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When most people hear the acronym "BARF," they immediately think of vomit or an upset tummy. However, BARF stands for "biologically appropriate raw foods" or "bones and raw foods".
Since cats are carnivores by nature, a BARF diet will provide them with plenty of muscle meat, bones and organs. Here, we will discuss what BARF diets can do for your cat as well as the benefits and safety precautions to take when preparing it.
One of the best ways to keep cats healthy and happy is to feed them properly. Felines require all the necessary nutrients in balanced proportions to grow, be active, prevent and/or recover from illness or injury.
With healthy eating being essential for wellbeing, pet owners must understand what makes cat food nutritious. Here are the top six cat nutrients that you need to know:
Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates provide dietary energy in the form of kilocalories (also known as calories). It’s essential that the food you give your cat meets its daily caloric needs.
For more information, you can read “What Is AAFCO’s Cat Food Nutrient Profile?”
It's critical for you to know if their diet is safe for them as a fur-parent. The main concerns about the safety of BARF diets for cats are nutritional imbalances and bacterial contamination.
Only about half of store-bought raw pet food options are complete and balanced. Those that are balanced should confirm by stating they follow the nutritional adequacy guidelines by AAFCO . With this, pet food must have a label to show that it meets nutritional minimums. If this isn't stated on the package, there will be a statement stating that the food is only intended for supplemental or intermittent feeding.
Apart from that, when switching to a BARF diet, one of the most common mistakes pet owners make is not knowing how to prepare a complete BARF meal. BARF diets made at home should be as close to a wild cat's diet as possible. This entails getting a sufficient portion of organs, bones, vitamins, and supplements into their diet. A nutritional deficiency caused by an incomplete or unbalanced raw diet can lead to a variety of health problems.
If the proper handling and cleaning procedures are not followed, homemade raw diets can pose a great bacterial health risk.
When it comes to bacteria and pathogens, manufacturers of prepared raw foods follow a zero-tolerance policy. To remove harmful bacteria, some use FDA-approved high-pressure processing (HPP), while others use stringent safety measures and testing procedures to ensure that it is pathogen-free.
It's never easy for paw-parents to decide whether BARF or cooked food is better for their cats. Here's a breakdown on how cooked food affects a purrrfect meal!
Some commercial fresh diets are gently cooked which can make all the difference. They are cooked at high enough temperature to kill pathogens but without significantly affecting protein and nutritional integrity of the diet. Not all cooked diets are the same. Find out what temperature and how long the food is cooked for. Anything above 80 degrees celsius will negatively affect the digestibility and bioavailability of the diet.
Cats are well known carnivores, they require nutrients found only in meat to survive. Raw diets based on what a wild cat would eat can provide the nutrition, protein, and hydration felines require to live a healthy life.
The following are the benefits of a BARF diet for cats:
BARF diet provides better quality and higher levels of proteins and nutrients due to the lack of heat processing.
It also improves hydration levels significantly, because cats’ bodies are designed to get moisture from their prey. Cats, unlike dogs, do not have a natural thirst drive, which is why many modern cats develop kidney and urinary problems. Because raw meat isn't cooked, it retains a lot of moisture. This is good for urinary health and helps the kidneys process waste more efficiently.
At the start, preparing a homemade BARF diet for your cat can be a difficult task. But once you understand how to safely prepare raw food and practice those steps, it shouldn’t be a problem anymore.
Firstly, make sure you have all the necessary ingredients to prepare a complete and balanced raw diet for your cat. Because you must ensure that your cat receives all the important nutrients for a wholesome diet, education is essential. Raw diets made at home should contain the following ingredients:
Secondly, proper food handling, serving, and storage are all essential to minimise the risk of bacterial cross-contamination to humans. When making a homemade BARF diet for cats, pet owners should follow these CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines:
Dr Francis is one of the top wildlife nutritionists in Asia. Originating from Montreal, Canada, he left at 21 to pursue his Masters and subsequently a PhD in wildlife nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Instead of taking the path of common animal science to learn about farm animals, or through the veterinarian space and taking a certificate in nutrition, he took the road less travelled to dive deep into the world of animal ecology, metabolism and nutrition.
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