A feline is widely known as an obligate carnivore in the pet nutrition world. This means that in nature, out of pure necessity, a cat’s diet consists only of raw prey. For a cat, eating raw food can be viewed as a biological obligation. Through an appropriate diet of raw meat, bone, and organ a feline can reach their fullest health potential.
With all of the pet food choices on the market today that cat owners are faced with, how does one choose? This can be a stressful decision as it can determine the longevity and quality of life of your cat. Many commercial pet foods out there promise quality and nutrition but fall short in the ingredients list. Corn, grain, soy, starch, fat and preservative laden foods can take a toll on your cat’s system and lead to potential health problems in their future. Removing all of the fillers and extra ingredients that aren’t necessary from your cat’s diet will allow them to digest their food easier and therefor fully utilize the nutrition provided from healthy, whole ingredients.
Even if you choose a dry kibble that is grain free, starch free and even organic, most of the enzymes and vitamins that come naturally from the fresh ingredients used won’t even make it to the bag (hence why most dry kibbles have vitamins added to them). Once it is processed and cooked at high temperatures it becomes a hard crunchy essence of its original form. If you take the original whole ingredients that the dry kibble was to begin with and cut out all of the additives, processing and cooking – well that’s a start! Your cat’s stomach is built to digest raw meat, bone and organ which will become apparent almost immediately after starting.
Smaller, more consistent and less stinky poo, a healthy soft and shiny coat, great oral health, clear eyes, increased energy and vitality, fewer common ailments which result in less vet visits and most importantly – longevity! We want our furry companions to be a part of our lives for as long as possible – raw food will be a contributing factor to their long, happy, healthy life.
Since each feline is so unique and individual it can seem intimidating trying to figure out where to start.
Creating Meal Time
Domestic cats who are fed dry kibble have developed the habit of grazing on their food throughout the day. A raw fed domestic cat has quite the opposite habit – scheduled meal times. If your cat grazes casually throughout the day the first step in the transition to raw food is breaking that habit by having set times throughout the day for them to eat (this can be before raw food is introduced). Make a point of only having their food available to them in the morning for a set amount of time and again in the evening at approximately the same time each day (if you have a kitten 10 weeks – 6 months or a senior cat it is recommended that the feedings are more frequent). Start by having the food out for 1-2 hours and slowly lessen that time if your cat seems to be adapting. The hope is that your cat will work up an appetite throughout the day without having had the chance to graze and they will be open to eating more in one sitting.
Why are meal times preferred? Raw food should not be left sitting out for more than 20 minutes at a time but that isn’t the most important reason why grazing isn’t the ideal way for a cat to eat. By grazing, your cat’s digestive system is never at rest putting unnecessary stress on their organs throughout the day. By eating only twice a day, this allows digestion to happen quickly and efficiently giving their little systems some much needed rest in between meals.
Although it can be somewhat rare for a cat to convert to raw food Cold Turkey, it is always worth a shot. Take home a protein that your cat may be familiar with (most common proteins to start on are chicken and turkey) and offer them a meal of all raw and see what happens! This is by far the easiest way to switch over to raw not only for you but also for your cat’s digestive system. If this doesn’t work do not be discouraged. There are many other things you can try to successfully transition your cat to raw food.
Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to determine the correct daily portions of raw food for your cat. Use this as a general guideline and choose the portioning that most accurately represents your cat’s desired weight. If you have a kitten or a pregnant or nursing cat these guidelines will need to be adjusted.
Why You Should Never Underfeed or Fast Your Cat
A good thing to keep in mind during the transition to raw food is that it is never okay to underfeed, starve, or fast your cat as an attempt to get them eating raw food. Since a cat has a fundamental and biological need to eat, digest, and process protein, any amount of time spent not doing so can cause quick and swift harm to their liver. A diagnoses of Fatty Liver
Disease is common in lost or feral cats, cats refusing to eat due to illness, or an owner’s attempt to assist their cat in losing weight and is potentially and often fatal. When a cat isn’t provided enough nourishment or protein their body is no longer able to store or process fat through their liver resulting in a fat ridden and low functioning liver. Long story short – if your cat is refusing a new food you are trying to introduce, stay away from Tough Love as an attempt to get them eating it. Always keep some food on hand that you know your cat will eat in the event that they are stone-walling everything else.
