Felis silvestris lybica  Photo by Noorderlicht
Felis silvestris lybica Photo by Noorderlicht

When you get right down to it, house cats are pretty useless. If you’re overrun with mice, cats can be a help, but that’s pretty much it.  They are fiercely  independent and, unlike dogs, which have a want-to-please-their-master nature, cats don’t really give a flip.  They don’t fetch, they don’t roll over, they don’t sit up and beg, and, for the most part, they don’t come when called. If you had a kid who acted like a cat, you would probably put him/her up for adoption. So why are cats the most popular house pet in the world today?

Scientists using DNA analysis have determined that virtually all house cats alive today are descended from a specific line of wild cats, Felis silvestris lybica, that are indigenous to the Middle East.  Although there are a number of lines of wildcats throughout the world, mitochondrial DNA analysis of all breeds of house cats appears to indicate they all descended from this one branch of the wildcat family.

With the geography and an approximate age of the initial phases of cat domestication established, we could begin to revisit the old question of why cats and humans ever developed a special relationship. Cats in general are unlikely candidates for domestication. The ancestors of most domesticated animals lived in herds or packs with clear dominance hierarchies. (Humans unwittingly took advantage of this structure by supplanting the alpha individual, thus facilitating control of entire cohesive groups.) These herd animals were already accustomed to living cheek by jowl, so provided that food and shelter were plentiful, they adapted easily to confinement.

Cats, in contrast, are solitary hunters that defend their home ranges fiercely from other cats of the same sex (the pride-living lions are the exception to this rule). Moreover, whereas most domesticates feed on widely available plant foods, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they have a limited ability to digest anything but meat—a far rarer menu item. In fact, they have lost the ability to taste sweet carbohydrates altogether. And as to utility to humans, let us just say cats do not take instruction well. Such attributes suggest that whereas other domesticates were recruited from the wild by humans who bred them for specific tasks, cats most likely chose to live among humans because of opportunities they found for themselves.

Turns out that the answer to the domestication question is that cats were useful to our ancestors for the same reason they are useful to use: their mousing ability.  When humans turned to agriculture and started storing quantities of grain, rodents became a problem because they bred like flies and overran the human food supply.  Cats, which don’t eat grain but do eat rodents, were the solution, so we hired them on despite their quirks.

So are today’s cats truly domesticated? Well, yes—but perhaps only just. Although they satisfy the criterion of tolerating people, most domestic cats are feral and do not rely on people to feed them or to find them mates. And whereas other domesticates, like dogs, look quite distinct from their wild ancestors, the average domestic cat largely retains the wild body plan. It does exhibit a few morphological differences, however—namely, slightly shorter legs, a smaller brain and, as Charles Darwin noted, a longer intestine, which may have been an adaptation to scavenging kitchen scraps.

Unlike dogs, which exhibit a huge range of sizes, shapes and temperaments, house cats are relatively homogeneous, differing mostly in the characteristics of their coats. The reason for the relative lack of variability in cats is simple: humans have long bred dogs to assist with particular tasks, such as hunting or sled pulling, but cats, which lack any inclination for performing most tasks that would be useful to humans, experienced no such selective breeding pressures.

As a little diversion let me demonstrate the difference between art and science.  The article on the domestication of cats took up five pages of text in Scientific American.  J.R.R. Tolkien (yes, he of Lord of the Rings fame) pretty much transmitted the same information in a short poem.  I came across this poem in my youth and was mesmerized by it.  I loved the rhyming pattern and was amazed that so much information could be compressed into what seemed to be just a little piece of doggerel.


The fat cat on the mat
may seem to dream
of nice mice that suffice
for him, or cream;
but he free, maybe,
walks in thought
unbowed, proud, where loud
roared and fought
his kin, lean and slim,
or deep in den
in the East feasted on beasts
and tender men.
The giant lion with iron
claw in paw,
and huge ruthless tooth
in gory jaw;
the pard dark-starred,
fleet upon feet,
that oft soft from aloft
leaps upon his meat
where woods loom in gloom —
far now they be,
fierce and free,
and tamed is he;
but fat cat on the mat
kept as a pet
he does not forget.

As I said, on the surface it appears to be a little nursery-type of poem, but it’s not really.  The rhyme sequence is astonishingly complex for such a small poem.  The odd lines rhyme at the end while the even lines each have three internal rhymes, and it’s all done in just a few words.  Yet is conveys the essential nature of cats better than the long Scientific American article without seeming to stretch to make any of the rhymes work.

It’s hard to believe that Tolkien wrote such a gem intending to include it in The Lord of the Rings, but decided not to.  It ended up being kind of a throw away.

We, ourselves, like cats, walked “in thought unbowed, proud, where loud roared and fought [our] kin, lean and slim, or deep in den in the East [and] feasted on beasts” in a time long past.  And just like fat cats on mats everywhere, we remember, too, those “fierce and free” primal days, if not in our conscious brains, at least in our DNA.  We are hardwired to gobble meat with “huge ruthless tooth in gory jaw.”  If you don’t believe me, take a look at this YouTube of chimps, our nearest genetic ancestor hunting and eating meat.

Beware.  And I’m not kidding.  This video is not for the squeamish, so be forewarned.


I’m not nearly as clever with verse as J.R.R. Tolkien, so I won’t attempt to capture the feelings this video engenders with poetry.  But it should be obvious from the watching what hunts must have been like in our own past.  I suspect not too different than the one you just saw.  And, friends, that is the primitive circuitry deep inside of us all; we differ from the chimps you saw by a mere 6 percent of genes.  That means that we have 94 percent of our genes in common with them.  Au contraire to what our vegetarian friends would have us believe, we have the GI tracts of carnivores, not herbivores, and we were designed by nature to use every last speck of the nutrients in meat.  We can survive on all-meat diets just fine, whereas we can’t survive on an all-plant diet without supplementation.

We’ve developed our large brains and our social instincts as a consequence of meat eating.  I’m planning a post on this subject in the near future, so you can see how our very humanness arose because we developed a taste for meat.  We are carnivores to our very cores – were we not, we would still be roaming the savannas with brains the size of grapefruits.

We may sleep and dream of larger houses, bigger cars and vacations to exotic locations, but our insides still remember when we were “fleet upon feet” and leapt upon our meat “where woods loom in gloom.”  It was this memory that drove Paleolithic Man, with whom we have 100 percent of genes in common, to hunt to extinction all the large beasts (whose skeletons fill natural history museums everywhere) to extinction from the Bering Strait to Tierra del Fuego in about 1000 years. They didn’t make this effort because they used meat as a condiment.

Whether we like it or not, we are hard wired to our past.

Photo of F.s lybica by Noorderlicht

H/T to Richard Nikoley for alerting me to the YouTube video


  1. beautiful post! a diet that incorporates Tolkien… just wonderful 😀 thanks for sharing.

    Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Whoa. My cats play fetch. And while they are independent, they are very social and love daddy (i.e., me). Other people who have had cats have reported (I can’t do this; mine are indoor cats) that their cats will leave prey (mouse, snakes, etc.) as presents for the owner. Yeah, the cats don’t leave grass-fed tenderloin, free-range chicken breast, or wild King salmon, but it’s not out of spite, it’s just because they don’t know any better.

    Now…on to the rest of your post…

    1. Cats bring dead mice home to just-weaned kittens who are too young to hunt for themselves. When the kittens get a little more mature the mother cat begins to bring home prey that’s still alive and lets the kittens learn to kill it for themselves. If your cat is bringing home dead mice for you, it means she thinks you’re a rotten hunter!

  3. Dr. Eades,

    Thank you for this post–but I’m wondering, given your last sentence, what you would make of those who question the SUSTAINABILITY of a paleo diet. And I ask this as someone who largely follows a paleo diet…but it seems that if the entire world were to start following a paleo diet tomorrow, our health may improve, but it seems that it would only be a few decades before we ate ourselves serious problems involving shortages of resources, in the form of energy and food.

    There are others much better equipped than I to answer the sustainability issues. But looking at what Joel Salatin has done with Polyface Farm, I don’t think sustainability is an issue with the right kind of farming.

  4. Some grammar and punctuation suggestions:

    1) “We, ourselves, like cats walked “in thought unbowed, proud, where loud roared and fought [our] kin, lean and slim, or deep in den in the East [and] feasted on beasts..” in a time long past.” — Need a comma after “like cats;” need only one period after “beasts;” and the I in “in” should be capitalized.

    2) Regarding comment on the poem, should it be “throw-away”, not “throw away”?

    3) I thought there was a use of “is” instead of “it,” but looking back, I could not find it. Maybe the mistake was in some other post…

    Nice post. Science, evolution, anthropology, nutrition, health, art, video. I enjoyed it.

    Thanks for the heads up on the comma after ‘like cats.’ I missed that one. The double period started as an ellipsis that I didn’t get completely removed, which leaves the ‘i’ not needing to be capitalized. I fixed them both. I guess throw-away is correct if the word ‘poem’ is implied, but I would bet it is correct both ways.

  5. Thanks for posting that, we were just talking about that subject.

    Our fancy inbred pedigree ‘modern siamese’ cat just moved from a city environment in Seattle to a country environment in France. Our lazy city cat now catches mice daily and has extended his hunting to birds and snakes. We were amazed that despite having been bred for big ears and skinny legs you put him in the country and he becomes a fine mouser.

    He’s also a happier and a more active cat now.

