Answers
Whether you are new to the idea of feeding raw meat diets or have been feeding raw diets for years, you've got questions. Feline Nutrition members and visitors to the website have asked us some great ones over the years. When we get asked a good question, we post the answer here to help everyone. From practical to esoteric and from basic to advanced, we find the right person to answer.
 
There are many reasons that people decide to question what they have been feeding their feline family member. Too often, it is because a health issue has arisen and diet becomes a major factor. Many people become aware of the questionable ingredients in highly processed pet foods and are looking for a better way. People hear about raw meat diets from their friends that are already feeding bio-appropriate diets. Almost everyone that switches their cats ends up becoming a bit of an advocate. It's hard not to after witnessing all of the benefits.
 
We encourage readers to send us questions. Your questions help us to learn what issues concern both new and experienced raw feeders. Beginners especially can feel overwhelmed as they adjust to thinking about cat food in a whole new light. We hear time and again from beginners that they spend considerable time researching diet before they decide to make the switch. We see people duplicating the same effort over and over again. We make learning about feline nutrition easier by putting a wealth of information in one place.
 
 Answers: What Exactly is an 'Obligate Carnivore?'
I have started my cat Tedders on a raw meat diet and I've seen a lot of improvement in his health and energy levels. When I was investigating what I should be feeding him, I kept seeing cats described as obligate carnivores. What exactly is an obligate carnivore and how is it different from a regular carnivore? Are there other obligate carnivores besides cats?
People refer to cats as obligate carnivores when they are trying to emphasize the fact that cats are a little different than many other meat-eating predators. Continued
 
 Answers: Why Won't My Cat Eat?
I have a ten-year-old cat who seems to be very healthy. But, just yesterday she refused her food. What can cause a cat to lose her appetite? Should I be worried that there's a problem?
 
A cat may choose not to eat for many different reasons: nausea, pain, a mechanical obstruction, an inability to smell the food, a foreign substance such as a medication or a supplement in the food, a sudden change of diet or the cat is focused on another physiologic process, such as breathing. Continued
 
 Answers: Who Were Pottenger's Cats and Do They Matter?
I am new to the idea of feeding raw meat diets to cats, so I have been trying to learn as much as I can on the subject. I have seen references to a study done a long time ago by a Dr Pottenger on raw diets for cats. Is this study still useful?
 
If you are reading up on raw meat diets for cats, at some point the name Pottenger will come up. The Pottenger studies done in the 1930s are sometimes cited as proof that a raw meat diet is superior to a cooked meat diet. Continued
 
 Answers: To Grind or Not To Grind?
Being new to feeding raw meat diets, I have noticed that some people say you should feed meats whole and some say that you should grind it up. Why are raw diets most often fed as ground meat diets? Surely cats can eat whole meats because that's what they would get in the wild when they eat prey animals.
 
We get asked with some frequency why raw meat diets should be ground. The answer is: they don't have to be. There are different ways to feed a raw meat diet. Continued
 
 Answers: What Dry Food Does to Your Cat's Teeth
Being new to feeding raw meat diets, I have noticed that some people say you should feed meats whole and some say that you should grind it up. Why are raw diets most often fed as ground meat diets? Surely cats can eat whole meats because that's what they would get in the wild when they eat prey animals.
 
We get asked with some frequency why raw meat diets should be ground. The answer is: they don't have to be. There are different ways to feed a raw meat diet. Continued
 
 Answers: What Dry Food Does to Your Cat's Fur
My cat is a two year old, short-hair tabby and he excessively sheds all of the time. I took him to the vet and after several tests the doctor says he is completely normal. This is bittersweet to me because I'm happy he's a healthy cat, but worried that he sheds so much. He is eating only a premium brand of dry food the vet recommended. Why does he shed so much?
 
