Meow Chow

Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.

― Garrison Keillor

Last week the Roommate’s colleague rescued some kittens out of the trash. The poor little things were so tiny that anyone could see they were way too small to be taken from their mother. The lady had heard them crying in the dumpster.

She pulled the pathetic things out of the garbage. The garbage was behind the local restaurant…which didn’t bode well for Mother, I should say.


The rescuer is living in what is termed “company housing.” “Company housing” in this culture translates as “prison-hotel that’s not as nice as most real hotels”, meaning that this lady could not take the kittens into her apartment. Pets Are Forbidden, something Dragon Lady downstairs enforces with an iron hand. And even if the kittens could be sneaked upstairs and kept quiet, “cleaning personnel” have access to her apartment at all times of the day or night.

So this lady put the kittens into a box and left them just outside the complex. She fed them several times a day: egg, milk, and olive oil through a syringe. She went to work looking for people who wanted a pet. A day or two later, she came back and found the kittens gone. She got into it with Dragon Lady, who kept repeating “Pets Are Forbidden” while our heroine tried, with a singular lack of success, to reason that the pets weren’t in any building within Dragon Lady’s purview. After being rebuked for her lack of compassion and respect for the life of creatures, Dragon Lady left in a huff. A bystander then motioned to the rescuer that the kittens were back in the trash.

With the kittens re-rescued, a fair and equitable compromise has been achieved between colleague and Dragon Lady. The kittens will continue to be outside the buildings while colleague hunts for a home for them; Dragon Lady will meanwhile not throw them in the garbage or beat them to death.

(For my western readers who may be tempted at this point to ask, “why doesn’t she just take them to the pound?” you should know there are no pounds. Unwanted animals are generally just abandoned. Or eaten.)

But our own culture is just barely better.

This morning I was reading a Reader’s Digest. One of the ads in it is for Purina Cat Chow “Healthy Weight.” The ad reads:

Help make that jump from the floor to your lap feel easier. A delicious way to achieve or maintain a healthy weight and promote lean muscle mass.

This is where I start to go a little insane. Because the most uneducated street sweeper knows that cats are supposed to eat meat. They are what’s known as obligate carnivores, which means they have no choice. They have to eat meat or die. You’ll never see a lion snacking on carrots, or a panther enjoying a nice bush full of berries.

You’ll also never see a fat lion or a fat panther in the wild.

But you see fat house cats all the time.


Well, let’s think about it. According to the Calories In, Calories Out mantra–the “eat a bit less and exercise a bit more” dogma–we have to balance our intake and expenditure of energy perfectly in order to avoid getting fat. We must know the caloric impact of every meal and be able to calculate it down to the last gram. Thankfully we can do this because we have and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and

Which just goes to show you how uninterested Americans are in losing weight. That’s why we keep getting fatter. No one is listening to the benevolent overlords when they come down from on high to tell us what to eat.

Anyway….What do the lions do? That’s what I want to know.

If perfectly balancing your nutrition, calories, and exercise in order to get all the vitamins and minerals and amino acids and Omega 3s and Omega 6s and mono-poly saturated/unsaturated whatevers and not gain weight requires this kind of effort…if children and their parents are too stupid to know what to eat…if eating till you aren’t hungry is the problem…if eating the foods you crave is the problem…

How do animals do it? Why are there so few fat animals in the wild (except the ones that eat human food)? They can’t count calories. They don’t know anything about fats. They eat whatever they feel like eating, and if you tell me a lion stops eating before he’s full to avoid getting a middle-aged pooch, I’d invite you to come with me to the Serengeti and personally test that theory.

So what’s the difference between a house cat and a lion? They have the same habits, the same digestive system. They crave the same foods. The only big difference, other than size, is that house cats get fed by humans.

Purina Cat Chow “Healthy Weight” contains corn meal, corn gluten (a byproduct of vegetable oil production), brewers rice, soy meal, taurine (an amino acid protein that cats desperately need from meat, but which Purina has helpfully synthesized and sprayed all over the corn meal) and soybean hulls.

Which is exactly what you’d feed your cow if you wanted to fatten it up for slaughter. And none of that stuff is appropriate for a cat’s digestive system.

What’s aggravating is that people know this, and yet they continue to abuse the cat. Animal abuse is exactly what it is: cats cannot eat grains and thrive. They will get fat and sick, and then you will take them to veterinary offices for expensive treatments for conditions that only humans get–like cancer and diabetes–and then you will take them to a pet mortician and spend $5,000 to have them put in a casket and buried.

When I say “people know this”, I mean people like those at Cornell University. They state directly:

Cats are obligate carnivores… What does it mean to be an obligate carnivore? It means that cats are strict carnivores that rely on nutrients in animal tissue to meet their specific nutritional requirements.

And two paragraphs down, they are discussing dry foods with all their grain and grain byproducts. Nowhere do they address the issue that somehow cats “rely on nutrients in animal tissue” and yet apparently you can feed them corn, corn gluten, rice, soy meal and soybean hulls and expect them to be healthy. In fact, if you keep reading you notice that even though cats of all kinds all over the world are perfectly capable of feeding themselves; even though house cats pre-1950 were perfectly capable of living outside and thriving off whatever prey they natural wanted to hunt, now, according to the brain trust at Cornell, it is utterly impossible for either your cat (did he de-evolve?) or you to just feed your cat at home. You must rely on Scientists who have carefully designed these amazing American Grain Association-Approved cat foods for you.

