Summary: Before the 1980s pet food was not great. Due to ignorance, it did not contain all the required nutrients for cats. They had to hunt to ensure they had a balanced diet containing the nutrients they needed.
The title to this article might surprise people. It surprised me when I read about this in the book Cat Sense by Dr. John Bradshaw. He states that because of the evolution of the domestic cat, and their wildcat ancestor, they are poor scavengers. In this regard, cats are much less sophisticated than, for example, rats who are omnivores with extremely wide tastes which set them up nicely for a scavenging lifestyle.
Domestic cats evolved to be pure meat eaters. They feed on freshly killed prey which is nutritionally balanced. But they have a limited ability, he says, to subsist by scavenging alone. In contrast, stray and feral cats are scavengers.
ASSOCIATED PAGE: History of Cat Food
When we provide our cats with commercially prepared cat food, we are asking our cats to scavenge. Domestic cats don’t hunt commercially prepared cat food. They eat it out of a bowl as if they are scavenging. Until about the 1980s commercial paired cat food did not contain all the right ingredients and nutrients. Modern science revealed the nutritional peculiarities of the domestic cat.
In short, domestic cat food was, until about the 1980s, often deficient which meant that the domestic cat had to hunt in order to obtain a fully balanced diet containing the nutrients that they needed. But perhaps on occasions they were lucky enough to be provided with a balanced diet even if they couldn’t hunt. Back in the day, people used to give their cats kitchen scraps which wouldn’t have been necessarily balanced and early cat food as mentioned wasn’t particularly well-balanced either.
Dr. Bradshaw says that although commercially repaired cat food has been available to cat owners for about a century, at the outset there was a poor understanding that cats have different requirements to the dogs. He is stating that in the early days cat and dog food was probably quite similar but dogs are far more flexible in their nutrient needs compared to domestic cats.
It is surprising to read that nutritionally complete cat food has only been available for 1% of the time that domestic cats have been in existence. That is for the last 35 years or so. The modern domestic cat is relatively much better fed than cats of 50 or hundred years ago. Bradshaw says that we are yet to see the effect this has had on cat health. Note: regrettably modern cat food is still defective. I am referring to cheap dry cat food (popular) which is full of carbohydrates and grains. Yes, they stuff in the nutrients needed by it is too dry.
He also makes the point that when cats procreate there are extra demands on the nutrients required in order to successfully reproduce. Because the food was relatively poor in the old days if the cat was not hunting successfully, they would have been rather poor at breeding.
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