Raw Cat Food - Is Raw Diet Good For cats?
There is a lot of chatter about raw diet for cats. The benefits of raw cat food are actually founded on research and logic derived from observations of wild cats’ behaviour.
It makes sense to give your cat raw food. But before you do that, special care must first be taken to understand this topic.
Can you feed cats raw meat?
Wild cats eat their meat raw. They are accustomed to most germs that may be present, so they won’t suffer from stomach aches.
Domestic cats, unlike their wild cousins, are usually raised in a more sterile environment which includes the food that they eat. Your pet cats may or may not be as robust as compared to a wild one.
With that being said, you can feed your cats raw meat. They are able to digest it without any issues. The bigger concern here is the risk of getting infected by parasites in the meat and falling ill.
This is especially more likely if your cats eat wild prey. A cat with a weakened immune system will succumb to the side effects of a parasite by infection. Wild cats also suffer from this risk and more often than not carry some kind of parasite.
Can cats get worms from eating raw meat?
Yes, particularly if it comes from wild prey. Other than bacteria and viruses, wild prey also carry internal parasites such as roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, trichinella and coccidia.
Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasites in cats. Tapeworms can be transmitted directly by fleas of an infected rodent. Hookworms, trichinella and coccidia enter their hosts bodies when cats accidentally ingest soil or prey.
These parasites can cause the following problems:
- Loss of muscle function
- Weight loss
Raw meat for human consumption, purchased from the market, is less likely to contain such parasites but they may have some contact with bacteria or viruses.
What raw food is best for cats?
The best raw meat is human grade meat preferably from free-range, organic and chemical-free livestock.
However, as with any raw meat, a lot of care and precautions need to be taken. This is to safeguard against spoilage and contamination.
For example, if you were to mince the meat yourself, you must serve it immediately to your cat. Bacteria will start multiplying if you leave raw meat out for longer than 20 minutes. Any meat not consumed within this time must be thrown away.
You’ll also need to wash your hands before and after handling the meat. Then, wash all the utensils and your cat’s food bowl thoroughly with soap each time after contact with raw meat.
Even if you follow these steps closely, there is still risk of contamination occurring, which is outside of your control. For example, after the slaughtering process, during transportation or at the butcher’s where the meat is left out to thaw for easy cutting.
That is why, if you wish to feed your cat raw meat, it might be best to choose raw meat that is commercially prepared as cat food. Choose brands which offer raw or unprocessed meat.
To understand what unprocessed meat is. Any meat that has been salted, cured, smoked or added with preservatives is considered processed.
Wet cat food made from raw or unprocessed meat is the best because it contains a far higher moisture content than kibbles. Choose a brand that does not add preservatives or artificial flavours to the meat.
The risk of canned wet food containing parasites or pathogens is least likely since the cans must undergo pasteurization before they are shipped.
Raw diet for cats benefits
1. Increased water intake
A wild cat gets 70% of its water from prey. Domestic cats that eat dry food often don’t make up for this imbalance by drinking more water.
Dehydration over long periods can lead to concentrated urine which promotes the formation of urinary crystals. Male cats are especially vulnerable as they have a narrower urethra, the tube which carries urine from the bladder out of the body.
The narrow urethra in males can become easily blocked by tiny crystals or stones, which makes urination difficult or impossible. This is a life-threatening condition which requires urgent veterinary care.
Pet foods made from raw or unprocessed meat contain far higher moisture than dry foods.
2. Improved dental hygiene
When cats chew on meat, plaque is removed from their teeth. If not regularly removed, plaque hardens into tartar and leads to gum disease.
3. Weight maintenance
Dry foods tend to have high contents of carbohydrates, which is not only bad for health, but makes your cat fatter. A raw diet naturally has hardly any carbohydrate in it.
4. High palatability
As mentioned earlier, fatty acids present in animal fat are natural magnets because cats have evolved to utilise animal fat as its energy source.
Although not all cats prefer the taste and texture of a raw diet, it is possible to get them used to it gradually.
Pros and cons of raw cat food
High content of nutrients retained in the food
Price - generally more expensive than processed food
Extremely low percentage or no carbohydrate
Must be finished in one sitting once it is served
High percentage of moisture
No plant protein
What meat is best for cats?
Cats are opportunistic hunters. Their wild cousins are not fussy eaters. They will eat almost anything they can catch, organs and all, just to survive.
Certain species of wild cats have evolved to become specialist feeders. These cats’ bodies are adapted to one type of meat. Fishing cats, for example, earned its namesake because it eats mainly fish.
But then this rather large species has also been seen eating frogs, crabs, crayfish, snakes, rodents, young deer, wild pigs, ducks, chickens, calves, goats, raw food leftover by tigers and even dogs!
In conclusion, any meat is fine as long as there is variety. Different types of meat and organs contain varying percentages of nutrients.
