Feeding Raw Food to Cats
Cats are obligate carnivores; this means that they get all the nutrients they need to live and thrive from animal protein sources. In the wild, a cat’s diet consists of small mammals, lizards, bugs, etc. At home, cat guardians should try to replicate this diet to the best of their ability. Not only is raw food very species-appropriate, it’s also full of moisture and taurine (an essential amino acid that cats cannot manufacture within their bodies). While canned food is still a fantastic choice for our cats, raw food (uncooked) is even more bioavailable and is a step above. After all, you are what you eat, and better nutrition = better health! How much should you feed? This will vary based on your cat’s age, metabolism, activity level and even the season. A good general rule of thumb is to feed approximately 2% of their body weight, divided into two meals a day. For example, a healthy 10-pound cat should have roughly 3 oz of raw food at each meal.
- Decreased litter box odor and volume
- Healthy skin and coat, maybe even a reduction in shedding
- Naturally clean teeth
- Increased energy and vitality
- Better nutrient absorption and overall digestion
- Overweight cats will naturally slim down
- Sometimes even allergies and other chronic problems will clear up!
When a wild cat, or even your housecat that ventures outside, catches and eats a mouse, does he eat all the meat and leave the bones? Of course not! Bones are an important part of the raw food equation. Most commercially-prepared raw foods have some sort of ground bone meal (or other supplement) added to the muscle and organ blend. From these raw ground bones, your cat derives important calcium and many other minerals. Your cat can even chew on small, whole raw bones! Feeding her segments of chicken necks or the like is a great idea for a treat that takes a long time to eat, offers nutritional value, and helps keep the teeth clean and healthy. Due to the concentration of calcium in bones, the excess will be excreted through the stool – do not worry if you see some chalky or crumbly stools. As long as your cat isn’t straining to defecate, this is all perfectly normal. Never feed cooked bones of any kind to any animal as they can splinter and are very dangerous.
Raw Food + Feline Disorders
Many cats with chronic disorders can benefit from a raw diet. Obese cats, cats with urinary or digestive problems, and cats with allergies often respond well and benefit the most. However, be sure and consult your veterinarian to make sure raw food is right for your cat.
As with any food change, please take into consideration your cat’s overall health and check with your veterinarian for recommendations. Generally speaking, you should slowly decrease your cats’ current food as you increase the new food. This is typically done over the course of a week, though some kitties take to new foods much faster. The key to transitioning is a little bit of patience, and these helpful tips:
- Start with a hungry cat!
- Completely clean your cat’s dishes and the area where you feed him.
- Use flat, wide dishes, not deep bowls, to feed your cat.
- Sprinkle treats on top of the new food.
- Add warm water to make a good-smelling “gravy.”
- Drizzle some tuna water on the food.
- Add a dollop of meat-only baby food.
- Remove uneaten food after about 30 minutes to increase the chance of hunger at the next meal.
- Try a different protein source.
REMEMBER: Never starve your cat into accepting a new diet. Cats that do not eat for 24 hours or more are at risk for serious health problems.
Safe Handling Is Common Sense
Whenever you handle raw meat, wash your hands and your work surfaces. Keep all raw foods frozen until ready to use and thaw enough to use for a few meals. To thaw, place frozen product in a shallow dish in the refrigerator—it should be thawed and ready to feed within a few hours. Feed thawed food within 4 days. Do not microwave raw food or place in hot water to thaw.
If you have any questions about this or anything feline-related, give us a call!