Raw Cat Meat Diet
by Elisa Black-Taylor
Furby enjoys his raw meat diet
I've had a lot of people asking me about the raw meat cat diet I'm slowly introducing my cats to. Let me first say I began the diet when I saw the difference it makes in the dental health of a cat. I will continue it because of the energy levels I'm seeing and the sheer pleasure of watching cats being cats when they eat.
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 70% of all cats will show oral problems by the age of three. THREE years old readers! This means the average cat will go through more than a decade (sometimes two decades) of bad dental health unless something is done to stop it. The bacteria found on teeth can enter the bloodstream over time and cause damage to major organs. THIS is the reason I'm began adding raw meat to my cats diet.
Many are still under the impression that cats shouldn't have raw meat or bones and this simply isn't true. Cats shouldn't have COOKED bones as they can splinter in the digestive tract. Raw bones, especially those that must be gnawed, are a great way to remove tooth plaque. And as far as being a bacterial danger, it's more of a danger for humans. Cats have a quick digestive track. Food is passed through their system in a matter of hours. It can take two days to pass through a human.
Cats also need a diet of mostly protein, which the raw meat provides. Grains can actually cause many health problems in an otherwise healthy cat. The protein to vegetable ratio is roughly 90/10.
Remember back in the old days when every farm had a bunch of cats and they all lived to a ripe old age with few if any health problems? Cats do not live on grain. They thrive on live prey. Mice, squirrel, chipmunks, even rabbit if the cat can catch one.
I'm not going to go into all of the benefits this diet will provide. Simply enter the words "raw meat cat diet" into your search engine and the proof is there.
I joined a Yahoo! group called RawPaws a few months back and they have a lot of good advice. Many people go so far as to buy electric meat grinders to grind the meat and bone and vegetables into a more edible consistency. I haven't gotten that into it yet.
I want to tell everyone the changes I've seen in my cats in the three weeks I've been supplementing their diet with raw meat.
I began by purchasing some raw chicken liver, turkey necks, chicken legs, chicken backs (with necks attached), chicken gizzards and hearts and beef liver. They weren't at all pleased with the beef. I did have to call around to find the backs as many grocery stores do not carry those.
The gizzards and hearts are a favorite of the larger cats. We simply place them along a clean counter and let the cats have-at-it. Usually around our dinner time so we can eat in peace. Our rescue Samantha even sits alone on a side bar as she doesn't like to share her treats.
The turkey necks were definitely a hit but were a bit too expensive. So I found the chicken backs with the chicken necks attached at .69 cents a pound at Bi-Lo. Gizzards with hearts are around $1.59 a pound. I can feed all 30 cats a treat twice a day for about $6 a day. They still have their dry kibble, but they are eating less and less of it as their hungry bellies are filled with quality protein. Previously, my cats were consuming a 15 lb. bag of food daily.
I've also found the kittens are more receptive to the change than the older cats. The kittens also pair off in teams to tear the meat apart. Some pieces require two cats to hold the meat down and get it off of the bone. I've also noticed that the more feral the background of my rescue the more likely it is to enjoy these raw treats. I've adopted some rough looking strays who perhaps had to live on captured prey before being turned into the shelter.
The raw meat cat diet is also a way to cut down on the amount of stool a cat produces and also on the smell. Cats also will not drink a lot of water on this diet, as the moisture is getting to them through their food. Just as nature intended.
I began this as a way to introduce quality food that I knew the source of and the health benefits it would provide. For the first time in ages, all of the cats in our rescue are in good health, their coats are silky and they have much more energy. I'll continue the diet just to watch them enjoy their food. I find myself thinking "this is how cats in the wild eat." With the exception I serve their treats cold and already dead.
Readers, you're really missing out on the whole cat experience if you don't offer raw chicken or turkey to your cats. I love to watch them "help" each other with the meat. I purposely leave it whole to get the benefits of whole prey. My cats are developing strong jaw muscles and clean teeth.
A few nights ago, I had the chance to watch Mandy eating a chicken gizzard and it was so funny. She held it down with her paw as her teeth pulled at it to tear the meat. For those of you who don't know, a gizzard is a tough piece of meat shaped like a butterfly wing. Mandy accidentally moved her paw and the gizzard flew up and slapped her in her face. Her expression was priceless!
I'm also enjoying the process of experimenting with different cuts of meat. I've mostly stayed with chicken and turkey as this is fowl and a favorite to cats anyway.
I imagine cats also munched on the remains of beheaded chickens when everyone who owned a farm was in charge of providing meat for the family.
I've never seen a cat chase down a cow or a pig for meat. Many cat owners do offer beef and pork to their cats as part of a raw diet and those who do grind it themselves to be sure of the quality. Some even make friends with deer meat processors and offer raw deer treats. Just be sure you're purchasing quality meat regardless of the source.
When I look at the big picture, I realize my cats are learning a new skill. An opportunity most cats never have the pleasure of in this fast paced world. It takes about 1-1 1/2 hours for my cats to consume their meal. They have to "work" for their food in much the same way as cats in the wild. Canned and dry food allow a cat to "gobble" their food. Raw meats do not. They experience the taste, the smell. The blood and bone marrow that are so important to their overall health.
It's a pleasure to watch my cats washing up after a meal. They never seemed to enjoy the after meal bath after eating commercial cat food as they do now. I've never really noticed them washing up at all until I started this diet. My cats sit in their favorite spot and lick and clean and wash their little faces with their paws. Sometimes the bathing process takes a half hour or longer. Then they play. Their energy is increasing each day.
Here's a VERY short clip of our feral Renny the Renegade eating raw. She's still very feral and is getting a bit better about coming out during the raw feedings. It is only after the raw feedings began that we noticed she's gaining weight. And confidence around humans. Guess the desire for raw meat is overcoming the fear of being held.
I'm not sure how veterinarians feel about a raw meat cat diet (comment from Michael: Vets seem to disagree with it because...). On the one hand I wonder if they're up to date on research into these diets. On the other, I know they profit from the dental problems and other diseases caused by a commercial diet. Do your own research before you decide. YOU are in control of how healthy your cat is and food is a big part of this.
Determine how far you want to go with this new (old?) way of eating. Don't change the diet too quickly as diarrhea can result. There is research and there are books available online to guide you and answer any questions.
It's extremely important to wash your hands and sterilize the prep/feeding area after a raw meat feeding. As I said before, the main danger in raw meat is to us humans. Always clean the area with a good disinfectant. If the cats manage to drag a piece onto the floor, this also must be cleaned. Our little Johnny prefers to enjoy his necks in the privacy of a cat carrier. So that has to be wiped down also.
We only allow a few hours for the cats to eat, but have gotten much better at predicting how much they'll consume in those few hours to prevent waste. I still don't want to take a chance at spoilage, although in the wild a cat will eat some, cover the prey and dig it back up for dinner. So this may not matter in the long run.
Readers, I'm particularly interested in links that offer more research and tips in feeding a raw meat cat diet. Any advice is welcome. Also stories on how raw has helped your own cats. Especially on raw diets helping feral and sick kittens overcome illness.