If you have a dog, you've probably heard of the Raw Diet, but did you know it's actually great for cats as well?
What is it?
Raw pet food is a combination of raw meat, organ, bone, and sometimes fruits, vegetables, or vitamin supplements.
Why feed raw?
Raw food is designed to be similar to your cat's natural ancestral diet. Not only is your pet's system better at processing and digesting raw, but it results in smaller, firmer stool, healthier skin and coat, reduced allergy symptoms, better weight management, and some other great benefits.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that the nutrition they need comes from the meat, organs, and bones of other animals. Their systems aren't designed to digest the carbohydrates and fillers in some commercial cat foods.
The bacteria in the raw meat will not harm your pet or give them parasites. Unfortunately, it can still be dangerous to feed your pet a raw diet if the right steps aren't followed. There are a few things you should remember to make sure you and your pet stay healthy.
1) Always wash your pet's dish after feeding them raw food. You wouldn't eat off the same plate for a week, would you? (We hope not)
2) Thaw the frozen food either overnight in the fridge or in cold water. Leaving it out at room temperature is not recommended as bacteria can grow on it and spoil the meat. Microwaving the meat kills all the enzymes in it and makes the fats less digestible, so that is not recommended either.
3) Just like when handling raw meat from the grocery store for your own meals, wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling and wash anything the raw meat has touched with hot, soapy water. This is more for your benefit than your pet's.
Most of the bacteria that grows on raw meat won't harm your pet, but it can be dangerous to you and your family if the right procedures aren't followed. Just be sure to handle it as you would any other raw meat, and you will be fine.
How do I switch?
Anyone who owns a cat knows that they can be very picky. Some cats will take to raw right away, but others will take some work. Generally, young cats and kittens are relatively easy to switch, and older cats are more set in their kibble-eating ways. For some cats, the switch will take a lot of patience and determination on your part, but any cat can be switched to raw if you're committed to the change.
The first step is to switch free-feeding cats to eating twice a day. Leave the food down until they stop eating, then take it away. Pick two specific times to feed them in the morning and at night. You don't have to stop feeding kibble at this point. This is just to get your cat used to a feeding schedule. The feeding schedule serves to increase your cat's appetite so they are more willing to try new foods. You want to increase their appetite, but never starve a cat. Cats should not go more than 24 hours without eating. Keep backup cans of fish or high quality wet food around in case they suddenly decide to stop eating raw.
You can try offering your cat pieces of raw meat as treats to see if they will take them. If they do, the switch should be fairly easy. You can either switch them right away or slowly transition from one meal of raw and one of kibble and slowly increase the raw and decrease the kibble until they are on a full raw diet.
Some cats are going to be harder to switch. These cats, you want to switch to a high quality wet food first. Do this as gradually as you need to. When your cat is eating only wet food, you can start mixing some raw meat in with it and continue adding more until they are on a full raw diet
Any cat can be switched to a raw diet. It just takes time and perseverance. Just remember to never let your cat go 24 hours without eating, as this can result in liver failure.