The Collison Newsletter May 2012


                             POTTENGER’S  CATS*  


In my April 2007 newsletter Cooked Food is Poison - Why Raw Food is Better, and in my book How to Live to 100+ Years Free from Symptoms and Disease (see homepage), reference was made to Dr Pottenger, and a brief summary of the experiments he carried out on cats over a period of ten years was given.

Who was Dr Pottenger? 

Francis Marion Pottenger was born in 1901. He was the son of Francis M. Pottenger Sr, the physician who founded the Pottenger Sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis in Monrovia, California.


Francis M. Pottenger Jr graduated in Medicine and completed his residency at the Los Angeles County Hospital in 1930.


From 1932 to 1942 he conducted what became known as “The Pottenger Cat Study”, an experiment to determine the effects of heat-processed food on cats.


Dr Pottenger applied the principles of nutrition and endocrinology early in his practice. He was a pioneer in using crude extracts of adrenal cortex as supplements to treat allergies and exhaustion. In his treatment of respiratory diseases in particular (tuberculosis etc), he always highlighted proper diet, based on the principles promoted by Dr Weston Price.


In setting up the study on cats, one particular question Dr Pottenger addressed was to do with the nutritive value of heat-labile elements - nutrients destroyed by heat and only available in raw foods.

How the Study Evolved 

The following is extracted from the book Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition, by Francis Marion Pottenger Jr (


"This ten-year cat study was prompted by the high death rate among his [Dr Pottenger] laboratory cats undergoing operations to remove their adrenal glands [The purpose of this surgery was described]”.


"Dr Pottinger fed his cats a diet of raw milk, cod liver oil and cooked meat scraps, which included liver, tripe, sweetbreads, brains, heart and muscle. This was considered the optimal diet.”


"Concerned with the cats poor postoperative survival, Dr Pottenger noticed the cats showed a decrease in their reproductive capacity and many of the kittens born had skeletal deformities and organ malfunction.”


"By a quirk of fate ....  he ordered raw meat scraps from the local meat packing plant, including viscera, muscle and bone. Always the scientist, Dr Pottinger fed these raw meat scraps to a segregated group of cats so that he could observe any change. Within a few months, this group appeared healthier, their kittens more vigorous, and they had a higher survival rate after their operations.”


"The contrast between the two sets of cats was so startling, it prompted Dr Pottenger to perform a controlled experiment to verify these facts scientifically.”

The Experiment 

The experiment included 900 cats over four generations, and was well documented by Dr Pottenger.


One group of cats was fed a diet of two-thirds raw meat, one-third raw milk, and cod liver oil.


The second group of cats was fed a diet of two-thirds cooked meat, one-third raw milk, and cod liver oil.


The cats who were fed the all raw diet were healthy and remained so throughout their normal life spans. They produced normal healthy kittens which in turn reproduced to the fourth generation. They remained disease free, living normal active lives.


The cats who were fed the cooked meat diet developed the following health problems:

  • By the end of the first generation the cats started to develop degenerative diseases and become quite lazy 
  • By the end of the second generation, the cats had developed diseases by mid-life and started losing their coordination 
  • By the end of the third generation the cats had developed degenerative diseases very early in life and some were born blind and weak and had a much shorter life span. Many of the third generation cats could not produce offspring. There was an abundance of parasites and vermin while skin diseases and allergies increased from an incidence of five percent in normal cats to over 90% in the third generation of deficient cats. Kittens of the third generation did not survive six months. Bones became soft and pliable and the cats suffered from adverse personality changes. Males became docile while females became more aggressive 
  • The cats suffered from most of the diseases encountered in human medicine and died out totally by the fourth generation. 

In another study, the cats were fed two-thirds milk and one-third meat. All five groups were fed raw meat. The five groups were each fed a different type of milk:

  • Raw 
  • Pasteurised 
  • Evaporated 
  • Sweetened condensed 
  • Raw metabolised vitamin D milk. 

The cats on the raw milk were healthiest while the rest exhibited varying degrees of health problems similar to the cooked meat study.


Independent of the effects of diet on the health of the cats, it was observed that the grass under some of the cages of the raw meat cats was lush and rich, whereas the grass under the cooked meat cats was completely dead.


Pottenger's cat studies are widely cited by those who advocate and recommend raw foods for health. Refer to my April 2007 newsletter "Cooked Food is Poison" - Why Raw Food is Better”.


The milk studies are cited by advocates of raw milk as evidence that it is healthier for humans than pasteurised milk. In Australia, all milk and milk products have to be is illegal to sell raw milk.


Cats are not humans!


Domestic cats today reproduce prolifically on 'cooked', processed (to death) commercial foods. It is certainly true that domestic cats do not have perfect health, but cat nutrition is as complex as human nutrition, and many other factors than cooking determine feline health.


It is possible that Pottenger's cooked diet was not only “dead” (due to cooking) but also deficient. At the time that he did the study, the amino acid taurine had been discovered (1838) but not identified as an essential amino acid for cats (1975). An 'essential' amino acid in cats and humans in one that has to be obtained from food since the cat or human is unable to make it. It has been shown that cats eating heat-processed foods have lower plasma taurine concentrations. Taurine deficiency in cats induces a number of pathologies in cats, such as retinal degeneration, heart disease, reproductive failure and developmental abnormalities. It is a possibility that taurine deficiency was the cause, or at least a contributory factor, in the outcome of the Potteneger studies. Taurine is not an essential amino acid in humans, though it is said to be essential in certain cases and has therefore been termed a “conditionally essential amino acid”.


Should the Potteneger Cat studies be applied to human nutrition? Dr Potteneger said, "While no attempt will be made to correlate the changes in the animals studied with malformations found in humans, the similarity is so obvious that parallel pictures will suggest themselves."


There is no similar experiment in medical literature. The findings were supervised by Dr Potteneger along with Dr Alvin Foord, professor of pathology at the University of Southern California and pathologist at the Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. It is fair to say that these studies met the most rigorous scientific standards of their day.


Raw, organic, unprocessed food contains everything needed for optimal nutrition in humans. The Pottenger studies, although done in cats, underscore the importance of good nutrition for health and longevity.


Remember that health is not just nutrition: nutrition is but one of the seven requirements for optimal health. Chapter 2 of my book How to Stop Feeling So Awful discusses these seven requirements of health, namely:

  • Proper nutrition
  • Pure air 
  • Pure water 
  • Exercise 
  • Sunshine 
  • Rest 
  • Positive thinking. 


*Copyright 2012: The Huntly Centre.

Disclaimer: All material in the website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.


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