By Aly Semigran
A cat’s natural instinct—even a friendly, loveable housecat—is to hunt for food. And if left to their own devices out in the wild, cats would find their food in a raw, natural state.
That’s why, with the proper preparation, knowledge, and veterinary guidance, a pet parent can provide their cat with a raw food diet that not only taps into their feline instincts, but keeps them healthy and strong too.
Should Cats Have a Raw Food Diet?
Cats, like dogs, can be fed a raw food diet, and some holistic veterinarians even recommend that pet parents should have this as part of their cat’s lifestyle. In fact, as Jodie Gruenstern, DVM, points out, a raw food diet may be even more important for cats than it is for dogs “because they are stricter carnivores than dogs.”
What Should Be Included in a Raw Food Diet for Cats?
Gruenstern says there are four main components that need to be included in a raw food diet for cats. A balanced raw diet should include flesh, organs, a bone or ground bone and a small amount of vegetation.
In addition, Jill Elliot, DVM, explains that pet parents can also add calcium to a raw-food diet for cats. This can be administered through supplements and small amounts of cat-safe dairy products."
When planning a raw food diet for cats—whether preparing food at home or purchasing a commercial raw food from the pet store—it’s important to work closely with your veterinarian to ensure that your cat is receiving proper, balanced nutrition, and to decide which supplements need to be included.
You can also choose a commercially prepared raw cat food. These are available at many pet stores and come with a certification from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO certified foods provide complete and balanced nutrition and do not require supplementation. This often takes the guesswork out if you’re considering switching to a raw food diet for cats.
What Are the Benefits of a Raw Food Diet For Cats?
Gruenstern explains that the biggest benefit to a raw food diet for cats is the elimination of starch. Starches and sugars in cat foods may lead to health issues such as diabetes, inflammation, arthritis, urinary tract diseases, and obesity, she says.
Erika Halle, DVM, agrees. “Obesity is still possible with raw food, but much less likely than with processed, high carbohydrate food.”
Cats also need taurine in their diets (about 125 milligrams on average) to achieve maximum heart health. This essential compound is often damaged in the heating process of kibble cat foods. “Raw foods tend not to have this issue,” Halle adds, noting that a high volume of taurine is often found in muscle and heart meat that is often a part of raw food diets.
How Early Can a Cat Be Started on a Raw Food Diet?
As soon as a kitten is weaned from its mother, the feline can begin a raw food diet.
Halle suggests feeding home cooked, dehydrated raw, or canned food until six months, then switching to fresh and frozen raw. “Once the system is mature at six months they are ready to handle a raw diet,” she says.
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