Raw Food Diet for Cats: Everything You Need to Know
There is no doubt that proper nutrition is important to keep a pet healthy. Nowadays, many pet-parents prefer packaged cat food because they feel it fulfills all the nutritional needs of their cat. However, with the ever-increasing number of safety recalls made on commercial pet food products and with the mounting concerns of food safety, many pet owners are becoming even more cautious about their cat’s diet. With the right guidance, a nourishing and original diet could be supplied to your feline companion. Before transitioning to a full-fledged raw diet, there are definitely some things every pet parent should know.
Should I Really Feed My Cat Raw Food?
It’s easy to think that pets need a diet similar to yours. But when put into consideration, if cat’s are left to their natural habitats, they would actually hunt for their own food. We would like to imagine that they steam their meat before consumption Michelin style and not in raw form but as cats are carnivores, they need raw meat to survive. Humans, on the other hand, are omnivores, we consume both meat and vegetable products.
The main dietary needs for every cat are foods that are rich in protein. They also require foods with high moisture levels and substances that are mostly found in meat which include fatty acids, amino acids, and other vital minerals and vitamins. So, when you think about it, they are still getting well nourished just off a diet that mostly consists of meat. Just like dogs, they can actually thrive on a raw food diet and most vets actually advise that eating raw food should not be excluded from their cuisine. This is because when compared to dogs, cats are more carnivorous.
Can I Cook the Meat Instead?
Having a pet can change the way we approach nutrition since humans are used to a certain way of living. It is easier to accept that cats eat cereals and thrive on milk because those are things we would eat ourselves. However, no matter how prim and proper cats appear, their DNA doesn’t change the minute they start living indoors. They probably still require a diet rich in the foods they were naturally designed to eat.
Many pet food nutritionists believe that cooking out meat for cats may reduce the essential substances in the meal. Instead, they suggest a more natural form that’s closer to what they would normally eat in the wild. This diet would consist more of what they biologically need to survive. When animals are left to their natural habitat, they readily consume what they are biologically engineered to eat. Carnivores hunt for their food while herbivores find a nice place where they can nibble on some crunchy vegetables.
As a pet owner, you have probably gotten tired of Mr. Top Cat constantly monitoring and hunting down birds but usually, a cat in the wild would hunt for rodents, birds, fish, insects as well as reptiles. Pet owners can, however, cook their own cats meals if this is a healthier option for their family.
What Should the Raw Food Diet Include?
If your cats’ diet has been exclusively made up of raw food, it’s not too late to start. Especially for more matured cats; raw food can be inclusively added gradually to their regular meals. Before going on a full-fledged raw food diet, pet parents have to be informed. A raw food diet has to be well balanced and inclusive of the essential ingredients. It is not okay to feed your cat just any meat without considering the nutritional values. When planning their diet the protein, fat and calorie content have to be taken into consideration.
There are 4 major elements needed in a raw food diet. A complete and balanced diet should consist of flesh, organ meats, bones (grounded or portioned) and some vegetables. However, instead of starting the raw food feeding process alone, it is best to consult with a nutritional veterinarian.
Also note that not all vets feel great about a raw food diet. They may not encourage your choice which may end with disappointment. It is best to seek out a vet who is experienced and conversant with the benefits of this natural diet. A vet will be able to guide you on a proper and complete raw food diet and can even come up with a meal timetable to ensure he/she is enjoying good nutrition on a daily basis.
Additionally, pet parents can include healthy supplements in their diet. These include calcium and other safe dairy options that can be added to meals to ensure balanced nutrition. All this could be a little overwhelming for pet parents, but if the planning and execution are confusing, it’s probably best to opt for commercial raw food instead. There are commercially prepared raw food options that come certified by AAFCO. These foods come with complete nutritional essentials. This means you wouldn’t have to add supplements anymore.
What Are the Benefits of a Raw Food Diet?
Similar to practically every theory, the idea of a raw food diet is still debated among many. However, the argument that supports this diet suggests it is a healthier option for cats. The first argument is that certain essential substances are tampered with when food is cooked and that such essential components such as Taurine can only be preserved if the food is served raw. Taurine helps to maintain an optimal healthy and functional heart. It is mostly found in the muscle and heart cuts of the meat and such parts are more likely to be included in a raw food meal.
Another crucial point supporters of the raw food diet highlight is that such a diet eliminates the presence of starch. Starch and sugar generally are not the safest elements for cats to consume. They pose some major health risks such as obesity, arthritis, diabetes, UTI’s and inflammation. What’s more, processed foods are also high in carbohydrates which makes it more likely for cats that consume such foods to suffer from obesity and the likes. They also argue that cats that consume a raw food diet are found to have a shinier and healthier coat and fur. Their teeth are also found to be cleaner than those cats that consume processed food.
