Raw Feeding my Cats

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.

Barney

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,

L x

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28 thoughts on “Raw Feeding my Cats

  1. Great article, thanks for sharing your story. I had similar experiences when switching my cat’s diet – far less poop, better energy, and amazingly silky fur. My arthritic13-year-old cat now fetches a mouse on a ribbon for half an hour at a time and is able to jump up on the kitchen counter for the first time in about 7 years!

    I would like to add that in addition to the reasons cited (better health as a result of better diet), the fact is that most companies that make commercial cat food, and dry foods in particular, are nowhere near as careful about their ingredients as the pet owner will be. I can relate to the sinking suspicion of wondering if the food you gave your cats led to their early demise. It’s an awful feeling. I had a cat who looked kind of like Monty (only with shorter fur), who became ill and eventually died, and I believe he was poisoned by his food. There have been studies showing that many pet foods sold in stores are full of poisons. If you want to find out more, do a search for “Heavy Metal Pet Food Testing Paper Published.”

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    • Hi Rebecca, thanks for your comment. It is truly grim what you find if you search on pet food ingredieints. The fact is that pet food is a useful and highly profitable dumping ground for the industrial waste of food processing plants and breweries. As for the meat protein itself, it’s horrendous what they can legally describle as meat protein. Yes you have to be careful with hygiene when you feed raw but at least it is a managable risk which is in your hands.

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  2. my 5 babies have been on raw for over 6 months now and the change was amazing. my oldest who is 7 have been fighting obesity (this time last year she weighted 20 pounds) for years now. we were on prescription diet kibble on and off for years since she was about 2.
    three months into raw feeding (which she didn’t take to right away) and she lost over 5 pounds! she now weights about 12 pounds, and is much slimmer and generally alert than i have ever seen her. sadly the years of obesity have done alot of damage to her back legs having to support all that weight. it isn’t just the weight, she was highly prone to gum infections and now they are all gone!.

    there is no question that raw is the only way to go with a cat. plus it is so much fun watching them pick up a piece of meat and just start walking with it around the apartment crying out loud as if they have just finished hunting and are about to eat their pray.

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    • Hi Maya, thanks for your comment. Wow that is such a turnaround for your oldest cat. So glad you were able to make the switch, not every cat is easy to persuade. Yes they love to play at being hunters with a fresh kill! It’s hilarious. Not so great when you find a half-chewed chicken wing under the rug though.

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  3. Our 6 cats have been raw fed from birth and are 3-6 years of age now. The four dogs were raw the first 7 years and now at 14 are back on and are doing great now. The only way to feed.

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    • Hi Elizabeth, thanks for your comment. I don’t know so much about raw feeding dogs. There seems to be some debate over whether they are carnivores or omnivores, and therefore how much non-meat they are supposed to eat. Am I right in thinking you give dogs a different raw diet to cats?

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  4. I have switched to raw it took about 8 weeks for full transition, and they scarf everybit of it down, i do not waste any more canned food or dry ,every time I would find one they liked and then they wasted it ,now when they puke its a hair ball and not half of the kibble.No more wasted food they devour it ,there coats are softer and eyes are clear and bright,it is a little costly but when i consider the waste i had and less vet bills i am all for raw , i even put the dogs on raw and what a difference. Best move i ever made .

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    • Hi Elouise, thanks for your comment. Yes I love that I can buy a whole chicken, chop it up and every last bit gets eaten. My cats have big strong teeth and jaws and previously they used to chew the ends off the leg bones and leave the middle, but now they chow down and eat the entire thing. I find it really impressive, but they are just behaving like the big cats in the wild, on a smaller scale. I find it a joy to watch.

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  5. I can’t tell you how much I love this post!! As someone who feeds her cats raw and see the major changes in health in several of my own cats (diabetes and two with crystals) and many fosters I can stand there with you and share how wonderful raw is. Because of the ‘controversy’ it is hard to get people to listen, especially when they have absolutely no reason to doubt their vets.

