- 9 years ago
- Wedding: June 2012
Raw Feeding for Cats and Dogs: My Journey and what I’ve learned.
I have two cats:Pico (a 10 year old female calico)Harley (a 3 year old brown tabby)
ALL OF THE FOLLOWING ALSO APPLIES TO DOGS AS WELL~In fact, the raw feeding movement started with dog owners!You will find that often breeders of purebreds are fed raw if you ask. Most do not disclose because of The Looks. See second post.
A few years ago, I’ve never heard of raw fed dogs or cats. I simply assumed that they ate kibble. I decided to so some reading on the subject of raw feeding and came across several articles. I was able to read critically and sort through these articles and their choice words, biases and an obvious appeal to emotions (that does the movement a large disservice). If you’re able to ignore the guilt tripping, you will see that the message is still valid and strong.
I began to wonder what went into my cats’ food? Pico was morbidly obese and Harley was a sickly kitten. Let me say now that a fat cat is not a happy cat, or a spoiled cat. If your cat is naturally “big boned” that’s a different story, but if your cat is simply overweight, you NEED to trim it back. Think of the wild, to survive, wild cats are strong, agile, FIT, alert and energetic. That fat cat stereotype came out of the way we, as humans, are CONDITIONED to believe kibble is really what they eat… So how the heck did dog and cats ever live WITHOUT us? That’s right, on raw prey.
First, what goes into dog/cat food kibble:You’ve all seen those documentaries about how HUMAN food is made and how appalling it is… so how much worse do our beloved pets have it? In short, it’s the parts of a dead animal that doesn’t make it into packaged meat fit for human consumption. This means that rotting meat, feet/hooves, head, sometimes undischarged packaging, some diseased meat all get put into a pressurizer.They heat it up so much it KILLS the bacteria, but at the same time, it kills any nutrients in the meat as well. The machines dry up any moisture so that the kibble becomes this nugget or dried crap, literally. To market it, they throw in some “nutrients” or “vitamins” and flavour. Liken this to fast food for us humans. It tastes really good, makes you keep going back for more, but there is really NO nutritional value and in fact, the additives make your cat really THIRSTY. They eat then drink then BLOAT. — There are studies in the works but no results yet, some theorize that many dogs/cats illness near the end of their lives are a result of feeding dry food and that it is NOT natural to pass that way.
Bottom line… why does cat poo STINK!? Because their really isn’t any nutrients in the food to be absorbed so it all get ejected out of the system.
After my research, I knew I wanted better for my babies. I needed to make the switch to raw. I started by immediately changing them over to wet food. However, wet food is still not the solution. There is no “hardness” in wet food so your cat is unable to maintain healthy teeth and strong jaws. There is nothing to “crunch” of gnaw on. It’s like giving them baby food all the time.
Switching was easy, I gave my cat’s meal times. Once in the morning, and once at night. It seemed to make sense to me, as humans, being healthy consists of several SMALL meals a day rather than an open 24 hour buffet of processed food.
I spent hours each night reading on raw feeding. But ultimately, I decided to consult my own vet. I wanted opinions where I could get them so that I could come to my own conclusions. However, as I would find out and most of the raw community warned me against was that most vets DO NOT condone raw feeding. Generally there are three reasons for this: 1) they are conditioned to think that raw food contains bacteria like salmonella that would harm your animal. Which is FALSE (as I will address later) 2) “nutrition” only makes up a small part of a vet’s education. 3) vet schools are sponsored by the commercial pet food industry so their education only teaches them to recommend/sell these kinds of foods.
The raw feeding community knows only a handful of vets who support the cause. Thus I concluded that I trust my vet to diagnose my kitties, treat them, and give them the medical care that I cannot provide but I have come to accept that vets are human and that diet is not a main component in their curriculum. So if my kitty needs medical attention, I will seek a vet, but not for nutritional advice.
A balanced partnership between medicine and a natural lifestyle is what I concluded would be the best for my cats.
If you want to switch, you MUST be prepared to be patient, persistent and be able to put up with nay-sayers.
MY LEARNING/EXPERIENCE JOURNEY:
Eating healthy, just like for humans, is an important part of living a more fulfilling life. It isn’t just about exercise and playing with your kitty, it’s about what you feed them. To first address the fear of bacteria or salmonella in raw feeding, you have to remember the BIOLOGICAL differences between cats and humans. Cats (and dogs) are CARNIVORES. That means they ONLY NEED TO EAT MEAT. Contrary to the ridiculous ads you see on TV, Fido and Fluffly DO NOT needs veggies of any kind in their diet. They will get those nutrients from the “prey” they eat. A carnivore’s digestive tract is also a LOT SHORTER than a human’s, this means that they can eat raw meat and even old meat without much fear of getting sick. It takes a less time for the food to travel through their system, hence not having enough time to absorb the bacteria into their bodies. Logically, think about it, lions and leopards in the wild hunt and eat off the ground, some even scavenge. Why? Because they are naturally equipped to handle it. Human’s cannot, we are omnivores.