  6. Have you ever noticed that baby carnivores (i.e. cats & humans) are born weak & require parental support for a while after weaning, while herbivores (i.e. cows) are up & walking before they have their first meal?


  7. I almost feel sorry for you. You’re going to be deluged with people telling you that their cats fetch, come when called, and break all the other stereotypes.

    And the best part of being owned by a cat is that they’re warm, soft, furry, playful, funny and sometimes extremely cuddly, just depends on the personality of the cat who owns you. There’s something absolutely magical about having a sleeping cat in your lap that’ll make you sit still for hours… and ignore your bladder that’s about to explode!

    Not for me. I’m allergic to them.

  8. Hey Mike,

    I know it is nit picking and there are still a variety of figures available, but I’d hate for you to provide any ammunition for the ID/Creationist nutter crowd (when the opposite is clearly your intention – well clear to ‘us’ anyway!) … but I think the 6% difference thing is generally regarded these days as a bit of an over estimation.




  9. Ok, I have to weigh in about my cats too. They exhibit a wide variety of behaviors, voices and appearance, but none of them are truly loners or independent. They have an elaborate social hierarchy and etiquette- they are like small lions. They fetch, come when called, cuddle and lick (humans and each other), talk (ok they’re Siamese), perform tricks, and beg for food (very fond of asparagus, artichokes, and broccoli, along with meats and cheese, of course).

    Great video. I saw a TV show about violent chimps and it scared the crap out of me. One chimp attacked a man and bit his fingers off and maimed his leg. Those creatures are more violent than humans it seems to me, and that’s saying a lot.

    I agree with you about the hunting instinct. I often want to go chasing after deer that I see out on the trail. It just feels natural and fun.

  10. Only had the time to skim the above, forgive me. But it brings me to the latest big emotional problems happening chez nous.
    We have one cat and two poodles. One of the dogs, the cute little one, has been critically ill, but all the vets could do was run lots of tests (all negative, no sign of the cancer they suspected her of having) and charge us more than a grand and wanted to do an exploratory op. Well, it turns out they were feeding her lean chicken breasts and then were wondering why she was running a temperature and had diarrhoea and was near death. Well, I and youngest son rescued her from the money extracting machine they laughingly call a “hospital”, took her home and fed her lots of mince mixed with beef dripping* and Lo! she has made a huge recovery over the last couple days. Fingers crossed, she will recover.
    So, I would have been heartbroken if she had of been a doggy victim of low-fat nutritional correctness. The vets had expected her to die and not to last the weekend. Instead she’s begun to terrorise the neighbourhood with her mother.
    And yes, the little dog has been guilty of going up to the cat and kissing her. And then she and her mother indulge in “chase the cat.”
    When, oh when, will this bankrupt low fat dogma (sorry) be consigned to the dustbin of history???

    * Beef dripping and lard are freely available at our local supermarkets here in Oz.

  11. what would you say about a diet completely void of any carbs – is it dangerous? (i go carbs-free on some days (meat, fish, eggs), and want to give, let’s say, a week or a month carb-free a try, but kind of afraid)

    No, it’s not dangerous. Many people follow such a diet for much longer than a week or a month with no ill effects.

  12. I’ve noticed one of the most common arguments buy the vegetarian brigade is that “our teeths aren’t like carnivore (dog/cat) teeth, therefore we weren’t evolved to eat meat”

    To which my response is “our teeth aren’t like cows either. By the way, the way we have evolved hands to use tools that allowed us to prepare and cook meat lessen the degree to which we need to tear raw meat off zebras with our mouths in the middle of the savannah.”

  13. My cat came when called, but he came even faster at the sound of the can opener. He absolutely refused to eat dry cat chow. Smart cat.

  14. Independent? Stand-off-ish? Not any I ever had! =^..^= Wherever I was they were—on my lap, on my computer keyboard, on the book I was trying to read… One of them, who never went outside, did the best he could by bringing a knit slipper to me, calling like a mamma cat to her kittens.

    I haven’t had cats for a while now, though I adore them. My only regret is that I wish I had known then what I know now about their nutrition. Things might have been better for some of them.

  15. Love the tie-in with Tolkien. The man was a genius. I also agree that they are barely domesticated. I have a couple of families of feral cats in my neighborhood that do a great job of keeping the population of those evil rabbits and nasty squirrels down.

    There is also the age old mystery of cats gravitate to the person in the room who is most allergic to them!

  16. Why are cats the the most popular house pet in the world today? Probably because they start out as adorable kittens and are usually free. Otherwise, I have no idea and as far as I can tell, you had trouble answering the question also. It was implied it could be because they are good at killing rodents. I’ll give them that much.

    I know it can’t be because of the nights one lays awake listening to their eerie wails, moans and screams while partaking of their amorous deeds — sounds that could raise the dead and seem to go on for hours right under your bedroom window.

    Or the fact that they jump onto kitchen counters and sashay around where food is prepared.

    Maybe it is because they will relieve themselves in a box and don’t need to be walked which is convenient. And that brings to mind the smell — and the fact that wherever the litter box ends up being is pretty offensive.

    I’m barely mentioning the fact that they are finicky eaters, sharpen their claws on your limbs and have a tendency to spray urine on furniture.

    But yes, I did have a cat once, one that I was fond of. When I was a child we had a cat that would leave a dead rat on the back porch every morning. I witnessed this cat catch a bird in mid flight by jumping from the ground with paws outstretched. She would lay in the grass for hours waiting for the right moment and hardly ever was unsuccessful. On one occasion, finding a baby rabbit torn to shreds left me devastated for weeks. Then there was the neighborhood bad boy showing up at our house threatening to sue; he claimed our cat messed up his German Shepard pretty bad and had a huge vet bill as a result. I always blamed myself because I was allergic to the cat necessitating that she spend most of her time outdoors, and the rest of the time in the basement. I thought this hardship caused her to become some super bad-ass killer feline. If only I had know back then that she was hard wired to be this way.

  17. Another great post! This is my favorite subject. I’m a strong proponent of the idea that many/most of our behaviors are hard wired. People seem to struggle with the thought that our behaviors are not completely made of free will. Lots of books on the subject (Including “Freedom Evolves” by Daniel Dennet. Your example with the chimps hunting gives us insights into why there are wars and will be for a long time.

    Just as an aside regarding cat evolution. Nicholas Wade had an interesting part in his book “Before the Dawn” about dog evolution. According to him, humans didn’t domesticate wolves, wolves domesticated themselves as an adaptation to humans.

    Here’s a bit of what he was getting at:


  18. Try reading Kipling’s “The Cat Who Walked By Himself.” That’s the best way to understand the relationship between people and cats. It’s part of the book Just So Stories.

  19. While there is a greater diversity among dogs, there is also quite a lot of difference in temperament and appearance among cat breeds as well as individual cats within breeds. Some cats are bred to be pets, some cats are bred to be hunters and this is reflected in sociability, appearance, intelligence, etc. Pet-like cats often reflect the culture (the japanese bobtail trait predominates in japan because of a myth of a demon-cat that can grow two tails… the popularity of scottish fold cats in japan with their big round eyes and folded ears reflects modern day anime culture).

    It’s obvious to me why cats are so popular. They are adorable, graceful and their personalities are fascinating to humans because humans are more dog-like (social/dependent) whereas cats are usually not and this makes them even more appealing to observe. Even if the cat personality isn’t interesting/fascinating to it’s owner, it jives well with many working people’s schedules and so cats are a pet of convenience. OTOH, dogs require more attention and care and affection or else they feel neglected and develop psychological problems/depression. Dogs often require large spaces to run/play if they are a large breed.

    But I guess you have to be a cat person to understand how awesome cats are.

    Plus it helps if you’re not allergic to them as I am.

  20. Of course, there are other things to consider besides diet when deciding whether or not to let our cats do their own hunting outdoors. For six years, I lived on 30 acres of beautiful pasture and hay land—should have been ideal. But in those six years I lost four cats on the road, and a fifth one went around with the fan belt on the car. (He survived and lived to 18.) The matriarch of all had lost part of her back legs to a hay mower. When I moved, I took three cats with me—including the mamma cat—and they stayed indoors for keeps!

  21. For those interested in adopting an all-meat diet for a period of time, the key is to eat lots of fat. When I ate an all-meat diet in the past, i estimate that i got 75% of my calories from fat. The foods i consumed were beef, fish, pork, eggs, cheese, butter, olive oil and coconut oil. If you have a hint of fat-phobia, an all-meat diet is certainly not for you.

    I agree.

  22. Regarding an all meat diet, my son tried an all meat diet for a few months (including eggs), made pemmican from suet, avoided salt and all artificial ingredients (he was trying for an authentic diet like maybe the Plains Indians would have had). He liked it ok, but felt something wasn’t quite right- he didn’t feel as well as he thought he should, and got muscle cramps very easily. He also had a very hard time finding fatty meat, since meat is usually sold very well trimmed. He’s currently adding in some potato and coconut milk and and feels better. Any thoughts as to why he would have cramping? Thanks.

    Yep, his potassium was probably too low due to the diuretic effect of the extremely low-carb, all-meat diet. If you follow this diet, you need to supplement with potassium for the first few weeks.

  23. Re: cats

    Our cat has an incredibly abnormal temperament. Likes humans, trained to do things, comes when called, more obediant than many dogs AND he was picked up from a stray population.

