Are you thinking about switching your cat to raw food? We discuss raw food diets for cats and evaluate the pros and cons.
Raw Food Diet for Cats – Yes or No?
There are so many food options available for cats in supermarkets and pet stores today, it’s often hard to know what’s best. Sometimes the more choices you have, the more confusing it becomes.
Should you stick with traditional commercial pet foods? For example, the kibble or canned foods often recommended by veterinarians. OR, should you explore a raw food diet? There are many options — homemade raw, commercial raw (fresh or frozen), dehydrated raw (which you add water to) and freeze dried raw.
Personally, we believe a raw food diet is the best option for cats. Cats are natural hunters and carnivores, so eating raw meat is the closest to what they’d actually eat in the wild.
Let’s look at raw food diets for cats and discuss the pros and cons . . .
Raw Food Diets for Cats – PROS
Raw feeding has many benefits for cats! The biggest raw food diet pro for us was less poop and better smelling litter box deposits. Yes, it’s true!
Cats are obligate carnivores with acidic digestive systems that are designed to efficiently process a meat-based diet. Cats who have food sensitivities often do well on raw food diets that contain a single protein.
Whereas, commercial pet foods (dry and canned), often include grains which are much harder for cats to digest. Consumption of carbohydrates is also linked to a range of medical conditions such as diabetes and urinary crystals.
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
The action of chewing meat or small raw meaty bones acts like a toothbrush — 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 cat who is a ‘couch potato’ 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. Raw feed cats poop less often, their poops are smaller and it has the added bonus of hardly smelling at all!
Raw Food Diets for Cats – CONS
When people tell me they’re reluctant to transition their cat to a raw food diet, it’s often because they have legitimate fears and concerns. We’ve discussed the pros of feeding raw, now let’s talk about the cons of a raw food diet for cats.
Fear of bacteria like e-coli or salmonella
One of the biggest fears with a raw food diet for cats is bacteria. You can minimise this risk by following safe meat handling procedures and purchasing raw meat only from reputable sources. If you don’t think you’re going to use the raw food straight away, freeze it in meal-sized portions.
Remember too, cats have highly efficient and acidic digestive systems and food passes through their system quickly, reducing the risk of bacteria taking hold.
Perceived high costs
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.
But it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune! You can save money by buying meat in bulk or taking advantage of discount offers. We have calculated the cost of raw feeding using the homemade raw cat food recipe we use for our cats.
Handling raw meat and organs
Fear of handing raw meat 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 (including me).
If you really can’t get over the ‘icky factor’ of feeding raw, consider using a raw cat food supplement such as EZComplete which includes organs. All you have to do is sprinkle it over your cat’s raw meat and add water.
Difficult to introduce the diet
We all know how finicky some cats can be with food. They have strict preferences for certain food textures and smells and turn their noses up at anything different. For these cats, transitioning to a raw meat diet can take a LOT of time, energy and patience. I promise though, it is worth the effort if you can stick with it.
All cats are different in their transition to raw food. Two of our cats transitioned to raw food easily and almost immediately. It was a much slower process for Amber who took six months to fully transition to a raw food diet.
Hard to get the nutritional balance right
Ensuring your cat gets everything they need in a balanced raw diet can be challenging at first, but it gets easier. One of my initial concerns with switching to a raw food diet for my cats was: “What if I make a mistake and don’t get the nutritional supplements right? Will I cause harm to my cats?”
My initial fears turned out to be unfounded. There are lots of online resources and groups to help you get it right and support you during the process. There are also options to ensure your cat’s raw food is nutritionally balanced. You can buy commercial raw food that is already nutritionally complete. Alternatively, you can make homemade raw cat food and add your own vitamin and mineral powders and supplements, which is what we do.
–> This is the balanced raw recipe that we recommend and feed our cats.
Switching your cat to a raw food diet is a personal choice. Whilst eating raw meat 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 raw food – trial it. Start by adding small pieces of raw to your cat’s food at meal times and transition slowly.
What are your biggest fears or concerns with feeding your cat a raw food diet? Please share in the comments below.