What to feed your cat can be one of the most important decisions you make in the health and well-being of your feline family member. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they are especially adapted to a diet consisting of the flesh of other creatures. They are uniquely equipped to eat a diet of small prey and they evolved to eat this diet raw.
Cats have no dietary requirement for carbohydrates. Period. They evolved to get almost all of their fluid intake from the food they eat. A mouse, a typical prey food, is about 70% water. Dry kibble food contains far too much carbohydrates and far too little moisture to be an appropriate food for cats.
There are many ways to feed a bio-appropriate raw diet to your cat. You can make your own ground raw meat diets at home or buy commercially ground meat/bone/organ mixes especially made for pets. You can buy commercially prepared complete diets that are available frozen or dehydrated. You can feed whole meat cuts or small, whole prey foods. Many people feed a combination of some or all of these.
If you and your cats are new to raw meat diets, transitioning is the next step. Whether this is fast or slow depends on your cat's particular situation. Many cats take to a raw meat diet right away. Making the change is worth it, the benefits are tremendous for your cat and for you.
Beginner's Luck: Where Do I Start?
Congratulations on taking the first step towards feeding your cat a healthier diet. Just making the decision to change what you feed your cat can be the hardest part. For many people, realizing that a cat should be fed a diet closer to what it evolved eating is a complete shift in thinking. Frankly, it's empowering to take control of what goes into your cat. It's also a bit of a relief. No more mystery ingredients. No more worrying about what "by-products" really means. You now get to skip an entire aisle at the grocery store, well, except maybe to get the kitty litter. You'll join the ever-growing cadre of cat parents who can't believe they ever fed their cats any other way.
But, now that you've made the decision, what next? A lot depends on where...
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Just What is a Raw Meat Diet, Anyway?
All cats, small or large, are true carnivores, obligate carnivores. This means they must eat meat to survive. Cats cannot be vegetarians. Because they evolved to fill this top predator niche, their bodies are specifically geared for processing a prey-based diet. This is as true for a tiger as it is for the cat on your lap.
Raw feeding is a way to feed cats a more natural diet. By natural we mean bio-appropriate.
A diet that fits their true nutritional requirements. The benefits to your cat are enormous. And it isn't hard at all. Raw diets can be readily purchased frozen at the more enlightened pet stores, purchased online and delivered right to your door, or if you are a do-it-yourselfer, it can also be made at home. See "Recipe: Feline Nutrition's Easy Raw Cat Food
Read more: Just What is a Raw Meat Diet, Anyway?
Your Cat's Nutritional Needs: The Basics
This article discusses the basic nutritional needs of your cat. Many nutrients have been studied individually in a clinical setting — in fact, they're examined more individually than in the food they came from. This is unfortunate because it's important to remember that the essential building blocks of health aren't isolated in nature. Whole foods contain a complex blend of synergistic compounds that work together to support optimal well-being. While that may sound complicated, it really isn't — if you simply use species-appropriate real food as the foundation for health. One of the great things about feeding our cats a well-prepared diet of real food is that it's chock-full of all the nutrients we know are important to feline health. Plus, we're also including natural nutrients that have yet to be isolated, synthesized, and added to the cans and bags of processed pet food. It's more...
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The Benefits of a Raw Meat Diet for Your Cat
Cats are predators. They evolved eating a prey based diet, and more importantly, eating that diet raw. Cooking degrades nutrients in meat, causing losses of vitamins, minerals and amino acids.¹
Meat used in highly processed pet food is cooked at high temperatures and the nutrients lost must then be added back in. This supplementation is not exact, and there are nutrient losses which aren't always replaced.
Cats in the wild eat often eat the entire prey animal if it is small and will eat nearly everything except the intestines of a larger prey animal. This includes the bones of their prey, as raw bone is highly digestible and is their primary source of calcium. Cooking bone not only reduces the nutrients available but also makes the bone...
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How to Transition Your Cat to a Raw Meat Diet
Transitioning a cat to a raw diet is something that the majority of us will have to do until the time comes when people grab a kitten from its mother's teat and start raw feeding from the beginning! But in the meantime, it's a major issue in the raw feeding movement. This step-by-step approach, and patience, will work for nearly every cat.
Kittens need no transition; they take to raw food like ducks to water. Special kitten food is not necessary. They eat the same food as adult cats, just more of it and more often. Kittens need about twice as much food per ounce of body weight as an adult. All that growing to do! Their stomachs are small, so they need to eat more often than adults, about every 4 to 6 hours. If you're getting a kitten(s), ...
