Raw Food Diet - What Can We Learn From Pottenger's Cats?

The “Pottenger’s Cats” study is a well documented scientific research study of 900 cats conducted between 1932 and 1942. This research project scientifically proved the degenerative effects a diet of cooked or bio-actively “dead” foods has on cats (and by inference, other organisms) whereas, eating a raw food diet maintains general good health.

Dr. Francis Pottenger was a research scientist who worked with laboratory cats performing operations to remove their adrenal glands. Cats will die without their adrenal glands. So product manufacturers at that time used cats to calibrate the strength of their adrenal extracts – determine how much of the product was needed to keep the cats alive.

Dr. Pottenger fed his cats a diet of raw milk, cod liver oil and cooked meat scraps, which was considered the optimum diet. However, he was concerned by the cat’s poor postoperative survival rates and by health issues he started noticing in the offspring.

At one point, Dr. Pottenger began ordering raw meat scraps from a local meat packing plant as a means of feeding his large cat population. Ever the scientist, he decided to separate a group of cats and feed them the raw meat scraps instead of the cooked meat to see if it would have any effect on their health and vitality. It did.

Intrigued by the initial results, Dr. Pottenger then devised a series of controlled experiments along with Dr. Alvin Foord, a professor of pathology at the University of Southern California and pathologist at the Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. In the first experiment, the cats were divided into two groups. A control group of cats was fed a raw food diet composed of raw meat, raw milk, and cod liver oil. A second group was fed a diet composed of cooked meat and processed milk plus the cod liver oil.

Can you guess what happened? The following results occurred over four generations of cats:

Control Group Cats Fed Raw Food Diet – 1st through 4th Generations

  • The control group cats fed a raw food diet remained healthy and gave birth to healthy kittens with each succeeding generation. Each generation grew up to be of uniform size and development with normal fur, tissues, and skeletal structure. Calcium and phosphorous levels in their bones were normal. Their organs and nervous system functioned normally and their coordination was perfect. They were very resistant to infections. Their mental state was stable and friendly and you could play with them. There were no birth complications and nursing was normal. The cats gave birth to an average of five kittens each one weighing roughly 119 grams.

Cooked Foods Diet (CFD) Group Cats – 1st through 4th Generations

The CFD cats gave birth to healthy appearing offspring in the first generation. However, they developed diseases and illnesses near the end of their lives. These diseased conditions developed midlife in the second generation of offspring. The third generation began manifesting unhealthy conditions in the beginning of their lives and many died before six months of age. The following conditions were noted in these cats:

  • Increasingly poor eyesight - nearsightedness or farsightedness, heart problems, thyroid and bladder problems, nervous system problems, meningitis and paralysis, infections of various organs, ovary and testis problems, liver problems, inflammations, uterine congestion, atrophy of various organs.

  • Each new generation of CFD cats had increasingly abnormal variations in their skeletal structure. Their bones became soft and rubber-like by the third generation.

  • Skin conditions including parasites, lesions, and allergies appeared worsening with each succeeding generation.

  • Increasingly abnormal mental states. With each new generation, the cats became more unpredictable, were more irritable, were biting and scratching more, were less playful, and so on. The males became docile experiencing a drop in libido and sexual interest while the females became very aggressive.

  • Failure of reproductive systems. The CFD cats aborted about 25% of the offspring in the first generation, about 70% of the offspring in the second generation, and in all cases the delivery was difficult and sometimes the females died giving birth. The kittens that were born were about 19 grams less than the ones that were born from the cats being fed a raw food diet.

There was no 4th generation of CFD cats. No CFD cats of the 3rd generation could give birth to healthy offspring. Either the third generation parents were sterile or the fourth generation cats died before birth!

A second experiment was conducted on the surviving CFD cats. The cats were fed the same raw foods diet being fed to the control group of cats to see what would happen. It took about four generations of the cats eating a raw food diet for the first offspring to be born normal and healthy.

What do these first two experiments tell us?

  • The cats were given cooked foods exclusively for four generations to see what would happen. But by the third generation it was impossible to get a fourth generation. These cats were then fed a diet of raw foods to see what would happen and it took about four generations to return to normal health.

  • Different body systems and functions took varying amounts of time to return to normal. Some systems took one generation; some took two generations and so on. But generally, for these cats, it took about four generations for everything to go back to normal.

Conclusion: An exclusively cooked foods diet causes degeneration in body system functions. Much or all of this degeneration is reversible…over time.

Additional supporting studies

  • A third experiment was conducted on Pottenger’s Cats. However this time, instead of the cats being fed cooked meat, one-third of their diet was raw meat and two-thirds of their diet consisted of pasteurized, sweetened condensed or corporate milk. So the only change this time was to make the milk processed in some way. The results were essentially the same as the first study even though the meat was raw.

  • Another group of scientists conducted a similar study using two groups of rats. To summarize, one group was raised on organic whole wheat and another group was raised on commercial white flour. The rats raised on white flour were under-sized, unable to reproduce, aggressive and hostile, and with many reports of tooth decay. The rats that were raised on whole wheat had no problems.

  • A similar study was done using pigs. Again, one group of pigs was given a diet of processed foods. And once again, they had health problems and deformed offspring. However, with pigs it only took one generation of healthy eating for the offspring to be born normal again.

So, it appears that different animal species, eating different foods, have different rates of degeneration and regeneration due to the introduction of processed foods. But all of them degenerated when fed cooked food diets. That is the one constant, the degeneration of the body, the mind and emotions with introduction of processed foods.

Can We Correlate These Studies with Human Health?

It’s unclear how many generations it takes for human body functions and systems to degenerate and fail to the degree of Pottenger’s cats. And of course, the average human diet is far removed from that of an experimental study group with controlled variables.

But we do already see signs of this happening in the general population. Each new human generation being born today has more complications and health issues at younger ages than previous generations. Children are developing diseases that were previously only seen in older people. And most of us have heard the statistics on the rising infertility rates in both men and women.

Dr. Pottenger himself said, “While no attempt will be made to correlate the changes in the animals studied with malformations found in humans, the similarity is so obvious that parallel pictures will suggest themselves.”

I find my own conclusion echoed in an ancient Essene passage translated from the Dead Sea Scrolls written 2,500 years ago:

Live only by the fire of life, and prepare not your foods with the fire of death, which kills your foods, your bodies and your souls also.

Some Final Thoughts…

Having been an animal rights activist for many, many years, it's still troubling for me to write on the topic of animal research. After all, some of my very best friends over the years have been fur-friends. And so, writing about the misery and death these hundreds of animals suffered at the hands of man in the exalted names of scientific research, progress and capitalism is not an easy task for me – especially when I know that many more continue to suffer today. My heart-felt wish is that the lives of all those blessed animals were not given in vain. May we learn the lessons they teach not only for our own sakes, but for that of our children and our children’s children as well.


Living Raw Foods > Raw Food Diet - What Can We Learn from Pottenger's Cats?


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