(This is a cross-post from my HippyCats Cattery blog with minor changes.)
At our house we have chosen to feed our cats a 100% raw diet. Meaning no veggies, no fruits and no grains. Up until a months ago here is what we’ve been feeding:
At a trip to our local Whole Foods Market last year we discovered that they have a freezer in the pet food isle with raw options. While they carry several choices for dogs, there is only the one option for cats. But hey, at least we could find raw food at a store we trust. It was a start anyway.
If you follow my HippyGardener blog then you already know we’ve been dabbling in making beef tallow and lard. So since doing that we’ve been adding chopped up fat/meat scraps into her daily servings. Cats need a higher fat diet than dogs do, and we thought this would add a little more variety (meaning another animal) to her diet. When feeding raw you want to make sure they get a variety of animals meat so to assure a full-spectrum of nutrition. With the onset of shedding season we’ve been throwing in some raw egg a couple times a week as well.
We made drastic changes to her diet last month.
It is not difficult to feed a raw diet and can be less expensive than feeding the most expensive commercial kibble, though some people might find it intimidating. Mainly because in our society we have been programmed to think that cat food comes out of a bag or a can. Or as our case has been, a tub of raw meat already ground up. While a much higher step in the right direction, being that it was raw, it was still not giving as much variety as cats need. It also does not take a lot of time to prepare. You could spend a couple of hours, one day a month. That’s it. You can separate portion sizes into freezer bags. Always have one thawing in the fridge for the next day. Each canning car could be a few day’s worth up to a week’s worth. Always have a thawed jar in the fridge. When that one is starting to get low grab another one out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge. Easy as pie!
There are some basic guidelines that need to be followed in order to assure you are feeding your cat all the nutrients he/she needs on a daily basis. While opinions vary slightly on the proportions to feed, here is an average proportions that are recommended:
80-85% raw boneless meat (this will mainly consist of muscle meat, fat and skin. But should include all the connective tissues as well: sinew, cartilage, tendons, etc…)
10% raw edible bones (appropriately sized)
5-10% organs (1/2 of which should be the liver)
The percentages are estimates, of course, this does not need to be an exact science. Just remember the main key is variety, Variety, VARIETY.
Raw Boneless Meats:
Raw Meaty Bones:
Cornish game hens
fish w/small bones
chicken ribs, wings and necks
small turkey, ribs and wing tips
small meaty pork and lamb ribs
The whole egg, shells and all, makes a meal by itself. They are easy to come by and very nutritious. Of course, if you can get eggs from free-range chickens that’s even better. If your cat won’t eat the shell you could always just save up the shells, grind them into a powder and mix them into their food. The added calcium is great, and why not utilize all those nutrients. Specifically, eggs are a great addition during shedding season, as they help to build a strong coat which helps to reduce shedding to some degree.
This list is not in any way exhaustive. Be creative. Just make sure it’s mostly muscle meat with some small edible bones mixed in and organ meats (mostly liver w/blood).
Some recipes I’ve seen add in a few supplements; Vitamins A, D, E, L-Taurine powder, B-complex, etc… While cats do need taurine in their diet, you can assure they are getting by making sure to add liver from different animals along with some of the blood that comes in the packaging. Taurine is present in other parts of the animal, but a little more so in the liver. Also depending on how much whole fish your feeding you might need to throw in an Omega 3 (from animal sources) supplement sometimes. It all depends on how you feel your cat is doing. If your worried then go safe and add some in. But if your cat seems to be thriving, has a beautiful shiny coat and has lots of energy then this may not be needed.
Whole Prey Option:
Some people choose to go this route since there’s really not much guessing on proportions or measuring. There are several online sources for ordering whole prey (think about all the people who have snakes to feed, and other exotic pets that are carnivores). A little big of Googling and I was able to find a few sources for whole mice, rats, rabbit, etc… Here is a brief list to give you an example of the whole prey you can offer your cats.