The nutrients found in raw food can help build a stronger immune system, in addition, cats will get natural moisture from the meat!! You will notice after switching to raw that your cats will consume LESS water. Why? This simply means they are getting it directly from their food like they are supposed to!
In time, you should be able to feed your cats meaty bones (meat with small bones, nothing larger than a chicken thigh). The bones contribute calcium which aids in the development of bones and teeth. While your kitties are gnawing the meat off the bones, they get nutrients from bone marrow, blood and not to mention it keeps their teeth clean as well! Cats will also be strengthening their jaws this way. This is why it is important to avoid feeding wet food or GROUND MEAT. Grinding meat introduces air into the meat with destroys many valuable nutrients in the meat. Unless you’re feeding an old cat with no teeth, your babies should be more than capable of eating meaty bones (yes, even kittens!!)
Again I say, Pico was fat (everyone commented on her weight when they visited me) and lazy. Harley when we rescued him from the shelter was sickly and threw up all the time after eating. I wanted to test out raw feeding to see how it went. If anything, I could always switch back, right?
After beginning the transition between wet food to raw (about a week into), I noticed HUUUUUUUUGE changes almost immediately.Pico had more energy, she began to play like a kitten again. There was a renewed interest in her toys. Her coat was noticeably softer and she was beginning to be much more affectionate. Harley gained more strength, he was still throwing up but not daily anymore.BUT the BIGGEST CHANGE what their POO.
The poo factor alone was enough to convince me to switch permanently lol.Their stuff didn’t smell at all!! (unless you put your face right up to it). Everything was a lighter color, and there was generally a LOT less of it. Scooping poop is like a dream now hahah.
Transitioning was slow (this is where patients kicks in), I encountered many problems because my cats took differently to the switch.
This brings me to DISAVANTAGE #1: Time. The process is not immediate. You will need to commit some energy and time (and patience) to go to a raw diet. Sometimes your cats will not like what you give it, so you’ll have to give them dry food once or twice so they won’t starve. (It’s like quitting any addiction, you have to come off it slowly). You need to start small. There are links at the end of this article for resources on switching to raw. At first Pico was making faster progress than Harley, she is then she was stuck eating chunks and hasn’t touched bone-in meats. It was quite possible that she did not yet have the jaw strength to eat the bones (after all, she did spend 7 years on dry kibble!). I started transitioning in October 2009, as of April 2, 2010 (six months), Harley is fully on raw. Pico was on raw/wet diet. My cats are SLOW, so please don’t be that intimidated, transitions don’t usually take this long. I’ve heard cats switching right away, the longest switch I’ve read took 1 year.
After several weeks, Pico had lost some of her fat, and became fitter. From her new found energy, I noticed that she had been playing more and exercising more often. I began to give Harley bone-in meats.This stopped his vomiting completely because he was forced to tear and chew his food before swallowing. Before, he would GORGE on dry, get thirsty, drink water and the food expanded and he would throw it up.
ADVANTAGE #2 and #3: HEALTH and ENERGY: Cats got noticeably stronger/fitter, more energetic.
I introduced Salmon oil into their diet. Salmon oil is still being debated on whether or not it is beneficial for cats. I decided to try it. Harley LOVES it. But…It caused Pico to regress. She hated the salmon oil and absolutely REFUSED raw food. I ended up going ALL THE WAY back to dry food so she wouldn’t starve herself. (This is where persistence comes in) After about a week, she was back on a relatively raw/wet diet. But I began to worry because her food intake was cut in half. She wasn’t eating as much as she used to. Pico used to eat about 1.5 cups a day of dry food.
I panicked. Desperately messaging my vet, reading articles, consulting other cat lovers.Finally, when I took her to get microchipped at a shelter, the workers told me that they fed their cats only half a cup a day!!I was relieved. The salmon oil turned her off, but in the end, because of her new raw diet, her food intake decreased to a NORMAL level.What I learned? The easy way to “measure” how much to feed your cat is just to think LIKE a cat. If they were in the wild, they hunt. Maybe kill one or two mice a day. That is how much I would give my cats on a daily basis. What I call, a “mouse-ful”.
ADVANTAGE #4: Eating smaller portions (fed twice a day), less thirst for water intake.
Now, to get her back on track to transition, I was buying a variety of meats to help entice her to eat.That leads to DISADVANTAGE #2: Cost. In the beginning when you are experimenting, raw food is going to be expensive because you don’t know what your kitty will like. Also overall, dry food is about $5 a bag which can last up to a month. Raw is not THAT much more expensive, but you’ll have to budget it. Purchase in bulk, what is on sale, and ask family/friends for expired (but not rotten) frozen meats. Freeze your food for about a week to kill any bacteria. You’ll get into a habit of it eventually and it will become easier.