    What I want to know is what evolutionary pressure led humans to, on the whole, adore fluffy little animals… I can make evolutionary sense out of most things but this seems to elude me.

  24. My cat plays fetch and greets me at the door when I come home. I wonder where that behavior comes from.

    Great post though and the meaning has a far reverberating effect with the comparison to the cat. I’ve tried the vegetarian thing and found serious resistance from my body and the people around me. While I have encountered some push-back with my low-carb diet, people do seem to intrinsically understand it a little better. Sometimes I think they are a little envious as well. I don’t worry about steak and bacon, I just pass up bread. When we eat like cows, we become cows. When we eat like lean predators we become lean predators. Sometimes the truth is very simple.

  25. Speaking of animal dietary needs, my bird’s vet is a vegetarian and quite concerned about my bird’s cholesterhol levels. They eat protein pellets, primarily, and she wants their millet (seed) intake limited because millet seed is high in fat. She states too much millet or seed can lead to fatty liver disease. Well, I can see that millet is a grain, which is a good reason to limit it, although, these are birds and I think seed is probably very close to their natural diet, with other things.My birds are omnivoires, and want what ever I’m eating too, scrambled eggs, chicken, blueberries and whipped cream. I think this shows their inherent good judgment!
    I just think it’s odd that the vet is imposing the low fat imperative on the birds.
    By the way, I have birds because I’m allergic to cats too.

    It appears that vets are as crazy as the rest of the medical profession.

  26. Be sure to send out a tweet when you lay out a comprehensive “all meat diet” post! Been feeding my dog and cats high fat animal products some time now. Happy animals, reduced vet bills. Squares with the proper human diet.

  27. The same vegetarians who claim human teeth are not those of a carnivore also argue our closest relative is largely vegetarian. Here’s a chimpanzee’s teeth:


    So I don’t think the teeth argument holds much water. The digestive tract is a better argument, and roughly narrows the evolutionary diet of humans to fruit or meat. The wide range of homo sapiens and our ability to live outside of the tropics (particularly during ice ages) probably eliminates fruit as a consistent major source of calories.

    The sustainability argument oft made by vegetarians strikes me as shallow at best, and somewhat circular. Plant foods don’t grow naturally in high caloric densities, instead requiring major manipulation of the environment, addition of artificial fertilizers, and now genetic modification. Foods like corn and soy are only “affordable” because we’re paying double: once at the supermarket, and once through our taxes. Think also of how much effort goes into growing the parts of our major plant foods that are not edible: leaves, stalks, roots.

    Salatin has the right idea, which is to maximize the use of land and natural cycles for food production. Thus, cows eat grass down to the ground, move on to another patch, and the grass grows back, fertilized by the manure. Teamwork at its finest, and his success shows that working with and to the benefit of the natural world is probably a better strategy than trying to bend nature for the sole benefit of humans.

    So I think the sustainability question is less of which diet is more sustainable, and more of what population can the Earth sustain while providing humans the diet defined by our evolution. The population explosion is not fueled by meat, but by grains and soy. The methods used to grow these foods cheaply enough to “feed the world” seem to be intrinsically non-sustainable, requiring considerable intervention and manipulation on man’s part. The result is more mouths to feed, further driving the demand for cheaply produced calories. Add to that the negative health effects of a grain/soy based diet, and I think we can see how Nature plans to deal with humanity if we stay on the current agricultural course.

  28. Dave, great points! This is exactly the one I try to insist on whenever this silly, circular (as you call it) argument is brought to the table…

    There indeed seems to exist a struggle in finding the balance between optimal health (which will vary according to different experts; I, like other readers of this blog, personally choose to believe that the research out there done on the benefits of a paleolithic lifestyle have become undeniable) and optimal care of our environment and the way we interact with it. An agriculturist way of life CAN theoretically feed more people, but at what cost? More “unhealthy people”, taking up more arable land in order to feed even more people, indefinitely??? – Daniel Quinn’s analogy of rats confined to a cage makes a great insert here…

    Let’s not forget that pastured animals raised in a way that respects nature (such as Joel Salatin of Polyface farm, as aforementioned) can be quite environmentally friendly. This type of food production should in no way be compared to factory farming methods that are used to feed the masses today. Many acres of land are unsuitable for agriculture and pasture raised animal thus often become a very viable and sustainable solution, one that has been put in practice for many centuries in places like England and other Northern European countries for instance.

    If the most important criteria is “being able to support as many people as possible” then yes, evidently, the agriculturist way of life will allow for this. Alas it also has the potential to support a society that is rampant with all types of disease, such as we are witnessing today. Not to mention a whole complex agroindusty based on subsidizing overproduction of monoculture species, namely GMO soy and corn.

    But, to say that a paleolithic way of life is not possible due to our society’s structure is using the same argument as those who support mass vaccination, for the sake of preserving something that frankly, probably should not have been allowed to proliferate. To think any other way is entirely anthropocentric. Why should we be so numerous? Why should we stray away from what our physiology and ancestral gene pool dictate? Are we better than nature, apart from it, better than the wisdom it is based on?

    Some people will say it is elitist and entirely unrealistic to think that everyone on this planet can eat according to, for example the Primal Blueprint layed out by Mark, or the nutrition plans proposed by Dr. Eades, Dr. Cordain and many others. But, quite the contrary, I think it is absolutely unrealistic to think that we can continue on this path and expect a different outcome. The more food we produce (which is the ultimate goal of intensive agriculture), the more people we can support and the more sickness is bred (through over-production of refined grains and all kinds of processed foods, amongst other problems). Quality should reign over quantity alas, the food industry works completely the other way around. According to Michael Pollan, we are producing on average 20% more calories per person in America, 20% more than we need, and all these calories are shoved into people’s mouth by coming up with more enticing processed foods everyday. And the solution, some propose, would be to produce more of that same food??? Hmmm.

    Choosing our food accordingly (first criteria should be good quality local organic foods, or growing your own…), avoiding factory-farmed foods at all cost, and only eating the amount of calories required to support a healthy lifestyle and body weight, herein lies the solution. The rest, I believe (maybe naively…), should take care of itself. More food (low-quality food) is not the answer, and by encouraging the right type of agriculture, population will regulate itself and allow for a higher level of health, as well as environmental and social consciousness.

    As the great American ecologist Aldo Leopold so succinctly pointed out, “we abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” I would add that with this respect also comes respect of all life-forms, including our most unique and precious gift: our own bodies!!!!

  29. It is grossly ironic that an animal domesticated, as you point out, to kill vermin and because they DIDN’T ravage the grain stores, have some to subsist largely on grain, and come to experience all the health related woes that come with grain. As Ghandi is quoted “the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.

    Of course, vegetarian Ghandi probably didn’t think of it quite this way.

  30. How clever of you, Dr. Eades, to note that a poem about cats might be doggerel.

    I read the entire SA article, and while it was interesting to a degree (I’m not a cat person) I could only wonder who funded such a useless and arcane study. Cats are what they are, and I’m betting I know the answer to my question: We, the taxpaying public…

  31. I think I better understand now why women are often associated with the feline in literature and the arts, while men are often associated with the Canis lupus.

  32. I live with ten cats who are all very different from one another. Three fetch. Most want to be near or on me. One cannot bear to have me out of his sight and follows me everywhere.

    I feed them raw meat, bones and organs, which produces nearly odorless feces that turn to powder when crushed. Many people have commented that they would never know I had so many cats. I had them on grainless canned food during a recent move, and their feces were so foul I couldn’t take it.

    I’ve been eating a lot of meat and fat, and I’ve noticed lumpy breasts with twinges of pain and sore nipples. I figured this was the fat, because I had similar problems when eating a lot of ice cream a couple years back. Is it just fat in conjunction with some sugar consumption? I haven’t been strict paleo. I’ve blogged about my changes. I’m still dedicated to getting this diet down right, but I am concerned about the discomforts I’m experiencing.

    Also, having come from a raw food/vegan mindset, I’m confused about the acid/alkaline balance. How can an all-meat diet provide the alkalinity we need?

    Sigh. So much to learn.

    (FYI: “throwaway” is a one-word adjective. No hyphen.)

    Thanks for the heads up on throwaway.

  33. “the average domestic cat largely retains the wild body plan. It does exhibit a few morphological differences, however—namely, slightly shorter legs, a smaller brain and, as Charles Darwin noted, a longer intestine, which may have been an adaptation to scavenging kitchen scraps.”

    I find that very interesting. Shorter stature, smaller brain, and a longer intestine as an evolutionary consequence of consuming carbohydrate.
    Reminds me of that little book you recommended in PPLP. “The Covenant of The Wild”. The author, Stephen Budiansky, wrote something similar about how domesticated cats were becoming clumsy hunters. That would definitely be a problem if their brains were becoming smaller.
    My own cat was a clumsy hunter, but still managed to eat a mouse most days. She would eat the entire mouse, bones and all. All she left were the intestines.

    My cat (who lived to be 20) looked almost exactly like the photo of Felis silvestris lybica (except for the legs, of course).

    Are human brains getting smaller? My own brain feels like it’s gotten bigger (metaphorically speaking :)) since low carbing…

  34. Dear Dr Mike

    Thank you for your posts. They are treats of erudition, humour and common sense. How do you find the time?
    I recall visiting your previous site some years ago, finding it a bit “blah” and not bothering to make regular visits: I concluded that what you wished to say was within your published work – including the Slow Burn. However, over the past weeks I have visited & read many posts on this more recent site. I have come across much of interest and now regret I did not have you “bookmarked”. I have a diabetic site marked, Jenny Ruhl’s, and tune in once or twice a month for her discourses on any recent diabetes’ developments.

