My, What Nice Teeth You Have...

My, What Nice Teeth You Have...

One of the things that critics of raw meat diets for cats point out is that there isn't much scientific evidence to back it up. I agree, there isn't. Scientific studies cost money and almost all nutrition research is funded by the big pet food companies. You can probably see already where the problem is. Why would they fund research that will show their product to be inferior to a raw, species-appropriate diet? Well, they wouldn't. So, raw diets get very little scientific study. Science supports this model of feeding, but does so in an oblique way, due to little direct research.
 
What do we look to then? We look to anecdotal evidence. Saying that likely brought up negative connotations in your mind. People use that term disparagingly, to mock the evidence and to make it look less real. That's not how anecdotal evidence works. Anecdotal evidence is where science starts. People observe a phenomenon in the real world, usually over and over again, and then pursue a scientific inquiry into it. For raw meat diets for cats, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. The science will eventually catch up.
 
I have my own anecdotal evidence. If you have fed raw diets for any length of time yourself, you probably do, too. One of the things we recommend, especially if you feed a ground diet, is to also feed meat chunks and raw meaty bones. This is for your cat's dental health and for psychological stimulation. Getting your cat to really use those side teeth for slicing through skin, sinew and bone is what keeps the teeth clean and the gums stimulated. It's nature's toothbrush for cats.
 
In our household, we have ten raw fed cats. All of them will happily eat meat chunks. But, only four will tackle meaty bones and only two of them will really chow down on bones. Thodin, a beautiful orange female, is our champion raw meaty bones enthusiast. Give her a chicken drumstick and later you will find only a small piece of bone left. She crunches through it with gusto! Prince comes in second and will also go after large drumsticks with no hesitation. The other two will eat cuts with bone, but will usually leave more of the larger bone untouched.
 
All four of them have been raw meaty bone eaters for nine years. They all have beautiful mouths. Clean teeth and healthy gums. None of them has ever had a dental. In fact, none of our ten cats has ever needed a dental cleaning. I have never brushed their teeth. I hear from people frequently who have four or five year old cats that need to go under sedation to get a dental done. I want to yell "It doesn't have to be this way!" Besides the risks of sedation, there is also the expense – a cleaning for your cat can cost more than a cleaning for yourself. A cat fed the wrong foods will also likely need multiple dentals in its life and the risk of sedation increases with age.
 
Take a look at the picture of Thodin's teeth. This is my anecdotal evidence. Her teeth have no calculus build-up and her gums are not inflamed. This is pretty impressive for a ten year old cat. If all cats ate the way she does, having a cat that needed a dental cleaning would be very rare.
 
I consider the past nine years that I have been feeding a raw meat diet to my cats to be an informal study. I have no control group as I would never consider feeding any of my cats a bad diet just to compare. But, I do observe that the cats that will eat the bone-in meaty cuts have the best mouths. The others are good, just not quite as good as the bone-eaters. All ten of our cats are nine or ten years old, so my study has had a good, long run. No one could say I was jumping to premature conclusions. I can add the results I see in our cats to the ever-growing body of anecdotal evidence for the benefits of feeding raw meat diets. Having a healthy mouth contributes to a cat's overall health in major ways. Dental health is more important than just the mouth itself, as infections in the mouth can affect the entire body, including the kidneys and liver. Take your cat's dental health seriously!
 
For our clowder, I am working to get all of them onto bone-in meats. For the health benefits, yes, but also for the other thing I see when Thodin eats a drumstick. She so obviously is really enjoying herself. She's having fun! My kitties deserve to have fun. Don't yours?
 
Margaret Gates is the founder of Feline Nutrition and the Feline Nutrition Foundation.
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