If you are concerned about the health of your cat or about which diet might be best for them, you might be thinking that raw meats would be a good option, as these are what wild cats eat and survive on. If you are hoping to reap the benefits that come from supporting your cat as a carnivore, you should know about the risks and the steps you have to take when implementing a raw food diet for your cat.
Raw Food Benefits
The argument behind raw meat diets for cats is that cats that aren't domesticated live on fresh meat that they hunt and kill themselves. Therefore, it stands to reason that cats in general would have better health if they followed a similar diet, even when they are kept as pets. One respected vet has researched this issue extensively, and believes that raw food is superior to dry cat food in several ways:
- Dry food is low in water content. Fresh meat has a good moisture balance, which helps with better digestion.
- Dry food has fillers, namely carbohydrates. Fresh meat is obviously higher in protein. Cats do not need the same carbohydrate levels as humans, and often these carbs are not processed as they are digested, making digestion more difficult for the cat. High carbohydrates can often lead to health problems, including premature dental decay and diabetes.
- Dry food is often filled with plant-based proteins. Humans do better with plant based proteins, but cats do not. They are predatory animals, and animal protein is their main source of nutrients.
Raw Food Risks
No food choice comes risk-free. Despite the many health benefits that a raw-meat diet will bring to your cat, there are some problems that can come from this feeding style. The biggest problem that concerns many veterinarians is infection and poor meat selection. Prepackaged meats at the grocery store can have a number of bacterial contaminants that aren't present in the wild. For example, processing and butchering meat often leaves it open to E. coli, which is why it is important for humans to cook meat thoroughly to avoid food poisoning.
It is more difficult for a cat to get food poisoning, because they have a more acidic digestive system than humans, but contaminated meat can a still pose a health risk. To avoid the problem and to provide your cat with the best optimal nutrition, you will need to make sure that meat is bought, prepared, and packaged properly. You will also need to give your cat some supplements, as your cat will not have the same access to wild food sources as non-domesticated cats.
Raw Food Safety
You should know that feeding your cat a raw diet is not as simple as buying a steak and putting that in the food bowl instead of dry kibble. For cats, you will need to make sure that
- all meat is freshly butchered. Do not buy steaks from the mark down bin. Part of essential nutrition comes from fresh protein sources. As meats age, the protein will break down, and the chance of contamination is higher. It is your best bet to buy meat cuts from a local butcher instead of from the grocery store. Cats are designed to eat only fresh meat.
- you prepare all meat with clean, sterilized knives and cutting boards. If possible, use a special knife and board just for cat food.
- meat is served immediately or frozen. You can buy plenty of raw meat to feed your cat at once. Portion out the meat into single serving sizes and then freeze them. Each day, you can thaw a serving and feed it to your cat.
- if your cat does not eat or finish the portion, discard it promptly to discourage cats from eating old meat.
If you are worried about preparing your own food, you can find companies that prepare and sell frozen meals for cats.
If you think that a raw food diet will help your cat, talk to a vet in your area for more information about the benefits and how to make sure your cat is getting a balanced diet that meets all of his or her nutritional needs. For more information, contact a local vet hospital.