I think this is one of the most common questions vets get asked about in daily practice. The process by which cats change or renew their coat is called shedding and is a continuous and natural process in a cat's life. Continued
 
 Answers: What Dry Food Does to Your Cat's Pee
I've been feeding my cat premium dry food all of his life, as our vet recommended. He is now 15 months old and, all of a sudden, he developed urinary blockage. After a very painful and costly procedure that included an IV catheter, blood work, anesthesia, urethral catheterization, bladder lavage and pain medication, he finally recovered and got back to normal life. The vet recommended that I now feed him a dry kibble prescription diet. I'm very confused right now because I found out that dry food can lead to urinary problems. Is this correct? Please help. Continued
 
 Answers: What Dry Food Does to Your Cat's Gut
I want to switch my cat over to a raw meat diet, but, in the meantime I'm still feeding her dry food. I notice she throws it up pretty often, almost always soon after eating it. What is it about dry food that makes cats throw it up? The barf looks almost the same as when it went in!
 
"Why did my cat throw up?" is one of the most common questions vets get asked. Vomit is the first defense mechanism by which cats protect themselves from the absorption of substances that could harm them. Continued
 
 Raw Food Essentials and Fun Stuff, Too!
The Feline Nutrition Foundation is dedicated to educating people about the benefits of feeding their cats the right kind of diet. We want science-backed information to be freely available to everyone. That's a core part of our mission. We emphasize the freely part. Membership is free, all the information we offer is free and we don't have ads cluttering up the site. Everyone associated with our education and advocacy work is a volunteer. We are passionate about helping cats. But, passion doesn't pay the bills. Continued
 
Answers: One More Reason to Ditch Dry Food
I'm new to cat ownership. Recently I adopted two orphan kittens from a local shelter. I took them in for a complete check-up. The veterinarian encouraged me to feed my cats a raw meat diet because of the possibility that dry kibble may contain a substance called aflatoxin, which could be harmful to my kitties. Can you explain to me what aflatoxins are?
The information this doctor gave to you is correct and it demonstrates she is very concerned about the health of your kittens. Continued
 
Answers: Do Cats Need Dietary Fiber?
Do cats need fiber in their diet? Being strict meat-eaters, how would they get fiber in their natural diet, since they wouldn't be eating plant material?
 
Dietary fiber is the indigestible portion of food derived from plants.¹ There are different types of plant-based fiber. There are soluble and insoluble fibers as well as rapidly fermentable and slowly fermentable fibers. Soluble fibers are also rapidly fermentable. These fibers, which include pectins and gums, can act like a gel and draw water into the colon. Continued
 
Answers: Phosphorus Can Be Key for Kidneys
I have a cat with kidney disease and I have heard that reducing phosphorus intake is important for cats with kidney problems. Is it safe to feed a cat with chronic kidney disease a raw meat diet? Doesn't it have too much phosphorus? My cat hates the prescription diet and I am looking for an alternative for him.
 
Dietary management is important for cats with kidney disease, and there are three main aspects to this. Number one is water intake. Cats with chronic kidney disease are more likely to become dehydrated due to the reduced ability of the kidneys to conserve water by concentrating urine. Continued
 
Answers: In a Bind over Phosphorus
My cat is in the early stages of kidney disease. My vet said he wanted to reduce her phosphorus intake. Since I don't like the prescription diets and my cat, who eats a raw meat diet, wouldn't touch them anyway, what are my options to accomplish a reduced phosphorus diet?
 
Phosphorous is present in most foods, but meat and dairy tend to have the most. When serial blood testing reveals that a cat has declining kidney function, called renal insufficiency, phosphorous should be somewhat restricted to decrease the risk of one of the major long term effects of kidney insufficiency, secondary hyperparathyroidism. Continued
 
Answers: Let's Talk About Cat Barf
My raw fed cats sometimes barf up the food they just ate. It happens with different kinds of meat, so I don't think it's a particular food. Why do they do this and is there anything I can do to stop it? I have also caught the cats eating what's barfed up!
 
