Feeding Your Cat a Raw Diet – Everything You Need to Know
Feeding your cat with a high-quality food is 'a must' if you want for your pet to live longer, happier and above anything else, healthier. Pet owners are choosing every day to switch dry cat food for a raw meat diet. Read on and discover everything that you need to know about the raw meat diet and how would it affect your feline friend. Discover the pros and cons of this 'raw' feeding method.
Cats are little sensitive furry being that loves being treated right. By treated right – we mean nutrition. Food always comes first. Cats are known for being picky and stubborn, and if they don’t like the food they just don’t like the food.
However, if they do decide eventually to eat their new food it can take up to days for them to transit from one food to another. That’s the main reason why cat owners can get easily overwhelmed. Proper nutrition is essential for a healthy cat.
Choosing a cat food can be challenging especially if you are thinking about raw food. Some cat owners prefer canned food, other home-prepared diets, and some owners just go for the raw diet.
Regardless of how friendly and purrfect your feline is, the cat’s natural is entirely opposite, because a cat’s natural instinct is to hunt.
You have probably noticed, especially during the summer days, smaller animals in front of your doorstep. Smaller animals like numerous bugs, smaller lizards and probably birds as well.
On one side, that is your cat presenting you with the gifts (they probably think that you own diet is not so good and they want to help you improve that area of your life, or they just might be thinking that you are not capable of hunting – cats, you know!), while on the other side you have a front row ticket how live testimony of your feline’s hunting instincts.
Also, if you were to leave your cat out in the wilderness for days, trust us when we say that your cat wouldn’t wait a minute for you to bring her food. Definitely not!
Your furr-cuteness would transform into a paw-er hunter to find food in a raw, natural state, and we do not kitten around!
That acknowledgment is one of the main reasons why cat owners decide to go for raw food. There is a strong belief that a raw food diet taps into cats’ instincts, and keeps them strong and healthy.
However, feeding your cat with a raw diet requires adequate preparation, knowledge about nutrition and nutritional values of different raw food, and above all, it requires veterinary guidance.
What Is A Raw Diet?
Feeding your cat, or cats means that you actually feed them with uncooked animal muscle meat and, naturally, bones. This type of food is also known as the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food Diet) diet. However, the ideal raw diet is carefully prepared based on the designed recipe.
Some owners choose to prepare a raw food diet by themselves, while the commercial food is also available. But, if you choose to feed your cat a raw diet, you should feed her with a food that’s recommended by a veterinary nutritionist. But first thing first. Let’s see if a cat should be eating raw food.
Should Cats Have a Raw Food Diet?
Cats like any other animals, especially dogs, can be put on a raw food diet. There are some veterinarians that even encourage pet owners to embrace this form of feeding as their cat’s lifestyle. In general, cats are carnivores. They must eat meat to survive.
Cats are beyond vegetables and even carbohydrates when it comes to their diet, as they do not actually need it. They can even tolerate carbohydrates in extremely small amounts.
Cats thrive on high-protein food, together with high-moisture diets, which are rich in substances that are only found in meat. This also includes amino acids like fatty acids, taurine, and a number of essential minerals and vitamins.
As many believe that cooked vegetables lose their vitamins, so many believe that cooking meat decreases their vital substances. Supporters of raw food diets advocate for a biologically-appropriate diet that mimics what a cat would eat in the wild. Somehow, it’s like going back to its roots.
The truth is that in wild, small and smaller wild cats hunt and eat other small mammals, fish, insects, birds, and even reptiles. So, the idea is to create a diet for your cat that is similar to their natural preferences.
Although it is individual whether you will feed your cat with raw food or not, there is much controversy revolving around raw food diets for pets. Those who support the raw food diet have a tendency to point out the benefits that are seen in shinier coats, cleaner teeth, and even less obesity.
On the other hand, there are those who claim the opposite. They are concerned about home meat preparation due to numerous possible infections.
What Do Cats Need to Eat?