It is utter insanity, and yet it happens because grain growers and cat food producers can make a killing off combining this cast-off trash into something people will pay money for. It happens because we don’t think, and we feed our pets as if they were humans on diets that humans shouldn’t be eating, either.

Which brings me back to Reader’s Digest.

In that same issue, one of the first articles is about all the things in our society that are getting bigger to accommodate our growing waistlines. Ambulances, CT scanners, and caskets are the ones emphasized. Back in the 1980s, Goliath Caskets developed their 29-inch model. They sold one per year. Now they ship six a month. The standard width of coffins has always been 24 inches, (or approximately half a foot wider than the seat you’re supposed to stuff into on an airplane. Fly the Friendly Skies).

How can this be when we have all those websites I listed above? How can this be when we have so many gyms around, and every other person at Starbucks fancies herself a personal trainer? How can this be when the schools are taking away children’s unhealthy, home-packed lunches?

The next article is about “TV shows that changed the world.” One of them is E.R. Apparently not only did ER inflict George Clooney and his patented neck spasm school of acting upon the world, but it also included a story in which a teenager gets high blood pressure and–over the course of three, hour-long episodes I never want to see–is healed via the revolutionary advice to eat more fruit and vegetables.

According to the article, people surveyed who claimed to have seen the episode also claim to have eaten more fruits and vegetables as a consequence.

Surveyor: Did you watch the 2004 very-special-episodes of ER in which a young teen’s life is endangered by high blood pressure, but he is healed by doing the healthy thing and eating lots of fruits and vegetables?

Peer-Pressured, Star-Crazed Young Person: Um, yes of course!

Surveyor: As a consequence of seeing how dangerous it was to not eat lots of fruits and vegetables like George Clooney says you should, would you say you’ve eaten more vegetables and fruit since then?

Peer-Pressured, Star-Crazed Young Person: Why as a matter of fact I have. And I believe I’m starting to favor one side of my neck, too.

The headline is “ER Made Us Healthier.” The explanation is: “viewers who caught these episodes had started walking or exercising more, eating more fruits and vegetables, or getting their blood pressure checked.

Can you see how “healthier” is conflated with “eating more fruits and vegetables” and “exercise?” They aren’t the same thing, yet they’re being treated as if they are. If you read the critique of the The China Study that I linked to in a previous post, you may have noticed this:

Although frequency of green vegetable consumption does boast a strong inverse correlation with heart disease in the unadjusted data, the actual amount of green vegetables consumed has a weak positive correlation—a paradox Campbell does not mention or seem to explore. Had Campbell examined this discrepancy closer, he would notice the strong regional patterns associated with frequency of green vegetable consumption, including humidity, heat, elevation, and latitude all of which suggest this variable serves as a geographical marker and thus is likely associated with other regional risk factors and protective factors for disease.

In plain English, this means that data from this vast study showed that the more frequently someone ate green vegetables, the lower his risk of heart disease tended to be. But, oddly, eating more total vegetables actually correlated the opposite way: higher risk of heart disease. This is a paradox, and as so often happens in nutritional studies since the outbreak of the lipid hypothesis, paradoxes are simply declared unknowable: everyone throws up their hands and we just ignore it.

People who live in certain geographical locations have access to green vegetables more often because of heat, humidity, elevation, sunshine… all variables that also directly affect human beings. Because eating more total vegetables actually correlated slightly with worse heart health, about the only thing we can say from all this data is that living in an area that’s favorable to the growth of green vegetables is also favorable to the health of human beings.

What were some other variables, in the study, of living where green vegetables can grow year-round? People in these areas ate more fish, more meat, and more rice to the exclusion of all other grains. They also had more constantly available direct sunshine. As the critique goes on:

More accurately, certain geographical regions have strong correlations with cardiovascular disease (or lack thereof), and year-round green vegetable consumption is simply an indicator of geography. Since only frequency and not actual quantity of greens seems protective of heart disease and stroke, it’s safe to say that greens probably aren’t the true protective factor.

But the Reader’s Digest article just goes right ahead and claims that eating more fruit and vegetables–more and more and more!–is the same thing as being healthier. And it has the gall to do so right after an article explaining that in the same time period as ER was supposedly saving us, we’ve gotten fatter and sicker than ever before.

The next article in the magazine is a public service by the American Heart Association. Bless their hearts, they spent a gazillion dollars to buy 10 pages of ads and text to tell you how to eat and exercise. Maybe you should go exercise to raise money to donate more to them, so they can keep repeating the identical advice they were trotting out 30 years ago, before people started Super-Sizing their coffins and ordering Jumbo-sized ambulance cots: Exercise more, eat lean meat, eat whole grains, eat less salt, eat 4 fruits and 2-3 vegetables per day, eat only fat-free dairy.

It hasn’t worked yet, but if we give it another 30 years more maybe it will. Meanwhile, keep saving for Fluffy’s urn.


Plato says he’s hungry

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