detrimental to their health and wellbeing. It would even be a form of cruelty to deprive them of a biologically-appropriate diet.

So, folks, this isn’t a wonderful world. We need to eat to live. And by eating, we inadvertently cause other living beings to be killed (don’t forget the worms, insects and vermin in vegetable farms too).

Having said all this, there is, however, some groups of people who are exploring vegan diets for dogs and cats now. I do not have much information on this. Lab-manufactured “meat” (which does not involve killing) is already available for humans too – now, I am definitely looking forward to this.

Back to nutrition for our animals now…

Next, there is always the debate on whether raw food is better than cooked and/or processed food. We know that there is no long term study done on the benefits of raw food yet, but based on what we see in the wild, raw food does appear to be the biologically-appropriate food for cats as well as dogs. Whatever information that we have on the benefits of raw food is largely anecdotal.

Some argue that cats and dogs have evolved over time to eat processed food like cooked food, canned food and kibble.

Here’s what I think but it is purely based on my own observation on a very small sample, ie. my own cats!

I didn’t have the luxury of starting Cow, Bunny, Pole (my first rescued cats) on raw food because I did not know anything about BARF then. So they all ate a variety of “everything” including raw food in their later years. It was only in 2019 that I made the effort to convert all our cats to a 100% raw diet. What I noticed is that their health really did improve. Again, it is merely based on my own observation. But now, being super seniors, they do ask for other types of foods too. The vet did say that perhaps their digestive system isn’t as good as before, so the protein needs to be broken down by cooking. With our seniors, my feeding principle is: As long as they eat.

Now, when Minnie’s boys were born, I got to try them out on 100% raw. The boys took to raw naturally and instantly. They were on 100% raw until they were adopted at 6 months old. They went away for 1.5 years during which I provided canned and kibble for them since that was what the adopter fed his cats. So Minnie’s boys were on canned and kibble during that time, but the moment I took them all back, they went back to 100% raw instantly! No transition was even needed. They did not come back in good health, though. But it only took about 1-2 months to get them back on track and now they are all…robust monsters!! All on a 100% raw diet.

As for Samantha’s girls, I have also started them on a 100% raw diet now. They, in turn, “taught” Samantha how to eat raw food! So now, the whole family is eating raw! Before I brought Samantha in from the street, she only ate kibble (I suspect she is an abandoned pet). That was the only thing she knew how to eat. Later, she learnt to eat canned food. But since I brought her indoors, she has only been on Primal Freeze-Dried organic raw food. Now, she eats raw meat, Cubgrub and Coco&Joe’s.

Riley was also from the street, eating kibble and canned food. After I brought her in for spaying, I converted her to 100% raw. It didn’t take too long to do that. Unfortunately, about that time, Bunny started demanding for all kinds of food (the “Surprise-Me-Happy-Meals”), so I had to buy canned and kibble and that’s when Riley also demanded a variety together with Tabs. Now, with Bunny having passed on, I’m trying to convert everyone indoors back to a 100% raw diet again.

So, here’s what I think. Kittens will naturally take to raw food because that’s their natural food. Biologically, I think their digestive system is still the same as their ancestors’, the wildcat. I do not think evolution changes that. It is we humans who “teach” them later on what to eat, that’s when they adjust accordingly and learn to eat processed food.

So which food is the best?

I’m not an expert and I cannot say. I suppose the best answer would be: Whichever gives your animals the best health and wellbeing!

To be fair, there is no longitudinal studies done on whether raw food will prolong an animal’s life. But then again, as the saying goes, “It is not the years in your life but the life in your years”.  Good health and wellbeing trump long life.

I’ll end here with some photos I compiled:

I’m using my own photo here as I do not want to offend anyone. I am a humanist and I believe in evolution and Darwinism unless and until science comes up with a better theory! So yes, my cousin is the chimpanzee and they are omnivorous.

I’ve been a vegetarian before, but never a vegan. Just couldn’t fulfil the requirements of becoming a vegan. But now, I’m more of a pescetarian. I need the DHA from fish oil for my cyclical depression so there’s no escape from that. Seaweed is a vegetarian source of DHA but I cannot eat too much of it or it affects my thyroids. So I have to consume fish oil to get sufficient measurable DHA. I’m also the type of mother whom you might call the “garbage-truck” mother who eats up whatever unfinished food there is on the table. So rather than let food go to waste, I eat everything up. I cook for Jayden and if he doesn’t finish his food, I eat it up. Jayden eats chicken, fish and prawns. No pork. We do not eat pork at all. No mutton, no beef, no lamb, no rabbit, no venison. You get the idea.

On a very serious note, this is a scholarly article on the raw diet for animals: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6849757/

It mostly talks about the pathogens found in raw food if not handled hygienically. But as a holistic vet told me, the pH level of a cat’s stomach is 1. Yes, 1. That’s very acidic and it can already destroy many pathogens.

Please read this: https://feline-nutrition.org/answers/answers-the-importance-of-gastric-acidity

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