Have you ever wondered what dogs were eating before kibbles became mainstream (circa 80 years ago)? Yes, for thousands of years even as domestic pets, your dogs were eating fresh meats and bones, and maybe for some, with some cooked foods thrown into the mix. Then there was canned foods. No one knew about heart conditions, diabetes, pancreatitis and urinary tract problems for dogs then. Heck, these diseases were not even prevalent in humans cause we hadn’t started eating a processed food diet as well.
We have to look to WWII which changed everything. Necessity became the mother of invention for the pet food industry. All available metal was sent for the war effort. The metal used to make cans for dog food was no longer available. Companies innovated to keep up with demand and found that by using by-products from cereal manufacturers they could a shelf-stable food that could be sold in bags. This led to the first dry food for dogs. The ability to create a dry, cheap food with a high-profit margin began attracting larger corporations to the pet food industry. They realised, hey, if they could convince humans to eat processed shit then there shouldn’t be a problem doing the same to their dogs. So the same companies (specifically Mars and Nestle, dominating around 70% of pet food today) sold people the convenience and nutrition values of kibbles. 45 years later, kibble became the mainstay in pet diet and anything else became the alternative choice.
**JM Smuckers makes up the big 3 in pet food. They manufacture jam, peanut butter, jelly, fruit syrups, beverages, shortening, ice cream toppings. If you think about this, together with Nestle’s and Mars’ products, you’ll find it hard to correlate health and nutrition to anything these companies process**
For us, humans, or our pets, a high carbohydrate content and the inconsistent absorption of artificial nutrients often results in obesity, chronic skin diseases, allergies, kidney problems, cancer, urinary tract issues, pancreatitis, diabetes, arthritis, heart problems and other problems. It is interesting to note that, in the early days, vets didn’t encounter most of these ailments in pets till the spread of kibbles.
And the reason is clear… cats are obligate carnivores while dogs eat meat predominantly. Their digestive systems are not designed to handle the massive loads of carbohydrates in kibbles. Eating such diets places great stress on the pancreas as it struggles to produce huge amounts of insulin and digestive enzymes to deal with the sugar spike and indigestible materials respectively.
The dry nature of kibbles also results in dehydration in the body, especially for cats, since as desert dwellers during ancestral times, they have learnt to absorb whatever water they needed from the prey they consume (80% water) instead of actually drinking copious amounts of fluids. The end result of the modern cat and dogs on a kibble diet is urinary tract and kidney issues.
So the irony manifested in 1968 when, after a generation of sick pets, pet food companies developed new formulae to curb major diseases like kidney and liver failure and marketed their food as a solution to these issues. Royal Canin (or Mars) and Hills’ Science Diet (or Colgate) are two brands to rise to prominence during this age. But wait, their solutions came in the form of… kibbles. It’s like you’ve got lung cancer from smoking and the doctor prescribed you with cigarettes of a different formulation to help you out.
“Here Joe, menthol light, have a puff, you’ll feel better. What was that, Joe? Can’t hear you. You’re coughing too much.”
“Bill, it seems liver failure is your problem. Here, switch to a prescriptive blend of vodka. Remember to drink it every day.”
Another generation of pets later, and the problems persisted and in more diverse forms (during which pet food almost totally replaced fresh pet food) and the pet food companies sponsored more vet schools to treat the diseases as well as sell their kibbles.
Fun fact: there were 10 vet schools in the USA in 1940. Today, there are 30.
So I guess the obvious point I’m trying to make is this. Let your pet eat what it is supposed to eat as a species. Worms eat dirt. Their diet may be unsustainable for us but that is how they derive their nutrients, from decaying roots and leaves. Birds eat worms. We don’t feed them burgers. We feed species the wrong food and they’ll die. The thing is dogs and cats are a lot more resilient, which means their bodies can take nutritional abuse far longer, but over the years, their vitality decreases and maladies are sown during this stage. Us? We eat species appropriate diet such as burgers and fries. That’s how we die earlier to make way for the burgeoning population and thrive as a species.
Remember that cats first entered domestication thousands of years ago because they guarded our grains which they didn’t consume. They ate the mice which consumed the grains. So it is another irony that we are feeding them grains now and expecting them to thrive. If that was what they wanted they would have helped themselves in the first place.
The pet food company should call this efficient energy process. Instead of
Grains -> Mouse -> Cat
Now we have
Grains -> Cat
They managed to get rid of the middlemen. Or mice. Same thing with seeds and legumes. Like grains, they have evolved to ensure the continuation of their species, thereby developing anti-predation chemicals to prevent their overconsumption by granivores, scavenging rodents and insects. They contain very potent anti-nutrients such as phytates, enzymes inhibitors, oxalates, saponins, lectins, trypsin inhibitors, polyphenolic anti-nutrients, and more. These chemicals not only prevent their digestion, they also cause harm to the consumer’s body, unless you were a bird, equipped with an internal seed grinder organ, such as the gizzard.
Unfortunately, your cat does not house a gizzard. Birds eat legumes and seeds, rightly so. And your cat get the nutrients from the seeds by eating the bird. Else, the result of a modern ‘grain-free’ kibble diet loaded with legumes would be that much of it would be undigested, passing through the other end with nutrients intact. I thought to make it scientific, we could have Shasha eat kibbles and Anya eat raw meat, and then take their poo the next day and… make sausages.
For readers who are starting to think I’m a complete idiot, bear with me. What I intended was to take the poop sausages and use them as fertilisers for our basil and mint plants. The poop formed from the legume or grain diet should produce much fresher plants due to its higher undigested nutrient content right? Right?? Wrong! Cause, according, to Kris, our dog whisperer, cat, as meat eaters, would pass poop containing traces of harmful bacteria, best kept away from food. So kids, don’t conduct this experiment at home!
Now who’s the idiot?