    My main interests are developments in nutritional and hormonal studies in so far as they may provide clues to living a better – i.e. more active and more healthy – (latter end of) life. My father lived until the age of 92.

    Some highlights of my recent reading on your site:

    the Reckless Award to Dr John Stuttaford of “The Times”. I laughed! Did you know that on Saturdays he gives advice on Sexual Problems?

    the post on Popper and how hypotheses need to be falsifiable – brilliant, I reread part of Popper’s biography

    the post on “intention to treat” and “adherence” issues in current epidemiological analysis; very clear, and so is your solution: that the analytical protocol should provide such reports, as a former student of statistics, I am impressed

    yesterday’s post on bestseller lists revealed that I already read two of your recommendations “The Cholesterol Con” and “Good Calories, Bad Calories”.
    I linked to your review of “Mistakes Were Made” and the discussion of Cognitive Dissonance reminded me that Taubes’ bestseller describes some instances; David Kipnis’ observation “They eat too damn much”; and, while George Cahill accepts that “carbohydrate is driving insulin is driving fat”, this is not a sufficient reason to suggest that “carbohydrate drives obesity”, (it is not clear why excess fat is not obesity); but it is “sufficient reason” to require a “falsifiable hypothesis” test, to demonstrate the opposite.

    Over the years, I have read some doctors’ books on health subjects: the first was Protein Power in 1996, next James le Fanu “The Rise and Fall of Modern Medecine” and Malcolm Kendricks’ “Cholesterol Con”.

    It is clear that you authors (among others) have not been enticed into the prevailing paradigm. Is there any reason that “the Meades” came to reject the saturated fat mechanism, since I suppose that it would have been part of courses provided in your med schools?

    Thank you for the mental stimulation.


    PS If you would like comments on Popper or ITT, I could provide them! A type of “apologia pro vita sua”.

    I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the posts, and I’m glad you rechecked the site. Thanks for the lovely comment. If you want to comment on the others, it’s okay but certainly not required.

  35. “Ever see a seeing eye cat? how bout a bomb or drug sniffing cat?”

    Yep. True story: A local coffee/bakery establishment received a bomb threat. Everyone was evacuated and the services of the bomb-sniffing dog were requested. Alas, he was busy on another assignment, so they sent in two law enforcement officers instead:-)

    And how about the latest, the bed-bug detecting dog?

  36. Doc:

    You might like this video even better. It shows the monkeys and chimps from above, displaying the sophisticated team hunting tactics used by the chimps.


    Thanks for the HT.

    I did see this one, but I liked the one you had up on your site a little better. The near humanity of the chimps was more in view.

  37. As someone mentioned above, some cats do fetch, come when called, etc. There is a Russian cat circus. The Russian fellow did train his cats to perform tricks, albeit probably not in the same way one would train dogs.

    Dr. Mike, I get a kick out of your writings, but I hope that when you and MD get around to publishing your stuff in books, you hire a proofreader to do away with the many typos, etc. I think I picked up a copy of your “Lifeplan” book and was appalled that so many errors got through.

    Oh, and about cat allergies? About 70% of those who are said to be allergic to cats can tolerate Siberian cats (yes, they are really from Siberia, and they are a relatively new breed here in the U.S.). If you contact a breeder, they may even send you a fur sample. They have a triple coat.

    They are also one of the large breeds said to be “doglike” in character, along with Maine Coons and some others. They are said to be quite intelligent.

    I know that there are some of those “designer kitties” out there which go for several thousand dollars per kitten… but a purebred Siberian kitten would set you back $1,000 or less, maybe even a lot less. They also come in a lot of different coat colors.

    I have three long-haired tortoiseshell cats, none of them purebred. They don’t get much opportunity to kill varmints, being indoor cats. They don’t fetch anymore (one of them would fetch as a kitten), and two of them won’t come to their names.

    However, since by their behavior I can tell if something weird is going on outside, I figure they do earn their keep to an extent, even if they run like hell after they growl. Plus, they are all affectionate (or is that affection sponges?).

  38. A few days ago I posted on a new study that showed that Canadians spending on cardiovascular drugs, mainly statins, has tripled over the past decade to more than $5 billion a year. The main factor driving this is prescriptions written to an aging population. Using a Google search I was able to access the government’s health care professional Clinical Practice Guidelines and Protocols in British Columbia

    Under the heading ‘Cardiovascular Disease – Primary Prevention’ is the following notation:
    Women: Statins are not known to prevent CHD or improve survival for women without known heart disease.
    Adults ≥ 70 yrs: Insufficient evidence for the safety of statins and improved overall outcomes.

    If MDs are supposed to be practicing evidence based medicine this begs the question why are they prescribing statin drugs in record numbers when there is insufficient evidence for both the safety and improved overall outcomes?

    Insofar as your characterization of cats it seems obvious that you have never lived with an Abyssinian.

    You’re right. I’ve never lived with an Abyssinian.

  39. “There is also the age old mystery of cats gravitate to the person in the room who is most allergic to them!”

    Actually, that isn’t mysterious at all. Direct eye contact is a prelude to a fight between cats. A cat that is not looking for a fight will make a great show of NOT “eyeballing” another cat. So it actually makes perfect sense for a cat to gravitate to the human who is least likely to be staring at it and trying to get it’s attention–the one human who most wants to be left alone also looks like the one human not spoiling for a fight.

    When faced with an unfamiliar cat, try making unbroken eye contact and see if the little four-footed sneeze fest doesn’t leave the room.

    I love to stare intently into the eyes of dogs and cats – it disquiets them. It’s a little iffy with dogs (especially big dogs) because they can get agitated. Cats, as you describe, avert their gaze or move away.

  40. You quote the Scientific American article, quoting Darwin in turn, that house cats have evolved a longer intestine, “which may have been an adaptation to scavenging kitchen scraps”. The article notes elsewhere that house cats may have been domesticated in the Fertile Crescent about 10,000 years ago. This was about the same period that humans were becoming agricultural eaters.

    But supposedly, we humans have exactly the same genes as we had in the prehistoric era, and the ten-thousand years since we’ve been growing our own food has not long enough for us to adapt to our new diet. Hence, all our diseases of civilization, etc.

    If 10,000 years is enough time for one species, cats, to make evolutionary adaptations to a change in diet, why is it not long enough for humans?

    Despite what the article says, I’m not sure cats have changed that much. And they have been subjected to selective breeding, but they are still obligate carnivores. Finally, cats don’t live any where near as long as do humans, so in 10,000 years there are many more generations of cats than there are humans, giving changes more time to take place.

  41. If we did the same as we do dogs and shoot the ones that bite us, they’d probably get domesticated very quickly.

    Hmmm. Wonder if that would work with children?

  42. I’ve little doubt that it would take but a few days in the wild (stranded without readily available food) before we rapidly returned to the behaviors that are deeply wired within us. Even in modern-day situations of threat these deeper instincts are easy to spot. Our civilization may have evolved dramatically, but that doesn’t mean we’ve truly moved beyond better-clothed versions of our past!

  43. If you need proofreading or editing, I’m your gal.

    I meant to answer this on the last comment about the typos in the PPLP. The book publisher has a zillion people who go through and check for typos, plus MD and I read through the manuscript three or four times during the editing process, yet mistakes still make it through. Then when I’m looking something up in the book, I find a typo and wonder how it could possibly make it past so many eyes. It just happens.

  44. @TonyNZ:

    You said: “What I want to know is what evolutionary pressure led humans to, on the whole, adore fluffy little animals… I can make evolutionary sense out of most things but this seems to elude me.”

    I think this has to do with the instinct to adore human babies. If humans didn’t adore cute little babies we’d all be dead. We tend to adore little vulnerable things that are no threat to us, and fluffy little animals fall into that category.

    I’m trying to remember the term that Nicholas Wade used in the book I mentioned early about wolves turning into dogs. But it was the wolves that looked more “childlike” that the humans allowed to hang around and get scraps of meat. So it was an evolutionary advantage to wolves to evolve to be more cuddly and turn into dogs so they could take advantage of the humans.

    The word you’re looking for is ‘neotenized.’

  45. I own a major killer—the Spanish-speaking landscapers and housekeepers at my house when living in California called him El Asesino, El Matador (both mean killer) and more affectionately Panditas Patas (panda paws as he is a tuxedo boy). He lived to hunt and kill and my at-home office corner near my desk and computer were called the “Killing Corner,” where many a wood rat, pigeon, bird, snake, mouse, rabbit, lizard, and his favorite pocket gopher met their demise. He dispatched literally hundreds if not over a thousand gophers in the 10 years we lived there. Now in Texas not much to kill. He had been taught by his mother to kill. Now the other three just played them to death. That killer death crunch, according to a PBS special on domestic cats, has to be taught and if the cycle is interrupted subsequent generations do not learn it.

    What his owner needed to learn the hard way is this–slightly off and slightly on the subject of this blog—Dry and wet commercial catfood with grain or vegetables is not good for your cat. No matter how many dancing milk bottles or pretty vegetables are depicted in the cat food commercials, and your vet probably is bought and paid for by Hill’s Science Diet.

