Raving Over Raw
Praise for a Species-Appropriate Diet for Your Cat
First and foremost: a raw meat diet poses next to no bacterial risk for cats.
This is number one protest of those who balk at the idea of cats eating raw. Cats have highly acidic digestive systems that help them resist infection. In addition, their digestive cycle is 2 to 3 times shorter than ours, which doesn’t allow much time for bacteria to proliferate in their systems. (And besides, if they can sniff each other’s derrieres as much as they do, plus lick their own regularly, you can bet that they have a different constitution from us humans.)
I’m a proponent of species-appropriate diets for all critters we take in as pets. It is our duty. And it is pretty rare that a cat doesn’t do well on a raw meat based diet, but it is indeed possible. Therefore, I don’t object to good quality canned food, though never kibble. As a caring pet owner, you’ll observe and judge how well your cat does with it. It is true that many pet food companies have finally stepped up to the plate (or to the kitty dish) to create much healthier versions of canned foods that do away with those horrible grains and fillers.
Do your research if you are not ready or willing to go raw—your pets are worth every bit of time spent web-surfing for quality food (and see Lynn Curtis’ tips on reading cat food labels). While I don’t turn my nose up at you for turning to good canned food (as some raw proponents would), I do object to nutrient-poor, grain-rich cat food that is not just useless but often harmful to cats. It is truly criminal what some brands are passing off as food fit for pets.
Ok, now to the ‘meat’ of the argument: the myriad of reasons to go raw! It is critical to follow recipes that meet all the dietary requirements of cats (I have posted a few at Radlilcat.com). In other words, please don’t think that a pork chop a day will suffice. Cats require very specific ingredients a topic I’ll cover in “What’s In a Raw Diet for Cats?” very shortly. For now, let’s just look at the benefits and visualize this happy place for you and your cats:
I must shout from the rooftops: my 15 year old cat is thriving now! But at age 10 he was on the critically ill and was no longer able to digest food on his conventional diet. His diarrhea was horrific and instantly happened after every meal. Ultrasound showed extreme inflammation of his lymph nodes. There was little for me to try other than the steroids that my vet proposed. I chose to pour over books and the internet first. I will never regret that decision: I learned the basics of what cats needed for optimum health. I hope all the time spent uncovering information will now help you and your beloved cat too.
Here’s the scoop in laymen’s terms (of which I am one):
Digestibility: many of the ingredients in commercial foods are not even processed in your cats’ digestive tracts. Their stomachs can’t break down things like grains, which are prevalent in commercial foods.
An example you may relate to: you may experienced how corn can pass undigested through your entire digestive system. Certain foods, like corn and cheese, are known to be more difficult to digest than other foods, like avocado and yogurt. In the case of cats, since they can only digest meat, the awful extras in many commercial foods are far worse than when we don’t digest a few grains of corn.
Bioavailability: per above, ingredients need to be “accessible” to be useful. While we humans can get valuable protein from quinoa, a cat’s digestive tract simply cannot. They can only pull what they need from meat and not any of the great vegetal sources that we have at our disposal.
An example you may relate to: years ago when bran became a big rage, you might recall that some food manufacturers started adding wood pulp to their cereals and other products. It is cheap and the FDA had no bans on it, but there are no nutrients your body can obtain from it. We’re not termites.
Just because a body ingests something with some value nutritionally, it does not mean that body will obtain a single nutrient. Nutrients for cats must be “bioavailable’ to cats and that means meat and only meat.
Low food odor: unless you let meat rot (and I am so hoping you do not), uncooked meat has next to no odor. Give it a go: put some out next to a can of open cat food of any flavor and decide which smells and which doesn’t.
No stool odor: this is the most surprising thing I learned after switching my cats’ diets several years ago. I had no idea that the horrible smell of cat poop was all related commercial diet! Truly, there is almost no odor whatsoever from their poop now: their bodies make use of nearly all of the food, then get rid of what they don’t. And that part doesn’t seem to be as potent as all the undigested grains and fillers of those darned cans of food.
Less stool, less frequently: not only does poop smell drop, but there’s less waste as well. As mentioned, the bioavailability of nutrients is high, which means they burn way more off than they poop. One thing you may notice, however, is more urination: they may get more water from this diet than canned or kibble.
Losing weight: calorie for calorie, overweight cats will not get any of the sugars and unhealthful calories that they would get in commercial diets. In other words, they’ll use the food, not pack it on.
Gaining weight: finally getting the nutrients they need, underweight cats thrive on a raw diet feeding their muscles and fueling their energy.
Coats will shine: when you’re healthy, you’re healthy, and it shows externally as well as helping internally.
Less vomiting and diarrhea: I would almost claim “none” if it weren’t for the fact that my cats never stop chewing on grass (in fact, I buy them cat grass to do so), which means an occasional bit of throw-up when they overdo it. That said, if I ever saw diarrhea, I’d jump on getting a stool sample to the vet: it simply hasn’t happened since they’ve switched to raw.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this piece, my cat Nino is alive and well today thanks to switching to raw foods. After the horrific bout with IBD, within two days of putting him on an excellent raw meat diet his diarrhea stopped. Within two months of the bad ultrasound, my vet reported to me (with his mouth agape and his eyes popping out of his head), that Nino had been cured and his follow-up ultrasound was completely clear! That was truly one of the happiest moments of my life. It has meant many more wonderful moments with my incredible cat! And I call tell he’s not just healthier, he’s happier, too.