Despite being domesticated as pets, cats are natural hunters and carnivores, so a raw food diet is probably the closest to what they’d actually eat in the wild. We can compare it to feeding ourselves a natural, healthy diet such as Paleo, which advocates eating like our hunter-gatherer ancestors versus a diet that includes lots of processed or ‘junk’ foods.
A raw food diet for cats is similar to what they’d catch and eat as prey if they went hunting – rabbits, mice and other small animals – and is a mixture of meat, bones and offal. The different parts of a prey animal provide different essential nutrients for cats, so it’s important to get the balance right.
I’m now a firm believer in a raw food diet for cats, and it has made a huge difference for Charlie who has IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). But, it’s important that you do the research, ask lots of questions yourself and decide whether a raw food diet is the best option for you and your cat. In this article, I’ll outline the pros and cons of feeding raw.
The Pros of Raw Food Diets for Cats
Cats are obligate carnivores with acidic digestive systems that are designed to efficiently process a meat-based diet. Commercial pet foods that include grains are much harder for a cat to digest and are linked to a range of medical conditions that usually surface later in life.
Healthier skin and coat
Your cat’s skin will benefit from the fatty acids found in a raw food diet, and their fur will be softer, shinier and less prone to shedding. You’ll probably notice a reduction in hairballs too.
Better teeth and dental health
Raw meaty bones act like a toothbrush for animals, so a cat on a raw food diet will have stronger jaws, clean teeth and healthier gums. No more ‘stinky’ cat breath.
The high-quality protein that your cat gets from raw meat will provide much more energy than commercial pet food enhancing your cat’s overall vitality and quality of life. If you have a ‘couch potato’ cat don’t be surprised if they suddenly become more active and want to play more.
Better smelling poop and less of it
If your cat is getting the perfect balance of nutrition, their body makes use of almost all of it, meaning that they won’t need to poop as much to eliminate waste. It also has the added bonus of hardly smelling at all!
The Cons of Raw Food Diets for Cats
Fear of bacteria like e-coli or salmonella
If you’re feeding your cat a raw diet, it’s important to ensure that the meat is fresh to avoid the risk of bacteria. If you don’t think you’re going to use it straight away, you can freeze it in meal-sized portions.
A raw meat diet can be expensive, especially in the beginning when you’re trying out different things to see what your cat likes and doesn’t like, or testing different suppliers.
Handling raw meat and organs
This can be a major factor in decision making when it comes to feeding your cat a raw food diet – some people just don’t like the idea of handling raw meat and offal.
Difficult to introduce the diet
We all know how fussy some cats can be with a change in diet, and transitioning to a raw meat diet if your cat isn’t used to it can take a lot of time, energy and patience.
Hard to get the nutritional balance right
Making sure that your cat gets everything they need in a balanced raw diet can be difficult at first. Some companies produce raw ‘chunks’ that are nutritionally complete, or you can purchase and add your own vitamin and mineral powders and supplements.
Switching your cat to raw is a personal choice, and whilst a raw food diet can be beneficial to your cat if you get it right, it can also be very time-consuming. If you’re still not sure that this is the right choice for you, or not sure how your cat will react to a raw food diet – trial it. Start by adding small pieces of raw to your cat’s food at meal times and transition slowly.
What are your biggest challenges or fears with feeding your cat a raw food diet? Please share…
Top Image: Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr