Feeding our felines raw is often overlooked. When we talk about feeding raw to our pets, most think about feeding our canine friends. In fact, it’s really about feeding a species-appropriate diet to all animals. Our feline companions are obligate carnivores. What does this mean? People refer to cats as being obligate carnivores to put more emphasis on the fact there is little difference between them and any other meat eating predator. They need to eat meat to thrive.
So why do we feed our beloved furry friends kibble, biscuits, nuts (etc depending on what you call them) and/or wet food that is full of carbohydrates, sugars and other various added extras? They need meat. Fresh meat. We are told over and over again that we will become unhealthy if we eat processed meals; we need fresh foods. So why do we not think about this for our animals?
Have you ever wondered why your kitty gets kidney failure, obesity, dental disease or urinary tract problems? I could go on. The majority of our pet’s ailments can be pinpointed back to diet. So why doesn’t your vet tell you that? The simple answer is your vet isn’t trained in nutrition, just like your GP isn’t trained in nutrition. So they’re not to blame.
Let’s talk about how to introduce raw. I hear you, your cat is fussy, they will only eat fishy food in jelly, chicken based food in gravy etc. Yes, I feel your pain. Kittens are easier to change onto a raw diet because they are more open to trying new things. Most cats become very suspicious of any diet changes after the age of around 16 weeks. This means if you haven’t introduced it by then, it could take longer and require a lot more patience but it will be worth it.
Transitioning to raw smoothly
First of all, I would highly recommend having a look at what you feed. If it’s a low meat content food with various carbohydrates, various sugars and salt, or worse it has illegible ingredients, the most important piece of advice I can give you would be move onto a high meat content wet food like Natures Menu Wet Cat Food Pouches (other brands are available). Introduce this into their biscuits/wet food or alongside them. Start slowly. If they are asking for more, that’s fab news.
Hopefully you’ll have moved exclusively onto a grain free, high meat content wet food after a couple of weeks. If not, please be patient. Keep in mind that if I offered most children and/or most adults a fast food takeaway or a chicken breast salad, which one would they choose? Once you’ve done the hard work, please don’t slip back and offer them a McDonald’s type meal again.
To introduce raw, why not just try some cut up chicken breast to start with alongside the wet food. Some will take this immediately, some won’t. Fab news if they take it. If not, keep offering them some small, cut up chicken breast (always remembering that they are highly suspicious). If they take to it like a duck to water, keep offering various fresh meats.
There are now a lot of pre-made raw foods available and we have various brands and types of raw cat food on our website. We are ideally looking to feed a diet with lots of various proteins and textures. This means chunks, minces, bones and offal. You can opt for a pre-made complete meal or go for a more DIY approach.
My top tips for the transition period
1. Try feeding at room temperature or above. This doesn’t mean put it in the microwave but simply add it into a bowl and put the bowl in some warm/hot water. This would replicate a mouse’s body temperature for example. I’d predict the majority of cats wouldn’t want to eat their food straight out of the fridge and would prefer room temperature or higher.
2. Mix a little bit of raw food into the wet food, gradually increasing the amount you’re adding in over time.
3. There’s always the bribe technique but I’d only recommend this as a last resort. You could add their favourite things on top of the raw i.e catnip or some flakes of tuna etc.
4. The two bowl technique – this means placing a bowl of their wet food next to a small piece of ‘pre-made’ raw in another bowl. Keep this up at every meal until they show signs of being interested. Slowly increase the raw and decrease the wet. This can take anything up to 3 months depending on how suspicious they are.
I do not recommend ever starving your cat. This is not going to get them to eat the raw any quicker. Good luck.
There are just a couple of other points I need to tell you about for a balanced raw diet. Firstly, I need to mention the importance of protein from meat and fish. These proteins have amino acids such as taurine and arginine. Taurine is very important; if cats don’t get enough of this, it will make them go blind. Taurine is found in muscle meats, red meats and poultry (especially legs), particularly in heart, liver and kidney. It’s also found in shrimp and clams (it’s higher in these than any other animal protein), fatty acids, vitamins and minerals and lastly water.
So just to re-cap – feeding a varied, raw diet to your cat or kitten is simply giving them everything they need.