Before you choose your cats next feeding style you need to make sure that you know for sure what your cats need to eat in general to become a strong and healthy feline. As carnivores, cats need:
- Protein from meat, including fish
- Amino acids that are stored in meat
- Fatty acids
Carbohydrates are O.K., but they are not crucial for a cat’s diet. On the other hand, a significant amount of carbs will provide useful energy and can even reduce the costs of a home cooked diet.
If you feel that you need more guidance about proper nutrition, make sure that you educate yourself on feeding your cat, especially if you are not sure if your feline friend can eat human food, like peanut butter.
Food And Cats Age
Cats go through three different phases during their life, and each phase is connected to specific eating habits.
In this phase, proper nutrition is crucial for steady development and well being of the cat. Your cat is not cat yet, so bones and joints are still growing. The starting point for proper nutrition should be a balanced, premium kitten food.
On the other hand, you can offer raw meat or cooked food if you are sure that it’s prepared accordingly to safe-kitten standards.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t even think about feeding raw meat until the kitten is at least 20 weeks old.
Before that period, their system is not robust enough for potential pathogens. And never feed your kitten with cooked bones. Cooked bones may cause internal damage or damage the intestinal tract.
This is also a great period to include moist food in your kitten’s diet. You can start with wet canned food. Moist food is here to help activate urinary tract health. With kittens, it always comes down to weight, size, breed and overall health.
Feeding your adult cat shouldn’t be so difficult. Their diet should be high-quality cat food. If you are not sure what food to take you can always advise your veterinarian.
Make sure that you offer your cat a variety of food, like fish or even soft cooked food. Bear in mind that fresh meat and meaty bones are an excellent source of protein.
Bear in mind that senior cats can often have a number of health issues. Therefore, proper nutrition is crucial for keeping them active and strong. Senior cats can benefit the most from high-quality food. Food portion will vary from the cat’s size and age.
Make sure that you find a balance between underfeeding and overfeeding.
If you are not sure whats the best time to transmit your cat’s canned food to raw diet talk with experts. Your veterinarian will be able to help you with the transition, professional knowledge and overall with proper guidance.
Raw Meat Diet For Cats
Raw meat diet food comes with a few components that must be included in order for your cat to have a high-quality raw diet served to your feline friend.
High-quality raw food is well balanced. Well-balanced food means that it includes flesh, organs, a bone and an extremely small amount of vegetation. In addition, there should be some calcium as well.
The most important thing about this diet is to plan good and to plan straight ahead, whether you are planning to prepare home-based raw meals or purchase a commercial raw food directly from the pet shop.
If you go for a commercial food, make sure that you find a food that’s marked with certification from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Why is AAFCO’s certificate relevant? AAFCO certifies only food that provides complete and well-balanced nutrition and does not require any additional supplementation.
Top Five Health Issues To Avoid Thanks To Raw Meat Food
When it comes to the benefits of raw diet food for cats, the most important benefit is seen in the elimination of starch. Starch and sugar can lead to numerous health problems, such as:
Diabetes is often seen in cats. Symptoms are – increased urination, followed with increased thirst. This condition is commonly seen in cats that are obese. The best treatment for this condition is insulin therapy.
This is a natural process used to combat foreign organisms like viruses and bacteria. It means that the body’s white cells can release certain chemicals in order to increase blood flow.
This happens when a harmful invader is detected. This condition is easy to spot on, as your cat will vomit often and will suffer from diarrhea.
This condition is usually diagnosed in middle-aged to older cats.
Arthritis is one of the most well-known causes of inflammation in cats. As the cat gets older cartilage forms a cushion between the bones, and cartilage becomes less flexible. Other possible, but not so often causes of arthritis include infection, weight gain, barely dislocation and rarely an injury.
4. Urinary Tract Diseases
FLUTD or feline lower urinary tract disease describes different conditions that affect directly the bladder of cats. Cats with this condition will show pain and difficulty when urinating, blood in the urine, and even significantly increased frequency of urination.
