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The Raw Food Diet for Cats
"Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want."
— Joseph Wood Krutch

    The perfect diet for a cat is one which is as close as
    possible to what it would eat in the wild. . .


      by Contributing Editor Andrea Rogers for Low Carb Luxury

First off, I want you to know that neither my husband nor myself are veterinarians; we do not profess to know everything about the nutritional requirements of the feline species. What we do know is information that I researched and compiled as well as things we have personally experienced. We, like many consumers, used to go to the grocery store to buy our cat food; but once our cats started getting fat and sickly, I started to research the diet and nutritional needs of cats. The findings from that research led us to change our way of life and the food we served our kitties. Our cats are like children to us, they are a part of our lives and our family; we want them to live long, happy and healthy lives. Cats can not choose what they eat each day; and in our opinion as their caretakers, we have the responsibility to feed our pets what is good for them, not what is convenient for us.

Since August of 2000, my husband and I have fed our kitties a raw meat diet. We developed a routine that takes very little time and fuss, one which we can easily fit into our schedules. Since the beginning of this new process, our four cats have become thinner (if they were overweight), more muscular, more energetic and vibrant. They shed only now-and-then, which means they don't have as many hairballs. Overall, their quality of life has improved dramatically because they are much healthier and happier.

I am not a dog lover, blame it on too many years spent with spoiled and obnoxious poodles. Yet, there is a lot of information out there on raw meat diet options for dogs. A significant portion of the information and sources that are found within this report would be helpful to you if you wish to pursue the idea for your dogs.

Atkins Kitty Why Feed Your Cat or Dog a Raw Meat Diet?

There are many reasons why store-bought food is unhealthy for your cat or dog. An excerpt written by John Anderson in the May 1998 Alternative Medicine Magazine explains the situation well:

A homeopath of our acquaintance, who specializes in animal health, recently reported that nearly all of her new cases are dogs and cats with cancer. This is a most unusual trend, she told us.

One of the reason American dogs and cats are getting very sick can be found in the pet foods they eat every day. The realities of animal health aren't much different than human health: if you consume a diet of toxins, eventually you will get terribly sick.

Don't expect the food label to be any true guide to the product's contents. The list of ingredients on that bag of dry pet food or can of "meat" can mask the toxic horrors behind innocuous-sounding phrases such as "meat meal," "bone meal," and "meat by-products." It's the substances you don't know about in that can of pet food that may sicken or even kill your pet.

The list of materials that go into the rendering process is extensive and horrific. When cattle, sheep and poultry are slaughtered for human consumption, the parts deemed unsuitable for eating-heads (including growth hormone implants in cattle), skin, fat containing pesticide residues, toenails, hair or feathers, joints, hooves, stomach and bowels-are rendered.

Other animal parts sent to rendering plants include cancerous tissues, worm-infested organs, contaminated blood and blood clots. Compounding these toxins, slaughterhouses add carbolic acid and fuel oil to these remnants as a way of marking these foods as unfit for human consumption.

Meat and poultry by-products, another major category of pet food ingredients, are the unrendered parts of the animal left over after slaughter, everything deemed unfit for human consumption. In cattle and sheep, this includes the brain, liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, blood, bones, fatty tissue, stomachs and intestines. The items on this list that would normally be consumed by humans, such as the liver, would have to be diseased or contaminated before they could be designated for pet food. Poultry by-products include heads, feet, intestines, undeveloped eggs, chicken feathers and eggshells.

The primary ingredient in many dry commercial pet foods is not protein but cereal. Corn and wheat are the most common grains used but, as with the meat sources, the nutritious parts of the grain are generally present only in trace amounts. The corn gluten meal or wheat middlings added to pet foods are the leftovers after the grain has been processed for human use, containing little nutritional value.

Or they may be grain that is too moldy for humans to eat, so it's incorporated into pet food. Mycotoxins, potentially deadly fungal toxins that multiply in moldy grains, have been found in pet foods in recent years. In 1995, Nature's Recipe recalled tons of their dog food after dogs became ill from eating it. The food was found to contain vomitoxin, a mycotoxin.

