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Raw Fed Felines
Kibble is generally seen as an all-encompassing foodstuff, which will meet all of our beloved pets’ nutritional needs. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth, especially when it comes to our cat companions. Cats are naturally designed carnivores; they are not designed to metabolize or utilize nutrients from vegetables or carbohydrates. There are preservatives in kibble that keeps it from spoiling, and sugars in kibble that are damaging to oral health. Food is also meant to contain water; eating a refined and dehydrated food such as kibble is extremely hard on a cat’s kidneys, potentially resulting in long-term health issues.
Wet food is a definite improvement on kibble, and cuts back on the carb content in their diet- but doesn’t eliminate it. Unfortunately, wet food is also full of preservatives and other additives that provide no nutrition and have negative health impacts on your pet.
One of the biggest arguments against raw is that it isn’t sanitary to leave raw food out for animals to “eat at their leisure”. “Free-feeding” as it is referred to, is one of the worst things you could do for your cat. Constantly smelling that their food is available can actually fool animals into thinking they are hungry when they aren’t, and result in over-eating. Just the scent of food is enough to start the digestive processes.
What’s worse? Cats are much pickier eaters than dogs and any sort of diet change can be met with a blatant hunger strike. Most cats who have been consuming salt / fat / carbohydrates / preservatives are, in fact, by definition, addicted to it. Don’t treat your cat’s diet switch as what it actually is, think of it as a detox and dealing with an addiction. Be patient, go slow, and remember that if you are stubborn and you challenge your cat, you probably won’t be the victor.
It is important to know that a cat’s metabolism differs drastically from dogs, and the cause can likely be attributed to their vastly different hunting styles. Dogs are pack scavengers and hunters. They are very social animals that would hunt in packs and acquire feasts infrequently. It would not be uncommon for a wild dog to go several days without eating. Dogs can actually go three days fasting before they even feel hungry.
Cats are generally solitary but extremely successful hunters. It would be rare in the wild for a cat to even go a day without successfully finding at least a small meal. For periods of fasting, all animals metabolize and utilize stored energy from fat cells. You do not want to let your cat go without eating as unlike with a dog, it can be harmful and even fatal.
Cats on ANY diet need to eat on a daily basis. Fasting for more than 48hours can put the liver into Fatty Liver Crisis, where metabolites from fat utilization can cause harmful effects such as acidification of the blood, potassium deficiency, and nausea / vomiting. Please follow these guidelines to protect your pet from harm and ensure as smooth and safe a diet transition as possible:
- Watch your cat eat, take note of the size of the meal that he/she eats and if your cat is eating less than 50% of their regular portion for two days or more, take a step back until your cat is eating normally again, and then proceed again with the next step.
- If your cat does not eat for a day, don’t panic. However, if, nearing 36 hours, he/she is still refusing what you offer, feed him/her whatever they will eat a full meal of.
- If your cat does not eat and is still refusing to eat after 36 hours, or is vomiting / can’t keep food down, bring the cat immediately to the vet. It is not a condition that will go away if left; it will only get worse.
The process of actually switching to raw is a very slow one, be prepared to take a small step forward and have to stay there for a few weeks. Here is a list of suggested steps for successfully switching your cat to raw, and getting them eating healthier, no matter how they may (and probably will) protest:
- The first step is cutting out kibble. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it may actually be easier to switch cats first to a cheaper and less nutritious wet food because it will have more of what they are craving (preservatives, fats, carbohydrates).
- Once you cut kibble out and have your cat on a completely wet diet, try mixing raw with wet food. When you are mixing it, don’t mix it thoroughly; you want your cat to recognize and distinguish the two different food types. The smell of the wet food will signal to your cat that what you are offering is indeed food. Having your cats “accidentally” consume the chunks of raw food will slowly help assure them that it is food as well. If the raw food is completely coated in wet, these mental processes may not occur as easily, or at all.
- When you first start adding a blended diet to their routine, start with a proportion that is mostly wet, and then as time goes on, slowly increase the amount of raw and decrease the amount of wet. To start, try with 10% raw and 90% wet, and aim to jump to 20:80 within 1-2 weeks. Every 1-2 weeks, scale back the wet portion by 10% and increase the portion of raw.
- If your cat doesn’t adjust well to a step, don’t hesitate to take a step back to where they were comfortable, and remain there for a while.
If your cat is seriously and vehemently opposed to raw, consider cooking their meals for a while. “Offer” food two or three times a day if necessary during this process. If it is refused or not finished, it goes back in the fridge sealed up for the next meal. If your cat is accustomed to free-feeding, it may be a good idea to offer food even more times a day than three- because changing from free-feeding to limited feeding times can be a drastic change for some animals, especially if they are older and have been free-fed all their lives. Treat how you feed your animal with the same gradual transition as the actual diet change itself. Offer food up as many times as you want a day, but ensure that there is a time limit set and that the food is removed when the animal is no longer interested. Gradually decrease the number of times that food is offered a day, and your cat will slowly acclimatize to the new mealtime habits. Your goal should be one to two times per day.
Random Raw Tips:
- Kittens should be fed as frequently as infants, and then less as they mature.
- Older cats or ill/recovering cats sometimes do better with smaller portions fed multiple times a day.
- Offer bits of fresh food you are eating, they may refuse, but eventually you are looking for something they accept.
- Always serve food at room temperature; don’t serve cold food because there will not be as much of an aroma that cats use to select their food. Warming the bowl in warm water before putting food in may do the trick for some cats that need extra coaxing.
- Provide balance by rotating at least three proteins. You can feed pure proteins or blends of several proteins, but variety ensures that their system doesn’t become insensitive / intolerant to one constant protein source.
- Feed multiple cats separately so that you can keep track of who is eating what and how much. It also ensures that you KNOW 100% that all your cats are meeting their daily metabolic requirements.
- Put the food on your plate; trickery can be very helpful with cats.
- Some owners of fussy cat’s report that appetites perk up with a little sprinkle of spirulina supplemented in food.