A large, worldwide study of 16,475 households on the potential hazards of feeding raw food to your pet has proved veterinarians wrong in their advice not to feed raw foods to cats and dogs.
Historically, veterinarians have advised against feeding raw meat to cats (I’ll focus on cats in this article but the study covers dogs as well). In one instance a vet reported her client to animal control in the US because she fed her cat raw food.
They believe that cat owners are incapable of ensuring that raw meat is stored properly to avoid contamination by pathogens such as bacteria. They favour commercially prepared pet foods which they often sell at their clinics. Perhaps, too, vets believe that owners are unable to ensure that the correct nutrients are added to make it balanced.
However, in this study, 99.6% of the participants reported no problems of pathogens being transmitted from the raw food to humans. Unfortunately the study write up that I’ve read does not mention the possibility of cats being made ill by pathogens in raw food but I think it fair to say that if the humans are safe then the cats are too.
Only 39 households (0.24% of the participants) reported a problem with contaminated raw food. The pathogens reported were the bacteria: Campylobacter, Salmonella, Escherichia coli and Clostridium. As I understand it Toxoplasma gondii occurred to a lesser extent and there was one instance of infection by the Yersinia bacteria.
The average time that the participants had been feeding raw food to their pet was 5.5 years. One person had been doing it for 65 years!
“It was surprising to find that statistical analyses identified fewer infections in the households with more than 50% of the pet diet consisting of raw food. Furthermore, feeding pets raw salmon or turkey was associated with a smaller number of infections.” – Johanna Anturaniemi from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.
Comment: It is impossible to conclude that feeding raw food to your cat is hazardous to the health of your cat from the point of view of bacterial infections. It is not. And there are said to be considerable benefits in feeding raw foods provided it is done properly to ensure that the correct supplements are added. Straight raw meat is not adequate as it does not contain all the nutrients a cat needs. This is an important point.
A lot of switched-on cat guardians question the quality of manufactured cat food. Some of it is good quality but historically the quality has been doubtful. I can remember stories from cat guardians who have converted from commercial cat food to raw. They said that their cat’s health improved. I am referring to illnesses associated with the gut such as IBD.
My gut feeling is that raw food is best because it is more natural provided, as mentioned, it is managed carefully and with knowledge. Perhaps this is the biggest weakness with raw cat food: the demand it places upon cat owners to get involved and process it themselves. Few cat owners can be bothered to do that.
Arguably the worst problem with cat food is that a high proportion of it nowadays is dry, devoid of water. That’s unnatural as a mouse contains 70% water. As cats are poor water drinkers it is said that they are permanently dehydrated when on a dry food diet. Raw cat food resolves this problem.