Addressing concerns about raw pet food and converting your own cat to a healthier diet.
If you are concerned about things like bacteria and disease, fear not. Commercially-made raw food is carefully prepared and naturally treated for harmful organisms. It does not contain the "guts" of animals - where the bulk of harmful parasites are found (stomach, intestines, etc.). These items are removed as part of the processing. Have you ever noticed your cat leaving you a "present" of mouse guts? That's why. Your cat knows what to do, avoiding the "bad" parts. The "good" organs like the heart and liver are typically included in raw food products, and these are parts your cat will readily consume from live prey anyway.
Some of the bacteria we hear about in the news is already present in the digestive flora of your cat, and your cat's digestive system is fairly short, and very well equipped for the consumption and digestion of "live" food. If you're still concerned, make sure your raw food is frozen solid for at least three days, that will also help ensure purity. Raw cat food is as safe as any regulated pet food, and doesn't contain harmful chemicals or substances your cat cannot digest.
Converting your cat to a raw food dietOf course, the best way to get your cat accustomed to a raw food diet is to start her off young, so she doesn't become used to kibbles and mainstream cat food. Converting a "spoiled" cat to raw food can be a small challenge. It can take a few days, or a few weeks to convert a cat to a raw food diet. Some cats take to it right away, others are a little more stubborn. Cats love routine so getting them from one routine to another can be challenging, but once they get used to the new routine, they usually just settle in. Persistence is key, you may need to be the Alpha Cat in your household for a while.
Here are some things you can try if your finicky feline does not immediately take to raw food
- Try to get samples of various raw cat foods to try on your cat. Better pet stores may have samples of some of the more popular raw food products.
- If canned food already part of diet, conversion may be easier. You can try switching to 100% canned food, then to raw.
- If your cat is already on a mostly kibble diet, upgrade to better kibble (more protein, less grains/vegetables)
- If your cat just refuses the raw food altogether, don’t force him to not eat. Liver failure can occur within days, sometimes in as little as 12 hours.
- Try mixing raw and canned food
- Put crushed kibble on top of the raw food
- Try ground up dried chicken liver on top of raw food. Freeze-dried chicken liver can be found at better pet supply stores. Make sure it's 100% just chicken liver and nothing else.
- Put a small amount - teaspoon or so - of raw food next to a bowl of regular food, this can help your cat associate the food she is used to with the raw food.
- You can try raw chicken necks (also available at better pet supply stores). Do not cook them.
- Spread an all-meat baby food on the raw food
- You can try 100% dried fish sprinkled on raw food
- No or low sodium chicken broth or tuna juice - slightly warmed, poured over the raw food sometimes helps
If you simply cannot afford a 100% raw food diet for your cat(s)What ever you do, eliminate the dry food (kibble) if at all possible. Replace it with high-quality, high-protein canned cat food. Include some raw food if you can as a supplement or as treats. High quality doesn't mean "Fancy Feast" either. Most high-quality cat foods are found in smaller independent pet supply stores. Some larger commercial retailers stock some of the better products. You may have never heard of some of these brands as they are not mass marketed. The "mass" market is not interested in high-quality cat food. Cheap cat food is what the mass market wants. Cheap means lots of additives, fillers, chemicals and other things your cat was never meant to consume, some of which can actually harm your cat and possibly shorten her lifespan. If you feed treats, choose only pure meat, or cat-specific raw treats. You can dice some non-ground meat from your grocer and cook/boil it lightly (but completely), or you can choose from many excellent freeze-dried treat products. If you purchase pure-meat treat products, it doesn't matter if the packaging says "for dogs" or "for cats." As long as it is pure meat (actual pieces of meat), you can feed it to your cat, but only feed pure meat treats to her as an occasional treat. Your cat's diet needs to be balanced and cat-specific.
The following list will help you find high quality alternatives to a 100% raw food diet. Note your cat does not need all those vegetables added to many canned foods, and should not consume grains, potatoes or other carbohydrates either. Make sure the product you choose contains at least 10% "crude protein" (more is better), no grain (rice/wheat), and little if any vegetable ingredients. Be sure to check with your veterinarian about any dietary changes to your cat's routine. I also strongly recommend against purchasing any pet food products imported from or processed in China that you intend on feeding to your cat in large quantities (as her primary food source). All of my recommendations below (with one exception) are either of domestic origin, or other reliable, healthy sources. You can find these products in most independent pet supply stores. The proprietors of the independent stores are an excellent source for information about better pet food products. and in many cases they can be found on the web for better prices, especially if you buy in larger quantities.
The links below will allow you to purchase the items directly from Amazon, but you can also shop around the web for better pricing/shipping if you like.
Canned Cat Food (check with manufacturer to be sure cans do not contain BPA):
- Nature's Logic varieties, typically at least 40% crude protein.
- Weruva varieties, typically at least 40% crude protein.
- Old Mother Hubbard "Wellness Core" varieties, typically at least 10% crude protein.
Note: The above recommendations are for products from manufactures who have addressed recent concerns over BPA in pet-food cans.
- PureBites treats. Other varieties are available.
- Wildside Alaskan Salmon - (this one is such a huge hit with our three cats, we continue using it, even though it is processed and packaged in China)
- Cat Man Doo Wild Alaskan Salmon treats
- Bravo Bonus Bites treats. Several varieties are available.
- Stella & Chewy's - They offer raw, freeze-dried food which can be given as primary diet or as treats. You can also purchase small sample packages.
Always consult with your veterinarian before attempting any changes to your cat's diet.