Do you feed your children junk food? Why not? Because it’s not healthy?
Providing you are on-board with feeding your kids wholesome meals, do you apply the same kind of thinking when feeding your furry family members?
We come from a society that doesn’t put a lot of thought into their pets’ food, and often think that “pet food” is the only thing that is good for them. Many people have never thought about what animals ate before food came in bags and cans. Back when I worked in a local health focused pet shop, I had many conversations with people about what dogs and cats would eat in the wild, and the common comeback was always “Wow, I never thought of that.”
So what would cats and dogs eat in the wild?
Cats are carnivores, and would hunt and eat small animals that they could catch. Their meals were always fresh, raw, and full of all the enzymes and nutrients they required. They ate their catch whole, so they got meat, bones, and organs. They also got fur and feathers that acted as a fiber. Sometimes they would also eat fresh grasses.
Dogs are omnivores, and like us, can eat a whole variety of foods. They will also hunt and eat smaller animals, but they will also eat ripe vegetables/vegetation and grasses. They are also scavengers, so they will chase off smaller hunters and eat their catch, that may not be as fresh.
What won’t they eat in the wild?
Well, they wouldn’t eat processed foods, and they wouldn’t eat chemicals used as preservatives, or additives that make “pet food” more appealing to humans. Incidentally, cats and dogs do not crave sugar, that you’d usually find in treats, probably because people associate “treats” as sweet.
They also wouldn’t eat grains as we know them. They likely will eat the grasses of grains, but by the time a grain is ready to be harvested and processed, the grass portion is dried out and less appealing. And animals certainly don’t process grains to make them into rice, wheat, barely, etc.
How did “pet food” come to be?
Back when wild animals started to develop relationships with humans, they would be given scraps in exchange for the help they provided, and probably to keep them coming around. They still lived outdoors and fed themselves naturally, and the scraps would be supplemental.
Over time as they started to become domesticated, they were fed scraps more regularly from human cooking. This was the norm for thousands of years until relatively recently, along side the industrial food revolution, when “pet food” became invented. It was (and still is for most “pet foods”) a way for food manufacturers to utilize food scraps that weren’t suitable for human consumption. Think about it, it was food waste that they could still make money on! Then, like all processed foods, the manufacturers had to figure out how to make the food shelf stable. Hence chemical preservatives. And for the bagged “food”, in order to make a kibble, additives such as wheat or rice needed to be added so the ground “meat” would stick together in a little ball.
On the surface it all seems to make sense, but if you pay attention to what you feed your kids, you know that the process of making foods sellable when they are not fresh, really degrades the quality and nutrients. We all love our dogs and cats, and it behooves their health that we give their food the same kind of attention and consideration we give our kids’ food.
Cats and dogs are biological beings, just like us. Their bodies have all the same working parts as ours, and they have the same needs as us. They need fresh real foods, pure water, fresh air, exercise, security, and mental stimulation and support. We humans often forget we are also animals, and we really all have the same needs.
So if you don’t already, as you move forward when thinking about your pet’s needs, remember to take into consideration that your choices align with their natural biological needs. This will keep them happy and healthy for years to come!