Most anyone with a feline companion can admit that they aren’t always the easiest to introduce change to. Whether it’s a different living environment, a new cat or dog in the house, or a change to their diet – they may put up a fight. Cats are known as imprint feeders which means that they have a propensity to prefer what they are used to. It’s natural for them to be suspicious of something they have never experienced before (IE: to be picky) and that’s why it’s a good idea to go into the raw food transition fully prepared to persist through some initial aversion that will hopefully pass before long.
Start Off Slowly
If you’ve already tried the cold turkey method and your cat is having none of it, you will need to start off slowly and be willing to try an array of different methods until you find one that works for your cat. Be patient and know that there is always something else to try if what you are doing isn’t successful.
The Transition-to-Canned-Food Method
If your cat has been used to eating dry kibble for the extent of their life it can sometimes be much easier to first transition your cat to canned food before switching over to raw food. Your feline friend might be very sensitive to texture and therefor introducing small amounts of canned food at a time may be your best bet to get them used to the consistency of something other than kibble. Be sure to experiment with many different brands, textures and proteins if your cat is resistant (try to ensure you are choosing grain-free, corn-free, starch-free formulas if possible) until your cat is eating all canned food. At this point you can slowly start to add small amounts of raw food into the canned food and slowly lessen the amount of canned food until your cat is eating all raw! Be patient during this process and try not to go too fast – it may take some time but many cats have been successfully transitioned to raw food using this method!
The Transition-to-Freeze-Dried-Food Method
Using freeze-dried raw food as a transition tool can be quite effective! There is something about the texture of freeze-dried food (before or after reconstitution) that many cats love. It’s soft, easy to eat and often quite fragrant, we rarely hear of a cat that isn’t open to a nibbling away at this option. Start out by crushing a small handful of freeze-dried food into your cat’s dish without water and feed it just like that. Since your cat’s meal should ideally have moisture in it start adding 2 tablespoons of warm water to moisten it. If this is a success, continue feeding the reconstituted freeze-dried food and start adding tiny amounts of raw food in each day. Over time lessen the amount of freeze-dried raw and increase the amount of raw until you are feeding all raw. If your cat does not initially take to the the freeze-dried food you can instead slowly start incorporating it into their current food preference (canned or dry) and ween them onto the freeze-dried and then from there onto the raw food.
Why You Should Never Underfeed or Fast Your Cat
A good thing to keep in mind during the transition to raw food is that it is never okay to underfeed, starve, or fast your cat as an attempt to get them eating raw food. Since a cat has a fundamental and biological need to eat, digest, and process protein, any amount of time spent not doing so can cause quick and swift harm to their liver. A diagnoses of Fatty Liver Disease is common in lost or feral cats, cats refusing to eat due to illness, or an owner’s attempt to assist their cat in losing weight and is potentially and often fatal. When a cat isn’t provided enough nourishment or protein their body is no longer able to store or process fat through their liver resulting in a fat ridden and low functioning liver. Long story short – if your cat is refusing a new food you are trying to introduce, stay away from Tough Love as an attempt to get them eating it. Always keep some food on hand that you know your cat will eat in the event that they are stone-walling everything else.
Many of us are intimidated by the process and preparation of raw food in the beginning since we feel like it will be a lot more work than simply pouring food into a dish and being done with it. In an age of fast paced everything with little time to spare, adding in a new task to your routine can seem daunting. Truth be told it’s really easy! Once you have a system going for thawing out the food prior to feeding it is extremely simple and quick.
For some, one meal out of the fridge and into the bowl means one meal out of the freezer and into the fridge to thaw for the next feeding. For others who feed vacuum sealed packages of food it’s as easy as pulling a meal out 15 minutes before feeding and submerging it in warm water until it thaws. Feeding raw food will become part of your daily routine, as easy as your morning coffee or brushing your teeth!
One way or another you can make it work! Each of us have varying degrees of economical circumstances. At True Carnivores we are here to assist in tailoring a diet for your cat that will not only be extremely healthy but also within your means. We want every cat to have the opportunity to thrive on a diet that is biologically appropriate without breaking their owner’s bank, however, we do realize that raw food diets are known for being more expensive than conventional dry food. On the other hand if you are used to feeding mostly canned/wet food to your cat the price difference will be similar if not less in some cases! Let’s also consider the long term health benefits of feeding your cat raw food that can end up saving you thousands of dollars over your cat’s lifespan.