    Feline diabetes is rampant in the US primarily due to feeding grain-based food, especially kibble–called kitty crack by rawfeeders. Please see catnutrition.org for more information.

    Kip, my killer, is now a diabetic and currently eating a raw meat diet supplemented with muscle meat, bone, heart (for taurine), liver, and some gizzards, but so far he still has to be on 0.5U of Levemir insulin twice a day and be tested at least twice a day. Low carbohydrate wet, canned or raw, catfood (10% or less) is the best diet for any cat, but crucial to diabetic cats.

    Such a parallel to what we as humans must do to eat properly. Keep the grain out and the carbohydrates low, eat meat and fat, and for us some green stuff (no green stuff for cats).

  46. I am starting to suspect our little pug dog Sami may actually be a cat in a dog suit, and, incidentally, not a very well designed dog suit.

    Likes to eat meat exclusively? Check. Not concerned with pleasing us? Check. Doesn’t fetch? Check. Doesn’t roll over? Certainly not, check. Doesn’t give a flip? Check.

    That’s it, I am taking her back to the dog store, we’ve been had!

  47. I have had eight dogs over the last 30 years and about half of them have developed and died from some sort of cancer. I have begun to wonder if their diet of dry dog food, which contains a fair amount of non-meat fillers, could have something to do with it. I would suspect that like humans, domesticated dogs aren’t much different than their wild ancestors and they probably aren’t meant to eat grains.

    I wouldn’t be surprised.

  48. I was always a dog person myself. I had owned German Shephards. They are truly amazing creatures. This year I bought a Ragdoll kitten and named him Saadya. I dont know about other people but I paid a whooping $700 for him. I would have never thought in a million years I could like him despite few scratches and bites. Not only is he playful, affectionate and curious, he is intelligent and very intuitive. I understand this post is not about how cute cats are, I get it, lol. My mother is currently going through very difficult times. She has a large-sized lesion in her liver and both lungs. At this point I can only hope and pray that its not too late and there is still very tiny chance it could be all benign. But the kitten knows it on some evolutionary level that we might not even know. He stays on her lap all the time and meows every time she goes in a bedroom. I dont know, but may be there is more to these amazing creatures than just evolutionary wiring? Or couldt it just be wishful thinking. I dont know, but surely feels better to know that there are no accidents or unitelligent survival mechanism. And by unintelligent I mean that there is no intelligent force that is constanly in creation rather than evolving.

  49. When I took a human-animal interaction class in college, we were taught that cats are not properly considered domesticated but commensal, like a remora or a cowbird (but with much more sophisticated social engineering!). I’m not sure if this thinking has changed.

    The story that’s made the rounds this week about manipulative purring is interesting. I grew up with Siamese cats, who yell rather than purr when they have a request…but the effect of mimicking an infant is still probably in effect. Pretty clever adaptation.

  50. This is completely off-thread, but I want to tell you that I have scallops thawing for tonight’s dinner—”Scallops and Ham with Honey Mustard Sauce” (Protein Power, 1996, p. 271). I want to thank you for that wonderfully tasty and wonderfully simple recipe!! I’ve made it many times.

    It is great. I’ve had it many times.

  51. Thanks Steve

    It makes more sense than anything I’ve come up with. It probably fits somewhat with the anecdotal evidence (pretty much anathema here but whatever) that women seem to like cats more than men.

    My questions with it are still, why furry? Babies aren’t generally furry. Is this some sort of throwback to when we were furry?

    Also, feral cats, while evasive are not always harmless. They are vectors for all sorts of nasties…

  52. Sorry to hear that you’re allergic to cats. As a kid I was diagnosed as being allergic to nearly everything – dogs, cats, peanut butter, broiled chicken. Not to mention seasonal hay fever. None of it ever seemed to bother me much, except for the pollen and molds. But I don’t agree that cats are useless. Having a cat lie in your lap or on your tummy or chest and purring at you is extremely soothing. They’re also completely non-judgemental, as are dogs.

    Great post, though. I agree with he idea that we’re hard wired. I’ve looked into the Paleo Diet, which is very similar to conventional low carb, but seems to have some differences. If I remember correctly it includes available fruits and vegetables. Potatoes and apples would be included then, both high in carb. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I enjoy low carb immensely, especially different varieties of meat. But I have no real impulse or desire to chase down wild ungulates. They come into our yard pretty often. Mostly I just hope they don’t make a mess.

    I thought our genetic commonality with chimps was higher than that, like about 98%. Or is that gorillas? 94% is pretty high though. The video was pretty graphic, but I’ve seen stuff about chimps hunting monkeys before. They’d have a much rougher time with baboons, though. Thanks for posting the video. I like your sense of reality.

    There are people out there who want us to feel guilty about eating meat. As a student of wildlife biology (back in the good old days) and focussed on predators, I was disspelled of any guilt very quickly. Eating meat is completely natural. And healthy. For us and the other carnivores. Enjoy.


  53. I came across your post from a few months back dealing with low-carbing the second time around. I’m sorry to ask about this on an unrelated post, but I see no where that I can send an email to. I need help!

    I’m 37, 5’2, and 178 lbs. I started back on adkins phase 1 about 5 days ago, and I’ve only lost 2 pounds. this is a dramatic difference in the 1st time I low-carbed about 5 years ago. I understand that it will be harder this time. I thought I was following the phase 1 like I was suppose to. I’ve had 12 carbs today. I had used a salad spray instead of regular dressing. The spray only has 1 carb per 10 squirts. I didn’t go over that. The problem is (I noticed afterwards) that it also has 1 sugar gram which accounts for the where the 1 carb gram comes from. Does it matter where/what type of carbs I have as long as I stick to foods on the acceptable foods list? What makes certain foods on/off the acceptable foods list? I’ve been eating about 3 cups of raw spinach with my meat for a salad. Can this be throwing off the diet somehow even though the spinach doesn’t go over 5-6 carbs for the days total? I lost my adkin’s book and don’t have answers to these questions. Can anyone help me?

    The source of the carbs shouldn’t make much of a difference as long as the total intake is low. From a nutritional perspective, you should take in more carbs as green and colorful veggies and a few low-carb fruits as those items have more nutritional bang for the carb buck.

  54. I stared intently into the eyes of a chesapeake bay retriever once. She stared at me so I stared back. Within a couple of minutes teeth were bared, lips were quivering and the growling ceased all conversation. The dog began to growl a bit as well. Ok, seriously, this did happen to me. i learned my lesson though. After the dog had this initial reaction, every time I tried to move or make eye contact with her again, she bared her teeth and started to growl again, never taking her eyes off me, keeping me pinned in my seat. Unfortunately, the host found this amusing for quite a long while and didn’t remove the dog until he started to realize if it progressed any further he may not be able to control the dog.

    I wouldn’t advise engaging a dog this way unless you are damn sure you can snap its neck with your bare hands.

  55. Another comment regarding the sustainability issue:

    Stop making fuel and plastic bottle replacements out of feed; feed it to the livestock instead!

    @Jeanne regarding the issue of bird diets high in fatty seeds:

    Please make sure to do more research before ignoring your vet’s advice. She is most likely not recommending the restriction of seeds for pet birds based on her own vegetarian principles; there is quite a bit of research on this subject. Mainly it boils down to 2 things: nutritional deficiencies (birds forage widely in the wild with a great variety of foods) and fuel requirements (birds in the wild use massive amounts of energy to fly enormous distances daily, pet birds not nearly so much).

  56. “They don’t fetch, they don’t roll over, they don’t sit up and beg, and, for the most part, they don’t come when called.”

    When I was young, we had a cat that my brother trained to sit up and beg, shake paws, turn circles and even roll over. Meat was a good motivator.

  57. You stare into dogs eyes as it makes them ‘agitated’? Aside from a possibly lucrative lawsuit settlement, what reason do you have for doing such a thing? Do you dislike dogs?

    The physiological reaction in dogs that you call ‘agitated’ or ‘disquiet’ is (in the case of most dogs) fight or flight. I would definitely put it in the category of cruelty when done intentionally, or because you ‘love it’.

    My Schutzhund trained dogs would take this as a direct threat and their stance would be one of aggression, NOT fear. The best Schutzhund dogs are those when the fear has been removed leaving only the ‘instinct’ to protect (this means no coercives). This leaves a controllable dog – a fearful dog is by definition uncontrollable. I’ve trained police K9 Unit and Search and Rescue dogs for over 40 years. None of my dogs has EVER attacked without leave to do so.

    I am interested in your answer to my questions. Particularly since my dogs would lay down their lives for humans. And have.

    I do it because I’m a low-life, inhumane creep who enjoys tormenting dogs.

  58. “When you get right down to it, house cats are pretty useless. If you’re overrun with mice, cats can be a help, but that’s pretty much it. ”

    House cats are not useless. My apartment building has endemic vermin. Those apartments that do not have cats have mice; those that do have cats are clean. Nope, I don’t live in a slum, I live in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the US. Vermin do not discriminate.

    It’s true that if a house is overrun with mice a domestic cat would be useless, but with a cat present, it won’t get that way. Mice know who is boss. And barn cats…..well, they can clean out anything.

    It is most dogs that are useless. Except for watchdogs, what exactly is it that they do? Fetch, you say? So what. I’d rather watch a cat be beautiful than play fetch with a dog’s saliva filled ball.

    “We are carnivores to our very cores”

    First I ever heard that. I thought we were omnivores.