Many people may confuse vomiting, commonly referred to as barfing, with regurgitation. From your question it sounds as if your cat may actually be regurgitating rather than vomiting. Vomiting is actually a lot more common in cats than regurgitation in my opinion. Continued
 
 Answers: Making Meals Kitty-Sized
I just transitioned my cat from dry food to a raw meat diet. Since she is now fed meals instead of just eating whatever she wants out of the never-ending bowl of kibble, I realize I don't know how much food to give her! Help!
 
We get asked this question a lot. There is no set amount, but there are basic guidelines as to how much to feed. How much food your cat needs is going to depend on a lot of things: age, activity level, general health, genetics and the actual composition of the food. Continued
 
 Answers: Raw Diets and Cats, What About Eating Bones?
I am new to feeding raw diets and I still feel a little uneasy giving my cat meat with bones. Some of the food I feed her is ground, so the bones are in the mix. But, I have been told it is good for cat's dental health to eat meat pieces with bones in them. What should I feed her? What's safe to give her? Also, why do you recommend feeding bones over just using a calcium supplement?
Cats are obligate carnivores. Cats living in the wild chase and kill small prey such as rodents, mice, squirrels, rabbits, reptiles, amphibians, birds, insects, and small fish. Continued
 
 Answers: Getting Kitty to Like Chunky
Question: I recently adopted two kittens raised on raw food, and switched my adult cat, too. They seem to like it, but will not eat the chunks. I was wondering, do you think it is okay to just make all ground for now and start adding small chunks? Also, I remember reading somewhere that some people freeze salmon or tuna cubes for them to gnaw on. Do you think this is a good idea?
It's great that all of your cats are on a raw diet! Getting cats that are not used to chunks to eat them can be challenging. Continued
 
Answers: Are Exotic Meats Nutritious or a Novelty?
I understand that cats need to eat a variety of different meats when being fed a raw diet. Mine currently eat chicken, turkey, rabbit and pork. I have noticed that a few places are offering what I think of as very unusual meats, such as ostrich, emu, kangaroo, yak, llama, elk and even muskrat. Are these more exotic meats okay to add to their diet? Or are they more of a novelty that appeals to humans?
Great question. A variety of meats is crucial to a raw diet. The simplest way to think of it is that each animal consumed by your cat has a different nutrient profile, dependent on what that animal has consumed in its lifetime. Continued
 
Answers: Raw Diets and the Outdoors, What About Worms?
My cat is fed a raw diet that includes chicken, turkey, rabbit and sometimes a little beef. She is also allowed outside and will catch and eat mice and occasionally other small rodents. Could she get worms from this wild prey? If she can, how often should we get her checked for worms?
 
Unfortunately, eating wild prey can result in your cat getting internal parasites such as roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, trichinella, coccidia, or being exposed to protozoa, bacteria and viruses. Continued
 
Answers: Take a Deep Breath and Cut the Mouse in Half
I have two new kittens and I want to add whole prey foods to their diet. I purchased some frozen mice, which I thawed out and gave to them.
 
They went wild over the mice, but only played with them. How do I get the kittens to take the next step and actually eat the mice?
 
I do have an answer for you, but you're probably not going to like it. Kittens, like many predatory animals, have to be taught to hunt, kill and eat their prey. They know some of it by instinct, as demonstrated by your kittens. Continued
 
Answers: The Stomach Contents of Prey
I've read that cats get nutrients and roughage from the stomach contents of their prey. But, I have also read that cats will avoid eating the stomach and intestines of larger prey, such as rabbits. Do cats benefit from eating the stomach contents of small prey such as mice? If so, should something be supplemented in raw food to make they are getting everything they need?
Cats tend to consume the whole of a small prey animal like a mouse, with its tiny amount of fermented stomach content. Continued
 
Answers: Homemade Cat Food, A Balancing Act
I am confused about supplements. I make homemade raw cat food and I noticed that the recipe I use does not call for some of the vitamins, such as iron, zinc, and folic acid that are included in some prepared premixes. Is this a problem? How can I be sure my recipe won't be vitamin deficient?
 