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Recipe: Feline Nutrition's Easy Raw Cat Food
Making raw cat food at home isn't hard to do at all, anyone can do it. Once you make your own, you will realize that raw cat food isn't complicated. It helps to know how ground raw diets are made, because commercially made frozen foods are made in much the same way, just on a larger scale. Taking the mystery out of what you feed your cats is important. While your cats benefit from the nutritionally better food, the benefit to you in terms of peace of mind shouldn't be overlooked.
What does a homemade ground raw meat diet consist of? Most importantly, it is more than just meat. Ground raw meat diets for cats consist of meat, organs, bone, fat, egg yolks, water and supplements. All of these are necessary to make the diet balanced. The goal is to mimic the natural prey-based diet of...
Read more: Recipe: Feline Nutrition's Easy Raw Cat Food
Slimming Your Cat: What Works, What Doesn't
As in humans, obesity is a major problem in cats in this country. Unfortunately, the feline obesity epidemic appears to be getting worse, rather than better.¹ ²
Many veterinarians and cat owners who have tried traditional feline weight loss diets, generally high fiber/low fat, have found this approach frustrating, since it usually fails to achieve significant loss of weight. Another approach in treating and preventing feline overweight and obesity revolves around our understanding of basic feline nutritional needs and their feeding behavior.¹⁻⁷
The way we feed our cats and what we feed them tend to violate all principles of "ideal" feline nutrition.
Indoor cats are commonly fed energy-dense, high-carbohydrate dry foods in a free choice manner, which provides the cat with much more energy...
Read more: Slimming Your Cat: What Works, What Doesn't
"Natural" vs. "Grain-Free" Cat Food
The natural pet food sector has been recognised as a rapidly growing category of pet food. With grain-free products continuing to drive the natural category, it is worth examining the terms "natural" and "grain-free" in relation to our cat's diet.¹
The term "natural" has been defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, known as AAFCO, and requires, at minimum, that the pet food be preserved with natural preservatives. And that's it – no further definition. However, the purchaser's perception of natural focuses not only on the exclusion of preservatives, but also on the inclusion of whole ingredients, meats, fruits and vegetables, avoiding refined grains and by-products and feeding according to ancestral or instinctual nutritional philosophies.² Natural also implies no nasty...
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Don't Let Your Senior Cat Become a Skinny Old Kitty
I've received a number of inquiries both from veterinarians and cat owners asking about the daily protein requirements for cats. How about protein requirements for clinically normal geriatric cats or senior cats with a nonthyroidal illness? These are excellent questions, given the fact that all cats will need higher amounts of protein as they age to prevent a loss in lean body mass and associated muscle wasting.
The dogma that all older cats be fed reduced energy "senior" diets must be questioned based on what is now known about the increasing energy requirements and nutritional needs of older cats.¹⁻²The higher maintenance energy requirements of geriatric cats, in combination with their impaired ability to digest protein, will lead to loss of muscle mass if their overall energy and protein...
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No Bull, Taurine Is a Must for Kitty
I am sure that you have all heard about the importance of taurine in a cat's diet. Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid mostly found in muscle meat and organs like heart, kidney and liver and in seafood. In muscles, taurine gets more concentrated the harder the muscle works. Dark meat has more than light meat because it comes from parts of the body that work harder, legs as opposed to breast. Heart is another great example. Although it is termed an organ, it is really the hardest working muscle in the body and it has one of the highest concentrations of taurine. Shellfish such as mussels and clams also have a lot of taurine. They are constantly filtering and they follow the same "hard-working" scenario, concentrating taurine to a high degree in their tissues. Small amounts of taurine are found in dairy products. Plant products contain either low or...
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Don't Let Calcium/Phosphorous Ratios Scare You
It is widely known that cats have a dietary need for both calcium and phosphorous. Calcium is required by the body, not only for bones, but also for muscle control and ion balance. Phosphorous is important in the formation of bones and teeth, and also plays vital roles in cell membranes and energy processes.¹
Phosphorus is a structural part of cells; this is why meat tissue has high levels of it. Phosphorus is attracted to calcium, forming calcium phosphate, which is what gives bones and teeth their strength.
Just as important, and possibly even more so, is the ratio of calcium to phosphorous in the diet. Like big cats, the domestic cat's ancestral diet of whole prey would serve to provide the proper amounts of both of these minerals in the...
