This question is about ideals compared to practical solutions. As Dr Desmond Morris says, “the ideal diet for a modern cat would be canned vole or mouse – mostly meat, with some roughage, and with a little vegetable supplement, all in one neat package”.
Dr Morris suggests that such a product should be marketed and should be on the shelves of supermarkets because it would give domestic cats a natural food and help with the environment by removing rodents and pests. Clearly this is not the case at present. Perhaps it should be.
There is another reason why raw food should be available for cats but is not. It is because veterinarians don’t like cat owners preparing their own raw food diet which is mainly meat i.e. flesh. The veterinarians don’t like it because they are worried that cat owners are going to do it badly to the point where the cat is harmed or the food is stored in such a way that there’s cross contamination and where the owner or the cat is harmed due to a bacterial infection.
There is another potential reason why we don’t have canned vole. It may be too good. Cats’ health may improve. Vets may object to it because there’d be less business. Am I being cynical?
It’s unlikely that an ideal raw diet will be produced in a can in the near future. But a superbly prepared raw meat diet with all the added supplements, which makes it completely balanced is the best diet for a domestic cat provided it is stored and served properly.
There is another point which is worth making. A highly popular form of cat food today is dry kibble – bags of dry cat food. It is extremely convenient. It’s the convenience which is the critical factor in selling these products. The consumer is a cat but the purchaser is a person. The manufacturers have to please the purchaser and convenience foods are very purchasable. Even though dry cat food is not really that great for a cat if they eat nothing else because a cat’s natural diet contains 70% water and dry cat food falls well short of that.
This leads me to the question as to whether a cat guardian would accept opening a can of raw cat food with a couple of dead mice inside it. They may be mashed up and presented in a reasonably decent way but they’ll still be raw carcasses and I would suggest that it might be unacceptable to many purchasers although delicious to the consumer. Or perhaps the domestic cat has been conditioned beyond return to conventional cat food. The manufacturers don’t see a marketable product for these reason.
The point that I’m making is that the cat food market is a business and you can’t divorce the business side of it from the health and welfare of the cats that eat the product. Hopefully the two merge but they don’t always which is why dry cat food is so popular but less good than a well-balanced, well manufactured wet cat food.
I’ve deliberately focused on the general, philosophical issues which the question prompts rather going into heavy details about what ingredients should be in the food. You can find more about ingredients on this website. But the important point is that cat food must be balanced and it must be handled properly.