Pottenger’s Cats – an early window on epigenetics

Pottenger's CatsDr. Francis M. Pottenger was a physician who conducted studies on cats during the 1930s and 1940s.  His work was initially devoted to developing adrenal gland extract hormones to treat his sanatorium patients who had respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis, asthma, and allergies.  His study grew so large that the number of cats exceeded his supply of leftover food at his sanatorium, so he obtained supplies of raw meat scraps from local butchers.  Soon he noticed that the health of the cats being fed the raw meat scraps was superior to the cats eating the standard cooked meat leftovers from the sanatorium. His discovery led to a ten-year cat study that examined the nutritional effects of cooked meat and milk versus raw meat and milk on several generations of cats.  The research is described in Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition by Francis M. Pottenger, MD.

Dr. Pottenger’s cat study teaches us that our diet can have a significant impact on not only our own health but also the health of our children and grandchildren.  Dr. Pottenger discovered that feeding a deficient diet to cats for several generations resulted in increasingly poor health and function in each generation until by the third generation the cats were no longer able to reproduce.  Allergy symptoms were among the first symptoms in the kittens born to the first deficient generation of cats.  By the third generation almost 100% of the kittens had allergy symptoms.  Dr. Pottenger’s research also showed that the health of the cats could be recovered if the diet were returned to a healthy one by the second generation; however, even then it took four generations for some of the cats to show no symptoms of allergies.  The deficiency in Dr. Pottenger’s cats’ diet was apparently caused by heating and/or processing the meat and milk fed to the cats.  The heating and processing of the food may have destroyed or damaged essential nutrients needed by the cats to be completely healthy.  Cats that were fed the most processed foods were the most damaged.  Although cats are not perhaps the most relevant study animal for application to human biology, there are still important lessons to be learned here about the importance of nutrition on health.

I highly recommend reading all of Pottenger’s Cats to fully understand the importance of nutrition on health through multiple generations.  The book is listed on Real Food Houston’s Recommended Reading page.  The book may be purchased through the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation.

This summary is largely taken from a homework assignment for my course work with the Nutritional Therapy Association.  I talked about my plans to become a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner in Why I do what I do!

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4 Responses to Pottenger’s Cats – an early window on epigenetics

  1. The cat on the cover of Pottenger’s Cats is a cat that I bred in my 11 generation pasture raised raw meat and raw bone feeding study. As an early pioneer of this regime, I created whole food supplements for this diet to balance the macro and micro nutrients and I share the recipe free of charge on my website for all to make up their own food for their dogs and cats themselves. See
    http: http://www.CelestialPets.com.

    The Pottenger VP (David Getoff) was so impressed with the results of my breeding program as it is the only one of its kind that went out to 11 generations, that I bred a special litter for him and he became the proud papa to two magnificent Celestecats Tonkinese Cats. You see one of the two girls beautiful selves above. She also makes a cameo appearance with the VP of Pottenger in the Pottenger’s Cats DVD. I have been feeding cats and dogs paleo style now for over 20 years and teaching people worldwide how to do this species appropriately in my own consultation practice and award winning books, the latest of which is co-authored with renowned holistic vet Jean Hofve DVM and is entitled, The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care…all 11 generations have photo’s in the book with our holistic diet and protocols that I used during this breeding program which was retired in 2009!

    • Carolyn says:

      Wow! That is a beautiful cat. She reminds me of a beloved lilac point Siamese that shared her life with me many years ago. Thanks for telling us the story of your cats. We should help our pets to be healthy as well as ourselves.

      • Thank you Carolyn, I shared the need for science to take a close look at how epigentics is important in animal breeding and how each generation of cats fed commercial pet food suffers exponentially. By my 6th generation of raw food fed cats the cats were incredibly healthy and by the 11th they were purrrfection! One of the other very interesting things to note if you read this study is that just 3 months of switching a raw meat fed mother to cooked food so weakened both she and her kittens (if they even survived) that it took three generations back on raw meat to undue the damage of those 3 months on cooked meat. The actual diet fed the cats was raw meat, raw milk and cod liver oil and another significant group of cats in the study was fed cooked meat and RAW milk and cod liver oil. There was another group that got condensed milk in their protocol. Only the group that got the raw meat sur-thrived! It is also important to note that I improved by trial and error on Pottenger’s diet and found an even better source of Omega 3 for both people and pets and that is a greenlip mussel marine lipid from New Zealand called Moxxor. I have a video sharing my experiences with both people and pets at http://www.MoxxArt.com. What was so amazing about it is that back in the day cod liver oil was a safer product to take but today the processing it goes through renders it lifeless and dead ..even then back in Pottenger’s day, it was still a heat treated oil. This new product I found, Moxxor is cold extracted so it too constitutes a raw food but is perfectly safe as it is assayed to be free of contaminants and heavy metals. When I added this marine lipid to the cats diets and my own as well we all took a quantum health leap! xxoo

  2. PS You can read and share my Word Press CelstialMusingsBlog.com post on the topic of Omega-3 oils at http://celestialmusingsblog.com/2012/06/18/what-on-earth-is-a-greenlip-mussel/

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