I started raw feeding my cats in January 2011. There was no dramatic reason for the switch. It was just that the more I learned about raw feeding, the more it made sense.
I first read about raw feeding cats on a forum. Switching to feeding raw had very quickly cured a nasty case of cystitis in a cat, where vet-recommended food and medication had persistently failed. As someone who had never thought to question a vet’s judgement, this was fascinating and I wanted to find out more about it.
At that time I had two young kittens, Larry and Monty, and my elderly cat Barney. The kittens were on top quality kitten kibble (ha! that’s what I genuinely thought at the time). Old Barney was on ‘senior’ kibble, and had been mostly kibble-fed all of his life. I had always fed my cats dry food, from the ‘better’ brands like James Wellbeloved and Iams. None of the cheap and nasty Go-Cat or supermarket’s own brand stuff. I believed the blurb on the packaging and I believed that was a good diet for them. In 20 years of cat ownership, no-one, including vets, had ever suggested to me that it might not be the best option for my cats’ health. After all, my cats were perfectly healthy. Or were they?
Looking into raw feeding, the same stories came up over and over again. Switching to raw had miraculously cured all manner of niggling health problems which conventional veterinary medicine could not alleviate. A good raw diet had even stabilised the health of cats with more serious conditions such as kidney failure, diabetes, and irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, bladder infections, allergies, and dental issues. On top of this, it was claimed, fur became softer, silkier, less matted; teeth cleaner; poop did not smell any more and there was less of it; cats had more energy and zest for life.
Well this just sounded amazing. But what really gave me the push to switch, the real eureka moment for me was this. The top two causes of death in the domestic cat are cancer and kidney failure. I knew this. Every cat owner knows that lots of cats die of kidney failure. Very common. And cancer. Look at my own past cats. Kibble-fed. Died relatively young of: cancer, and, uh, kidney failure. Hang on a minute! Had I been responsible for shortening their lives via their dry food diet? It was a devastating thought.
Of course, this was speculation. There is no way I can know for sure if long-term kibble feeding had caused their deaths. I had to conclude though, that it must have played a part. The idea that I might have given them a longer, better quality of life by simply feeding them a better diet was a terrible revelation to me.
So I set about making the transition to a raw diet. I found that there was a lot of useful information out there and friendly raw feeding groups for cats. An invaluable resource was (and still is) the Feline Nutrition and Education Society, founded by Margaret Gates. I wish I had found this site first. It is so comprehensive and well-written, and it answered all of my questions.
Larry’s turkey drumstick
Fortunately, Larry and Monty didn’t need much persuasion to switch to raw. In fact, Monty was wild about it. He thinks he is a wild animal, after all. It was hilarious seeing him with a chicken wing. Lots of melodramatic growling. He never growled over his kibble. As they are young, I didn’t see a dramatic difference in their health or appearance. But their poop was easier to cope with: less of it, dry, and almost odourless. There is very little waste matter with raw.
Monty’s turkey drumstick
Barney, however, was a different story. The change in him was unbelievable. As a kibble junkie with bad teeth, it took much longer to get him fully onto raw. But even before he was fully transitioned, he had more energy, softer, shinier fur, and cleaner teeth. He was up and about and in our faces just like when he was a young cat. He started to jump onto chairs and laps again. He looked and acted like a cat half his age. It was wonderful to see.
Sadly I discovered that raw feeding carries a lot of controversy and not everyone would accept what I was doing or my reasons for doing it. It is still a hot and sometimes heated topic on many forums. For me it always comes down to this. The domestic cat is a carnivore, 100%. Cats are not able to digest vegetable matter or carbohydrates. They rely on meat, meat, meat (i.e., meat, bone and organs, in the correct ratio) for their nutrition. Just like the big cats. So why is commercial cat food so often more than 50% vegetable matter, and the meat protein of such questionable quality? No wonder feline health problems abound. And typically, this poor quality, species-inappropriate food is promoted by vets who should know better. There are powerful commercial interests at stake here.
Till next time,