When it comes to someone’s diet, the saying “You are what you eat” holds true. The same logic applies to your cat as well with regards to its diet.
Many cat owners are starting to switch their cats over to a raw diet due to the many health benefits that it offers.
Feeding your cat a raw diet is great because it is your cat’s natural diet. A raw diet will give your cat better nutrient digestibility, healthier coat and skin, increased energy levels and a better quality of life. There are also some important aspects that you need to understand about such a diet.
If you are on the fence about the diet and would like to know more, you have come to the right place.
This article will discuss about the pros and cons of such a diet and give you all the relevant information to make an informed decision.
Why The Raw Food Diet Is Great For Cats?
Before we can understand why feeding cats a raw diet is awesome, we need to first understand the origin and nature of cats.
The first cat was a wildcat that lived in the forests of Asia Minor about 10,000 BC. It was brought into Europe by the Phoenicians in 1000 BC.
This cat was called Felis silvestris lybicus or lynx.
Cats were domesticated by humans.
Started with farmers using cats to hunt down rats and small pests to protect their crops.
This eventually evolved into keeping cats as pets and welcoming them as a new family member.
Cats are obligate carnivores.
This means that they need a high-protein diet for an optimum diet. Including stuff like carbs or even fruits in their meals won’t help and can even harm them.
I doubt you will ever see a tiger or cougar munching on a celery stick or an apple in the wild.
Feeding a raw cat food diet is one of the best decisions you can make for your fur kid.
You don’t even have to wait for your cat to turn into an adult before transitioning to raw food. Many kittens take very well to this diet after getting weaned off milk.
Why Dry Food (Kibble) Is Bad For Cats?
The invention of dry food has made it very easy, convenient and affordable for pet owners to keep pets.
Just a scoop or two into the pet’s food bowl and you’re done. Some automated feeders can dispense food at certain times when the owner isn’t at home.
But all this convenience has come at a cost, your pet’s health.
The dangers of dry food require a whole article of its own for cat owners to truly understand why they need to eradicate kibbles from their cat’s diet.
In a nutshell, a lot of the ingredients used in dry food are carbohydrate based. Cats, being true carnivores, need a high-protein diet.
This can cause many health issues down the road like diabetes and chronic kidney disease.
If your cat is currently on a dry food diet, please stop and choose a healthier alternative.
Why Are Cat Owners Afraid Of The Raw Food Diet?
As humans, eating certain foods raw can have bad consequences and hence we project this fear onto our cats.
Raw foods, like pork and eggs, can contain harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. It has to be properly cooked before we can eat it.
Cats, on the other hand, can go on a raw cat food diet without any problems.
Their digestive tracks are shorter and more acidic than humans. Many bacteria that are harmful to us can pass through cats safely.
If nature has intended for them to consume raw food as sustenance, rest assured that they will be equipped with the right tools for it.
Feeding our cats raw meat is a lot safer than we make it out to be.
There are some raw foods that you should not be feeding your cat. We will be covering that later in the article.
What Type Of Raw Meats And Organs Can I Use?
Even though cats are equipped with the right tools for raw meat, not all raw meats are made equal when it comes to feeding a raw diet for cats. It is important to know what raw meats are best to feed your cat.
Raw Foods That Are Safe For Cats
Here is the list of meats that should form the bulk of your cat’s raw diet:
What most raw feeders like to do is to use chicken, turkey or rabbit as the staple meat for cats and add in some beef and lamb occasionally.
This is because beef and lamb have higher fat content and too much of it can cause problems like obesity, indigestion and other stomach issues.
It’s what your doctor would say when it comes to red meat. Eat it in moderation.
The bulk of your cat’s diet should be from lean meat like chicken or turkey. Rabbit can be expensive if you are on a budget.
Make sure before handling raw cat food, wash your hands properly to prevent any cross-contamination.
Raw Foods That Are Not Safe For Cats
These are foods that you should be feeding your cat even if they are on a raw cat diet.
- Raw pork
- Raw egg
If you want to feed your car some pork, make sure it is thoroughly cooked.
I know this goes against the idea of doing a raw diet but raw pork can be prone to bacteria contamination which can make your cat sick.
Feeding your cat raw eggs is also not advised due to E. coli and Salmonella which can cause serious gastrointestinal problems for your cat.
Furthermore, egg white consists of Avidin which interferes with the body’s absorption of biotin and vitamin B.
By cooking the egg properly, it will get rid of these issues. Eggs are not meant to be used as a main source of protein.
One cooked egg can last a whole week. Just feed your cat a few times a week.
