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Back in the Good Ole Days the cat food market was not what it is today.
The market has become very commercialized in line with the profitable nature of the pet market generally. This is due to the inexorable rise in the number of pets kept by people (a testament to the benefits they bring to humans).
In the past, a lot of the time, we used to give kitchen scraps etc. to our cat. A raw food diet for a cat was more common. I’ve actually given partially cooked kidneys to a pregnant cat who visited a lot when I was living in Notting Hill Gate. She adored kidneys.
So accustomed have we become to giving a canned or a bagged diet of processed wet or dry food to our cat, we are not sure if giving raw food to our cats is a bad thing. But the bottom line is that if done properly it can only be a good thing. There are, though, things that need to be checked when providing a wholly raw diet.
A raw food diet for a cat can be given in at least two ways:
- Prey Model (simulating the wild cat’s prey)
- Homemade cat food – ground chicken for example plus additives and supplements.
There are concerned cat keepers and keepers of other companion animals who like to go back to basics and approach the wild raw food diet. The best way I think to present this is to hand over to the experts and in this case I have selected some Yahoo Groups.
One advantage of this kind of raw food diet is it helps to keep teeth healthy. They say whole food does the dental work.
“We use every kind of meat you can think of and try to feed in proportions as closely as possible to what’s in a cat’s natural prey–mostly meat, a little bit of bone and a little bit of organ (counting heart, tongue, skin and gizzard as meat rather than organ.) Repeating–nothing ground–the cats learn to eat a little bit of small bones. I have fed 3 cats this way for over 2 years (one was 9 when he started) and some on the list have done it for over 10 years. REAL simple and natural way to feed. Maybe add some Omega 3 fish oil to balance the Omega 6 overload from grain-fed store-bought meat, no other supplements needed. We wouldn’t HAVE cats today if this hadn’t worked throughout history!” –Lynda
Here are links to three Yahoo Groups concerned with prey model raw food diets. I believe that they are all USA based – the 3rd one definitely is:
- RawPaws™ Holistic Pet Care – they discuss the Quick Start™ Diet
- Prey4Pets – this is a group that is designed to promote Prey 4 Pets LLC, a company that sells raw materials for the prey model raw food diet.
- Colorado Carnivores
I have included a number of raw food diet homemade cat food recipes on this page that come from people who know and who have had success with these recipes – cat breeders. There are differing views but the underlying principles are the same. Like many people I find manufactured cat food very convenient but I have a sense of guilt sometimes because the quality does not look that good to me. Sometimes the quality is very poor.
You have to search carefully for grain free cat food. And despite a number of veterinarians trying to sell Hills Science Diet from their premises I don’t believe a purely dry cat food recipe is wise even if our cat drinks more water. Then there are mystifying ingredients such as ash in we cat food? It just doesn’t instill confidence.
In the USA manufactured cat food is better, I believe, and cheaper. If the effort can be made there is no doubt that a raw food diet is best and probably the cheapest.
Warning: We need to make sure we do things with care and include proper supplements as there are reports of cat suffering from malnutrition. Update May 22nd 2010: I am at A1 Savannahs and they feel that the best method is to feed good quality commercial food and some raw food. The argument is that it is difficult to replicate a normal prey diet when you are caring for a large number of cats. This does not undermine the general argument that a raw food diet is best, provided it mirrors the natural diet of wild cats. A1 Savannahs agree this. Update December 11th 2010: I haven’t made the point that in handling raw food there is a risk of bacterial contamination of the food unless proper procedures are followed. It is this risk that allows vets to present the argument that it is not wise for people to prepare a raw homemade diet for their cat. There is a much lower risk of bacterial contamination when dealing with commercially manufactured food.
Handling raw food – prevention of bacterial contamination1
- Thoroughly wash hands, utensils and food preparation areas before and after handling raw foods.
- Refrigerate raw foods below 40°F.
- the danger zone for bacterial growth is between 40°F – 140°F.
- When unsure throw away.
Cat breeders seem to use different methods to feed their cats but the ones who feed raw food diet report benefits to their cats’ health.
The underlying methodis meat (protein) in the form of chicken (usually), to which is added a range of supplements.
Chicken is the usual meat content of raw food diet recipes. No doubt this is because of price and its suitability for a cat that must eat flesh.
