Why Switch to a Raw Food Diet?
Cats are obligate carnivores and their systems have evolved from thousands of years of eating a raw food diet in the wild. A raw meat diet supplemented with grains, vegetables and fruits, taurine, certain enzymes, and essential fatty acids will closely approximate the food your cat would get in the wild. Controlled tests using two groups of cats, getting either raw or cooked food (otherwise identical) revealed:
- After three generations, the "cooked food" group could no longer reproduce
- The same group developed serious medical problems, including mouth and gum infections, bladder problems and heart lesions
- The weakened colony was switched back to raw foods and within four generations became completely healthy again
Is Raw Meat Safe?
Cats' digestive systems are finely tuned to handle things humans can't. Their stomachs have a highly acidic environment, which is an excellent deterrent to ingested bacteria. In the wild, cats sometimes eat some pretty putrid stuff with no ill effects. Wild cats die more often from infection due to injuries than from food poisoning. However, there are steps you can take if you have concerns about salmonella, e coli, or other bacteria.
- Avoid packaged supermarket ground beef
- Buy "free-range" meat and poultry from a trusted butcher
- Add priobiotics (which help maintain intestinal health) to your raw food mix
- Always use safe handling procedures, and take up and dispose of uneaten food within 30 minutes
Raw Food Diet for the Purist
You can put together your own recipe, using wholesome, natural ingredients. This method is a bit labor-intensive, but if you're handy with a chef's knife, or have a yen for the personal touch, you may prefer it. You are encouraged to do your own research, but here are some suggestions for the basic ingredients, in descending order, quantity-wise, with about 75% meat:
- Raw muscle and organ meat (from the same animal source)
- Grated above-ground vegetables (no onions - carrots are okay) and herbs
The real purists insist that cats don't eat vegetables in the wild, and that adding vegetables to a raw meat diet is unnecessary. However, others add various vegetables and herbs for flavor, as well as their antioxidant properties, among other reasons.
- Ground raw bones (non-splintering type such as chicken neck bones)
You will either need to invest in a commercial grade grinder or enlist a friendly butcher to grind the bones for you.
- Vitamin C and Fatty Acid
Raising Cats Naturally, by Michelle T. Bernard
An Easier Way
In today's household, often with two wage-earners, many people do not have the time to assemble and prepare all the ingredients for a well-balanced raw food diet. Raw food diet supplements were developed to address this need. Some manufacturers provide for the addition of several different kinds of supplements. With others, all you need to do is add water and ground or cut up meat chunks to the supplement (chicken is often the protein of choice). Here are my picks from companies who provide almost "all-in-one" products:
Top Raw Food Diet Supplements
Commercial Frozen Products
In recent years, a number of commercially-prepared frozen raw diets have come on the market. Local stores may still only carry these products for dogs, but I have been assured similar frozen raw diets for cats will come in the near future. Many of these products are available on the Internet. Stay tuned to this site for reviews and Top Picks of frozen raw diets for cats in the near future.
If you found this article useful, you might want to enroll in my free email class, The Role of Food in Your Cat's Health.