Chew on This!
Published on Sunday, July 12, 2009 12:00 PM
Written by Margaret Gates
I feed my cats a combination of raw foods, including homemade ground chicken, farm raised commercial rabbit and turkey (ground meat/bone/organs, to which I add supplements), commercial whole carcass ground rabbit (with fur!), commercial "complete" rabbit patties, and whole chicken wings. I want to feed a variety, so that over time, I am sure they get all the nutrients they need.
But nutrients aren't the only thing cats need from food. A mostly ground diet — while accomplishing my goals nutritionally — isn't enough. Cats need to chew. Cats' teeth are designed to rip and tear. They need to exercise their jaws and those jaw muscles. Chewing on meaty bones, such as the chicken wings I give them, is also a cat's natural toothbrush, and will help keep their teeth healthy and clean. Dental health is partly genetic, so I need to do everything I can to help them, in case they have the bad luck of being more prone to dental problems.
Contrary to popular belief, it's not "natural" for old cats to lose their teeth. Twenty year old cats really should have all their teeth. Look at wild cats. Do you ever hear of wild tigers or lions having their teeth fall out from gum disease? They do lots of chewing and gnawing, ripping and tearing. Eating whole prey — bones and fur and all — helps keep their teeth clean.
I admit, not all of my cats will eat meaty bones. It's something I'm working on. So, when I make my homemade food, I always take the time to add meat chunks to the mix. This helps give their jaws a bit of a workout, and so far all
of them will eat the chunks. The lack of chunks is about my only complaint about commercial raw food. The good thing is, it's easy to remedy! Be sure to add chunks if you make your own, or add some chicken chunks to commercially ground product when you add the supplements. You can always have some cut up chicken frozen in small portions in a baggie to add to a meal; just thaw in a bowl of warm water. It doesn't matter if you're mixing different kinds of meat — your cat won't care! If your cat isn't used to eating chunks, start with small pieces and gradually work up to larger sizes as your cat gets the hang of it. You want to see your cat using her side teeth!
Margaret Gates is the founder the Feline Nutrition Foundation.