DISADVANTAGE #3: Beginner Prep: When to feed and how much. Now, a LOT of cat enthusiasts go absolutely nuts and measure out the exact OUNCES of what to feed. Some break things down into percentages of meat, muscle meat, organs and bones. But for me, I think just feed a GENERAL VARIETY of raw is fine. Like humans, I don’t like to be so anal about counting calories, looking at the % of fats in my food or sugar. COMMON SENSE: just make healthy choices.
An easy way to solve this problem, is to think about a cat’s natural prey. A mouse. When you feed, estimate a large mouse sized amount. Guesstimate the amount of organs/bones. Not every cat in the wild is going to find a perfectly balanced meal every time. If you want to get exact about the numbers, more power to you, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
Ideally I would be feeding them mice but it gets expensive in the city, so I feed what is called the “Frankenprey Model”. I follow as a general guide (per month):80% meat (pork, chicken, beef, rabbit, lamb, venison etc. Meat also includes HEARTS with are ESSENTIAL for taurine!!)10% meaty bones (like quail, chicken wings)10% organs (half of this is liver)
Optional additions: Salmon Oil, raw eggs. Treats: PureBites Liver Treats (I ONLY buy treats with ONE ingredient)
ADVANTAGE #4: Personality/physical changes. Honestly, if I just tell you, it won’t have any meaning. You have to SEE the little changes along the way in your cat/dog. Pico is more of a lap cat now, wanting to be cuddled and played with. In all of 7 years, I have never seen her his affectionate!! Harley is strong and no longer vomiting, his teeth are pristine from gnawing on bones. Before raw, I thought all cats were lazy bums, the change was so noticeable!!
In the end, YOU need to look at these pros/cons and decide if its worth it to switch. For me, I felt that my kitties are worth it. I want them to life long, happy, exciting and healthy lives. It costs me a little more time/energy/convenience/money, but I love seeing the progress and the changes. Ultimately it is your choice whether or not the disadvantages outweigh the advantages (or vice verse) for you.
DISADVANTAGE #4: The Looks. You know, people think you’re nuts when you says your cat is on a raw diet. It’s just a cat. This disadvantage is the hardest I think. Facing the enormous amount of opposition and skepticism. It’s just something you have to decide if you want to deal with. You have to have some balls and backbone to get past the Looks.
A few people have asked me why I haven’t tried to convince my own vet or switch vets? I think that people will learn what they want to learn and in time, perhaps every vet will consider natural/holistic approaches in partnership with science and medicine. My vet is great for when my kitties are sick, I really like him so for now I see no need to switch, but I want to make sure I’m doing my part to prevent illnesses in the future at home too. ^__^
I always have to stop myself from preaching to people about raw feeding though I am an extremely passionate advocate of it. If you have any questions I will try to answer it to the best of my ability!!
As of today, BOTH Pico and Harley are fully on raw!! Before and After: TeethBefore and After: Weight Loss (A healthy cat has a natural waist, you should’nt be able to SEE ribs, but if you touch, you should be able to find them easily).Here is a video of my cat Harley eating a bone in meat.
What Carnivores NeedProtein and Fats – From meats (including the fats)Small amounts of Fiber – found in fur, feathers or viscera (I feed my cats liver)Taurine – Found in hearts (I feed mine chicken hearts)Calcium – For bones and teeth (I feed my cats bone-in meats)Iron – From bone marrow, liver, and blood (my cats love the blood)Omega 3 – For shiny coats, stronger joints and immune system support. (I will occasional give them some Alaskan Salmon Oil in their food, Omegas can also be found in raw egg.)
DO NOT cook the meat or bones! It destroys essential nutrients and cooked bone can harm your kitty. DO NOT feed pasteurized milk. Most cats are lactose intolerant. If you give milk, ensure that it is raw.
It really IS as simple as dropping a slab of meat into their plate once your cat has transitioned.
Do the research, ask the questions, decide if the raw diet will work for you.
RESOURCES:* Please remember, a lot of information is written with bias and it does the movement a disservice. PLEASE sort through the emotional garbage and retain the facts. THINK CRITICALLY!
Great Intro (watch for guilt trips!), for info on Raw Fed Dogs, google!!Awesome site for info on transitioning your kitty. Don’t let the sale of the book on the front page mislead you, just click the side links for info!http://www.rawfedcats.org/
Feline Nutrition Educationhttp://fnes.org/– The Benefits of a Raw Diet for Your Cat article: http://fnes.org/raw-feeding/the-bene…t-for-your-cat– Spooked By Salmonella article: http://fnes.org/raw-feeding/spooked-…nella-raw-food
Feeding Methodologies (I follow Frankenprey model. Eventually will get to Whole Prey)http://www.catforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=57301
Basics of Feline Nutritionhttp://www.catinfo.org/