Harmful chemicals and preservatives are added to both wet and dry food. For example, sodium nitrite, a coloring agent and preservative and potential carcinogen, is a common additive. Other preservatives include ethoxyquin (an insecticide that has been linked to liver cancer) and BHA and BHT, chemicals also suspected of causing cancer. The average dog can consume as much as 26 pounds of preservatives every year from eating commercial dog foods.

Atkins Kitty Recent studies have shown processed foods to be a factor in [the] increasing numbers of pets suffering from cancer, arthritis, obesity, dental disease and heart disease. Dull or unhealthy coats are a common problem with cats and dogs and poor diet is usually the cause, according to many veterinarians and breeders. The AAFCO nutrient profiles may play a role here... the "balanced" nutritional levels they recommend may be inadequate for an individual animal.

It is estimated that up to two million companion animals suffer from food allergies. Dr. Plechner, believes that the commercial pet foods are the primary cause and can contribute to a host of health problems.

Needless to say, it appears as though profit margins and cost cutting have more to do with what is served to our pets than what their nutritional needs are. Yet, knowing this, why don't veterinarians do something about it or inform the public? Some do, but a majority just go along with what the contemporary theories and beliefs are. In addition, Nestle (Alpo, Fancy Feast, Friskies, Mighty Dog), Heinz (9 Lives, Amore, Gravy Train, Kibbles 'n Bits), Colgate-Palmolive (Hill's Science Diet Pet Food), Procter & Gamble (Eukanuba and Iams), Mars (Kal Kan, Mealtime, Pedigree, Sheba) and Nutro are all benefactors in the education of veterinarians. These corporations are also major sponsors for the studies and experiments in feline and canine nutrition.

Atkins Kitty An excerpt from an article by Kathy Ashmir on the website explains the reality surrounding felines and their nutritional needs:

Cats are carnivores, plain and simple. They need meat to survive. Many cats can subsist for quite some time on grocery store food, but more and more often we see diseases such as cancer, hyperthyroidism, IBD, diabetes, and heart disease, all of which can be linked to a history of poor nutrition. You may believe that grocery store foods are formulated by nutritionists, and they're supposed to be fully balanced and complete, right? Wrong. The best thing you can do for your cat is to feed her the way she was meant to be fed: meat!

Read the label on your bag of cat food. The first ingredient is going to be one of two things: a grain / corn meal or gluten, or a meat by-product. The huge list of ingredients may include a few of these grains and by-products, and the rest will be vitamins, preservatives, and additives. Why? Well, first of all, a meat by-product isn't actual meat. It's waste - feet, feathers, beaks, hooves, and floor waste, including feces, dead and diseased animals - and those are the quality ingredients.

And if this weren't bad enough, food that's destined for pet consumption must be further "rendered", or made unfit for human consumption (as if it ever was) by the addition of things like charcoal. Secondly, cats don't digest grains very well as a primary ingredient, but they're cheap and they'll fill her up. Often the grains aren't the real thing either, but the nutritionally bankrupt husks and shells of the grains, or what's left over after all the good stuff has been extracted.

Atkins Kitty These ingredients are put together under high heat and pressure to form those neat little shapes that cats are supposed to love so much. (Do you think your cat really cares if her food is shaped like a fish?) The preservatives and vitamins are added to make up for what's missing to start with, and to give the food a good long shelf life in the grocery store. The additional flavorings make the food attractive to your cat, and everyone is happy, right? Wrong! There is another way. (For more information about the ugly reality of pet food ingredients, see the API Report.

If you want to feed your cats a raw meat diet; then let me provide you with some information and advice that will help you begin your new feeding program. In feeding your cat a raw meat diet, there are many things you must consider and prepare for. Throughout history, the function and design of the feline body has not changed one iota. Cats evolved as desert creatures and they are one of the few modern mammals known that do not adapt to their environment. Therefore, it's important to realize that you need to feed your cats what they were designed to eat.

Three important components of the feeding program you implement are portion size, frequency and composition. Smaller cats that eat smaller prey will hunt, and if they are successful, they will eat more frequently. This means that kittens will eat smaller amounts but more frequently. Adult cats will eat about two meals a day (with treats). They will eat between a -cup to a whole cup of food a day. Remember that the basic ingredients for a homemade diet do not change for kittens or adult cats. When feeding kittens (who have been weaned), old cats, etc., you adjust the amount and frequency you feed them, not the ingredients. Most of the nutrients a cat needs can only be synthesized from meat. Your cat's digestive tract is designed for a diet of about 75 - 80% fresh raw meat. Therefore, it is unhealthy to force your carnivorous cat to become omnivores like humans. Additionally, cats require different nutrients and in differing amounts compared to other species. This means that if you are going to do a raw meat diet for both felines and canines in your household, two separate recipes need to be used.