It would be good, then, to feed your cat a variety of meats so that it can have a balanced diet and complete scale of nutrients.
Avoid feeding the same type of meat to your cats all the time as this is more likely to result in nutritional deficiency.
What kind of meats aren’t suitable for cats?
Processed (deli) meats, such as salami, ham, turkey lunch meat, contain high amounts of preservatives and way too much salt.
Meat dishes for human consumption, such as beef chilli, chicken chop, fish and chips, and so on, are not suitable either. These also tend to have a lot of salt or might contain other ingredients like garlic which can be harmful to cats.
What about homemade cat food?
There are many recipes available for this. It just requires a lot of time and care. Homemade raw cat food is more than just meat.
It's made up of meat, organs, bone, fat, egg yolks, water and supplements. All of these ingredients are necessary to ensure a balanced diet for complete cat nutrition.
You’ll need a grinder to blend all those ingredients together. Your regular blender just won’t do because you’re dealing with bone and sinews.
Another tricky aspect is the bones. If you don’t blend them thoroughly enough, you might have bone splinters that can injure your cat.
Blending the ingredients too finely defeats another purpose - making your cat exercise its jaws and teeth. It’s like eating mush.
The biggest problem with making your own raw cat food is not knowing exactly what and how much nutrients are going into the meal.
Some sites suggest adding supplements into your homemade cat food. However, that would contradict with the idea of providing nutrients naturally through food.
Lastly, there is the challenge of finding all the different types of meats and organs from your grocer. These have to be fresh and organic too.
Are bones good for cats?
Bones are a great source of calcium. Chewing bones is a natural way to keep a cat’s teeth and gums healthy.
Wild cousins eat their prey, bones and all, but only those of very small animals. The same goes with your cat.
That is why it is not advisable to give cats large marrow bones, large knuckle bones or bones sawn lengthwise. These may crack their teeth.
Suitable raw meaty bones include raw chicken necks and wings, preferably from organic or free-range farms. Some farms pump their chickens with antibiotics and steroids in the wing or neck.
Giving too much bone to your cat may lead to constipation. Generally, 1 to 2 raw bones may be offered per week with a few days in between each serving.
It is not a good idea to give your cat cooked bones from chicken, fish and larger animals. These can splinter, causing potentially fatal internal damage or blockage.
Always supervise cats when they eat raw bones.
Why not just get ground meat from the store?
When you grind raw meat, you increase the surface area for germs to land on and in the meat. If this ground meat is not put in a freezer immediately, it increases the chances of contamination.
Grocery store ground meat is intended to be thoroughly cooked. Thus, the meat is not frozen immediately.
On the other hand, commercial raw cat food makers maintain very high standards. The meat is immediately frozen after grinding to keep bacteria from multiplying.
Ground store meats also don’t contain the mix of organs and bone as suggested for homemade cat food. So, you’ll still need to do some grinding at home.
Do cats live longer on a raw diet?
Research done by Pottenger for 10 years from 1932 to 1942 concluded that cats do live much healthier lives. The physiological effects of a cooked food diet described by Dr. Pottenger in his papers were studied.
His findings were compared with data from more recent defining studies on taurine deficiency in the feline diet. Results of these studies proved beyond a doubt that cooking easily destroys taurine - the most essential and needed nutrient for cats.
As to whether just eating a raw diet extends a cat’s life, the debate is ongoing. A longer lifespan is not just determined by food.
There are other factors such as regular medical care, exercise, mental stimulation, stress and genetics.
A raw diet is good for your cat. However, if you don’t know how to prepare it at home properly, it is best to leave it to the experts such as Petcubes. Choose commercially prepared raw cat food that contains no preservatives or artificial flavouring. The contents must be in small portions, containing a good mix of different meats and organs.
San Diego Zoo. 2020. Fishing Cats. [Online] Available at: https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/fishing-cat [Accessed on 15 June 2020]
IntechOpen. 10 October 2018. Nutritional Composition of Meat. [Online] Available at: https://www.intechopen.com/books/meat-science-and-nutrition/nutritional-composition-of-meat [Accessed on 15 June 2020]
WebMD. 1 February 2019. What You Should Know About Processed Meat. [Online] Available at: https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/ss/slideshow-processed-meats [Accessed on 15 June 2020]
Feline Nutrition Foundation. 2 June 2019. Feline Nutrition’s Easy Homemade Cat Food Recipe. [Online] Available at: https://feline-nutrition.org/nutrition/making-raw-cat-food-for-do-it-yourselfers [Accessed on 15 June 2020]
ResearchGate. January 2014. Pottenger’s cats revisited: A classic example of a nutritional deficiency of taurine. [Online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274082777 [Accessed on 16 June 2020]
Cat-World. Can Cats Eat Raw Meat? [Online] Available at: https://cat-world.com/feeding-cats-raw-meat [Accessed on 15 June 2020]