Pottenger’s Cat Study

Pottenger’s Cat Study

Like many great discoveries, Dr Francis M Pottenger accidentally came upon the finding that his laboratory cats were noticeably healthier when fed on a diet of raw meats rather than cooked meats.

Dr Pottenger, a human doctor, was involved in using cats to assess the potency of adrenal extracts for use in human medicine. His job was to adrenalectomise laboratory cats, and then maintain the animals on adrenal extracts, thus determining the “potency” of the compounds. Pottenger’s cats were fed on table scraps from the local restaurant. When the restaurant closed during the off season, he was forced to source his meat scraps directly from the local abattoir (which came raw). During the time he was feeding the raw meat scraps to his laboratory cats, he noticed a dramatic improvement in their overall health, and also a significant reduction in surgical mortality rates.

Between 1932 and 1942, Dr Pottenger conducted a clinical trial, involving over 900 cats and over 9 generations, into the nutritional effects of cooked versus raw food diets. This study is still, to date, the single largest trial conducted on the effects of feeding cooked food to domestic cats (or dogs).

Group one was fed raw meat scraps including organ meats and bone, and raw milk. Group two was fed the same scraps but cooked, and were given pasteurised (heat treated) milk.

The cats on raw food were healthy, averaged 5 kittens per litter with few birthing problems, and most died of old age. After 9 generations there was no change in their health status.

The cats in group two however began developing problems from the first generation, with increased deaths in the litters, smaller litter sizes, poorer mothering, noticeable dull rough coats. From the second generation onwards there were vision problems (probably taurine deficiency), common infections, and dermatitis (military dermatitis), arthritis, heart disease (taurine again), allergies, gingivitis and periodontal disease, inflamed joints and nervous tissue, skeletal malformation (Ca bone density fell from 17 % at the start, to 4% by the fourth generation). Fertility declined rapidly, as did litter size and perinatal mortality increased. Behaviourally the group on cooked food became progressively more aggressive to handlers and each other. Interestingly gastrointestinal parasitism was a major problem in the cooked food group, not the raw food group The most common cause of death in adults in the cooked food group was from pneumonia and lung abscess, and in kittens was from diarrhoea and infection. By the ninth generation on cooked food the cats were completely sterile and had stopped reproducing.

Pottenger found that by changing the diet from cooked back to raw he could reverse most of the symptoms, but only until early in the third generation. From the fourth generation onwards much of the damage was irreversible. This suggests that damage from a cooked food diet has a generationally compounding effect. He also found that the soil he fertilised with the faeces of the cats on the cooked food diet did not grow beans or grass, whereas the soil fertilised from the raw food group grew beans and grass vigorously.

There are obviously many other factors involved besides cooking that are causing the results of this experiment, vitamin deficiency being an obvious one, but can we assume that even with all the added vitamins, minerals etc that are now in the most premium brand commercial pet foods, that the very act of cooking the food is not still contributing to the poor health our of our present day dogs and cats (we still see many of these above problems in practice today). He repeated the experiment on white mice and got similar results.

This article was written and authorised by:

Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons)
Founder of Vets All Natural

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Dr Bruce Syme is a practicing vet and animal lover who founded Vets All Natural in 1996 with a simple mission, to “Improve the health and longevity of dogs and cats”. Dr Bruce is an expert in natural pet nutrition, has spoken at the Australian Veterinary Association Annual Conference, and provides regular comment on TV and Radio.
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Disclaimer: The entire contents of this article are based upon the opinions of Dr. Bruce Syme, unless otherwise noted. The information is not intended as medical advice, it simply shares the knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Bruce and his community. Pet health care decisions should be based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified pet health care professional.
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