Beginning the new feeding program will be difficult at first because you will need to gather the ingredients together and you may need to experiment with different types of combinations. Additionally, the transition will need to be slow for the cat's mental, emotional and physical health. Cats abhor change. To prove this, try moving the litter box sometime and see how they react. Transitioning your cat from the store-bought food to the raw meat diet should take about 2 weeks total. Some cats transition sooner than this, and then there are some that will need a transition timetable that is much longer. From personal experience, I have noted that the older a cat is, the longer the transition period will need to be. My four cats reacted differently to being transitioned to the raw meat diet and all of them had problems the first two weeks. They had become addicted to the carbohydrates in the store-bought food and were going through something like withdrawal. But you can make it easier on them by having a positive attitude and talking to your cat; tell them how good the food is and how much better they will feel. Play with them more and show them that you love them, that you want them to eat the new diet. They will pick up on your attitude and if you're genuinely enthusiastic about the change, they will pick up on that as well.

Now here are some basic thoughts on feeding your cat a raw meat diet. The store-bought foods which most pet owners have been feeding their cats are addictive and loaded with carbohydrates as filler. Most include grains, yeast, vitamin C and alfalfa. While these ingredients are okay for humans, they are not necessarily good for the cat and may be very harmful in fact. Yet, some people are squeamish about feeding their cats raw meat. There really is no reason to feel that way since a cat's digestive tract was designed for the digestion of raw meat. Their digestive tracts contain a higher concentration of acid, which rather efficiently kills the parasites and bacteria that negatively affect humans. In addition, a cat's digestive tract is much shorter than that of humans; this means that food spends a lot less time being broken down, digested, absorbed and eliminated.

Once you begin your new feeding program, your cat will probably consume more food at the beginning of the raw meat diet to compensate for nutritional deficiencies. They will drink less water and there will be less urination and stool. Reason being that there is less to filter out and less waste to get rid of. This only lasted for a couple of months with our cats. We added more water to our cats' food for the health of their kidneys and so that their bowel movements would be easier. Experiment with different combinations and types of food because variety provides stimulation and prevents fixation. However, if your cat is sick, you will have to handle their diet differently. Sick cats have different nutritional needs than their healthy counterparts. You will need to research your particular cats needs and create a diet that is appropriate.

Next, I will further discuss the specific nutritional requirements for your cat. A healthy cat requires approximately 40 calories per pound of body weight per day. Of these 40 calories, about 12 - 16 should come from protein, 20 - 25 from fat, and 3 - 4 from carbohydrates (if you add any in their mixture). Vegetables, if any, should be about 5% of the diet. Kelp and alfalfa combined have almost every vitamin in them known to man; but due to their nature, it may not be wise to feed them to your cat. Remember - cats have absolutely no need for any carbohydrates.

Animals, including cats, need at least 30% raw fat in their diet. Fat carries the fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K which are crucial to their health and survival. Cats also need dietary protein to provide specific "essential" amino acids that their own bodies cannot synthesize at an adequate rate; these must be provided in sufficient amounts in their food. Additional vitamin supplementation to the raw meat diet should normally not be necessary; this is due to the fact that the diet is well rounded and provides a rich and easy-to-digest source of all essential nutrients. The addition of a B vitamin complex and vitamin E is recommended (measure in cat quantities - not human), though not necessary. We do add supplements to our recipe due to the fact that we use boneless/skinless chicken breasts in our meat mixtures without organ meats.

Some vitamin knowledge might prove helpful for you. Vitamin C is not required in the diet because your cat synthesizes all that it needs. Vitamin B can be consumed in quantities many times greater than what is required without causing toxic effects; and it is water-soluble which means it can't be stored in the body over long periods of time like vitamins A and D. So if you choose to, you can give them a tad bit more in their meat mixtures (in cat quantities). Vitamin E is a preservative and it is a wonderful addition to the raw meat recipe. If you grind in the vitamins and minerals before the raw meat, you will have the grinder greased up so that the meat will grind through much more smoothly. Next, vitamin K is required for proper blood clotting, but the cat synthesizes this on its own; no additions are needed. Be extremely careful not to overdoses on vitamin D; only small amounts are required for regulating the use of calcium and phosphorus - the same goes for vitamin A.

