Raw Cat Food – Why It’s the Best Diet For Your Cat, and What Are the Trade-offs For You?12 min read
The biggest myth surrounding cat ownership is that cats are worry free, self-contained and self-providing pets that require little or no maintenance. Cats are so good at giving people the impression of independence and self-reliance that people believe they don’t have to provide the highly focused attention to cats that, say, dogs require. The fact of the matter is that cats do require the same attention to detail that any dog does, and maybe even a little more, in some cases. This is especially true when it comes to probing the controversy regarding whether raw cat food is better that canned cat food or kibbles for your feline ward.
It’s a sad thing to look around our country these days and see so many people who have allowed themselves to become overweight and then have to deal with the consequential suffering and ill-health effects of obesity. Diabetes, shortness of breath, constant exhaustion from lugging around so many extra pounds and lowered self-esteem. Of course, the garment industry is singing happy tunes with all the extra thread they have to put together. There’s no shortage of explanations for why this situation has come about, but I think when it comes down to it we can only blame ourselves at the individual level for allowing such a condition to take root. After all, how many pounds overweight does one have to get before they realize that something’s not right and becoming a problem? 10, 20… 50 lbs? And how long does it take to realize that the magic pills, diets, elixirs and effortless, lose-weight-with-no-work-out machines are products being marketed to your ego, to separate you from your bank account, and not to solve your problem? No… the only way to find an ideal normality is with thorough research, discovery and a lot of hard work accompanied with a healthy life style change. But, enough sermonizing about the human condition. This is about cats, their eating habits and raw cat food.
One thing needs to come along with this discussion from the previous paragraph. Most people are not experts in animal nutrition and rely on others to lead them in the right direction. The source for most ‘experts’ available to a person for their daily decision making and selection of choices usually comes to us through the traditional media of radio, newspapers, television and now, the internet. Media offers two kinds of resources. Investigative reporting which is presented in newscasts or opinion pieces, and secondly, the marketing hype that provides commercial broadcast funding. The former is reliable enough to put credence into and might call for further research on your part if it interests you. The latter really only wants you to spend your money with them. That’s not necessarily bad… it does ultimately put people to work and provides many with an adequate, and even comfortable living. Unfortunately, the bottom line is… corporations only have one objective in the end. That is to feed their bottom line. Now recent events have caused many to reconsider the morality behind a corporations goals. But, as long as this market structure is the paradigm for our economy, the ultimate goal for big business will always be to maximize their profit-loss statements towards the profit end of the spectrum, any way they can get away with, and at your expense… literally.
So, what does this have to do with cats and if raw cat food is what you should be feeding them? Simply put, most people rely on the marketing hype to base their decisions regarding the food they feed their pets. Which is exactly the wrong source for basing such a critical decision. Take the cat for example. It’s not only a scientific fact, but a cultural one also, that the cat is described as an obligate carnivore. This defines cats as creatures who derive most of their food nutrients from the animals they hunt and consume (raw cat food). When a cat devours it’s prey, she will eat everything including not only muscle meat, but the brains, organ meat and the stomach and its contents which may consist of grasses and grains. One thing she doesn’t do is fire up a stove and saute or bake her dinner, or prepare a nice sauce to go with it. She eats it raw. Cultural purists use this description as an argument that feeding cats store bought, mass produced canned or dry cat food is doing your cat a disservice by depriving her of the natural nutrients she would normally get in the raw cat food she captures in the wild, and for which she was biologically designed.
Francis M. Pottenger, Jr. (1901 – 1967) was the son of Francis M. Pottenger, Sr., the physician who co-founded the Pottenger Sanatorium for treatment of tuberculosis in Monrovia, California. Between 1932 and 1942 he conducted what is know as the Pottenger Cat Study. One part of this study was what effect heat had on the nutrient value of raw food. In other words, what happens to food when you cook it.
“Pottenger used donated laboratory cats to test the potency of the adrenal extract hormones he was making. The adrenal glands of these cats were removed for the experiments and Pottenger noted that most of the cats died during or following the operation. He was feeding the cats a supposedly nutritive diet consisting of raw milk, cod liver oil and cooked meat scraps of liver, tripe, sweetbread, brains, heart and muscle.
When the number of donated cats exceeded the supply of food available, Pottenger began ordering raw meat scraps from a local meat packing plant, including organs, meat, and bone; and fed a separate group of cats from this supply. Within months this separate group appeared in better health than the cooked meat group. Their kittens were more energetic and, most interestingly, their post-operative death rate was lower.
At a certain point, he decided to begin a controlled scientific exploration. Pottenger conducted studies involving approximately 900 cats over a period of ten years, with three generations of cats being studied.
