Recent years have seen tremendous growth in raw food diets for cats and dogs. As obligate carnivores, cats can especially thrive on a complete, balanced, and safely prepared raw diet. However, feeding your cat a raw diet is a significant responsibility. Read on to find out more about the benefits and risks of feeding your kitty a raw diet.
1. What is a raw cat diet?
A raw diet for cats involves feeding them uncooked animal products. This includes muscle meat, organ meat, and bones. This type of food is sometimes called the "BARF" diet, which stands for "bones and raw food" or "biologically-appropriate raw food. In the commercial pet food industry, “raw” cat food includes freeze-dried or dehydrated options. To be considered truly "raw," the cat food is not processed using heat. The freeze-drying process is a low-temperature drying method that does not include heat.
2. What are the benefits of raw food diet for cats?
There is much controversy revolving around raw food diets for pets. Supporters of raw food diets have much to say about the health benefits: shinier coats, cleaner teeth, better weight management, and energy level. Overall, many raw feeders cite improved overall health with their cats. While these claims ring true, the opposition has valid concerns about the safety of raw food diets.
In summary, for cats, the benefit of a raw diet includes:
Improved dental health.
Better water intake (as opposed to a dry kibble diet).
Better protein bioavailability as meat in the raw diet is not exposed to high-heat processing. High-heat processing can denature protein molecules making the protein less bioavailable.
Fewer carbohydrate fillers and this helps to prevent weight gain and obesity
3. Are raw food diets safe for cats?
Although cats are less susceptible to bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli due to shorter GI systems and therefore less exposure to harm, the risk of cross-contamination is real. Food safety and thorough cleaning procedures must be adhered to.
While it's impossible to eliminate all risks, here are some safety precautions that you will want to adhere to when preparing your kitty’s raw diet.
Prepare the food in a contained area of the home; clean and sanitize thoroughly when done.
Keep all raw food frozen and thaw only when you are going to feed. Thaw in the refrigerator. Avoid thawing raw food in the kitchen sink or on the kitchen countertop.
Feed your cat in an area that is easy to clean. Removed unfinished food and clean your kitty’s food bowls immediately after feeding.
4. How can I prepare a raw diet at home?
One of the biggest mistakes owners make with raw food diets is not making sure the diet is complete and balanced. Making a complete and balanced homemade raw diet is not that simple. When developing your cat's raw diet, it is essential that you find an expert to help you develop a complete and balanced diet. Depending on your cat’s health concerns and the ingredients used, supplements may be needed to ensure your cat gets the nutrients needed to stay healthy. A broad-spectrum vitamin blend like this Dom & Cleo EON Fundamentals Supplements For Dogs & Cats may be needed to balance a home-prepared raw diet.
Here are the common ingredients used in the making of a raw food diet for cats.
Raw muscle meat
Eggs Supplements (may be required to prevent nutritional deficiencies)
Do consult with your veterinarian about recipes that offer complete and balanced nutrition for your cat.
5. Are there commercial raw diets available for cats?
There is plenty of commercially prepared raw diet available for cats. Commercially prepared raw cat foods take a lot of the guesswork out of feeding raw as reputable manufacturers follow the guidelines put forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Here are some of our favourite raw cat foods for your consideration. These raw cat diets are sold frozen. Please follow the feeding and safety guidelines put forth by the manufacturers.
The Grateful Pet Raw Cat Food. This is a human-grade raw cat food, and it contains a minimum of 95% lean muscle and organ meat. Meals are also enriched superfoods and taurine, an essential amino acid that contributes to healthy digestive function, good vision, and heart health.
PetCubes Duck Premium Raw Cat Food. Made with freshly slaughtered gourmet duck and the duck meat is specially made into chunks for your cat to tear and chew on just as nature intended. This diet is holistic in nature with a targeted blend of protein, calcium, taurine, omega oils, and iodine, ensuring your cat has improved digestion, a healthier coat, and increased energy.
Proudi Raw Cat Food. 100% human grade, low in carbohydrate, contains moderate fat, and high in protein to mimic the cat’s ancestral diet. It’s a complete & balanced formula, containing all the micro and macronutrients your cat needs to thrive. Nutritionally, this cat food exceeds the three (3) international standards for pet food nutrition (AAFCO, FEDIAF & NRC).
6. What other raw diet alternatives are available?
Commercially, raw diets for pets come in different preparations – frozen raw, freeze-dried, and dehydrated. Freeze-dried cat food is a popular option with pet owners wanting to give their cats the nutritional value of raw diets without the feeding hassle that comes with it. The Feline Natural Freeze Dried Raw Beef & Hoki Feast Cat Food is a high-protein, nutritionally balanced diet formulated for cats. Like all freeze-dried diets, this cat food does not require refrigeration and has a longer shelf life. Feeding is easy; just scoop and feed.
7. How do I transition my cat to a raw diet?
Cats are notoriously finicky when it comes to their diets. So, transition progressively. To help your kitty adjust to the new texture and flavour, we recommend that you combine 25% of their new raw food with 75% of their current cat food. Do this for three days. After the initial three (3) days, increase the percentage of raw food by another 25% and monitor for another three (3) days. Continue to increase progressively, 25% each increment, and monitor for three (3) days after each increment until your cat has successfully transitioned to the new diet.
In summary, when feeding your cat a raw diet, it’s important to take proper safety measures to keep you and your pet safe. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water after handling any raw pet food, as well as cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces the food touches. Keep raw foods frozen until you’re ready to use them and store these foods out of reach of children. For freeze-dried raw cat foods, follow the manufacturer’s serving and safety recommendations. When in doubt about how best to feed your cat, do talk with your veterinarian.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.