Please note that meat contains a lot of phosphorous and bone meal is heavy in calcium. The calcium to phosphorous ratio is critical in a cat's diet. The proper ratio of phosphorous to calcium should be 1:1.2 for younger cats, 1:1.1 for adults and 1:1 for seniors. As always, balance is essential in a proper diet.

A cat requires one fluid ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. The chlorine in our water is often the culprit as to why our cats will not drink water from their water bowl. If you experience problems in this area, it was suggested to try bottled water or to add an ounce of club soda to 16 ounces of ordinary water (some cats like the carbonation). However, for the people and cats in our household, we use a reverse-osmosis water system.

Some ideas for preparation of this new diet include seeking out a small local butcher where you can acquire your cat's meats; however, my husband and I just buy large bags of boneless/skinless chicken breasts from Sam's or Costco. We use a Kitchen Aid with a meat grinder attachment. Please note however, all meat grinds easier if it is partially frozen first, otherwise it may clog the grinder. Some sources also warn against mixing meats, including organs; the reason being that a cat will not be hunting a turkey and a chicken at the same time. However, my husband and I tend to ignore this guideline.

The hardest part of feeding this diet to your cat is to bring the meat mixture to room temperature without cooking it. It is important that you serve the food as close to body temperature as possible. Reason being that the prey your kitty would catch in the wild would not have been in a refrigerator overnight. If the food is cold, it hits their stomachs wrong and they will regurgitate it. The solution my husband and I devised was to set the oven to warm and to fill up plate-bowls with about a -cup of water (mineral-free). Next we dolloped in two to three heaping tablespoons of the meat mixture and then put the plates in the oven. We set a timer for five minutes (if you don't have a kitchen timer, you will need to get one; nothing is worse than pulling out cooked chicken and having to do it all over again - at 5:30 am in the morning). This ensures that we serve it to them slightly warm. Whatever you do though, do not microwave the food; it cooks the food internally, which in turn defeats the purpose in doing a raw meat diet.

It is recommended that you do not leave the food out too long after serving it. This is because the fatty acids will decay and the cat will not be able to absorb those nutrients. This is no longer a problem for our cats, they gulp it down as soon as we set the plate-bowls down on the floor. If your cat doesn't seem to be hungry at the time you feed him, just put some plastic wrap over the plate-bowl and stash it in the fridge for later. Most importantly, fresh is best, so have set mealtimes to feed your cat, but be careful at what time you set them. We set our mealtimes for 5:30a and 5:30p, though this can be a problem on the weekends.

Foods You AVOID Feeding to Your Cat:
  • Pork - this is dangerous. While trichinosis may not be as much of a concern these days, it can still cause problems raw.
  • Fish - raw fish fed in excess can lead to a Thiamin deficiency. Small amount of cooked fish may be feed sparingly as treats, such as sardines. Raw fish may contain some parasites that cats cannot handle, strong as their digestive systems may be.
  • Blue-green Algae - these supplements are not recommended.
  • Cod Liver Oil - not recommended as a fatty acid supplement since it can easily lead to a vitamin A and D overdose; unless, no other source of these vitamins, such as liver, is given to the cat.
  • Raw Egg White - there are many reasons why this is unhealthy. The most important being that it contains avidin which breaks down and destroys the B vitamins.
  • Rabbit
  • Minced Meats (and cooked meats) - B vitamins get destroyed in the process. Cooking meat also destroys the digestive enzymes, which in turn makes proper digestion very difficult.
  • Potatoes, Peas, Cabbage or Corn (Vegetables in general) - allergen or dangerous, lack of digestible nutrients.
  • Carrots - the vitamin A isn't going to help your cat any because he can't convert it properly.
  • Citrus Fruits - allergen or dangerous, cats hate the smell.
  • Chocolate - dangerous and an allergen.
  • Onions - dangerous because it can cause Heinz-body hemolytic anemia. Onion is also found in baby food and it is often added to enhance the flavor of many foods, so be sure to read the label.
  • Cooked Fat - a cat's system is not designed to handle cooked meat or fat.
  • Tuna Meat - use sparingly. It is not a good idea because it can cause very serious vitamin E depletion. Cats can quickly become addicted to the strong flavor and refuse all other foods. However we use it in our recipes at times and when we're in between batches of raw meat mixtures.
  • Ground Meat from a Grocery Store - possible contamination from grinders.
  • Flaxseed and Vegetable Oils - from a vegetable source.