The results of feeding raw food long-term can prevent many common ailments that may leave you with hefty vet bills. All of those benefits considered some still have budgets that cannot be exceeded on a monthly basis. Don’t let this deter you from exploring the possibilities! Chat with one of us at True Carnivores and we’ll share with you all the tricks to lowering your overall feeding costs for your raw fed cat. We are able to accommodate most budgets.
Slight digestive upset during the transition period is normal. Dogs and cats are born with naturally acidic stomachs which aid in the digestion of raw meat and also kill the bad bacteria they may consume in their natural environments. Feeding a dry kibble food will reverse the acid based stomach and turn it into an an alkaline base like humans are meant to have. This isn’t the natural way for a cat or dog. Eventually this will weaken their digestive system making it difficult to process the raw meat. During the transition they may struggle to produce the extra stomach acid that is required creating digestive upset. This reaction will not last very long.
If your cat is showing signs of digestive upset during the transition (vomiting or diarrhea) there are ways to help them along. Including a digestive enzyme and/or a probiotic for the first 2 weeks or so can lessen the chance of any tummy issues along the way. Starting your cat on the enzymes and/or probiotic even before switching to raw (1-2 weeks in advance) can help prevent these problems as well. In most cases this isn’t necessary as a cat will usually adjust quite quickly once the initial transition is achieved.
You may have noticed after switching your cat to raw food that they don’t drink as much water. That is to be expected! The moisture content of raw food is so much higher than conventional dry food (even canned food) it is completely normal and safe for your cat’s water intake from their water dish to decrease noticeably. Raw food supplies your cat with much of the moisture that keeps them hydrated therefore it just isn’t necessary to drink a tonne of water anymore!
One of the best side effects for us humans when we switch our cats to raw food is their smaller, firmer, and less smelly stools! Without ingredients like corn, soy, grain and other undigestible ingredients found in highly processed conventional foods, in eating a balanced raw food diet your cat is able to utilize the ingredients more efficiently in their system. Instead of eliminating a large percentage of unusable matter found in conventional foods, the vitamins and nutrients provided from raw food are being absorbed and used to build a strong immune system, digestive system, and promoting their overall health and well being resulting in smaller and firmer stools. Just another perk of being on a raw food diet!
Salmonella, e. coli, c. jejuni, l. monocytogenes, vibrio and c. bolulinum are among some of the known bad bacteria that can cause food borne illness in humans from eating undercooked meat and seafood so it is common for us to wonder “can my cat also be effected by these?” Although there are preventative measures taken to ensure fresh and clean meat there is a small chance that these bacteria could be living on the raw meat that you are buying. Did you know that highly processed conventional dry food also runs the risk of fostering these bacteria as well?
There are indeed recorded incidences of pets falling ill from bacteria found in food but what we may not be taking into consideration is their diet at the time. Were they on a highly processed conventional dry food diet? A cat who isn’t on raw food does not have the stomach acids necessary to eradicate harsh bacteria like the ones mentioned above when a cat who has been eating a raw food diet does. On a kibble diet a cat’s stomach acids are suppressed significantly compared to that of a raw fed cat and their immune system is often not strong enough to go up against these powerful bacteria. Once a cat is on a raw food diet and their gut flora has been re-established, their immune system is in check, and they are in overall good health, these bacteria will not be a realistic threat to the cat anymore.
Interesting fact: a cat’s intestinal tract is a mere 2 1/2 times the length of their body as opposed to a human’s that can reach up to 8 metres long! This means that anything entering a cat’s stomach is therefor rid much faster than that of a human so they are far less likely to become ill as bacteria passes through their intestines. That mixed with the high acidity of a raw fed cat’s stomach it’s barely a threat for bad bacteria thriving at all!
Keep in mind that proper food safe procedures such as washing your cat’s dish between feedings as well as the area around their eating place and storing the raw meat properly before feeding is necessary to ensure bacteria growth is kept to a minimum.
Your Own Safety
Even though us raw food advocates do not worry very much about these bacteria having repercussions on our cats’s health, we must be aware of the effect of the bacteria on ourselves. Since we do not have the same highly acidic stomach as a raw fed cat we can become very ill from the aforementioned bacteria. Always follow food safe guidelines when handing raw food and wash your hands and the area used to prepare your cat’s meal afterwards.
Getting Your Cat To Eat Healthier Food