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August 2001


by (Livin' La Vida) Mocha


English Translation:

"Downer" cows (either by disease or injury, are cows that for some reason cannot walk) and sheep that die from unknown causes are commonly routed into pet food and animal feeds. So, the condition known as Mad Cow disease (or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) can be a threat to cats, if indeed we do have a form of BSE in this country. Our government has been busy congratulating itself for preventing BSE in the US, but it is far from certain that we don't have it here in some form.

There is some evidence to suggest that we do have an undiscovered BSE-like disease in the United States. My source lists 93 domestic cats and 16 big cats (3 lions, 3 ocelots, 5 cheetahs, 3 tigers, and 3 pumas) have died or been euthanized due to confirmed "Feline Spongiform
Encephalopathy", and at least 5 other big cats were suspected to have the disease but not confirmed. However, it doesn't give a time frame for this statistic.

The big cats probably got the disease from eating raw meat and offal from cows. However, the domestic cats were infected by eating beef-based cat food. Because ruminant protein has finally been banned from ruminant feeds, more cattle proteins are going into pet food now than ever before. Since cooking, rendering, and other processing do not inactivate the prion agent (the agent that causes normal brain proteins to take a faulty shape), both canned and dry foods containing beef or beef by-products could potentially be contaminated.

It is easy to avoid beef in cat food if you know a little bit about how it's labeled. The term "meat" includes four species: cattle, sheep, goats,and swine; and "animal" may contain any animal. So stay away from cat food
made with meat and bone meal, meat-by-products, animal digest, or any other meat or animal ingredient that is not specifically identified.

Beef liver is usually labeled as such, as are other specific beef products. Be sure to read all the ingredients at least as far as the vitamin and mineral supplements; you might find "animal digest" way down the list because it is used in relatively small amounts. Sheep scrapie has never been shown to cross the species barrier, so lamb products are probably safe, but overall, poultry-based foods are probably your safest bet.