What is wrong with a raw cat food diet?

This page explains what is wrong with a raw, cat food diet, which is growing in popularity. There are many potential benefits for a cat on a raw diet, but this page deals with the problems and detriments.

Raw food diet for cats

Raw food diet for cats. Photo by Hotash


Note: raw meat diets are usually raw meat, bones, some vegetable material and supplements such as essential taurine mixed in. In zoos, it could mean the carcass of an animal.


 There are numerous serious problems….(Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook)

The Problems

  1. It is difficult to achieve a correct nutritional balance. Apparently, even some well known commercial raw food recipes have been found to have imbalances when compared to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards. (Comment: how good is the AAFCO standard?)
  2. Handling of raw meat is tricky because of the risk of bacterial diseases (i.e. salmonella).
  3. Excellent hygiene required and storage methods.
  4. Potential for parasites in raw meat (toxoplasmosis).
  5. Should contain “organ meats” too as cats eat these when eating prey.
  6. Bones can splinter that can harm. The sort of bones in the meat provided will not be the same as the small bones of mice and birds.
  7. A need to consult with a veterinary nutritionist for safety – do people have the time and commitment?

Essentially, the argument against a raw cat food diet is that the benefits of a raw diet are outweighed or equaled by the downsides associated with its preparation and use.

{Side Note: it is said that vets like to support commercial cat food because they sell it – i.e. Hill’s Science Diet®.}

Also there is some doubt as to whether there really are the benefits as stated.

“a natural diet may not always be as healthy as imagined, and that even measuring nutrient values may not predict how a diet will perform after being fed for many months.”…(Role of Diet in the Health of the Feline Intestinal Tract and in Inflammatory Bowel Disease — Winn Feline Foundation)

Set against that, common sense dictates that a diet that closely matches a natural diet should be the best. Commercial wet and dry cat food can be far removed from “natural” food with grains, and high level of carbohydrates, for example.

Zoos

What do zoos do? Apparently, in Europe raw feeding is commonplace. It provides mental stimulation for the cats as well as health benefits including better teeth and gums.

In America, it is less well accepted due to possible dental problems, foreign bodies obstructing airways, perforated intestines from bone fragments and poorly prepared food that is contaminated.

It appears that some zoo keepers believe that they can improve on nature. I am not saying they can’t, but I personally doubt it.

Preparation/processing

It seems that in the preparation and processing of a raw food diet the nutritional balance can be upset making it difficult get it right. For example, in the Winn Feline Foundation study it was thought that (a) bacteria in the whole ground rabbit diet and (b) the grinding down of the whole rabbit reduced the taurine content leading to heart problems in the cats.

Bones – Dental Health versus Internal Injury

Chewing bones is meant to improve the teeth and gums – better oral hygiene. Chewing bones can fracture a tooth and the shards can perforate the intestine.

The great problem under this topic is that there isn’t certainty either way. The situation is confused, it seems to me. This is a barrier to using a raw food diet for domestic cats.

Bacteria and Parasites in Raw Meat

Handling raw meat requires knowledge and it is probably fair to say that although lots of people will have that knowledge, many won’t. This is a barrier to preparing and feeding a raw cat food diet.

Bacteria and parasites are killed in the process of making commercial cat food due to the high temperatures used.

However, commercially prepared raw diets for pets now, sometimes, undergo high pressure pasteurization, which kills bacteria.

Some of the bugs that might be in raw meat are:

  • Salmonella
  • Escherichia coli
  • Clostridium
  • Campylobacter

Will Your Cat Eat It?

PoC has tested this on one occasion. Dorothy ran a test on Nature’s Variety Instinct Frozen Raw Food. Her cats did not like it. There you are; something else that might be wrong with a raw cat food diet. Domestic cats might be too used to commercial cat food.

Conclusion

My personal view, in answering the question I have posed in the title, is that there are real downsides to feeding a raw food diet to your cat. Can they be overcome and do these negatives outweigh the positives which to some commentators are not clear cut?

Links

Click this for some PoC links on this subject.

Facebook Discussion

Comments

What is wrong with a raw cat food diet? — 4 Comments

  1. Last time were at our vets we discussed our Jozef’s sensitive tummy and asked if a raw food diet was better for cats. Kathryn, the vet we now trust, who doesn’t push unnecessary tests or the sale of the foods the practice sells, was against it because of all the reasons you have given Michael and also that our cats at 11 years of age probably wouldn’t enjoy it, might even refuse to eat it.
    She recommended for Jozef, James Wellbeloved hypoallergenic biscuits to supplement his wet food diet, both he and Walter love the turkey and rice senior flavour we can buy at Pets at Home and Jozef has had no tummy troubles since.
    Unfortunately James Wellbeloved isn’t available in the USA, I recently asked them on behalf of a friend over there.

    • Your response to Jozef’s tummy problem sounds very sensible and it worked. It is a matter balancing pros and cons and also finding a practical solution. You found one. Well done.

  2. Feeding a cat raw food is a lot different to them catching and eating their warm blooded prey raw,reading all the againsts I would never attempt to feed mine that way.

  3. Red used to like raw beef. It was meat I was about to cook for myself and he loved it so I would give him as much as he wanted. Apparently a well managed raw diet makes their fur more healthy and full than you ever thought possible and it’s very noticeable. I know quite a number of raw food feeders who work very hard to supply a raw diet safely and it’s apparently remarkable how good the effect it has is. But these people are pro’s – most of them foster parents and people dedicated to cats during all of every day so they have the time and know how and system in place which I think is really the best a cat can get. They offer the occasional dry treats and only if a cat becomes ill and doesn’t want to eat do they offer ‘junk food’ – i.e.: regular big brand carcinogenic preservative filled but probably very tasty to the cats – food. I find that with wet commercial food you basically can’t avoid meat bi-products unless you know some special source for getting good quality wet foods. The average person like myself with a job and not the time to be incredibly accurate with raw food can’t afford to feed it regularly. If I buy meat for humans at the supermarket and have just opened it then I think it’s great if they will eat some, I would encourage it. Full time raw diet feeders know what to add to supplement the raw meat in order to create a balanced diet. One person I know in particular knows as much as is humanly possible and has years of experience with it. What she does is really ideal in my opinion but she is a pro. A full time foster carer etc etc. She works with cats every day. For the rest of us it’s not ideal but better to play safe.

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