In one study, one group of cats was fed a diet of:
- Two-thirds raw meat, one-third raw milk, and cod-liver oil
- A second group was fed a diet of two-thirds cooked meat, one-third raw milk, and cod-liver oil.
The cats fed the all-raw diet were healthy while the cats fed the cooked meat diet developed various health problems:
- By the end of the first generation the cats started to develop degenerative diseases and became quite lazy.
- By the end of the second generation, the cats had developed degenerative diseases by mid-life and started losing their coordination.
- By the end of the third generation the cats had developed degenerative diseases very early in life and some were born blind and weak and had a much shorter life span. Many of the third generation cats couldn’t even produce offspring. There was an abundance of parasites and vermin while skin diseases and allergies increased from an incidence of five percent in normal cats to over 90 percent in the third generation of deficient cats. Kittens of the third generation did not survive six months. Bones became soft and pliable and the cats suffered from adverse personality changes. Males became docile while females became more aggressive.
- The cats suffered from most of the degenerative diseases encountered in human medicine and died out totally by the fourth generation.
At the time of Pottenger’s Study the amino acid taurine had been discovered but had not yet been identified as an essential amino acid for Cats. Today many cats thrive on a cooked meat diet where taurine has been added after cooking. The deficient diets lacked sufficient taurine to allow the cat’s to properly form protein structures and resulted in the health effects observed. Pottenger himself concluded that there was likely an “as yet unknown” protein factor (taurine) that may have been heat sensitive.
In another study, dubbed the “Milk Study,”, the cats were fed 2/3 milk and 1/3 meat. All groups were fed raw meat with different groups getting raw, pasteurized, evaporated, sweetened condensed or raw metabolized vitamin D milk. The cats on raw milk were the healthiest while the rest exhibited varying degrees of health problems similar to the previous cooked meat study.
This particular Pottenger cat study has been cited by advocates of raw milk as evidence that it is likely healthier for humans than pasteurized milk.” +
Though Pottenger’s experiments don’t conclusively verify that raw cat food diets are better for sustaining a healthy support for the physiological needs of cats than cooked (canned) or dry kibbles, (because he didn’t use canned cat food or kibbles in the experiments) certain conclusions can be drawn.
- Cooking meat can destroy certain food nutrients, namely amino acids (proteins)
- Cats thrive more healthily on raw meat rather than cooked meat with less degenerative results
- Cooking meat for your cat requires the replacement of the essential amino acid taurine, and possibly other nutrients destroyed in the cooking process
Pet food marketing hype says that “XYZ” cat food products are healthy for your pet because it adds “ABC” nutrients, vitamins and minerals to their product which safeguards your cat’s health. Fortunately, marketing laws require that the ingredients in any given product be listed on the packaging of your cat’s food. Ultimately, it is left up to you to make the decision about which is the best shelf product for your cat.
For a discussion that details interpreting cat food labels CLICK HERE
Today’s problem plagued market place has left many in doubt as to whether the corporate entities that supply the bulk of our aggregate necessities can continue to be worthy of our trust. Arrogance and greed have always gone head to head with social morality and it’s usually the end user that ends up paying with unnecessary suffering. Many pet owners have now taken matters into their own hands and are resorting to providing from raw ingredients meals made with their own hands for their pets. It’s not a bad step but certain measures, which include a life-style change, need to be taken when preparing your pet’s meals to keep her safe from bacterial infection and insure that her nutritional needs are met.
Here’s an example of a raw cat food meal preparation from scratch:
- 2 kg [4.4 pounds] raw muscle meat with bones (chicken necks are mostly cartilage, are easy to chop and easy for the cat to digest) thighs and drumsticks or, better, a whole carcass of rabbit or chicken amounting to 2 kg; if you don’t use a whole carcass, opt for dark meat like thighs and drumsticks from chicken or turkey)
- 400 grams [14 oz] raw heart, ideally from the same animal (if no heart is available, substitute with 4000 mg Taurine)
- 200 grams [7 oz] raw liver, ideally from the same animal (if you can’t find appropriate liver, you can substitute 40,000 IU of Vitamin A and 1600 IU of Vitamin D–but try to use real liver instead of substitutes).
- NOTE: If you cannot find the heart or liver and decide to substitute with the Taurine/Vitamin A and D, then remember to replace the missing amount of organ meat with the equivalent amount of muscle meat. In other words, if you cannot find heart, you add another 400 grams of the meat/bones. If you can’t find the liver, add another 200 grams of meat/bones.