    I could go on and on, but it really isn’t necessary. It is a great post

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    • Hi Connie, thank you so much for your comment and your kind words! Yes it is very hard to tell people that their vet has a vested interest in selling them fancy overpriced kibble which won’t do any good or may even cause health problems in the long term. Many people think that the likes of Science Diet and Royal Canin are ‘reassuringly expensive’. The endorsement of the veterinary profession is extremely powerful and people don’t want to take notice of subversive mavericks like myself. After all, what do we know, compared to a vet? I could go on and on…and probably will, in future posts! x

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  6. Found this post really interesting. Me and my husband were shocked to see that most cat food contains only 4% meat/fish! The only problem we have is that our cat Tango has no teeth and we have to mash up her food for her, which I think would be quite difficult with a chicken drumstick! And she has also had adverse reactions to raw food before (for example we gave her mashed up – yum!- prawns and our next door neighbour gave her fresh trout and she was sick everywhere!) But i may experiment more with raw foods…maybe i could liquidise it? (mmmmm….liquidised salmon!)

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    • Hi there Mrs C, thank you for commenting. Yes it can be tricky to feed raw to an older cat with no teeth. Barney has a lot of teeth missing and really needed a thorough dental but he’s too old for the op. He manages very well on raw minced or cut into small chunks. If I may, raw fish is not really necessary in the raw diet. Could be that Tango was sick because she is allergic to fish, or just not used to it. If you feel like trying again, perhaps start off with raw chicken breast cut very small or liquidised. Chicken is usually the starter meat which most cats will accept. There’s a lot of support out there for switching older or super-fussy cats, let me know if you would like some links.

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    • Hey Mrs. C. I would recommend buying a really good meat grinder and simply grind the meat and some of the more smaller bones.
      or see if you butcher can do it for you. i know some people who do it. they buy grind meat and feed it to their cats. it will the ideal way for a teeth-less cat.

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  7. Great post Louisa! Hopefully it will inspire many people. I’ve been there, took the plunge into raw with my kitties, and will never look back. xxx

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  8. I have been feeding raw since my eureka moment over 2 years ago, even my very anti-raw vet has changed their opinion after seeing the results for themselves.

    What people do not realise is that commercial pet food exists for one purpose and one purpose alone, to convert inedible waste from the human food industry in cold hard cash. It is not done to provide your pet with the best and most appropriate diet it is done to part you from your hard earned dollars.

    Commercial pet foods have killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of cats and dogs with toxin contaminations, poor quality ingredients, incorrect nutritional balance and even completely missing vital ingredients such as the cat food taurine issue of years ago which resulted in thousands upon thousands of dead or blind cats.

    The entire pet food fiasco from the manufacture right through to the nutrition training vets receive is controlled and paid for by pet food manufacturers such as Hills Science Plan – quite how people do not see a conflict of interest where the pet food manufacturer is providing the vets nutritional training is completely beyond me!

    It is a testament to the power of advertising dollars when they can convince an entire planet full of pet owners and vets that they know better than nature and can over ride the simple common sense fact that an obligate carnivore which has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to eat nothing but small birds, mice, frogs etc

    For anyone who still cannot comprehend how a cat can thrive on a diet of meat, bones and organs just ask yourself this simple question “When was the last time you saw a tiger or lion on TV eating boiled potatoes and corn?”

    Thank you Louisa for posting this on a blog completely unrelated to raw feeding, I sincerely hope that at least a few of your readers who have not had the good fortune to come across raw feeding (Which by the way is actually cheaper than canned cat food) will now start to question the harm they are doing to their pets health by feeding what they have been conned into thinking is the best diet.

    Long live raw fed pets.

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  9. Great comment, Louise, thanks for posting. Totally agree. A lot of knitters have cats so I hope I can reach a few more people who may not have considered raw. I wish I had started raw feeding years ago. Could be that 18 years of kibble eating has caused Barney’s hyperthyroidism. It’s a bloody miracle his kidneys still function with the amount of medication he’s had over the past year on top of all the years of crap food.

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  10. Hi! I know this is an old post, but I had to say, I found this via feline-nutrition.org’s Facebook page, and I was tickled to see another hardcore knitter/raw feeder. 🙂 My cat is only partially raw-fed; she gets human-grade canned food, freeze-dried commercial raw, and whole raw meat; plus, we’re branching out into frozen commercial raw, and I’d like to try whole prey soon. I’m so proud of my little carnivore – she ate her first raw bones tonight!

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