Raw Food Diet for Cats
People with mixed pets often think that if a dog should be fed a raw food diet, then so should their cat. But those who only have cats may not consider a raw diet for their felines. Sadly, they just dutifully buy the processed kibbles or canned cat food off the store shelf.
Why? Maybe it’s because they buy into the billion dollar ad campaigns. Maybe it’s just what they’ve always done, or maybe it’s just the easy thing to do. There are many reasons, but none of them really matter ― except to their cats.
For that reason, the aim of this article is to answer those who ask, “Why feed a raw food ration to your cat?” The plain truth is that cats will do much better when they’re fed a raw diet. But, unlike dogs, cats should be fed an all-meat based raw diet.
While dogs are carnivores, they do very well on an omnivore diet. Cats, however, are obligate carnivores. That means cats must eat meat to survive. Just like their much larger wild cat relatives, cats are predators. They were born to hunt, kill and eat other animals. It’s what cats do.
In this article we will talk about what a raw cat food is and what the usual ingredients are. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of feeding raw and transitioning your cat from processed cat foods to raw. Lastly, we’ll discuss whether you should make your own or buy packaged raw cat food.
So, let’s get started learning about a raw food diet for cats!
What Is Raw Cat Food?
Simply put, raw cat food is made up of uncooked meats, bones, blood and other assorted soft tissues (cartilage, skin, fat, organs, etc.) from multiple species.
Typical Meats Used
Raw cat foods should be entirely meat-based and not contain any plant derived ingredients. Cats get plenty of catnip in their treats and toys. If your cat likes certain fruits and veggies, then use those foods for treats.
Raw cat food should always be made with healthy, freshly processed meat animals. Diseased, injured, parasite infested or chemically euthanized animals should never be used.
Small raw bones (like fish bones) are often ground into a meal in commercially prepared products. This processing is okay and it does help to prevent gagging or choking. Larger, meatier raw bones may be present and that’s okay too. In fact, larger edible bones are good for your cat’s oral health as long as their teeth are sound.
Watch out for poultry feather meal. This byproduct is sometimes used as a cattle feed but it should not be in cat food. Occasionally it is used by sketchy processors to cheaply boost pet food crude protein levels. This is more often done in commercial cooked pet foods, but it’s something you should be aware of and avoid.
What Are the Pros of Raw Cat Food?
Raw Meats Typically Have a Higher Level of Taurine
Taurine is an essential amino acid that cats cannot produce themselves. Thus it has to come from their diet. Taurine is lost in the cooking of processed cat foods and has to be supplemented back in.
No Grains or Fillers Are Added
As obligate carnivores, cats cannot properly digest and utilize grains. In fact, prolonged feeding of grain-containing processed foods will raise the cat’s natural stomach acidic pH (~2.0) to an unnatural 4.0 pH or higher. This outcome is unhealthy for your cat on many levels.
Healthier, Cleaner Teeth and Gums
There’s a reason cat kibbles are extruded for a crunchy texture ― that crunch helps to keep the cat’s teeth clean. It emulates bone crunching. Real, raw bones are better.
Raw Fat- and Protein-Derived Energy Is healthy for Cats
Cats are not designed to use plant-derived energy. They need raw meat, which provides readily available energy more efficiently than cooked/processed meat and vegetable products. The fatty oils provided by raw cat food are also very good for the cat’s skin and hair.
What Are the Cons of Raw Cat Food?
Disease-Causing Pathogen Exposure Can Occur
While this isn’t especially dangerous to your cat, the possibility exists of exposing yourself and your home to pathogens. E. coli, Salmonella, Staph, Listeriosis and other pathogens probably contaminate the raw foods. This is easily controlled by practicing good hygiene, sanitation and properly freezing the food as soon as it’s made.
Just as you wash your hands, utensils and prep areas when preparing family meals, you should do the same when preparing raw cat food. Also, never prepare family meals at the same time as you prepare cat food.
HeartWorms, Trichina, TapeWorms and Other Parasites May Occur
Companies that prepare raw pet foods guard against these. But, home prepared raw pet foods may expose your cat to these organisms.
Raw Cat Foods Cost More Than Kibbles and Canned Foods
Some folks may think the whole process of buying, prepping, freezing and feeding raw cat food may be more hassle and expense than it’s worth. It’s true — the cost and hassle factor is higher. But, so are processed food-related vet visits, diseases, scans, medicines and shortened life spans.
Transitioning to Raw Can be Hard
This can be particularly true with older cats who have become accustomed to a canned or kibble diet. Kittens are easy ― they’ll eat any meat you put in their bowls. Just remember that kittens are growing. That means the nutritional needs, feeding frequencies and food intakes of kittens are greater than mature cats.
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Transitioning to Raw Cat Food
Time and patience are key to changing a grown cat from cooked foods to raw foods. Every cat is different ― some will readily accept the new raw food, while others will take weeks to adjust. In fact, some cats’ digestive systems will be so adapted to their kibbles (remember the raised pH issue?) that their stomachs can’t take the change. Vomiting or complete refusal may happen. You have to be committed to the diet change and the long time it might take.
You should always seek your vet’s advice when switching over to an all raw food diet ― especially if your cat refuses the new food or simply can’t digest it.
If your cat is a hard case then try slowly introducing small bits of the raw food over several days or even weeks. Do this by mixing the raw bits into their regular kibble or canned food. This might only be a small piece of meat, a deboned chicken wing, or a taste of raw salmon or tuna. Gradually decrease the amount of dry or canned food over several days or weeks. As you do that, simply replace the processed food with a like amount of raw food.
Should You Buy a Prepared Raw Food or Make Your Own?
Some cat owners will want to make their own raw food mixes. They will do this because they don’t trust commercial cat food companies. Or, they might do it simply because they want to be a big part of their cat’s life. However, most people don’t have the education and training to properly make their own raw cat food.
So what should you do to make your own homemade raw cat food? You should get the advice of an expert and follow their recipe recommendations. The key is being consistent in how you source, mix and freeze the finished food. Be sure to include any supplements your vet or the nutritionist recommend.
In conclusion, remember that every cat is a carnivore and every cat is different. But, every cat craves raw meat. And, most will do better if they are switched off of cooked foods and converted to a raw diet. Some cats will adjust quickly to a raw food ration while others will take a long time.
Young cats usually make the switch quickly and with no issues. Older cats, not so much ― take your time, be patient and prepare for a long process. If your cat is an older senior that will not tolerate a food change, then leave well enough alone. Save the change for your next cat or kitten.