You Said You Feed Your Cat, What?

You Said You Feed Your Cat, What?

Recently I read about a survey that questioned people on their cat nutrition knowledge.¹ That the survey was done by Purina gave me pause, but the answers they got didn't surprise me all that much. Most people have never thought a lot about what they feed their cats. They buy what's in the grocery store. You know, the stuff with the healthy sounding names and the nice pictures. It couldn't be sold if it wasn't good for your cat, right?
You might think I'm passing judgment, but I'm not. I used to be that person. I know how they got there. I understand them. They are good people that just need to have their eyes opened. To be shown the truth in a way that makes them stop and see what is really going on, right before their eyes.
Even for people who have not been enlightened when it comes to cats and what they should eat, some of the things these people thought were okay to feed to their cats surprised me: things like root vegetables (73%), green tomatoes (54%) and raw potatoes (50%). They've been looking at too many pretty bags of dry food, it seems.
Many of those surveyed (48%) said they let their cats have scraps from the dinner table an average of seven times a month. Purina criticized this, saying scraps didn't provide the essential nutrients that cats need. This has long been the message from the pet food industry, going back to 1964 when the Pet Food Institute started a campaign warning consumers about feeding table scraps and the importance of feeding processed food to pets.² I wouldn't recommend a diet of scraps, but the occasional bit of leftover cooked meat isn't going to hurt your pet — at least it's real food.
The survey also revealed that 75% of those surveyed believed that the more nutritious a cat food is, the more expensive it is. The statistic that made my heart sink though was that 70% believed a dry food diet was beneficial. Worse, 23% thought a purely vegetarian diet was a wholesome choice. It seems the average cat owner out there still needs to hear the simple message: Cats are carnivores.
There is hope. According to the survey, more than 90% of people surveyed said they would be willing to switch foods if they knew it would improve their cat's health or add years onto their pet's life. Now we need to let those cat owners know that a raw diet will do both. For their cats' sake, I hope that the nine out of ten who said that, really meant it.
Margaret Gates is the founder the Feline Nutrition Foundation.
  1. Be sure to take a look at the many pages of comments from readers following the article.
  2. Justine S. Patrick, "Deconstructing the Regulatory Façade: Why Confused Consumers Feed their Pets Ring Dings and Krispy Kremes," Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard, April 2006.
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