Many cartoons about cats have given us the misconception that fish is the main source of protein for cats.
Not quite true.
There are some cats in the wild that rely on aquatic prey like the Fishing Cat. But for our domesticated feline friends, too much fish in their diet can be a problem.
Raw fish contains an enzyme that degrades thiamine, which is vital to your cat’s health.
Plus many fishes contain mercury which can lead to mercury poisoning when consumed in large amounts.
The same goes for other types of seafood such as squid which degrades thiamine too.
If you wish to use fish as a treat for your cat, get tuna in a water-based can.
Your cat doesn’t need to eat the whole can in one sitting but the occasional tuna flakes over his food can be a nice garnish.
Important Supplementation For A Raw Diet
Feeding your cat a complete raw meat diet isn’t just about throwing a slab of meat on a plate and you’re done.
If a cat in the wild has to hunt for its food daily, what would that meal consist of?
The cat will eat almost everything part of it, including the organs and bones.
Besides feeding your cat the muscle meat of an animal, the organs contain many nutrients and minerals that are good for your cat.
The popular organs in a raw cat food diet are:
You can use organs from the cow or poultry and avoid pork-related organs. Organ meat should form about 5-10% of a cat’s daily diet.
The liver is very rich in nutrients and minerals, especially vitamin A.
My cat is somewhat sensitive to raw liver and too much will give him bad diarrhea.
Feeding your cat too much liver can result in hypervitaminosis A, which can have adverse effects on your cat’s health.
Just keep to the recommended 5-10% and it will be fine.
I’ve included chicken gizzards as organ meat but it is considered muscle meat.
Some cats enjoy the chewy texture of chicken gizzard but make sure to follow the same rule as feeding organ meat.
The body needs calcium to preserve strong bones and to accomplish many crucial features.
Almost all calcium is saved in bones as well as teeth, where it sustains their framework and also sturdiness.
The body also needs calcium for muscular tissues to move as well as for nerves to transmit messages between the brain and every body component.
In the wild, the bones of a cat’s prey will provide the necessary calcium.
For a raw cat food diet, the best and safest way to provide calcium for your cat is with egg shells.
It’s simple to prepare.
All you have to do is wash a couple of egg shells and heat them up in the oven at 300 deg F for 10-15 mins to pasteurize them. Once it’s cooled down, grind it in a blender till it is fine and powdery.
Just sprinkle some on top of your cat’s food during meal time.
It’s odorless and tasteless so most cats won’t have any issues eating it.
Feeding Animal Bones
One point to note is that if you do plan to give your cat real bones, DO NOT feed cats cooked bones at all as they can splinter and injure your cat.
Feed a small raw bone like the thigh or chicken wing so it’s easier for your cat to chew on.
Too much calcium can cause constipation.
Feed less bone if you find your kitty is being less regular with bowel movements.
Taurine is an amino acid that cats need in their diet. They are not able to produce so hence it needs to come from the food that they eat.
It is crucial for normal vision, digestion of food, heart muscle mass function and also to preserve a healthy and balanced immune system.
How Much Taurine To Give?
According to some studies, adult cats require about 75-100mg of Taurine daily.
While others recommend 10mg of Taurine per kg of body weight.
There’s no fixed formula on the recommended dosage but it would be better to err on giving your cat more Taurine than less.
Taurine is water-soluble and excess Taurine is excreted in the urine.
Where Can I Get Taurine Supplements From?
You can get Taurine supplements in powder form from most pet shops. Otherwise, using human-grade Taurine supplements from pharmacies are fine as well.
Just add the powder to the food and stir well.
Pros And Cons Of A Raw Diet
If you are thinking about changing to a raw cat food diet, it is also important for you to know the pros and cons of this dietary choice.
Pros Of Raw Food Diet
Mimics The Natural Diet Of Cats
As mentioned earlier, cats need a high-protein diet to remain healthy. And the raw food diet bet simulates their natural diet as domesticated pets.
“Feeding cats a balanced raw diet can provide all the nutrients they need to stay healthy and active, while also reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases such as kidney disease and diabetes.” – Dr. Jean Hofve (Littlebigcat.com)
A Healthier And Happier Cat
Your cat will thank you for giving it the best diet possible.
There have been many testimonials of cat owners witnessing a drastic transformation of their cat’s health after switching to a raw food diet.
There have been cats on the brink of death that made a miraculous turn for the better when put on a raw diet.
Such a diet can give your cat a better coat of fur and higher energy levels.
Cons Of Raw Food Diet
Your Cat Needs Time To Adjust
As a cat owner, you know how fussy and finicky a cat can get at times.
