Raw Meat Diet vs. More Fiber
Last Updated on Sunday, March 13, 2016 06:20 PM
Published on Sunday, November 07, 2010 12:15 PM
Written by Andrea Tasi, VMD
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 foods. Cats evolved as meat-eating predators. Their anatomy and physiology are all designed to run on a meat-based diet, not grains, not vegetables. They also were not built to run on cooked meat, as no cat that I know has ever built a campfire and cooked their mouse over it!
Therefore, it makes sense that their gastrointestinal troubles often respond positively to removing things that weren't in their ancestral diet. Remove the grains, remove the vegetables, remove the cooked/processed ingredients and nearly every chronic diarrhea cat I have worked with either improves significantly or resolves completely. Each case is different, but I have seen a cat that had diarrhea for six years make a formed stool within two days of being put on a raw rabbit diet.
I don't see the recommendations you have been given as opposites, but as looking at the problem in two completely different ways. Adding fiber to a highly processed, grain-containing diet might firm up the stools a bit, but would be unlikely to have as profound an effect as putting "the right fuel" in the tank with a raw meat based, grain-free and vegetable-free diet.
Bear with me for one further analogy. Imagine if a person went to the doctor and said "I have chronic diarrhea. Oh, and by the way, I eat nothing but TV dinners and potato chips." The doctor could recommend a fiber supplement and maybe help the patient a little bit. Or the doctor could say: "Let's see what happens if you eat less processed food and instead eat more fresh, whole foods," and really help that person to be healthier overall. This is how I think of most dry and canned foods, sort of like TV dinners and potato chips.
For cats with chronic diarrhea, the meat source that I have found that works best is rabbit. The cats usually like it and it sits well with them. If a raw meat diet is not an option, then a grain-free, low-vegetable or no-vegetable canned rabbit based diet would be my second choice.
You didn't mention how old your cat is and what your vet did to evaluate the diarrhea. There are a number of tests that I feel are important in cats with chronic diarrhea: a fecal sample to check for parasites, a blood panel that includes a thyroid hormone level T4
on any cat over seven years of age and possibly further tests if the cat is losing weight, not feeling well or having frequent vomiting in addition to other symptoms.
As always, be sure to bring these issues up with your own veterinarian and keep an eye on your cat for any additional symptoms.
Note: Feline Nutrition provides feline health and nutrition information as a public service. Diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions should always be in consultation with your own veterinarian. Feline Nutrition disclaims all warranties and liability related to the veterinary advice and information provided on this site.
Andrea Tasi, VMD is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and has been in exclusive feline practice since 1991.