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Once you’ve made the decision to transition your cat to a raw food diet, you’ll need to consider which type of raw food will best suit you and your cat.
There are essentially two options: you can purchase a pre-packaged commercial raw food or prepare your cat’s meals from scratch yourself in your home kitchen.
Commercial Raw Food Diet for Cats
Pre-packaged commercial raw food is usually frozen in portion sizes, which you can defrost as and when you need it. Whilst commercial raw food can be an expensive way to feed your cat a raw diet, for the busy working pet parent it’s a quick and easy option. It really is as simple as just opening a packet of food and transferring the appropriate portion amount into your cat’s bowl.
- If you’re a little squeamish or ‘put off’ by the thought of handling meat, offal and bones – you don’t have to.
- Commercial raw food generally contains all of the nutrients and other essentials that your cat needs for a healthy, balanced diet – so you don’t need to add additional supplements.
- You often have to buy commercial raw pet food in large quantities, so if you’re only just starting the transition to raw feeding and your cat won’t eat this particular brand or product, you’re stuck with it.
- A commercial raw food diet is often very soft (we’ve seen products that resemble baby food), so it doesn’t work your cat’s jaw or teeth unlike chewing on raw meaty bones or meat chunks.
Charlie has IBD, so when I starting feeding a commercial raw food diet it was important to me to pay close attention to the list of ingredients. Surprisingly, I discovered a few raw food products claiming to be suitable for ‘dogs and cats’, but which included onion and garlic (known to be toxic to cats) or yoghurt (which can cause issues for cats that are lactose intolerant). My advice is to read the labels and ensure you know exactly what you’re feeding your cat, especially if they have gastrointestinal problems or other health issues. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Homemade Raw Food Diets for Cats
A homemade raw food diet is made up of raw meat – in chunks or ground, offal and raw bones (chicken necks, for example). Preparing your cat’s food from scratch is likely to be less expensive in the long run, but it can be time consuming in the beginning.
The two factors that generally dissuade people from preparing raw food from scratch are:
- Being ‘squeamish’ about preparing raw meat or handling offal.
- The process seems complicated and expensive – you need to work out the right balance of raw food and nutrients, and include supplements.
For the first six months after transitioning the cats to a raw food diet, I fed them commercial raw food – it was easier and the idea of preparing raw food from scratch seemed overwhelming. As someone who eats mostly chicken or vegetarian meals myself, I’ll also freely admit that I wasn’t keen on handling raw meat or organs. I’ve since learnt to appreciate that the only way to really know what is in the food the Pawesome Cats family are eating, is to make it myself from scratch.
Ground Raw Food Diet
This is probably the most popular method of feeding raw and works well for cats that transition from a commercial wet food (canned) diet. It involves putting the meat (including offal, bones and fat) into a meat grinder with supplements and egg yolk to make a ground food for your cat. Overall, this is a cost effective option but you’ll need a powerful meat grinder to grind the bones, so there may be some initial expense.
Raw feeders who follow a ground raw food diet for cats usually make large batches of food and freeze it in meal-sized portions. The main downside of a completely ground raw diet is that it won’t have enough texture to keep your cat’s teeth and jaw strong and healthy, but you can add chunks of raw meat to address this.
Prey Model or ‘Frankenprey’ Raw Food Diet
The prey model diet is designed to closely resemble your cat’s diet in the wild, with the correct percentage of animal parts – meat, organs, edible bones and muscle meat fed in controlled quantities over a week. The basic guide is 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 5% liver, and 5% other secreting organ. Each meal or day may include different species of animal, hence the alternative term ‘frankenprey’.
Meals are usually chunks, which your cat will need to gnaw on until they are bite-sized. One of the benefits of the prey model diet is improved dental health – the process of having to tear and gnaw at meat and bones will keep your cat’s mouth healthy and teeth tartar free.
There is generally less preparation and fewer supplements involved than the grinding method of feeding raw but it can be time consuming to calculate the correct proportions and determine the supplements required to ensure this diet is nutritionally balanced. Raw feeders who follow the prey model raw food diet usually stick to strict feeding programs.
Whole Prey Raw Food Diet
Whole prey is exactly what it says – feeding your cat whole prey animals rather than butchered meat. People who feed their cat this type of diet cite that it’s easy to feed, although for some people, it can be an emotionally difficult decision to feed whole animals.
Outdoor cats who are familiar with hunting prey are more likely to take to this type of diet, whereas indoor cats that have been fed canned food most of their lives and never caught prey before won’t recognise what you’re giving them as a source of food or know what to do with it.
Do you feed your cat a raw food diet? What’s your preferred method of feeding raw?
Top image: Boaz Arad via Flickr