Generally, the health of cats that consume a raw food diet is likely to be better in comparison with cats that live off cooked food. These claims may then be true when both categories of cats are put together. This can also be determined by which cats are more likely to visit their vet due to their dietary compositions.
What Will I Need to Transition to Preparing a Raw Food Diet?
If and when you decide to start preparing raw meals for your cat, there are some essentials to consider which are especially vital for bulk food storage. You would need;
- A large cutting board for chopping meat into consumable chunks
- A meat grinder for when you choose to mince the meat portions
- A large stainless steel food washing bowl; stainless steel is easy to wash out and is quite a durable option.
- Latex or nitrile disposable gloves; for safety when handling meat
- Storage containers for bulk meal options
- Refrigerator or deep freezer compartment: if you are up for it, a small deep freezer could be purchased for this purpose. If not, make use of the home deep freezer and just wash and store the meats separately.
At first, preparing your cat’s meal may be exciting and interesting. As time goes on you will begin to notice that it could also be quite time-consuming. For this reason, it’s best to consider buying meat in bulk, washing it properly and freezing it. If you think about it, it’s also a more economical option. Remember, if preparing these feeds yourself gets a bit too stressful, opt for commercial packages. AAFCO certified commercial raw food packs may not be as healthy as preparing it yourself. However, it is definitely a better option than processed packaged or canned cat food. Commercial raw diet foods are normally frozen or freeze-dried to reduce the risk of harmful pathogens.
How Safe are Raw Food Diets?
There are major concerns about safety in regularly consuming raw foods. As mentioned before, some vets would not approve a cats’ transition from cooked meals to raw ones. This is because of the risks that come with serving a raw food diet. Their primary concern is of the risk in the spread pathogens that can later be ingested during this process. When you cook meat, it drastically reduces the number of pathogens present in the food and as humans, this is one of the significant reasons we cook our food; apart from the fact that we want it to taste great of course.
Ingesting pathogens like E.coli and salmonella may lead to serious health risks. The concern, however, may not necessarily be for the cat as much as it is for you. Cats have shorter and more acidic digestive tracts in comparison to humans which means that pathogens are more liable to pass through a cat’s digestive system without causing any harm. However, it is vital to consider that a raw food diet may not go well with all cats and can be fatal if any sort of cross-contamination takes place.
Pathogens could stay on surfaces used to prepare feed and can also remain on the food bowls or the equipment used. The pathogens may not affect your cat, but they could spread on his/her face which makes preparing raw food more risky for you and your family.
When considering a raw food diet, it is also vital to keep the kids or seniors away from the preparation surfaces as such age groups are especially prone to weaker immune system or other types of immune deficiencies. If any of your family members are at risk, it’s best to avoid this kind of cat diet. However, if stringent measures are taken to disinfect the preparation areas, your family members can be safe in the long run.
When Should I Start Feeding my Cat Raw Food?
Many pet parents tend to assume that raw foods should only be for matured cats. On the contrary, raw food should actually be introduced early in the cat’s life; once a kitten has been weaned off breast milk. As cats can easily get addicted to dry foods, attempting to re-introduce new feeding habits at a later stage can be tasking. Additionally, feeding them processed food over time may make them feel a raw meat meal isn’t their food hence the transition process might take longer.
This is why it is vital to introduce a kitten to raw food and start training them with small softer bones. Kittens need a lot of food to keep them strong and healthy at the initial stage, so don’t feel bad giving them a good portion of grounded meat and bones. Also ensure to feed them kitten home-made food, whether it is raw, dehydrated or cooked for at least the first 6 months of their life. As they grow, they can then be weaned onto fresh or frozen raw meats. After weaning, feed them as regularly as they require.
What are the best foods to offer in a raw food diet?
If you are in this for the long haul, it’s best to opt for a suitable, well-balanced meal plan. Things would be more simplified if you prepare a variety of meats instead of sticking to one which helps introduce diverse nutrients in the body as well as reduce the risk of iron deficiency.
Meats like turkey and quail are some of the best meat options as they have softer bones and are easier to chew, especially for kittens. Dark muscle meat and liver are also a very healthy option as they contain Taurine. Whole eggs are great for supplying vitamins A, D, E and K, while fish supplies rich Omega 3 fatty acids. Pet parents can also mix up a smalls amount of veggies like carrots, parsley, and kale.
All in all, as a pet parent, it will take a great deal of dedication and planning to get a cat that is used to processed food to start on meats, organs, and bones. So, whatever diet you decide to give to your feline companion, ensure it is safe for her and the whole household. Do not relent to consult a nutritional vet for guidance throughout the transition process.