First a little video. Below are some recipes from breeders.
Mark Pennington of Mystre Bengals (located in Houston, Texas, tel 281-538-9590) uses a sophisticated blend of chicken, organ meats and beef. It is a recipe that has proved successful for many years.
Mark uses the following ratio when making raw:
» 2/3 of the total mix should be chicken, bones and all (uncooked)
» Of the 2/3 chicken, 1/3 of that should be organ meats such as chicken livers and chicken gizzards.hearts
» 1/3 of the mix should be beef, Mark uses beef stew meat from Wal-Mart
» (actual amounts /weight of each is up to you depending on how much you want to make, Mark uses 10 whole chickens, and about 6lbs of the stew meat and that makes about 8-10 gallons of mix and feeds all our cats for about 3 months)
» 2 small containers of plain yogurt, non flavored
» 2-4 jars of squash baby food
» 1 can of 100% pure pumpkin
» Kitty Bloom – Mark adds about ¼ tsp per serving (Kitty Bloom is a complete supplement containing 16 Vitamins, 10 Minerals and taurine, a proven essential ingredient in the feline diet – see more about supplements below).
Mark figures he can get about 6-8 servings out of each bag of raw we make so depending on how much you make add that much to total mix, or in each bag and mix up in there, or you can add to food daily. I’ve mentioned taurine above. Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats. Some breeders think Bengal cats need more than other cats. This spreadsheet sets recommended dosages but remember please the jury is out on amounts.
In the USA, Kitty Bloom can be ordered it from this page. I am not sure if they ship internationally.
» You can find a local retailer for Chicken Soup for the Kitten Lovers Soul here
The grinder he uses is here: Northern Industrial Electrical Meat Grinder
April 11th 2010: Update on Mark’s work
I want to thank Maryll for pointing in the roght direction for this useful update. I mention her recipe below.
Mark buys his supplies from wherever he can. On his website he features Walmart.
Mark likes to keep things simple in his raw food diet and says that the ingredients are very simple, which I like to hear as it encourages us to try it. The objective is to feed meat and not a lot of vegetable matter. He adds “squash” (this is a USA term please note) and pumpkin. The Squash is itended to replicate the stomach contents of the prey of a wildcat.
I have taken the liberty of reproducing the same photo, above, that is on Mark’s site, here for the sake of accuracy. As mentioned it is baby food squash.
The pumpkin adds fiber which equates to the fur and feathers of the prey. Mark buys 100% pure pumpkin in a can.
As mentioned Mark adds Kitty Bloom. Mark recommends this. I think he manufacturers it! But I am not sure. It contains the supplements cats need in addition to the meat and fibers.
You can buy it here: Kitty Bloom
Mark adds a quarter of teaspoon per cat per day. In the video below Mark makes 10 gallons which provides 120 bags and 12 servings per bag making: 1440 servings.
|Amount made||Bags||Servings||Amount of Kitty Bloom||Teaspoons|
|10 gallons||120||1440||3.75 cups||90|
|5 gallons||60||1220||1.87 cups||45|
|2.5 gallons||30||610||0.9 cups||22|
|Kitty Bloom — Analysis per pound|
|Vitamin A||1,000,000 IU||Folic Acid||100 mg.|
|Vitamin D3||100,000 IU||Inositol||5000 mg.|
|Vitamin E||4,000 IU||PABA||100 mg.|
|Vitamin K||350 mg.||Magnesium||.045%|
|Vitamin C||4,500 mg.||Manganese||.025%|
|Vitamin B12||8,000 mg.||Iron||.30%|
|Pantothenic Acid||4,200 mg.||Zinc||.037%|
|Choline Chloride||30,000 mg.||Cobalt||.015%|
|Thiamine (B1)||750 mg.||Potassium||.20%|
|Pyridoxine (B6)||400 mg.||Calcium||.75%|
The next video shows how he packs it:
Mark adds plain yogurt. The purpose behind this is to improve gut flora (bacteria). His cats like it so he sticks with it but recommends a probiotic acidophilus supplement. Acidophilus is a naturally occurring gut bacteria. This is good bacteria protecting the stomach from harmful microorganisms1.
As for the cenral ingredient, meat or better described as animal flesh, Mark uses cheap chicken, ground turkey, 1/3rd of the mix is organ meats (livers etc.) and 1/3rd beef stew meat. The proportions are approximate.