Foods You CAN Feed Your Cat:

  1. Chicken.
  2. Lamb.
  3. Turkey, Pheasant, Cornish Hen and Duck.
  4. Bone Meal - do not purchase it at a garden supply store meant as fertilizer. This type of bone meal is not food grade and is of low quality, often contaminated with heavy metals. Watch how much you use and avoid overdosing.
  5. Gelatin - provides a unique blend of amino acids.
  6. Egg Yolk - contains all of the essential amino and fatty acids needed by the cat. It presents a rich source for vitamins and trace minerals. Egg yolk represents the most complete and concentrated nutrition available in the animal kingdom.
  7. Salmon Oil - rich with Omega 3 fatty acids and it's the most concentrated source of Omega 3 fatty acids.
  8. Garlic - helps to fight fleas.
  9. Apple Cider Vinegar - a teaspoon in food each day may also help to repel fleas (but our cats prefer garlic).
  10. Organ Meats - heart, liver, giblets, gizzards and kidneys. On a regular basis, they will help in enhancing variety. We don't use organ meats much, though.
  11. Colloidal Minerals - containing over 70 natural minerals, preferably in unflavored liquid form (Health food and supplement stores).
  12. Psyllium Husk Powder - unflavored, for fiber and proper bowel movement. Not necessary, but we use it.

Others:

  1. Baby Food Meat - without onion powder. As a treat.
  2. Parmesan Cheese.
  3. Tuna - water from tuna and sometimes the tuna itself.
  4. Prozyme Food Supplement - I used to use this in every batch while the cats were in transition from grocery store-bought food to the raw meat diet. They no longer need this. You can get this at health food and supplement stores, some pet food and supply stores and online.
  5. Freeze Dried Glands - they are included in this diet to account for the glands in whole prey animals. We used to use this but we don't much anymore. Vitamin Shoppe or Nutricology at 1-800-545-9960, "Immuno-Gland Plex".

Recipe:

I would like to include the recipe that my husband and I use for our four kitties. This recipe lasts just over 1 week for four cats that are fed twice a day. This equates to about one pound of the meat mixture, per cat, per week. Remember that they eat about a 1/2-cup to 1 cup a day of the meat mixture and don't forget the fresh water!

Main Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs. Frozen chicken breasts (about 12 breasts) - cut into strips for grinding.
    • The amount of meat is 2 pounds regardless of what other meats are used. In addition, we always allocate at least 50% (1 pound) of the meat as chicken. If other meats are used, then they will account for the other pound. Turkey, beef, lamb and other meat scraps are what we sometimes use in addition to chicken, but remember, NO PORK.
  • 1/2-pound to 1 pound of fat.
    • Remember that cats need at least 30% raw fat in their diets. We use a mixture of fats from lard, vegetable oils, tallow (chicken fat), butter and whatever else is available (the less refined, the better).
  • 4 Egg Yolks.
  • 4 Vitamin Softgel Capsules.
  • 4 Salmon Oil Softgel Capsules
    • Other essential fatty acid softgel capsules that contain Omega 3's can be used as well.
  • 1/4-cup Brewers Yeast.
    • We use the Lewis Labs brand because our cats love it.
  • 1/2-can of Lewis Labs Cat Formula.
  • 3 Eyedroppers full of Colloidal Minerals.
    • This can be found at any health food store.
  • 1/4-cup Bone Meal.

