You Said You Feed Your Cat, What?

I read the results of 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.

Most people don’t think much 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 weren’t good for your cat, right?

You might think I’m passing judgment, but I’m not. I used to be one of those people. I know how they got there. I understand them. They are good people who need to have their eyes opened – to be shown in a way that makes them stop and see what’s going on right before their eyes.

Given these are folks who don’t know much about cat nutrition, I was still surprised at what some thought was okay to feed their cats: root vegetables (73 percent), green tomatoes (54 percent) and raw potatoes (50 percent). They’ve been looking at too many pretty bags of dry food.

Many of those surveyed (48 percent), 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 percent of those asked believed the more nutritious a cat food is, the more expensive it is. The statistic that made my heart sink was that 70 percent believed a dry food diet was beneficial. Worse, 23 percent thought a vegetarian diet was a wholesome choice. It seems the average cat owner still needs to hear the simple message: cats are obligate carnivores.

There is hope. According to the survey, more than 90 percent of those questioned said they would be willing to switch foods if they knew it would improve their cat’s health or add years to their pet’s life. We need to let those pet parents know that a raw cat food diet will do both. For their cats’ sake, I hope the nine out of ten who said it really meant it.

Margaret Gates is the founder of 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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