Mark used Ziploc double zipper freezer bags to store the finished product. Mark’s daily expenditure on cat food is 1.56 a day feeding 13 adult cats! Astonishing for me in the UK. I think I spend about that feeding 3 cats and it is commercial food, which is inferior.
Jim uses chicken necks (or thighs from Wal-Mart in the USA) or thighs if making up a smaller quantity as the central ingredient in his homemade cat food.
He grinds up a tub of meat…probably between 10 and 15 pounds (the cheap grinder mentioned above is recommended in the USA, currently costing less than $100). He dumps in 4 taurine capsules, 4 L-lysine capsules, some beneficial bacteria (either 4 capsules, or around a half ounce of the bulk powder). He grinds up 4 calcium tablets (usually he gets the powder in bulk) and he adds around a cup and a half of dry oatmeal and 4-6 ounces of tomato juice. He mixes this well.
He grinds and mixes around 200 lbs at a time using plastic tubs (also from Wal-Mart) and covers the meat directly with Saran Wrap and puts the top on the tub, and freeze it. For two cats you would probably freeze in one pound baggies…maybe a pound and a half; enough for a feeding, anyhow, he says.
Maryll uses homemade raw food diet recipes from the websites below, grinding her cats’ food as her cats like it that way. The other way, I presume is what she calls the “prey model”, replicating cat prey, which is in a whole or more or less a whole state:
» http://www.catnutrition.org/ (link opens in a new window).
Maryll also offers dry Chicken Soup for Cat Lovers to her cats This seems to be high quality dog or cat food manufactured in the USA. The USA is well known for the variety, quality and quantity of its food products. She recommends the grinder referred to above.
Maryll buys human grade supplements, like Salmon oil, dry Vitamin E, probiotics, B-Complex, powdered taurine and L-Lysine (much easier to deal with than capsules), from The Vitamin Shoppe.
Update 5th April 2010: Maryll sent me this note:
I now prefer Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Formula which I use in addition to my raw mix for my old dry-addicted cats instead of Chicken Soup. Here is the link info: Taste of the Wild. Keep up the good work.
» L-Lysine is a necessary building block for all protein in the body. L-Lysine plays a major role in calcium absorption; building muscle protein; recovering from surgery or sports injuries; and the body’s production of hormones, enzymes, and antibodies (src: Wikipedia verbatim under license, see below)
» Taurine is an essential amino acid. Read about Bengal cats and Taurine (new window). “I use Taurine Powder from Now Foods, which is a human-grade supplement for my cat. It is completely tasteless.” and ” Kitty bloom has Taurine in it and they like that. I mix it into their wet food completely.” (quoted breeders)
“A requirement of 400 mg taurine kg diet is suggested for the growing kitten and for maintenance of the adult A minimal requirement for reproduction would be 500 mg taurine kg diet” — this comes from Nutrient requirements of cats By National Research Council (U.S.). Subcommittee on Cat Nutrition 1986.
» Probiotics are dietary supplements and live microorganisms containing potentially beneficial bacteria or yeasts. According to the currently adopted definition by FAO/WHO, probiotics are: ‘Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’.(src: Wikipedia verbatim under license, see below). This is why Mark above adds plain yogurt to his recipe.
» B-Complex is: Vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (niacin, includes nicotinic acid and nicotinamide), Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine), Vitamin B7 (biotin), also known as vitamin H, Vitamin B9 (folic acid), also, vitamin M, Vitamin B12 (various cobalamins; commonly cyanocobalamin in vitamin supplements) .(src: Wikipedia verbatim under license, see below)
» Salmon Oil is added to strengthen immune systems. I also is claimed to increase fertility and reduces the risk of heart disease. (src: Active Pet Feeds)
Other recommended sources of supplements for homemade cat food are:
Mara’s Raw Food Diet Recipe for Cats
Add powder (Instincts) to the raw meat mixture:
Also, daily add salmon oil (keep refrigerated and add fresh daily to one
feeding of meat):
4 cups Instincts powder
10 cups water
Mix the above
10 pounds turkey thighs (skinless and boneless)
6 pounds beef bottom round
2 pounds beef liver
4 tins sardines (water packed and add the liquid)
Mix in the Instincts powder.