This condition is usually reserved for older cats, that suffer from obesity, or even with cats that use an indoor litter box or etc. Drastic changes can lead to a higher risk of a cat developing FLUTD.
In recent years, the most common issue when it comes to cat’s health is the appearance of obesity. For a cat to be obese must have at least 20 percent heavier than the optimal weight.
Ideally, cats should be fed to maintain their optimal body weight. Studies have shown that obesity shortens life expectancy in cats.
Each of these issues is still possible with raw food. However, they are much less likely possible with a raw meat diet.
What is also beneficial about raw meat diet for your cat, is the fact that more quality commercial food contains more organic meat, and they have a tendency to contain more different amino acids that your cat needs.
In addition, commercial food does not include carbohydrates that usually contains sugar that may lead to diabetes.
How To Transition Your Cat To A Raw Meat Diet?
The general opinion is that the best time for your cat to start eating raw food is around six months. In that period you can serve your feline meat fresh or frozen. There is some strong belief that a kitten can eat raw food as soon as it’s weaned from mother.
However, practice showed that the six month period is the most optimal one.
Important component about introducing a raw meat diet to your cat is seen in a variety, in a variety of meat of course.
Make your first steps with turkey or raw chicken. Some cats go for it immediately. It may be more challenging if you are shifting your cat’s diet once it’s older. Everything is much easier with kittens.
Fact: The truth is, the younger the cat, easier the transition.
For your first introductions of a raw meat diet, you can go with commercial raw food or with homemade. Add to your cat’s meal turkey and chicken, rabbit, duck or even a quail.
These small animals are not suggested randomly. They are the most similar and closest to what cats would eat naturally. The important thing is not too stuck with one food, but to mix it up all the time!
Make sure that the raw food is always warm and is possible, try to not microwave it. Microwaving it you will reduce nutrients that you want your feline to intake.
Quick tip: Place food in a Ziploc type bag and put in a bowl of warm water for 5-15 minutes. Simple, clean and fast way to make raw food warm.
One of the most common recommendations is to use often dark muscle meat from poultry and heart muscles.
This meat comes with a high rate of taurine. You are welcome to include whole eggs for your cat to intake fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K, that are found in the yolk, while the protein is included in the whites.
Fish is also a nice addition to a raw food diet thanks to their omega 3 fatty acid content. You can serve sardines to your cat, as they usually have a high concentration of heavy metals.
Try putting their canned food on a plate, and place a little raw food next to it. If they won’t eat, it’s OK. The idea is to get them familiar with the smell and texture on the eye, to start associating their smell with the meal. The ultimate goal is for cats to recognize raw meat as edible.
Your next step can be mixing the canned and raw food a little bit. Start with a teaspoon of raw meat, or with ¼ teaspoon mixed with its usual meat. If this goes smoothly, you should keep increasing the amount of raw meat.
The final step should be serving only raw food.
This transition takes a lot of patience and a significant amount of your time when it comes to food preparation. A good idea would be to introduce raw meat to your cat when she’s hungry. The chances are in your favor if your feline is more hungry. They would eat anything in those moments.
Once you get your cat to eat raw, introduce chunked meat. Benefits of chunked meat are seen in stronger jaw muscles, which leads to better dental health. Make sure that you start with smaller chunks. Cut them bigger as the time goes.
Also, don’t waste your time for overthinking about vegetables as a raw option. It’s just not necessary in cats food.
However, if it’s on your hand you can add some. Serve carrots, zucchini, parsley, and kale.
Quick tip: Serve your cat a small pumpkin slice. It’s great source of fiber.
However, keep the veggie low and don’t let it go more than five percent of the total meal.
It would be perfect to add to a new raw diet a veterinary-recommended calcium source, next to freeze-dried organs like kidney, liver, heart, and brain, to make sure that you fill any nutritional gaps.
What to Look For In Commercial Raw Food For Cats?
As mention before, the first benefit from commercial raw food is the fact that used meat is organic. Next, when it comes to choosing commercial food, labels are everything.