- 16 oz [2 cups] water
- 4 raw egg yolks (use eggs from free-range, antibiotic-free chickens if you can)
- 4 capsules raw glandular supplement (such as, for example, “Raw Multiple Glandular” from Premier Labs)
- 4000 mg salmon oil
- 200 mg Vitamin B complex
- 800 IU Vitamin E (“dry E” works well) Buy Vitamin E in dry powder form. It’s much easier to deal with than those little oil-filled capsules.
- OPTIONAL: 1/4 teaspoon of kelp and 1/4 teaspoon of dulse (1/2 teaspoon total) Try and get dulse and kelp in powder form that you can easily measure with a teaspoon rather than in capsule form. Taking apart those capsules is time consuming. If you can only find kelp in caplet form, you’ll need to spend time crushing the caplets with a mortar and pestle.
- OPTIONAL: 4 teaspoons psyllium husk powder (8 teaspoons if using whole psyllium husks) ?
It looks like this recipe will produce about 5- 6 lbs of finished raw cat food product which would feed a single cat for several weeks. That means most of it would have to be frozen in individual air tight containers and thawed as needed.
The digestive system of a cat is designed to handle things human systems can’t. Their stomachs have a highly acidic environment, which is an excellent deterrent to ingested bacteria such as e coli and salmonella. In the wild, cats sometimes eat some pretty iffy stuff with no ill effects. Wild cats die more often from infection due to injuries than from food poisoning. However, there are steps you can take if you have concerns about raw cat food bourn bacteria.
- Avoid packaged supermarket ground beef using whole chunks of meat instead
- Buy “free-range” meat and poultry as fresh as possible
- Add priobiotics (which help maintain intestinal health) to your raw food preparation
- Proper handling of raw cat food is essential since some raw cat food may contain bacteria that could cause illness to you or your pets. Be sure to keep raw cat food meat and poultry separate from other foods. Wash hands prior to, and after handling raw cat food. Wash working surfaces, bowls, and utensils that come in contact with raw meat with hot, soapy water. Always wash your hands after cleaning your cat’s waste; this includes litter boxes.
- Pick up and dispose of uneaten raw cat food within 30 minutes of feeding your cat
Preparing raw cat food meals from scratch for your cat is a labor of love indulged in by purists. Most people don’t have the time, and maybe lack the talent to take on such a task. If you count yourself among this latter group, rest easy. Ready-made products are finding their way to the market place. There are complete raw cat food meals which are shipped frozen and there are mixes which all you have to do is add the meat. Just remember that if you are going with the mix, be certain that the essential amino acids such as taurine are included. If not then be sure to add the heart (a source for taurine) and other organ meat from the same animal if possible, with the raw cat food meal so that your cat won’t be deprived of these critical ingredients.
So, what are the trade-offs you ask?
Well, for one thing you will have to forego the convenience of one-stop-shopping in the supermarket pet food aisles. Orders for raw cat food meals or mixes are mostly made on-line so you will have to deal with credit or debit cards. Pre-planning will have to be regular routine so that you don’t run out of raw cat food before the next shipment arrives. If a shipment thaws, you will have to return it because you won’t want to take any chances with bacterial infection. Most companies will honor returns due to thawing. And, if you prepare raw cat food meals completely from scratch, be prepared to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen with this task.
The real trade-off is with the quality of cat food you will be providing. The store bought ‘meal’ based cereal foods will be replaced with the high quality fresh foods that cat’s were designed for. Some cats may balk at the transition at first because they weren’t socialized with raw cat food as kittens. But, their health will show marked improvement, you will probably be surprised by the results which can be compared to how your cat behaved before being fed a fresh, high quality raw cat food diet that meets their needs nutritionally, plus their immune systems will be stronger giving your cat a chance for a longer, healthier life.
Ask any monk or even the ordinary, next-door-neighbor contemplative type, and they’ll tell you that life is not easy; suffering is the characteristic that describes much of the existence in this corner of the Universe, and that the punishment for ignoring this fact is to bear more suffering. Yet this suffering can be relieved with even a little knowledge and understanding of why and how things can operate to ease your burden. It does take a willingness on your part to change and accept new habits to accommodate a changed life-style. But, knowledge and understanding cannot be acquired through osmosis. It takes a lot of work to comprehend even a small amount of the sense that holds life together. One can’t depend on epiphanies either. Like magic and miracles, instant knowledge occurs only rarely… and you can grow old waiting for it while your cat pines for a raw cat food meal. It’d be like huffing and puffing along wondering why you’re carrying around all that extra baggage.
+ – Thanks to Wikipedia for this excerpt
? – Thanks to Wikihow