    Really, this whole post sounds like you don’t like cats because they protected the original mass carbohydrate source: grains. Which is kind of silly. Cats would have become an intimate part of human life as we urbanized. Whether we had grain stores or pickled beef stores someone would have domesticated cats, because urban density always attracts/breeds vermin, hence a need for a companion predator.

    Somehow this post got perceived as an anti-cat post. It isn’t. I have nothing against cats other than that I’m allergic to them, and, as a consequence, haven’t spent a lot of time in the close company of them.

    You confirmed the validity of the quote of mine you started your comment with with your own commentary.

  59. Hi Doc, i fully agree with your ideas. Im a gym owner and personal trainer. But in our local newspaper there was a big article about low carb diets and bad breath. What research or evidence can i present to my clients who need a low carb diet about bad breath low carb diets?thanks!

    The bad breath comes from blowing off the excess ketones. Typically once people have adapted to a low-carb diet this goes away. Until then, if it’s a problem, they can use sugar-free breath mints. I don’t think it’s that much of a problem. It’s just one of the ways the mainstream uses to worry people about low-carb diets.

  60. I used this post as part of a business ethics presentation I recently gave. Huh, how? The professor did not care if our presentation was about business ethics or a nonbusiness issue, because the methodology is the same. I presented on nutrition using Ancel Keys cherry picking the data and other things discussed in Good, Calories, Bad Calories as the ethical tie in.

    They really liked the part about hidden agendas and Graham crackers and Kellogg’s corn flakes. “If you take nothing else away from this lecture – Wheaties is not the Breakfast of Champions”.

    I talked about brain/gut ratio and mention that this story was in the news. The best part from your perspective is that when one lady said “so Atkins was right – I should do Atkins”. I said “No I recommend Protein Power and Protein Power Life Plan and they’re in the references section of your handouts”. Many people flipped to the back and hilited them.

    Also doing a 20 page paper for an English class (due tomorrow, Saturday)and will redo the presentation for a sociology class (can easily change the ethics tie-in to a social cost tie-in) Friday next week.

    Want my presentation to be like Gary’s at Dartmouth, but I’m afraid its far from it.

    Even though I have been damn careful not to plagiarize, feel like I am in a way, because you are the real experts.

    Might post a question or two next week that came up from rereading your two books, Gary’s, Loren Cordain’s, S.Boyd Eaton’s, Ron Rosedale’s and Ray Audette’s books as well as Syndrome X in close proximity to each other.

    Hmm. Might I be suffering from confirmation bias? I cite Mistakes Were Made as well when discussing that subject.

    I did read Michael Pollan (both the Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food) and some M.D. who tries to blame the whole thing on fructose and only fructose, but I didn’t buy into either of them.

  61. Further to Chloe’s post it never ceases to amaze me that low carb proponent,s who should know better, feed their cat or dog a high carbohydrate commercial pet food. What part of ‘cats are obligate carnivores’ do people not understand? Obligate carnivore means protein and fat, lots of it and no carbohydrate. There is no conjecture over the carnivore status of cats. So why is it that the majority of commercial cat foods are carbohydrate based usually at the 60% level recommended in the RDA for humans? Coincidence? I think not.

    Ever more astounding and disturbing is that veterinarians and feline nutritionists are using the same fabricated rational to support the inclusion of carbohydrate in commercial cat foods (usually grains) – “carbs provide quick energy”, “carbs are metabolized more efficiently than either protein or fat” blah, blah blah. Of particular interest is the fact that neither cat or dog foods list the carbohydrate content even when they are promoted as ‘low carb’. I suggest that this exclusion is intentional. Even more startling is the existence of commercial low fat (high carbohydrate) cat and dog foods.

    In my unfortunate experience with 4 cats, two of who died from diabetes and cancer before I knew better and started feeding my cats raw meat, I found that, like humans, cats can become addicted to carbohydrates. Once this happens you need to starve them to get them to switch to their natural diet.

    When I acquired a new Abyssinian kitten about a year ago I gave her a choice between a commercial no grain very low carbohydrate canned food and a raw meat food. She immediately chose the raw meat food.

  62. I just discovered this blog and I am so glad I did.

    My primary interest is in diet/nutrition/fitness. However I was glad to discover a soul mate when it comes to cats…they are useless destroyers of what little wildlife we have left in our neighborhoods…enough about that.

  63. My two tabbies and I have many tastes in common. King prawns top the list for all of us. Lamb, steak and duck are also up there. I like smoked salmon more than they do, and they don’t care for eggs or coconut oil while I spurn rear end of mouse, but we all agree on butter, cream and cheese.

    I suspect Dr Mike has gotten the message already, and I know he was only quoting, but I feel obliged to add that our cats are very affectionate, gallop with excitement when we come home, and follow us around the house.

    Following up @TonyNZ’s comment: I am familiar with the neotony theory, but human babies are naked. Why is it that so many of us are besotted with cute *furry* creatures?

  64. Just to give you an idea what we are up against (even with cats, who most people acknowledge are carnivores): when I called a pet store to get some frozen mice to feed my cat, the clerk who answered the phone said, incredulously, “What? Cats don’t eat mice!” Even my vet didn’t like the idea of me feeding my cat mostly chicks and mice. He finally grudgingly said I could try it if I wanted to, but he would not recommend it.

  65. Social behavior…read & heard (NPR) discussions that we humans model 2 behaviors of our cousins the chimps and the bonobos; the first into power and war, the latter…well, let’s just say when 2 confront each other, the entire group becomes distressed, and females run in to solicite sex, esp from the 2 confronters. Sorta reminds me of the ‘make love not war’ oft repeated phrase of my teens *G*…we did have a lot of sex thanks to the intro of BC pills in 1963.

    Cats, love ’em. Our’s lived into late teens-early 20s; wish I’d known more about their nutritional needs; offered raw chicken legs for dinner…they were clueless as to how to consume until we cut strips hanging from the bone which they then happily gnawed off and swallowed. Cat-less now, I miss the beasties.

  66. Excellent post doctor. Interesting that you referenced Tolkien who was such a brilliant writer. People often ask if I’ve read the latest Harry Potter book or seen the latest film. Nope, I explain, because I’ve read Tolkien’s books and I’ve seen those movies. Tolkien is to a big fat NY Strip as Rowling is to to a big plate of pasta.

  67. “You confirmed the validity of the quote of mine you started your comment with with your own commentary.”

    I don’t understand this at all, perhaps because it’s ungrammatical. Assuming the missing word is “when”, here is my response:

    Your comments about cats are illogical and motivated by hostility rather than reason. They contain a variety of of ludicrous claims, among which:

    1. House cats are useless. I gave evidence that they are not.

    Actually YOU gave evidence that the cat is implicated intimately in the march of civilization. They protected the earliest grain stores. This is uselessness? If civilization is so bad, then become a hunter-gatherer and see how great it is.

    2. Human beings are carnivores. We are not. We are omnivores.

    3. You supply a film of a chimp tearing apart prey, as if a human being is a chimp.

    I’m not a vegetarian, I’m not a cat-crusader. I think that in many cases they do a lot of harm, killing thousands of birds, for example. I’d be in favor of a mass cat-kill if circumstances warrant.

    I just disagree that “cats are useless” and that humans are carnivores.

    Hmmm. Apparently what we have here is a failure to communicate. I wrote that other than getting rid of unwanted vermin, cats are pretty worthless. You answered that cats are not worthless, and as proof you point out that cats get rid of unwanted vermin, which is precisely what I said.

    Humans are adapted omnivores. Just because we can eat foods other than meat doesn’t mean that we were designed that way. Gorillas are adapted vegetarians with carnivore teeth and a carnivore’s GI tract. Cows are herbivores but were fed ground up animal protein, which, other than maybe giving them BSE, didn’t cause them any problems. There are basically two types of GI tracts in the animal world: herbivore and carnivore. Humans have the carnivore variety.

  68. Re: cats being useless…

    I did see a study that said people that owned cats had lower blood pressure. But again, this may be that people with low blood pressure are predisposed to buy cats.

  69. What is the reason that evolution has made people allergic to animals like cats? Isn’t this a bit strange?

    I’ve read stories where they removed some foods and their cat allergy was gone. Do you think this is possible? Is cat allergy purely genetic or are there other circumstances (like the diet) that matter as well?

    The fact that allergies can vanish as you grow older is also a bit weird (atleast to me). How is this possible?

    Being allergic to cats myself…

    A full discussion of the physiology of allergies is beyond the scope of an answer to a comment. Most people believe in the bucket theory of allergies, which says that one’s ability to deal with allergens (substances – cat dander, for example – that cause an allergic response) can be represented by a bucket. When the bucket is only partially full, there are no allergy symptoms, but when the bucket fills up and spills over, allergy symptoms occur. In other words, if there is a lot of pollen about and you’ve eaten something that you are allergic to and then you come into contact with a cat, your bucket may spill over and you display symptoms of an allergy. If it’s just the pollen and the food, though, you may be okay.

  70. Your post made a huge amount of sense until the last part.

    You anecdotally show a video of a chimp as if this proves that we are carnivores.

    Chimps RARELY eat meat. Why don’t you mention what constitutes at least 95% of their diet?

    Perhaps you should consult a text on primatology to get your figures straight.

  71. Nick said: “I think I better understand now why women are often associated with the feline in literature and the arts, while men are often associated with the Canis lupus.”