Look always for AAFCO certificate if possible. Look for a high-pressure pasteurized food.
It’s important because this process destroys any pathogenic bacteria. This is extremely important if your cat is suffering from any sort of immune disorders, even leukemia.
If your cat was treated with steroids, this can weaken the immune system. When possible, avoid food that comes with synthetic vitamins and minerals. Concentrated vitamin in synthetic may be dangerous for cats.
Homemade Raw Food For Cats
Firstly, know that making homemade food is rather time-consuming.
Secondly, make sure that you understand the concept of ‘homemade raw food for cats’. Because homemade food is not all meat and bones, but a serious step that includes counting calories, protein, fat and nutrient content overall.
If the done opposite, you can create an incomplete diet that may lead to serious health problems of your feline friend.
Make sure that you talk with your veterinarian about good and healthy recipes that offer complete nutrition. If there are any risks, your vet won’t recommend this diet. If you want to know more than basics about nutrition, you can always find a veterinary nutritionist.
Your veterinarian may suggest supplements and don’t take it as an offense, as its a common practice.
Most common ingredients are meat, followed by bones, eggs, supplements, and appropriate kitchen equipment, like a meat grinder.
Quick tip: As a raw diet is time-consuming, prepare it ahead, to last for several weeks and keep it frozen.
Make sure that you find relevant recipes, that are well balanced and high in proteins. Use quality ingredients, and use wet cat food. Always buy frozen meat. Make sure to wash out bowls after every feeding, refrigerate and put away.
Down Side of Raw Food Meat Diet For Cats
If you have decided already that you will feed your cat with raw meat, you should know that this kind of feeding comes with some risks. The most common pathogen in raw food is Salmonella and E. coli that can lead to serious infections. Those infections are life-threatening.
Good to know: Cooking removes most of these dangerous pathogens, and that’s the no.1 reason why humans cook food.
Cross-contamination is the greatest risk when it comes to raw meat feeding.
Feeding your cat with a raw food diet can expose you and other people in your surrounding to dangerous pathogens. Those pathogens can remain of the surface, like food dishes.
Although this is not a regular situation, it is better to eliminate any risk and try to be safer. Follow the next steps for the safe handling of raw meat.
- Make sure that you prepare the food in contained area of the house
- Clean everything before and after use
- Use 1:32 bleach to water solution
- Wear gloves
- Handle mostly frozen food
- Feed your cat in area that’s easy to clean
- Sanitize food bowls after using it
Make sure that you truly understand how big responsibility lies on you when it comes to homemade cat food.
Bear in mind that homemade food is great for sick pets and pets with allergies and gastrointestinal problems.
Long story short, make sure that you use the same food practice that you would you for preparing chicken to closest relative. If your budget allows it, buy human-grade, antibiotic-free organic food which is USDA-approved.
FAQ On A Raw Food Diet for Cats
How Do I Feed My Cat A Raw Diet?
If your cat eats dry and canned food, this one is extremely easy. Cut off the dry food and plan ahead adjustment period. Start with small pieces next to the dry food and integrate it with time. After approximately two weeks cut it off completely.
Is a Raw Food Diet Healthy For Your Cat?
Raw diet supporters constantly talk about benefits that are mostly seen in starch elimination, making it healthier.
How Much Raw Should I feed My Cat?
The truth is that raw food will lower your cat’s obesity, but you shouldn’t feed your cat with some extra food just because of that fact. For example, an adult cat you should feed 2 to 4% of ideal body weight per day.
What Raw Meats Can Cats Eat?
Simply said – cats are meat eaters. When it comes to eating meat they are surprisingly not too picky. They can eat chicken, cooked beef, turkey, and different forms of fish.
Can Cat Get Sick By Eating Raw Meat?
Your cat gets sick by eating raw meat only if the meat is spoiled or contaminated with harmful bacteria, parasite, and protozoa. These pathogens can lead to serious and even fatal complications.
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