Put it into freezer bags or Ziploc freezer containers and take them
out when needed.
It’s important to buy a professional quality meat grinder that way you will
save on grinding time. We purchased ours from a Fish & Tackle supply store (USA).
Twice weekly add egg yolks to a morning feeding (no whites).
This recipe gives cats perfect poops, no diarrhea, and on the raw there is
much less stool because so much of the food is utilized. Notice at
least twice as much urine though which is a good thing.
This is from Mara of Dazzledots Bengals– thanks Mara. I hope you don’t mind me publishing your great recipe here. I have provided a link in return. If you want anything else just ask.
Here’s another USA recipe for homemade cat food – original source unknown
To make one batch:
4 cups Instincts powder; mix in 10 cups water. (Let it stand to thicken while grinding the meat.)
Using the middle plate (not ultra-fine, not coarse) grind:
10 pounds turkey thighs, skinless and boneless
6 pounds beef bottom round, no fat
2 pounds raw beef liver
4 tins water-packed sardines
Add the powder/water mixture and mix well.
Place into individual Ziploc containers or bags and freeze for 2 weeks.
We take out the raw food to thaw, as needed. Before feeding, we heat the thawed meat in the microwave until it’s slightly warm. We leave the food down for a maximum of 15 minutes. What is left can be refrigerated and used for the next feeding, but discard if there are leftovers from the second feeding of the same meat.”
Makes about 50 cups. As can be seen some thought is required.
In the United States, an example of a suitable food supplement mix is the one manufactured by Feline Future (new window) and provided in their product InstinctsTC.
I have no affiliation with this company. They support the view that modern “cat food” (i.e. canned and bagged processed food) is too far removed from a cat’s true diet for it to be healthy. They believe in a raw food diet for a cat plus added supplements. Forgetting for a minute their products, this view has a ring of truth about it. The trouble is it is inconvenient for humans and this world loves convenience. It takes time to prepare cat food the more natural way.
The way they recommend is to add water to their powdered supplement and then add raw meat and liver to that, thereby making up your own natural cat food. Or, you can lightly cook the raw meat and add the supplements of your choice after cooking.
You make your mind up. It takes more time and is no doubt more expensive but I suspect better for your cat. A lot of ill health can originate in unsuitable cat food. Perhaps keeping a cat has become too convenient and too easy and that may be one reason why the domestic cat population has increased so much. Maybe it should be more demanding for the benefit of all cats.
Apparently, in the San Francisco area of America, there is a raw food buyers group affiliated to a supplier, SF Raw. Obviously, I am all for this as I have come to dislike processed cat food. Too much of it gets left by the cat. And I am frankly not sure, despite efforts, as to what goes into it.
Until now, the vets have been against people preparing a raw food diet for their companion animal on the pretext that it was dangerous and impossible to do well enough. You had to be an “expert”. But this is not actually the case. A homemade cat food diet is relatively easy (if we are careful and thoughtful) because it is essentially meat plus supplements and some people supply all the supplements you need in one packet. See this post for example: Homemade Cat Food. There is also the suspicion that some vets advise against preparing our own raw cat food because it will undermine a part of their sales as in the UK, at least, a lot of vets sell Hills dry cat food. Hills will be upset too!
This photo kind of states the obvious. Do we feed “kibble” or the real stuff.
Photo by This Year’s Love
The bottom line is that a properly prepared raw food diet for our cat will as near as possible replicate what our cat would have eaten as a wildcat. It will probably be an improvement on that. The drawback is having the confidence and time to do it. It is more fiddly and troublesome but if we can overcome these hurdles our cat will be living more naturally and we will probably more environmentally friendly if we buy the raw products such as chicken thighs or neck from a local supplier rather than big business.
Here are some more posts on the subject of cat food:
- Best Canned Cat Food
- Best Dry Cat Food
- Best Cat Food
- Grain Free Cat Food
- Diabetic Cat Food
- Low Magnesium Cat Food
- Cat Food and Bisphenol-A (BPA)
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- 1. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu
- Feline Future.com
- “Your Cat” by Elizabeth M Hodgkins DVM
- Feline Future InstinctsTC
- Cat Breeders referred to in the text to whom I am very grateful.
Photo bottom: published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License — this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.