They can like a certain food one day and turn their cute little noses up at it the very next moment.
When it comes to switching your cat to a raw diet, the aim is to do it very slowly.
Have lots of patience with the transition as it can take a while.
And please do not completely remove their old diet and force them onto the raw diet. They might end up starving themselves which can be fatal for cats.
It Takes More Time To Prepare The Food
If you have been feeding your cat dry or canned food, food preparation takes only a few minutes.
With a raw cat food diet, be prepared to take some time preparing for meal time beforehand.
What most owners would do is cut and sort the raw food in small containers and freeze it.
They will then take 1-2 servings out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge the night before.
Minced meat might be a better alternative for kittens or older cats as they might have issues tearing off the meat.
But don’t buy minced meat from the butcher as minced meat is more prone to contamination.
Buy the meat whole and use a blender or meat grinder to mince it.
The same goes for us humans. It’s a lot easier to order and prepare junk food than a complete and balanced meal.
Raw Food Can Cost More
The cost of raw food will probably cost more than dry or canned food.
It’s perfectly fine to buy from your local butcher and in bulk to save cost.
But if you wish to take it up a notch by buying free-range or grass-fed only meats, then expect to have a bigger budget for your cat.
Raw Food Can Spoil More Easily
Given that raw food has more moisture in it and it’s raw, the risk of raw food getting contaminated when left in the open will be faster.
I would advise you to not leave your cat’s raw food out for more than two hours, an hour would be ideal.
It is important to know how long raw food can be left out when feeding your cat.
To try and keep the raw food fresh as long as possible, place your cat’s food bowl in another bigger bowl that has ice cubes or ice packs in it.
How Much Raw Food Does Your Cat Need?
The amount of raw food to give your cat depends on its current life stage.
For kittens, feed about 5% of their body weight over 2-3 meals. For adult cats, 2-3% of their body weight over 2 meals is a good benchmark.
Assuming your adult cat is 15 lbs. So his daily raw food intake should be about 3-3.5 oz per meal.
Don’t just use these calculations as a fixed amount. Our cats have different biological make-ups and some might need more and some might need less food.
A good gauge is to notice your cat’s behavior after each meal.
Are they still bugging you for more or is there quite a bit left over?
It will take you about a week or two to dial in on the right amount for your cat.
Raw Food Diet For Cats Recipes
I understand that it can be rather confusing and intimidating for a first-timer. But it gets easier after a few attempts.
Here’s a simple raw diet recipe that you can use to prepare a week’s worth of food for your cat.
It should take you about 1-1.5 hours to prepare the food portions.
The serving size is for a 10lb adult cat. Please adjust the portions according to the weight of your cat.
- 2.2lbs of chicken meat (you can use a combination of breast and thigh meat)
- 11 oz of organ meat ( mixture of liver, kidney, gizzard, heart)
- cut the chicken up into cubes, bite-size or minced depending on your cat
- do the same with the organ meat (you don’t have to mince it as it has a softer texture)
- divide the portions equally into 7 small Tupperware and store in the freezer
- add about 100mg of Taurine and 1/4 teaspoon of egg shells to the food before you feed your cat
It’s really that simple.
This recipe can form the basis of the raw diet and the rest is up to you to experiment with different types of meat to feed your cat a greater variety of animal protein.
Like humans, cats have their personal preferences when it comes to meat. They will usually have 1-2 favorites and some that they won’t even touch.
Do Cats Live Longer On A Raw Diet?
There isn’t a definite answer to this as a cat’s natural lifespan also depends on its genetics and environment.
But one thing I can say for sure is that a raw diet will give your cat the best chance of a long and healthy life.
My cat was diagnosed as having FeLV as a kitten and the vet told me that I’ll be lucky if he made it past 4 years of age.
There were a couple of times when I thought that I was going to lose him due to health complications.
The biggest turnaround came about when I made the switch to a raw diet and never looked back.
He is 15 years old now and still behaves like a little kitten.
What Is The BARF Diet For Cats?
BARF stands for ‘Biologically Appropriate Raw Food’ and is a fancier name for your standard raw meat diet for cats
A BARF diet for cats usually consists of raw meat, organ and bones which are the essential components of a raw diet.
There are many companies out there that sell pre-made freeze-dried or frozen BARF meals for cats.
All you need to do is to thaw and add some water to soften it up.
Commercial BARF diets come in cube or patty form and can be a good way to save time and effort with meal preparation.
Just make sure to stick with reputable brands and check the ingredient list that what is sold consists of actual meat and not animal by-products.