We continue on our journey of the raw food diet. We know it is beneficial because this gives Kitty her original wildlife diet for which she was built. My first thought when hearing this was, “So what, so I feed my baby raw chicken or hamburger and call it good?” It is raw, it is meat, so why not? Then I thought about trying to feed the fur babies raw chicken especially first thing in the morning and felt a bit green. My first thought about a raw diet was the smell. There are some canned cat foods that are just flat out gag worthy to us humans, but Kitty dives right in like it is ambrosia. I assumed that a raw diet would be just as bad if not worse. I treated the fur babies to a week of commercially made raw food. I learned a lot:
First and foremost, it really does not smell strong at all. A seafood version would smell somewhat stronger I suppose, but without the additives in dry and canned foods for shelf life, there really is not much smell there. I am sure there are different foods that have a stronger smell, and I know there are people who get nauseated very easily, but the smell was far less than any canned foods I have ever tried. It seems that the rule of thumb here would be if it smells funky or rancid, just toss it. No need to add fun new bacteria into our already weird lives in 2020. You know what bad meat smells like. When in doubt, throw it out.
As far as appeal goes, everybody loved the raw food. Kitties and puppies (not really puppies even old dogs are still puppies to me) did great. Now, a couple did not take to it at first. There was some trepidation because it was different. Since I have a mini zoo, the shy babies saw the others chowing down and decided to go for it. There was not a single morsel left in any bowl. If you have a single cat or even two it might take a bit more time and encouragement. (Mine are used to having new things all the time because they get to test the research – at least the good stuff like new food and treats!) I did notice that the elderly animals had an easier time eating the raw food than their canned food. My two elderly cats struggle with some of the flaked or “grilled” canned foods, and this was much easier, and, I assume, more enjoyable. The food was easy to split into portions, and everybody was happy.
Over the course of the week, their bowel movements were less odiferous and more consistent (I know, gross, but this shit is literally important.) My elderly Chihuahua had way fewer bladder control issues. My older Kitties had more energy and wanted to play more. Their coats have become a bit more shiny (I did not realize they could get more shiny, but I digress). Fur is getting softer, and there is less shedding. It is still really hot here in Florida, so cooler weather is not getting the credit on this one! I still have dry food out for my younger kitties, but all of the animals are much less interested in the dry food.
With commercially made raw food, you still need to read the labels. They label the same way as other pet foods are required to label. Right away I noticed the crude protein minimum was 13% versus 10% with canned food. Also, as the packaging was bigger, I could actually read the label without inducing eyestrain or a full-blown migraine, so there is another huge plus.
As I said before, the goal of raw food is to mimic the food they would get in the wild. This would include more than just muscle. We are talking organs, stomach and contents, the brain, smaller bones - everything. If you have ever watched a nature show with big cats, they eat the whole carcass. The scavengers show up waiting for whatever scraps are left, and that usually consists of small amounts here and there provided the cats are not chased off or discouraged in some other way. I saw my raw food label and wondered immediately why there was vegetable matter in there. Cats are strict carnivores, which I state boldly last week. That is true, and I am not wrong, completely. If the big kitties take down prey, a lot of times, this prey consist of deer, gazelle, buffalo, and even elephants at times. Those animals eat a lot of vegetable matter. Therefore, it makes sense to include some in a raw food preparation, as they would get this in the wild provided their prey ate recently.
Now for some of us, commercially raw food may not be an option if Kitty has other dietary restrictions or allergies. In this case, you might have to do it yourself. It is not hard, and it is not expensive. I thought sourcing might be an issue if you want to go full on homemade. The Feline Nutrition Foundation has a great section on all the tools needed to grind raw food including small bones and supplements. The supplements, at least some, will be required, because it is actually difficult to get brain matter. I called local butcher and a couple of farms, but apparently some organs are considered a delicacy and sell for a lot of money. Livers, hearts, and kidneys are relatively easy depending on the meat – chicken is the easiest with beef coming in second. My local butchers could give me most anything except brain matter. You may have local resources that can provide anything you want. If you aren’t that lucky, you will have to supplement with minerals and/or vitamins that kitty could get from those organs you may not be able to get.
As far as the actual making of the raw food, you can probably make several pounds in less than an hour including cleanup. All you need is a good food grinder, a way to package and store the food, and of course your ingredients. The cool part is, you just toss a little meat in the grinder, supplements, raw egg, and any other nutritional ingredient (peas are common, but other legumes and beans will also add protein balanced with some carbohydrate). Mix up after grinding and divide for storage. All that sounds easy, and it really is. The advantage with homemade is obviously that you know exactly what Kitty is getting, you can make it in bulk and freeze it, and you can adjust ingredients for Kitty’s preferences and needs.
So what about cost? Commercially raw food is a bit more expensive than your canned food from your local retailers. If you can make it yourself, it ends up being cheaper right away. However, looking at the whole money picture, if raw food will regulate Kitty’s blood glucose levels and result in a healthier cat, spending a few bucks more on raw food to save hundreds on extra vet bills, insulin, medications, etc., seems like a pretty good deal. If buying commercial food of any kind, raw/canned/dry, ALWAYS look at the labels and understand what you are getting.
Next week, we will talk about different ways to transition Kitty’s diet from dry to canned to raw or even transitioning to lower carb options with tips for the especially finicky cat!
Until then, the Feline Diabetes Support Group on FB is always available for support for questions, venting, and all things sugar Kitty. They have food information all over the place, and members who have probably tried most things.