Raw diets have always been a controversial topic among cat owners. That’s partly because uncooked animal products like organs, flesh, muscles, and ground-up bones usually don’t sound palatable to humans. However, to carnivores in the wild and their domestic feline counterparts, raw diets can be quite appetizing.
Still, many cat owners feel sceptical about feeding their cats an uncooked meal, and yes, they may have a valid reason to feel sceptical. All conditions being equal, a healthy cat without any challenge shouldn’t have any problems digesting raw diets. Well, let’s face it, conditions aren’t always equal with all cats.
From allergic reactions to immune diseases and other medical impairments, some cats may find uncooked food a challenge. If you are looking to start your new cat on raw diets or perhaps change the diet, you might need to know a few things to make an informed decision that will keep your cat safe and healthy.
What Is a Raw Cat Food Diet?
Uncooked animal products like muscle meat, bones, and organs are basically what constitutes raw cat foods. Sometimes, they are referred to as BARF diet, i.e., “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.” In order words, they are unprocessed food put together with raw ingredients.
But why should anyone feed their pets unprocessed foods? The thing is, cats may be domestic animals, but they are very much similar to their carnivorous felines in the wild. Because of this similarity, they require nutrients that can easily be supplied by animal tissue. Protein and moisture, being top of the nutrients’ list, totally make sense for a cat diet to be filled with animal products.
Why Can’t The Raw Animal Products Be Cooked?
Cooking sounds like a great plan, but the thing is, heat application has a way of making foods more palatable. Still, it is believed that heat processing can alter or decrease the nutritional value of the raw nutrients present in animal products. Technically, that’s no longer how nature wants it to be.
Ever seen an obese cat in the wild? That’s because nature’s plan for feeding is the perfect recipe. While the raw feeding plan remains controversial, it undoubtedly has its benefits as your cat’s overall well-being will greatly improve under the raw diet. However, the question that most cat owners who feel skeptical about the raw diet usually ask is, are the ingredients in raw cat food safe and healthy?
Are Raw Cat Diets Safe?
We have established how raw diets are totally beneficial to cats because they are obligate carnivores. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with some risk. So, cat owners must understand the possible risks that come with choosing raw diets.
Nature has equipped cats with a more acidic digestive system. What’s more, this digestive system is a lot shorter than the one humans have. So while humans need to cook food for palatability and to destroy disease-causing microorganisms, cats basically have the ability to digest unprocessed foods and tolerate many bacteria.
But here’s the catch. The pathogens or disease-causing organisms around the home are a bit different from the ones in the wild. In fact, one of the greatest challenges surrounding raw diet feeding is the possibility of contaminating your pet’s food during preparation. Unlike the wild, bacteria is almost everywhere at home, e.g., on the kitchen slabs, sinks, plates, and
containers. As earlier mentioned, humans cook, so pathogens are technically destroyed once foods pass through high temperatures. However, contaminated foods can reach your cat daily since there’s no further processing. You don’t need me to tell you that pathogens can be life-threatening.
What’s more, if a cat isn’t equipped with a perfectly functioning immune system, it makes the raw diet idea more complicated. A pet with an impaired immune system, either due to old age or a genetic disease, may find it difficult to fight invasion from bacteria present in food. Raw feeding should be completely discouraged for such cats. That’s why it’s best to visit your veterinarian before proceeding on a raw feeding diet.
Should Raw Feeding Be Avoided Because Of Bacteria?
Let’s face it, it’s almost impossible to eliminate all the risks involved with any move. So you only need to adopt caution and put safety measures in place. As a cat owner looking to adopt the raw diet, you need to know the available options.
Feeding raw diets doesn’t necessarily mean you have to put together the raw ingredients by yourself. That said, you can either opt for the commercial pre-made raw foods, or you can prepare the food yourself if you are not feeling too lazy. So, let’s look at what to expect from the latter and former.
Commercial Pre-made Raw Food Vs. Homemade Raw Foods.
Before we look into both options, bear in mind that a balanced diet should be your aim. The ideal raw cat diet should be carefully put together. So whether you are going commercial or homemade, you’ll do well to seek the opinion of your vet. If your cat consumes diets that are not balanced over a long period, it may develop health complications.
Homemade Raw Foods
Putting together raw cat foods at home can be a bit challenging. You’ll have to source for a quality protein source, ensure the bones are perfectly crushed, and add the remaining nutrients to ensure your cats are getting a balanced meal.
While it’s a bit stressful, this homemade-style can be highly nutritious as you’ll be exposing your cat to relatively fresher ingredients. Another advantage is that it can be cost-effective, depending on the animal type. For example, chicken organs and bones can be relatively cheaper to source and purchase.
However, putting together the raw ingredients can also have some downsides. First, you may need to set aside a contained area in your home for preparing your cat’s food with routine sanitization. What’s more, the use of gloves is a must if you want to reduce contamination.
Furthermore, due to the challenge of sourcing for meat, you’ll likely not have varieties for your feline friend. As mentioned earlier, your cat needs more than just protein. So, don’t make the mistake of thinking your cat is totally fine with raw meat, muscles, and crushed bones.
You might want to know that their wild counterparts that feed on meat, bones, and organs only don’t live as long and therefore, risk adding too much or too little nutrients. So, you can’t avoid the hassle of paying close attention to calorie calculation, measurements, and the right quantity of nutrients. For example, too much calcium, phosphorus, or magnesium may cause health issues for your cat.
Commercial Pre-made Raw Foods.
These are raw foods made by cat food manufacturers. They are usually freeze-dried for both convenience and reducing the risk of bacteria growth. One of the advantages of choosing commercially made raw food is that the manufacturers often put together a balanced meal.
While protein is essential for your cat’s development, your cat needs other nutrients like vitamins, minerals, etc. These manufacturers already know the right proportions. So you can rest knowing your cat is getting a balanced meal.
What’s more, commercially made raw foods offer varieties, so you can choose to feed your catfish, chicken, lamb, turkey, rabbit, etc. We must also add that this option isn’t only convenient, but also cost-effective. It’s easy and needs no further process, but thawing and measuring the portion you want to give your cat.
Please also note that just because you are not preparing any meal doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ensure safety measures to reducing the risk of pathogen contamination.
Final Thoughts on Raw Cat Food Diets
Since it all about your cat’s nutrition and well-being, raw food is totally worth the try as long as you can adopt safety measures. Giving its carnivorous background, your cat can get the best from raw diets. However, if you can’t manage the risk of raw feeding, you can opt for wet, cocked cat food that’s equally highly nutritious