If you have ever been interested in nutritional science, I am sure you have come across the term "balanced diet." But what does it actually mean? Continued
 
Answers: Vitamin E, as a Liquid or in Powder?
I feed my cats a ground raw meat diet that I add supplements to. From what I have researched, liquid vitamin E is more easily assimilated into the body than the dry form. I was wondering why you suggest vitamin E in dry form for making the homemade feline raw meat diet?
 
First, some background on vitamin E. While the term vitamin E sounds pretty straightforward, it is actually a quite complicated and often confusing subject. First of all, it is important to realize that vitamin E is not one single substance, but a group of fat soluble compounds known as the tocopherols. Continued
 
Answers: Lysine and Raw Meat Diets
What is lysine? I have a friend who gives it to her cat as a treatment for herpes, but should it be supplemented in every cat's diet?
 
Lysine is an essential amino acid for cats. This means that the cat's body cannot synthesize or make this amino acid so it must be consumed in the diet. Lysine is present in all meats, but fish contain higher amounts than other types of meat. For many years in human medicine lysine has been used to help suppress herpes flare ups and several studies exist to support this.¹ Continued
 
Answers: Flaxseed Oil for Kitty?
I know cats need omega-3 fatty acids, as we humans do. I take flaxseed oil supplements myself for the fatty acids they contain. Can I give flaxseed oil to my cats?
 
The quick answer is yes, but it's not a good idea. Fatty acids are one of the most common supplements given to cats and dogs. Omega-3 fatty acids tend to reduce inflammation, while omega-6 fatty acids tend to increase inflammation.¹ There are also omega-7 and omega-9 fatty acids, but, they are not considered essential, at least for humans. Continued
 
Answers: Thiamine in a Raw Meat Diet
There have been recent recalls of thiamine-deficient canned cat food. Is a raw meat diet safe from being thiamine deficient since it's not cooked?
 
In the past five years, there have been many recalls of commercial pet foods for various reasons. Five of these recalls have been related to the diets being deficient in thiamine, also known as vitamin B1. At least three of these recalls involved canned food.¹ None of these diets have been raw commercial diets. Thiamine is a water soluble B vitamin important for helping the body to utilize carbohydrates as energy through a process called the TCA cycle. Continued
 
Answers: Plant vs. Meat – The Protein Feud
I have read that plant proteins are inferior for cats, that they need meat protein. What's the difference? Why does it matter where the protein came from?
 
Not all proteins are equal. Proteins are made up of amino acid chains and there are a myriad of different combinations that serve many functions in the body. Proteins are structural and tissue components in the body, enzymes and antibodies and serve messenger and transport functions. Ingested proteins will vary considerably in how well they are utilised by the body. Continued
 
Answers: Kitty That Only Wants Fish
My cat only wants to eat fish! Can I feed her a diet that is mostly fish or should I try to limit how often I feed it?
 
Fish contains thiaminase, an enzyme that will destroy thiamine, which is vitamin B1. Thiamine deficiency causes severe neurological symptoms and can be fatal. Cats have a high requirement for B vitamins - a continual dietary source is required to prevent deficiency. It is very rare in cats consuming their natural diet, as B vitamins are plentiful in animal tissues. Continued
 
 Answers: Is It Okay for My Cat to Have Milk?
My cat absolutely loves milk. If I have cereal, she won't leave me alone! I worry about letting her have milk though, as I've been told that adult cats are lactose intolerant and milk could give her diarrhea. How much can I safely let her have? Would lactose-free milk be safer to give her?
 
Not all adult cats are lactose intolerant, but many are. Lactose intolerant cats may vomit, become gassy or "gurgly," have soft stool or even outright diarrhea after ingesting milk. If a cat enjoys milk and suffers none of these side-effects from it, then I consider it a healthful treat. Continued
 
Answers: Feed My Cat a Raw Egg Yolk?
All the raw diet recipes for cats I see contain raw egg yolks. What do egg yolks contribute to a cat's diet? My cat loves to eat them, is it all right to give her a whole raw yolk occasionally? Is there really a difference between regular, organic and free-range eggs?
 