Please keep in mind that this is an ever-changing recipe. Our intention is to give variety to our cats diet and the proper nutrition. Remember to balance the portion size, frequency and composition of what you feed your cats. For more information and guidelines on the exact nutritional guidelines for cats, go to these websites:
Optional and Rotational Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 to 3 Tbsp. Prozyme Digestive Enzyme Food Supplement.
    • This is fed at the beginning of the new program to help make the transition phase as easy as possible. If you choose not to use this, please be prepared to steam clean the carpets on a weekly basis.
  • 2 capsules of Nutricology "Immuno-Gland Plex".
  • 1 tsp. Garlic.
    • This is normally added in the Spring to repel fleas and humans.
  • 1 can of Tuna.
    • It enhances the flavor and it can be used if your cats are being finicky and uncooperative.
  • 1/2 tsp. Kelp.
  • 1 Tbsp. Psyllium Husk Powder.
Thaw the chicken in the microwave, but do not cook it. The chicken should be easy enough to cut with a knife but frozen enough that it's not limp and slimy. While the chicken is in the microwave, you can get the Kitchen Aid ready. Put the wet ingredients (including soft gel capsules and fats) through the grinder. This will lubricate the grinder for when the meat is ready. Next, dump in the dry ingredients (don't pass these through the grinder).

When the chicken and other meats are ready, slice them up into 1-inch strips. Push through the grinder. Do not over-process the meat, cats like a meaty texture, not mush. Note: until you get some experience with the meat grinder, you may want to wear some dress-down clothes. Chicken has been known to fly in our household.

Once the mixture is ground and mixed to the right consistency, plop it all into a large Tupperware container and store in the refrigerator. The mixture can stay in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It starts to get stinky after that.

When it's feeding time, turn the oven to WARM. Fill plate-bowls with about a 1/4-cup of water and then put about 2 to 3 heaping Tablespoons of the mixture in them. Put in the oven for 5 minutes and then serve.

Vary the source of protein and make sure they get plenty of all the necessary nutrition; and never be lazy about giving them water. Don't forget that it's okay to vary the ingredients but use common sense.

It sounds easier than it really is. Try doing this with four cats meowing at you and jumping up and down from the counter top while you're doing this. Oh, and they also like to trip you while you walk to and from the refrigerator.

Disasters:
  • Putting bone through the meat grinder.
  • Putting eggshells in the recipe (some recipes called for it but the cats did not approve).
  • Too chunky a mixture and too mushy a mixture.
  • Too much kelp, dulse and/or garlic. Cats have a very sensitive sense of smell. If it doesn't smell like meat, then they will not eat it.
  • Taking the warmed cat food out of the oven without an oven mitt.
  • Impatience with transitioning.
  • Setting the feeding time for 4:30 am. We adjusted it to 5:30am so that I could "sleep in on the weekends". Believe me, the cats will find a way to wake you up if it's feeding time.
  • There are others, but hopefully you won't have the same problems as we did.
Please remember that the decision of what to feed your cats is yours and yours alone to make. My intention is not to give you an all-inclusive way of feeding your cats a raw meat diet. My intention is to open your mind to a new way of thinking and to hopefully encourage you to research and experiment on your own.

As I said before, this information is based on research and personal experience; your methods and preferences will more than likely vary from what works in our household. Don't be afraid to experiment but keep in mind that the nutritional requirements must be met - how you accomplish in meeting them is where you have some room to experiment.

Good luck and I wish you and your pets the best of health!

Andrea Rogers
Sources:
1)   www.ecomall.com/greenshopping/vlpet2.htm
2)   www.naturalpets.net/cat.htm
3)   www.felinefuture.com
4)   www.blakkatz.com
5)   www.holisticat.com
6)   animal.safeshopper.com
7)   www.cats-only.com/coat.html
8)   www.angelfire.com/hi2/ArtemisKittiesOnline/recipes.html#Recipe1
9)   www.geocities.com/HotSprings/1158/animals.htm
10)  www.petsynergy.com
11)  members.iinet.net.au/~animcom8/commercialfood.html
12)  www.beyondveg.com/tu-j-l/raw-cooked/raw-cooked-1h.shtml
13)  www.api4animals.org/doc.asp?ID=79
All other information was derived from website searches under the keywords: Raw+cat+food+holistic from the Hotbot.com search engine. This report was mainly compiled in August of 2000 so many websites may have changed since then. My thanks go to these sites and others in providing information that goes against the conventional way of thinking and which allows us the chance to spend another 10 to 30 more years with our kitties.