BOOKS: Your Cat: A Revolutionary Approach to Feline Health and Happiness
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2007
A Revolutionary Approach to
Feline Health and Happiness
by Elizabeth M. Hodgkins, DVM, Esq.
Thomas Dunne Books
(c/o St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York,
N.Y. 10010), 2007. 320 pages, hardcover. $27.95.
How gullible we all are. How easily we accept the
blandishments of the big pet food producers that their dry and
unnatural pellets are a “balanced and complete” food for our
companion animals. Common sense should tell us that this cannot be
so. The main component of these mass-produced convenience foods
often consists of cereals such as corn, for which a carnivore’s
digestive system is not designed. One will not see a wild cat
chewing on a corn cob.
Of course it is so convenient to open a packet of kibbles and
pour them out into a bowl. No cooking, no mess, no cleaning up and
the dry pellets can stay out all day.
This reviewer learned by chance how important it is for a
companion animal to receive adequate natural food. Her Rottweiler
bitch, fed mainly on processed dog food, was on the point of being
put down by the vet at the age of two years for severe and painful
hip dysplacia, when the dog discovered where the chickens on the
farm were laying their eggs. She began to consume eggs daily. In no
time her skeletal development completed itself, the hip dysplacia
disappeared, and she lived to a ripe old age.
As Hodgkins explains in her book, “Dogs are omnivores who
eat meat when it is available. Cats, big and small, are obligatory
carnivores. The omnivore does not eat meat as a mandatory
requirement for life; vegetable food sources can make up a very
large part of their diet. For the cat, however, meat, and the
nutrients found only in meat, are essential for survival.”
Common sense is better when backed up by a scientist with
loads of research and experience. Enter Elizabeth Hodgkins, a
veterinarian of some 28 years experience, who breeds and rears
award-winning Ocicats. Hodgkins write Your Cat to dispel some
popular industry-promoted misconceptions. One of these is that a cat
has different nutritional needs in each of three stages of life.
Summzarizes Hodges, “The theory goes that kittens need a
certain type of nutrient profile (the combination of protein, fat,
carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals in a diet); adult cats need a
different nutrient profile; and older, ‘senior’ cats need another,
different nutrient profile in order to achieve and maintain optimum
Hodgkins maintains that this is just a marketing gimmick.
Cats are carnivores whatever their age, and will get all their
nutrition from a natural meat diet. Indeed, the feeding of processed
foods, which contain unnatural ingredients for a carnivore, such as
cereals and sugars, is a recipe for obesity, and then cancer,
heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.
Considering the many food products on the market today, the
advertising environment, and the different nutritional values of
various processed foods, this book will help the guardian to choose
healthier products. Hodgkins explains how to decipher the labels on
pet food products. She is to be commended for pointing out the
serious flaws in the commercial diets that are commonly fed to
Her book covers the care and feeding of cats at all stages of
their lives, from raising a healthy kitten to the golden years of
the senior cat. She deals with all aspects of cat care, including
diseases, vaccinations, sterilization, parasites, and toilet
training. She writes with clarity and passion, making her book both
interesting and easy to understand.
Of note is that the “natural meat diet” for a cat consists
chiefly of mice, eaten whole, including the undigested grain in
their gastrointestinal tracts. Cats such as African lions, who hunt
larger prey, often eat the stomachs and intestines of their victims
first, apparently aware that they need their veggies, even if
second-hand. However, they ignore undigested, i.e. “uncooked”
The idea behind adding grain glutens to manufactured pet food
is to try to simulate the grain component of a cat or dog’s “natural
meat diet.” The conventional test of grain gluten protein content
measures nitrogen emissions. Grain glutens imported from China were
recently found to have been adulterated by the addition of a
nitrogen-emitting coal extract called melamine, to make them appear
to contain more protein than they did.
However, laboratory tests have never found melamine by
itself to be as toxic as it apparently was when incorporated into pet
food. Current theory is that the process of simulating
pre-digestion somehow enhanced the toxicity of melamine, and/or a
melamine byproduct called cyanuric acid, which also was found in pet