    This ties in very well with one of my favorite quotes from the noted late science fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein: “Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”

    My own three cats are indoor-only cats, and their hunting it limited to the occasional fly that gets into the house. But I would not call them useless. They are affectionate, love to sit on my lap or snuggle next to me when I’m reading, or on bed. I truly think their presence helps lower my blood pressure, and puts me in a far calmer, more cheerful and peaceful frame of mind. All things that my low carb diet helps with too, but the cats (and my two dogs) give an added dimension that mere diet alone cannot do, especially for people who live alone, as I do.

  72. Still unemployed and looking to eat cheap. Are there any health drawbacks to eating tuna out of a can? Eggs and steak I can cook. Fish I never seem to get right.

    No drawbacks that I know of other than the kind of tinny taste, which probably comes from the smell of the can. I’ve eaten my fair share of tuna straight from the can, and it hasn’t appeared to affect me adversely.

  73. Any suggestions on increasing cholesterol levels? I had mine checked at the ‘health fair’ recently, and the total was 149. Hdl was 59 and Tri was <45 (so they didn't give me a LDL level). Of course they thought it was great, but I think (based on the charts in Protein Power) that its too low. I eat lots of grass fed beef, cook with lard, use butter and just a little olive oil here and there. I'm not "low carbing" persay currently though I do try to keep the carb intake down probably around 150g or so per day.

    What is the best way, eating from the Paleo side of the food choices, to increase cholesterol levels?

    I wouldn’t worry about it. If you are eating a Paleo diet, your cholesterol is probably right where it should be for you. I wouldn’t try to raise it.

  74. Dr. Eades, the following is from a NY Times article on the anti-dementia effects of eating fish. But I’m wondering if you agree with the quote that red meat is bad for the brain?

    “There is a gradient effect, so the more fish you eat, the less likely you are to get dementia,” said Dr. Emiliano Albanese, a clinical epidemiologist at King’s College London and the senior author of the study. “Exactly the opposite is true for meat,” he added. “The more meat you eat, the more likely you are to have dementia.” Other studies have shown that red meat in particular may be bad for the brain.


    No, I don’t agree with the quote. The ‘other studies’ to which they refer are observational studies, which can’t prove causality.

  75. Sorry for adding yet one more comment about cats and how unique and amazing they can be, but Vadim’s story about his mother and her cat reminded me of this.

    At a nearby nursing home they have a cat that roams at will through the place. This cat has an uncanny sense for impending death. When it senses that someone is failing (well before the doctors or nurses are even aware), the cat will go into that person’s room and not leave. The cat will sleep on the bed and try to comfort the person, nudging the person’s hand, allowing the person to pet it for hours, and otherwise providing comfort to the dying person. And sure enough, the person passes within a day or two.

    The nurses and doctors have seen this so many times, they now watch the cat and when it seems to be staying around one person, they give that person extra care and attention.

    I know there will be cat-haters out there who will say the cat brings on death or bad luck or some such nonsense. I feel, as do the medical staff and patients and families, that the cat brings comfort and ease to the end of days.

  76. Thank you Dr Eades for more great food for thought. I’ve been puzzling a lot over the topic of the human diet – carnivore or omnivore – that has been raised in the comments. I’m currently reading Richard Wrangham’s “Catching Fire” (which I believe you said you have in your reading stack, too) and recently came across some interesting commentary on this paper from Barry Grove’s site:
    Popovich DG, et al. The Western Lowland Gorilla Diet Has Implications for the Health of Humans and Other Hominoids. J Nutr 1997; 127: 2000-2005

    With the change in diet and development of a smaller gut in the transition from australopithecine > habilene > Homo erectus that Wrangham describes, our gut flora must have been significantly reduced. Unlike the western lowland gorilla, which subsists on a leafy diet, we don’t have a large hindgut where huge colonies of bacteria can ferment carbohydrates to produce short chain fatty acids that can then be absorbed by the body to be used for energy. Nonetheless, according to this study I came across today which reports comparative analyses of extant mammalian gut microbial communities, our gut microbiota seem to peg both us and the gorillas as omnivores.
    Ley, et al. (2008) Evolution of mammals and their gut microbes. Science, 320(5883), 1647–1651.

    All of the above seem to track with Ungar et al.’s conclusions on early Homo’s ”dietary versatility” quite plausible:

    “Craniodental adaptations and material culture would have allowed early Homo, and especially H. erectus, to eat a broader spectrum of foods than could earlier hominins. This does not mean that early Homo individuals had particularly varied diets, but rather that they may have been capable of eating a broader range of foods. Chimpanzees and gorillas show significant differences in their diets, depending on the individual population and the seasonal availability of resources within home ranges (e.g., Goodall & Groves 1977, Vedder 1984, Wrangham et al. 1991, Yamagiwa et al. 1992, Tutin et al. 1997, Yamakoshi 1998). Ethnographic studies over the past century have shown human foragers to have an even greater range of diets, from nearly all animal products (e.g.,Hoet al. 1972) to mostly wild plant parts (e.g., Gould 1980). This finding led Milton (2002) to argue vehemently against a single hypothetical “Paleolithic diet.”

    Perhaps then, early Homo, and especially H. erectus, had an adaptive strategy of dietary versatility. This versatility would have been advantageous in an unpredictable, changing environment or an environment dominated by many different microhabitats. Perhaps H.
    erectus was the first hominin to leave Africa because it was the first with sufficient dietary versatility to allow it to do so. It may be no coincidence that this species spread into habitats as far north as the Republic of Georgia, and perhaps as far east as Indonesia, so quickly following its origin and first appearance in Africa (Swisher et al. 1994, Gabunia et al. 2000).” (Ungar, Grine, & Teaford, 2006, pp. 220-221)

    Ungar, P. S., Grine, F. E., & Teaford, M. F. (2006). Diet in early Homo: A review of the evidence and a new model of adaptive versatility. Annual Review of Anthropology, 35, 209-228

    There are basically two types of digestive systems: one that is found in herbivores and one found in carnivores. The carnivore GI tract can digest plant foods and the herbivore digestive tract can digest animal foods (which is how mad cow disease was thought to have started). But, in keeping with their design, the carnivore GI tract does better with meat and the herbivore with foods of plant origin. Gorillas and pandas are carnivores that have adapted to vegetarian diets, but they end up having to make eating their life’s work to get enough calories to support their lives. I plan a long post on this subject as soon as I can get some consolidated quiet time to get it written.

  77. Hi Dr Mike

    Did you see this?
    It reports on selectively breeding caterpillars on different protein-carb ratios so that:

    “After as few as eight generations, individuals from the high-carbohydrate diet will be much less prone to store the excess carbs as fat. Conversely, those from the low-carb diet will be more prone to deposit carbs as fat.”



    Yes, I saw it. I think we humans need a lot more than 8 generations to desensitize us to carbs. The ‘thrifty gene’ hypothesis was promulgated by James Neel a number of years ago, but now even he has backed away from the idea. A recent study actually did a genetic analysis looking for the ‘thrifty gene’ without finding it.

  78. How long until statins are added to the water supply by law?

    The Next Blockbuster Drugs – Newsweek, July 22, 2009
    From cholesterol fighters to asthma relief, these treatments could earn Big Pharma $170 billion

    “Cholesterol-lowering agents are arguably the top U.S. lifestyle drug. An American Journal of Medicine article in June suggested that Americans have worse health habits than they did 18 years ago. Waistlines are expanding. Physical activity has decreased, and so has healthy eating. It’s why doctors are apt to prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins to patients as young as their late-20s. The drugs have been shown to cut cholesterol, and thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.

    “In the future, even patients with normal cholesterol levels may be prescribed statins. An American Heart Association study in November showed that AstraZeneca’s statin Crestor dramatically cut deaths, heart attacks and strokes in patients that had fine cholesterol levels, but high levels of a heart disease-related protein.”


    Here is my post on that study.

  79. A friend of mine, after reading Taubes’s book, looked around for a catfood without many carbs for his diabetic cat that he has been giving insulin shots to for 5 years. He found one, it wasn’t easy, but now the cat has normal blood sugar (88), no longer takes insulin, and has lost a third of it’s weight. Not quite sure why the catfood industry thinks that cat’s require lots of carbs, except that protein is expensive and cats don’t have much money. Peter Silverman

  80. Peter Silverman, I am quite certain than the cat food industry knows that cats are obligate carnivores and they actually understand what the term means. This aside, they are dedicated to the bottom line. And carbs are a potent source of income. More interesting, in what has to plumb new depths of conflict of interest, the same veterinarians who benefit from treating feline diabetes sell high carb cat food. Did these vets forget what they learned in veterinarian school about cats being obligate carnivores? Or, has some vested interest used sleight of hand to redefine the meaning of carnivore to mean protein and carbohydrate. Maybe both?

  81. Of course we know treating disease is much more lucrative than reversing disease. So inject the animals with vaccines, give them antibiotics for any little thing. sell the owner “high quality” food, such as Science Diet or Iams, then treat the resulting chronic diseases.

    Then when the disease is identified (a little late) as “diet-related,” move the animals onto a more specialized food that costs more and that only vets sell. It’s the perfect scam!

    Excuse me for being cynical, but my cats don’t get vaccines and they eat raw meat and I avoid antibiotics whenever possible, and I can tell you most vets are VERY unfriendly to and unwilling to work with me. So I quit going to them.