You could always raise a lot of these to give your cat the option of chasing down it’s prey as well. But you have to decide if you could handle that. Those little critters can be awfully cute. But it’s natural for them to hunt, so this decisions is totally yours.
How much to feed?
This is usually a big question. And the amount depends on several factors; your cat’s age, weight, activity level, metabolism and overall appetite. To name a few. But a good guide is generally around 2-4% of your cats’ body weight per day. Give or take. Basically if your cat is too plump then feed less. If your cat is too thin then feed more.
Most adult cats are fine only being fed once or twice a day. They certainly do not need to be free fed, meaning food is available for them 24/7. Kittens, on the other hand, need to fed a little more often. Given their activity level and the fact that their little tummies are only so big, they really should be fed 3 to 4 smaller meals per day.
Transitioning to a Raw Diet:
If your cat has been a kibble head up to now, chances are that you will have to teach your cat that what you are offering is actually food. And since kibble takes hardly no muscles to eat, their jaws will need to be strengthened and they’ll have to learn to gnaw at their food.
It’s a good idea to start out with small pieces and smaller meals more often until they can work up to tearing at larger chunks of meats and bones. Speaking of bones…not all bones are appropriate for your cat to be eating. Obviously they cannot crack open a large beef bone. When deciding if a bone is safe for your cat to eat, or not, think about the whole prey they eat in nature. Small raw bones are completely safe for your cats. They will not splinter and harm your feline friend. It’s when we cook the bones that they become brittle and splinter, causing a choking hazard. Your cat needs the nutrients in bones.
Cats do not need veggies or grains. Their bodies are not designed to digest them. However, cats do on occasion nibble on grasses and certain plants in the wild. You’ve seen “cat grass” sold in pet stores?
These usually consist of wheat, oat or barley. You can buying them as a kit with seeds or already growing. These provide a little extra essential vitamins and nutrients for our kitty friends.
There are a variety of other plants, mainly herbs, that your cat might appreciate. Do some internet researching for ideas or experiment on your own. If you provide your cat with plants of their own it just might keep her out of yours.
Benefits of Raw Diets:
The first thing we noticed was Audrey’s litter box. THERE WAS NO SMELL ANYMORE!!! I swear to you this is true. I have witnesses.
Your cat will also have more energy. Elder cats will act like youngsters again.
You will have less vet bills later on. Or now. It doesn’t always take years to see the effects of feeding your pet un-naturally. KIBBLE IS NOT NATURAL! There is nothing natural about it. In the wild you will never see any animal stoking a fire to cook their food. If you want to know what goes into the making and selling of commercially available pet food, HERE is an paper written by a Harvard Law School student for your reading enjoyment.
In practice: What we’ve been able to accomplish since starting this way of feeding:
It’s been much easier to feed our cat a raw diet since finding the butcher shop. We are able to get a variety of meats for her for much cheaper than at the regular supermarket. Here is what our last shopping trip consisted of:
- 2 whole rabbits: although it didn’t have the organs included
- 1 large package of chicken livers
- 1 package of beef (stew cuts)
- 1 carton of pork brain
Plus we still have chicken gizzards in the freezer from the previous shopping trip. I have gotten a good feel for how much she eats every day, so I divided up all the meats into quart size zip lock baggies (one day’s worth per bag) and put it all in the bottom drawer in the freezer. I still need to get some sardines for her to give a couple of times a week. A good dark pastured egg weekly is also provided.
At first she didn’t do too well eating the boney chunks. Now she crunches right through the bones with no problems. She cleans the rabbit leg bones off without eating those, but she’s getting all the tendons that are included.
We have some powdered pastured eggshells as well, but so far she’s been eating the bones so well I haven’t had to supplement. Perhaps I’ll mix them up in her weekly egg just for some extra nutrients.
This is really quite simple. One day of chopping and sorting all the meat, then for the rest of the month I just pull out a bag to thaw and feed her out of it. She has a lot more energy now and plays a lot more often.
I’d love to hear if any of you have any experience feeding a raw pet diet!