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Care to Compare? Wild vs. Domesticated Prey
Cats evolved eating wild prey animals, but now we feed them mostly domesticated and farmed meats. The differences between domesticated food animals and prey animals are especially important for raw feeders, who are trying to mimic the diet that cats evolved eating. Even if one can feed the entire domesticated animal, including the nutrient-dense parts of the prey animal, such as the blood, plasma, tongue, pituitary, adrenals, prostate, brains, eyes and testes, the nutrient content would not match the nutrient content of the wild prey. The differences would be large: domesticated animals have less protein, more fat, often with an unhealthy balance, fewer minerals and fewer antioxidants.
Pastured and free-range animals, while better than feed-lot fed animals, still have...
Read more: Care to Compare? Wild vs. Domesticated Prey
Easy Raw Diet Feeding for the Busy Person
There are now many easy raw-feeding choices for the person on-the-go. In stores and on the internet, you can purchase frozen complete diets, frozen ground meat/bone/organ mixes and pre-mixed supplements that you just add to raw meat. There are a few national brands, and many smaller, regionally available products that make it easy to feed raw. It's as simple as thawing and serving.
We discuss some specific products here, but there are many others, with more being added all the time as demand for easy-to-feed raw foods increases. Feeding complete foods is probably the most convenient, but it can be more expensive and it gives you the least control over what ingredients are used. Finding a producer whose product you trust, and who uses quality ingredients is very...
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Spooked By Salmonella: Raw Food!
You may have concerns when considering a raw meat diet for your cat. What about bones, parasites and proper nutrients? Most especially, what about pathogens such as salmonella? We have all been warned our entire lives about cooking meat thoroughly. The idea of feeding uncooked meat to our cats can seem scary at first. Isn't feeding a raw meat diet dangerous?
Not at all. People from all over the world are feeding their pets raw meat diets. The risk from pathogens and parasites is minimal if you follow safe handling procedures and are careful about sourcing the products you feed your cats, just as you would with foods intended for your own consumption. Cats eating a wild, prey-based diet routinely eat raw bone; it is a vital part of a natural diet. Cats...
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What is Arginine and Is It Essential?
I read that the amino acid arginine is as important to cats as taurine, but I have never heard of it. Is it true that a cat can get really sick from eating just one meal that has no arginine in it? If I feed a raw diet, is this an amino acid I should worry about or supplement?
Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins. There are 20 different amino acids that commonly make up proteins, 11 of which are essential for cats.¹An amino acid is considered essential if the animal either cannot make it, or make enough of it on its own, and therefore must obtain it directly from food sources. Arginine is considered an essential amino acid for most mammals, including the...
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How Many Carbs are in Canned Food?
I'm in the process of switching my cats to a raw diet. I've gotten them off dry food and I'm now giving them a grain-free canned food, but I'm confused about the carbohydrate content. None of the canned foods I look at list carbohydrates on the label, so I don't know how to compare them. Also, even though the canned food is grain-free there are vegetables in it! Isn't that just carbohydrates in a different form?
Many pet food manufacturers are catching on to the idea that people are avoiding cat foods with grain, so they are using other filler carbohydrates. While grain is especially bad for cats, sweet potatoes and peas aren't much better. Cats and carbs do not...
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How Much Heart is Too Much?
I'd like to know how much raw organic chicken heart I can feed my kitties. Five of my six cats love chicken hearts and can't get enough of them.
Can too much organ meat harm them?
While the heart is a vital organ, it is in actuality made up primarily of muscle with a small amount of fat and connective tissue. The primary nutrients, excluding water-soluble vitamins, in a typical 6 gram chicken heart can be seen in the table to the right.¹
I have not listed the amounts of water soluble vitamins such as B-vitamins and...
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Can I Use Cod Liver Oil?
I have a question about the ground raw cat food recipe in "Recipe: Feline Nutrition's Easy Raw Cat Food
." You say in it that cod liver oil should not be used. Can I ask why? I've been using salmon oil and I'm just curious why cod liver oil shouldn't be used.
Coco has been scratching excessively since starting on a raw diet. Considering all the foods she ate previously had no fish and knowing that fish can be an allergen in cats, the fish oil in the raw recipe I'm using will be the next likely suspect I investigate. If she is allergic to fish, are the fish oil capsules a problem?
Fish oils are added to raw foods for the omega-3 and...
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Can I Feed Kitten Food to an Adult Cat?