Egg yolks contain many nutrients as can be seen in Table 1.¹ They are an excellent source of protein. One egg yolk provides 21% of a cat's recommended daily intake of this nutrient. Continued
 
Answers: How Does Toxoplasmosis Affect Cats?
My cat occasionally eats mice she catches outdoors, so I worry that she might be exposed to toxoplasmosis. I know about the dangers to humans from toxoplasmosis, but is it dangerous to my cat too? Would I even be able to tell if she got it?
 
Wild and domestic felines are the only definitive hosts for the toxoplasmosis parasite. Both phases of toxoplasma gondii, sexual and asexual, occur in cats and that's the reason why felines are the main reservoir of the disease. The rest of the non-feline, warm blooded animals are known as intermediate hosts. Continued
 
Answers: Can Cats Get 'Cat Scratch Fever?'
My vet suggested my cat have a test for Bartonella infection. I thought that cats didn't experience symptoms from infection with this bacterium, that it was only people that had to worry about becoming infected. Can my cat get sick from this bacterium?
 
Regarding cat health there are certainly lots of conditions which are not directly food related that worry most dedicated cat owners. One of the diseases I am most frequently asked about is bartonellosis. Bartonella species are very small intracellular bacteria that can survive and replicate within erythrocytes.¹ Continued
 
Answers: Raw Diet for My Cat's Mystery Allergy?
My vet told me that my cat is showing allergic symptoms, but he can't tell me what she is allergic to. We don't know if it is environmental or a food allergy. A friend told me that feeding a raw meat diet could help. How would a raw diet be beneficial if we haven't figured out what is causing the allergy?
 
Our aim is to rebalance the immune system by switching off the cat's tendency to "overreact." Cats should be able to tolerate pollens, grasses, fleas and dust mites. Continued
 
Answers: Gastric Acidity – What, How and Why?
I am new to feeding raw diets. I keep reading that one of the things that makes cats different from many other mammals is their highly acidic digestive systems. Why is having an acidic stomach important for cats? How does it help them?
 
Cats need a highly acidic stomach in order to properly digest their food. But, the carbohydrates in many processed foods make the stomach less acidic. Meat protein stimulates stomach acidity by triggering the production of hydrochloric acid in acid-secreting cells within the stomach. Continued
 
Answers: Urine Ph, Why It Matters
I hear a lot of talk about a cat's diet and how it affects urine pH levels and I'm getting very confused. I read that a cat's urine is naturally acidic and that some foods can cause alkaline urine, which is bad for a cat. Can you explain why the urine pH is important and what foods keep it the correct range?
 
"Nature knows" reads an old saying. Everything she does has a purpose or an intention. When cats consume what nature intended for them, all of their internal organs stay healthy. Continued
 
Answers: Do Raw Diets Affect Blood Test Results?
My cat used to be fed a dry kibble diet. I've been feeding her a raw meat diet for the past six months and I'm very happy with the results. She is going in for her annual check-up soon. Will her new diet cause changes in her blood work?
 
Yes, there can be slight changes in some of the blood work values because of the switch to a high-protein, very low or non-carbohydrate diet. People who feed raw diets – and this applies to cats and dogs – sometimes find that their pet's BUN or blood creatinine are slightly elevated. Continued
 
Answers: Kittens Go Through Teething, Too
I am getting two new kittens. I plan on feeding them a raw meat diet, but should I wait until they are older and have their permanent teeth to start them on small meaty bone cuts? Can their baby teeth tackle chicken wings or necks?
 
We are often asked about the special dietary requirements of kittens. Ideally, your kittens should be weaned directly to a raw meat diet. We suggest that as soon as your kittens arrive they should be introduced to raw meaty bones. Continued
 
Answers: Raw Feed All of Those Kittens!
We just found out our adopted female cat is pregnant! I've been feeding her your website's Recipe: Feline Nutrition's Easy Raw Cat Food, but should I add more supplements? What should I feed the kittens when they're ready to eat solid food?
 