    By the way, I had a conversation with an out-of-work vet who told me the latest marketing model was when very ill animals are brought in the vets write up the most expensive, most comprehensive treatment plan. If the owner can’t afford it, then the vet recommends euthaniasia. This way the vet cultivates monied owners and cuts out all the riff-raff.

    It’s a good thing physicians don’t follow that model with people.

  82. To Peter Silverman, I think your last sentence hits the nail on the head about pet food. 🙂 Carbs are *cheap*. Same reason that so many poor folks stock up on carbs – cheap filler.

    My cats and dogs all eat a grain-free, high-protein, low-carb diet, but I’m lucky enough to be able to afford to feed them at, as well as being able to afford grain-free, sugar-free, low-PUFA, low carb food for myself as well.

    And two of my cats are sleek and skinny, but one – even on this diet – is still immensely fat. And my 5-year-old dog is battling an agressive cancer, even though I was sure his grain-free, low carb, high protein diet would be protective against it. And me? I can barely manage to keep my weight below 300 pounds despite strict adherence to all the low carb principals in the book. 🙂

    But sometimes it works. For years I had one of my dogs on the stardard low-fat, high-carb “diet” food recommended by my vets because she was very overweight even though I was feeding her so little food that she was constantly ravenous. She weighed 52 pounds and I fed her less food than her 22-pound brother, but she still didn’t lose anything.

    Then, a few years ago, I “saw the light” and switched her to a grain-free, low-carb, high-protein, higher-fat diet. Within months she went from 52 pounds to 36 pounds (a good weight for her) and has stayed there ever since, even though she is now 13 and not that active.

    So it can work! Just have never been able to get to to work well for me, ever since I first went on the Protein Power plan in 1997. I reach a brick wall about 100+ poounds from my goal every time, and then never lose another ounce. And so far it is not working for my cat Ming either – who continues to *gain* weight on her low-carb cat carnivore diet. 🙂

  83. I’m actually not convinced that domestic cats are solitary. But it depends. They have a hard time adjusting to cats they don’t know, but if it’s their family group, they do fine. The one drawback I can think of is that if you have a cat-family-oriented cat, it’s less likely to bond to its owner, at least as far as I have observed. But if you think about it, with lion prides, that’s family-based too.

    Trap-neuter-release activists have found that if you clear all the feral cats out of an area, more cats will move in but if you simply neuter the ferals and return them to their territory, they keep strange cats out and the population stabilizes.

    I am currently owned by a tux kitty who knows when I have migraines. She follows me around as it is and often lies at my feet when I’m online, reading a book, or knitting; she follows me around even more and cries outside my bedroom door if I’m headachy.

    I want to feed her and the other three girls a raw diet but we need to get settled here after our move and then I need to convince the other adult in the house that it’s a good idea. I compromise in the meantime: they eat kibble, but there is no grain in said kibble. It’s meat-based with a few plant foods thrown in. I don’t have the ingredients list right in front of me but I went out of my way to find something low-carb. The three cats being re-introduced to my household had been vomiting frequently with the crap previously fed to them. They do it a lot less now.

    I don’t get dogs. You have to pay even more attention to them than you do to children, and I have never been a touchy-feely kind of mom aside from what attachment parenting techniques I picked up in parenting my younger one. I can’t stand someone bouncing around me being needy 24/7–I was a pretty independent child myself, for one thing. Meanwhile, I’m finding you do need to work with cats a lot more than was previously believed if you want them to be less likely to pick up annoying behavior patterns, and if you want it to be easier to do things like administer medicine and bathe them. If you don’t handle them a lot as kittens it will be an uphill battle.

    I’m beginning to loathe the term “omnivore.” I think there must be an incredible amount of overlap in what foods animals tolerate, that while our GI tracts *are* geared toward a certain class of foods, what sorts of enzymes we produce in response to which specific foods is going to vary hugely depending on a lot of factors. So you have cows who get certain B vitamins from the bugs they eat along with their grass, you have dogs who can eat vegetarian (at least for a short time), and you have animals who originally descended from bug-eaters running the whole gamut of gastronomic possibilities.

    I mean, that’s what primates are. We’re bug-eaters. The only reason we humans have not drawn the logical conclusion that this makes us carnivores is that for a long time we did not define bugs as animals. Some of us still don’t define *fish* as animals, which is why Catholics can get away with eating them on Fridays during Lent.

    At this point as far as I’m concerned “omnivore” means “I can eat foods beyond what my GI tract is equipped to handle and not die soon afterward.” But I suspect that if you scratch an omnivore you will still be able to look at their GI tract and be able to tell where the bulk of their diet should come from.

    I was shocked to learn recently that robins eat mulberries. I had always pegged them as bug-eaters, but one had nested in a magnolia in front of our house and she was picking the berries from our tree to feed to her chicks. Bizarre, but no different than orangutans eating salad. By the way, did you know orangs have culture? They released this group of them from a zoo or something and rehabbed them to the wild–well, the poor things hadn’t been in the wild for so long they didn’t know what to do with themselves, so they kind of made it up as they went along. No wonder they’re vegetarian. At some point they must have made a conscious decision that that was a good idea too, and then passed it on to their kids. They could as easily go the other way and get back to bugs and monkeys, of course.

    By the way, another thing that annoys me aside from the word “omnivore” is the term “is designed to…” when referring to a living thing’s body parts. It’s one thing if you are a creationist, quite another if you hold to evolutionary theory. I won’t be a hypocrite here, I know it’s a habit and I’ve been trying to kick it myself. Been trying to substitute “is adapted to” instead, and seem to be getting better at it.

  84. I am quite certain than the cat food industry knows that cats are obligate carnivores and they actually understand what the term means. This aside, they are dedicated to the bottom line.

    It’s amazing to me how horrified we were that some Chinese manufacturers added melamine as filler to cat food, when the manufacturers’ “correct” recipe calls for lethal amounts of (carbohydrate) filler!

  85. I see my original comment is still awaiting moderation (stuck in the spam filter because of live links?) but I just wanted to clarify my ramblings on gut flora and macronutrient ratios, if I may. Despite the fact that (1) gorillas and our ancestors diverged something like 7 million years ago, (2) we have undergone significant GI remodelling since (we don’t have big hindguts for fermenting a herbivorous diet like they do for one thing, maybe in large part because of our co-evolution of cultural adaptations including toolmaking and control of fire that allowed a shift to a much more nutrient dense diet) and (3) we have come to subsist on very different diets – gorillas on mostly leaves, and human populations on a variety of plant to animal food ratios ranging up to near carnivory, our two species nonetheless still have gut microbiota that apparently put both in the omnivore ballpark. So GI anatomy and microbiota apparently don’t necessarily track each other closely in the evolution of a species. Ungar et al. in the article I quoted in my previous post suggest that the adaptive value of Homo’s putative dietary versatility may have allowed Homo erectus to range outside of Africa, the first hominin to do so. I’m presuming that gut microbiota had an important role in allowing such versatility (perhaps wrongly?) and therefore wondering what role it still plays, if any, in allowing humans to subsist in good health, almost to the present day, on a variety of diets – Inuit to Kitavans and so forth.

    I’m sure gut microbes play a role since there are God only knows how many of them residing within us. They play a large role in herbivores because herbivores get most of their protein from digesting their dead gut microbes.

  86. Hm…
    First of all – it’s depends on cat breed. Some of them – can’t live without mice and birds, but others – need only pedigree and similar food.
    And, the first group, as a hunters – more indipendent than the second group. Yet, they both usually full of love and want to share it with their human friends.
    So, I deeply persuated, that any cat may become useless ONLY if the owner don’t care about that. it’s a pity, my great Maine Coon is on-half without daily work (speaking about mice), but I doing my best to help him be happy in that world!

  87. I could never understand why people who don’t like cats feel the need to really voice that opinion. I know plenty of people who don’t like dogs, but you’d never know it. It’s somehow acceptable to dislike cats (and prob why people who DO like cats are so much more vocal). Would anyone ever say “I hate your kids. I can’t see why anyone would like them”? The fact is – dog OR cat – people love their pets. And by loving an animal we’re not trying to say that animals are better than people. No. The reason why I love my cat and people love their animals is that they are celebrating a primal emotion, a connection to our paleo-past when coming into contact with an animal (always wild then!) was spiritual. There is a kinship to animals, an ability to see how animalistic we still are by how humanistic they can be, by how many traits we share in common. Also, when I look at my cat, I’m amazed at what a perfect hunter he is. When I look at my dog, I’m amazed at how adept his sense of smell is, how powerful they are. Let go of any prejudgement and let yourself just respect how “neat” they are.

  88. Wow I have several cats and three dogs. We all work together and live well together. Cats yes they fetch, the come when you whistle same as the dog. They go outside and present me with mice sometimes two or three at once. They are affectionate as much as the dogs and yes the dogs and cats sleep together when its cold.

    What really struck me odd was your reference to adopting out a child because he or she may or may not act appropriately to your liking. I have four adopted children and one bio and I find that offensive. On the other hand we adopted most of the cats we have because they were left out to die or thrown from a car by our house. No matter how you feel about an animal there is no need to hurt them or feel the need to speak on behalf of an animal when you are not sure what they can’t or can do.

    By the way I can’t get one of my dogs to come when he is out or fetch.. Takes the darn freezbee and runs. But I love him anyway.

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