My two year old ragdoll recently started to lose weight. The vet did tests and everything came back okay, so they told me to feed her kitten food. She prefers wet food but occasionally eats dry food. I've been told it's not safe to feed an adult cat kitten food, but she seems to be doing ok on this. I would appreciate some advice.
While kitten food tends to be higher in calories, protein and fat, there is no actual danger in feeding this food to adult cats. In fact, during pregnancy and nursing, it is advised to feed the higher calorie, higher fat food to expectant and nursing mothers. The only potential danger would be obesity from over-consumption of calories and...
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Should I Add More Fiber or Switch to a Raw Diet?
My cat has been having really loose stools lately. Sometimes she goes 4 or 5 times a day, too. Her checkup at the vet didn't show anything unusual. She is eating dry food and some canned food. I was told she needed more fiber, and somebody suggested pumpkin, but then I read that a raw diet with no veggies would help. These seem to be opposites! I am so confused. Which way should I go?
Chronic diarrhea is a common problem in cats. In my experience, it often improves with the removal of highly processed foods and all grain products. I consider all commercial dry foods to be highly processed, and even canned foods are cooked at high temperatures under pressure and are therefore still very processed. Most commercial cat foods contain grains in some form as well, especially dry...
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Are Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes Needed?
I've heard it is recommended to add probiotics and digestive enzymes to cat food, especially when first transitioning from dry to raw food. Should I add these to the food when I mix up a batch or add them only when feeding each meal? I don't know if these two products are sensitive to storage and freezing.
I cannot answer this question without first addressing a deeper one: whether the addition of probiotics and digestive enzymes will actually aid in the transition to a new food. I find this recommendation on numerous websites, but what I don't find is any scientific support for it, or against it.
So, no scientific basis for a decision. Now...
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How Much Taurine Should I Add To a Raw Meat Diet?
Question: How much taurine should there be in the raw frozen diets? The brand I have says each patty contains 0.06%. Another brand I have says their chicken variety has 0.064% and the rabbit only 0.04%. Both companies claim to be providing complete and balanced diets in their raw formulas. It's so hard to know. I would really rather avoid adding supplements if I can help it.
There is no "precise" feline requirement for taurine, as many factors influence requirement levels. These include protein source, dietary fiber levels, food processing, sulfur-containing amino acid content and the metabolic needs of the individual cat.¹ Recommended ranges for an average cat fall between 35 and 250 mg a day.²The AAFCO lists .2% as the minimum for...
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Feline Nutrition: Who Bears the Responsibility?
At this point in my investigative journey to decide what to feed my cats, the commercial, processed pet-food products were definitely not coming up roses — or even catnip. But let me state for the record that I don't
think the manufacturers are purposely trying to harm our cats. I don't think there's a cigar-smoking executive sitting behind his desk (in a corner office with a big window) doing a Snidely Whiplash impression while chanting: "I'm going to hurt some kitties today," followed by evil laughter, of course. No, it's not that personal — it's just business. It's like any other industry that makes billions of dollars every year: The bottom line is the top dollar.
I'm not faulting these companies for trying to make lots...
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Pet Food and Feeding: Personal Ruminations
The big, multinational pet food manufacturers — a subsidiary of our non sustainable and increasingly toxic agribusiness industry — and still far too many veterinarians, tell people not to feed their pets human food. "Dog food is for dogs, cat food for cats — all scientifically formulated and properly balanced for health and maintenance" is the constant refrain. What goes into manufactured pet foods of the kind that concerns us here are ingredients that food scientists and engineers have put together from the byproducts of the human food and beverage industries and fast food restaurants that recycle used cooking oil and baked goods into pet food. These kinds of pet foods and pet snacks soaking in sugars, salts, and propylene glycol, are akin to the junk, convenience and fast foods that are now being recognized as causing and contributing to a host of...
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Reading a Pet Food Ingredient Label
This is where it gets tough. The current labeling system for pet foods is seriously lacking in usable information. The "guaranteed analysis" numbers that you find on a can of food simply gives a wide range of the levels of water, protein, fat, etc. that are contained in the food. You can get a rough
idea of what is in the food but, ideally, it should be mandatory to put the more accurate "as fed" values on the can. However, I do not see this happening anytime soon. This would be more along the lines of the information that we find on our own packaged foods.
Looking at the list of ingredients also gives an incomplete picture of what is actually in the food in terms of amount of each ingredient. Without knowing the actual amount of each ingredient, we have no idea of the...
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