The kittens can have the same raw food as their mother as soon as they are interested. They eat the same food as adults. The rather new idea of "life stage" foods is a marketing gimmick. In the wild, the diet a cat eats doesn't change as she goes through life. Continued
 
Answers: Feed Raw and Dry at the Same Time?
I have been told that it's not a good idea to feed dry food at the same time as raw food, and that it's even bad to feed some kinds of canned foods in the same meal as raw foods. Why is this? Will a meal that has both processed, cooked foods and raw meats make my cat ill? What is it in some processed food that causes problems when eaten with raw foods?
 
As a raw feeding vet I am often asked how a raw diet can make such a difference to our cats' health. Continued
 
Answers: Why Did My Cat's Fur Get So Silky?
"I've been feeding my cat a raw diet for a couple of months and her coat has gotten so silky! I thought her fur was soft before, but the change has been quite noticeable. What is it in a raw diet that has such a good effect on a cat's fur?"
 
Many things contribute to a healthy coat in cats. Protein and fats both play a part, and raw meat based diets supply these in a natural form that your cat can easily digest. The change in the texture of a cat's fur can happen quite rapidly after starting a raw diet. Continued
 
Answers: Transitioning Your Finicky Kitties
Question: I have two indoor six year old cats. I have had problems with finding foods they love to eat as they are finicky eaters. I have been reading about raw diets and thought I would like to try and switch them. They are used to free feeding, and I have just realized that was also not a good idea. I am so confused.
 
The best way to transition your cats will depend mostly upon them. Some cats will eat raw foods right away, while others can be quite unwilling to eat anything other than what they are used to. You didn't mention whether they were already eating any sort of canned food. Continued
 
Answers: Goaltending the Food Bowl
I have two cats with hyperthyroidism. They are both taking methimazole, one at 5 mg and the other at 7 mg. The 7 mg cat had been on 5 mg but the vet increased it recently when her T4 came back elevated. I have been feeding them a raw diet for about 4 months now. I am feeding her 4 to 6 times a day and she's still goaltending the food bowl like never before. Is she not getting enough calories?
As I understand it, the concern you have is that the cat on the 7 mg dose of methimazole is still goaltending the food bowl. Continued
 
Answers: Who Are AAFCO and the NRC?
I see lots of references to the AAFCO nutrient requirements on cat food products. I also have seen nutritional requirements put out by the NRC and they seem to be different. What is the role of these two organizations and why are their recommendations different?
 
Most pet food labels mention the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, nutritional adequacy statement. It is considered to be one of the most important aspects of a dog or cat food label, but it is worth remembering that it is an industry standard and not a scientific standard. Continued
 
Answers: Diet and Your Cat's Cancer Risk
Does what I feed my cat have anything to do with her chances of getting cancer? My friend's cat has cancer and now I want to do absolutely everything that I can to minimize my cat's chance of getting it.
 
What you feed your cat may very well play a role in his or her risk of the development of cancer.
 
Scientists and medical doctors have been aware of the link between chronic inflammation and cancer for over 100 years.¹ Continued
 
Answers: Taking the Complexity Out of B Vitamins
I am confused about B vitamins. Which ones do I need to add to homemade raw cat food? Your recipe says to use a B-complex vitamin, but the ones I look at are all slightly different. What should I be looking for when I buy vitamin B-complex?
 
B vitamins play a very important role in every cat's life. These water-soluble nutrients are essential for cell metabolism and they are needed for proper growth, development and energy production. As they are water-soluble, they are not stored in the body but are eliminated through urine. Continued
 
Answers: The Paradox of Prescription Diets
My cat is two years old. I adopted him as a kitten when he was just three months old. Since then, he's been eating only a veterinarian recommended diet. When he reached his first year of life he began having urinary issues that finally led him to a blockage. After a long, painful and costly recovery my vet recommended a prescription diet only, for the rest of his life. He was doing fine and seemed to enjoy his new dry food. Four months later he relapsed and I had to take him to the emergency vet. I'm afraid this is going to happen again. Continued