I’m a fan of Timothy Ferriss. He’s a radical self-experimenter with a sense of humor and a basher of popular assumptions. Some people can’t stand the guy but I think they must just be envious; who wouldn’t be? Regardless I wouldn’t have expected to come across Pottenger‘s cat study in his new book.
Pottenger studied the efficacy of synthetic hormones in cats whose adrenal glands had been removed for that purpose (he was making the hormone, and needed to see how well the hormones worked in keeping the cats, glands removed, alive). By chance, he started feeding some of the labratory cats raw meat/bones/organs/connective tissue. The basic diet was the same for all the cats: meat (raw or cooked), milk (raw or pasteurized), and cod liver oil. The only (and, it turns out, very significant) difference in their diets was the raw v. cooked. The raw-fed cats thrived; the cooked/pasteurized-fed cats had high rates of death, disease, and infertility.
The one important aspect that doesn’t always get mentioned when the study is quoted, though, is that taurine, which a cat can’t live without, is heat-sensitive. So the cats with the raw diets had a big leg up over the other cats simply by virtue of having their taurine needs met. This wasn’t known at the time of the study (early 1900s). Nowadays pet food manufacturers add the taurine after the food is cooked, and there are oodles of cats that seem to do well enough on a high-quality canned or dry.