Thinking about transitioning your cat to raw cat food?
Here’s some basic information you should know before making the move.
Learn what raw cat food is, ingredients commonly used, and the different types of raw cat diets.
This post should help you decide whether raw cat food is the best option for you and your kitten.
What is raw cat food?
Raw cat food is food that includes uncooked ingredients mainly derived from domesticated or wild caught animal species and that are fed to cats.
Definitions of RAW include: “uncooked”, “being in or nearly in the natural state”, “not processed or purified”.
So raw cat food should be as close as possible to what a cat would encounter in the wild.
The feeling of “going back to nature” is the main argument for raw feeding.
After all, cats’ ancestors survived and thrived as species for millions of years (yes, millions!) getting their food in a natural state.
Raw cat diets are also referred to as raw meat-based diets (RMBD).
More and more cat parents feed their cats raw food.
According to a published report, around 10% of cats were fed some raw food in the last few years.
Raw feeding is one of the most passionate debates around pet food and health.
Those against raw feeding (including many veterinarians) argue that our cats have evolved through history and have adapted to domestication resulting in changes in their physiology.
They suggest cats do just fine with processed modern diets.
Safety concerns over pathogen contaminations of raw food and incomplete/unbalanced nutrition are also raised.
We will come back to this heated discussion in future posts.
For now, if you are considering feeding raw cat food and trying to decide if it’s a good fit for you and your cat, the most important thing to do is to get as much reliable information as possible so you can make an educated decision.
Raw cat food diets.
Raw cat food diets are often called “ancestral” diets and the philosophy behind them is to feed your cat what they would find and eat in the wild.
Raw food cat diets are not restricted to a specific recipe.
There’s a large variety of ingredients that can be mixed in different proportions.
Ingredients commonly used in raw cat food recipes.
Most raw cat diets consist of muscle meat, fish, organs, and bones, but you can also include uncooked eggs, cat-safe veggies and fruits, milk, oils, and seeds.
The amounts of each ingredient and the overall composition of the diet will vary depending on the “model diet” that a given recipe follows.
The most popular raw diets for cats are based on two trendy “models” or philosophies.
Most popular raw cat food recipes.
Most raw cat food recipes follow one of these models:
- BARF model
“Biological Appropriate Raw Food” or “Bones and Raw Food” diet.
It varies in the exact amounts of its ingredients but in general the diet is composed largely of muscle meat (around 70%), with smaller amounts of organs, meaty bones, veggies, fruits, oils, and seeds.
Supplements can also be added to the mix.
BARF raw feeders consider muscle meat the most important ingredient and it should be the most abundant.
Veggies and supplements are added only as nutritional complements.
Since its development in the 1990’s, this model has grown in popularity. Dr. Ian Billinghurst was one of the pioneers of the BARF movement and one of the first vets to appreciate the role of diet in pets’ health.
- Prey Model.
It consists of whole small animals, domesticated or not, like duck, rabbit, quail, and small rodents fed to cats including internal organs, blood, glands, bones, fur or feathers.
Nothing less, nothing more.
Here, veggies, fruits, seeds, or any other supplement aren’t considered necessary.
Prey model feeders recommend rotating the type of animal fed to your pet to keep variety in the nutrients.
All diets based on the BARF or prey model tend to have high levels of protein and low carbohydrates.
In case you want to progressively transition your cat to a complete raw diet or want to test raw feeding and see how your cat reacts, or perhaps you want to limit the cost and/or time invested, a hybrid diet can be the solution.
It consists of alternating daily raw food meals with other types of food or adding some raw food to each of your cat’s meals as an addition to her/his current food.
It will save you time and money and your pet will still get the benefits of raw food.
Types of raw cat foods.
If you decide to start feeding your cat raw food, you have two options:
- Homemade food.
- Pre-made commercial food.
Both with pros and cons that I’ll discuss in future posts.
There're a lot of homemade raw cat food recipes that you can find online.
However, if you decide to go this route, I would recommend working with a holistic veterinary to make sure you are feeding your cat complete and balanced raw cat food.
Pre-made commercial foods in turn can be fresh prepared, frozen, or freeze-dried.
A serious company selling raw cat food should provide safe, complete, and balanced diets.
So, you need to do your research before selecting one.
If you're interested in freeze-dried raw cat food, you can find a whole article about freeze-dried pet food here.
As you can see, feeding pets uncooked food is controversial but is a growing trend among pet owners.
DIY recipes and commercial formulations based on a few “models” or “philosophies” are available.
These diets are heavy on meat which results in high levels of protein and low carbs.
You can also go for a hybrid approach mixing/alternating raw and another type of food.
There you are!
A basic overview of raw pet food that I hope will incite you to explore more about this topic.
Choosing the best way to feed your loved kitty it’s not easy.
The more information you get the easier it will be for you to decide if raw feeding is a good fit for you and for your cat.
I'm not a veterinarian. I'm a scientist and I make every effort to provide science-based evidence in my articles and links to reliable sources. The content of these articles is for educational purposes only. You should discuss with your veterinarian before making any decision regarding the health of your pet.