Cats, Food, and History
For thousands of years, cats have roamed the ancient world, adapting to habitats in every type of terrain and climate. From the Savannahs of Africa to the forests of Eurasia and the Americas, cats have thrived as true carnivores, mainly feasting on fresh small herbivores like rodents, birds, and reptiles. In the case of larger cats, they even hunt ruminants like buffalo and deer.
Unlike dogs, cats do not scavenge and are obligate carnivores. They cannot survive on a vegetarian diet. By consuming the entire animal, including gut contents, offal, and nervous tissue, cats gain complete nutrition. Their prey provides all the protein building blocks and fatty acids they need. They have no requirement for grains, fruits, or vegetables. Cats have an inherent need for significant levels of protein in their diets. Therefore, a high-protein diet is considered normal for them. Cats are unable to synthesize essential amino acids such as taurine during times of protein restriction, which sets them apart from omnivores like humans and dogs.
Today, we are faced with a wide range of processed cat diets, both tinned and dry. Choosing the right one can be overwhelming. Manufacturers strive to create the perfect convenient diet, but many cat foods use poor-quality rendered proteins, often from non-meat sources. This affects the digestibility of the diet and the cat’s ability to extract goodness from it.
Protein levels in most cat foods are still not high enough, especially as cats age. This often leads to muscle mass loss, particularly in senior cats, whose need for good quality protein increases with age. Carbohydrate levels in commercial diets are often excessively high. Cats have not evolved to digest large amounts of starches and can develop a multitude of problems from overeating. Furthermore, the overall moisture level in kibble diets is reduced, which can put stress on cats’ digestive systems, liver, and kidneys. Cats have evolved to obtain most of their water from the fresh prey they consume and often do not drink a large amount of water.
It is possible to mimic a natural diet for cats at home, but it requires careful consideration to ensure the diet is balanced and suited to the individual cat. Raw pet meats and minces available from supermarkets or pet shops are often mistaken as complete food, but many lack the important minerals and vitamins necessary for a cat’s health. Some pet minces also contain preservatives that may trigger allergic reactions.
With knowledge and guidance from a veterinarian familiar with raw feeding, cats can thrive on a raw diet that is balanced and healthy. Feeding cats what they were designed to eat promotes good dental, digestive, and mental health.
Here’s how it works:
The Basic Rules:
(Note: The information below is not a substitute for a discussion with a veterinarian familiar with raw feeding. They can customize the diet based on the cat’s life stage and health issues.)
Cats should be fed a variety of raw meat:
- Aim for three different types of meats during the week to provide a range of nutrients.
- Start with minces made from the whole frame of the animal, which provide calcium and fats from the marrow. These are great for cats new to raw feeding.
- Avoid minces with preservatives.
- Use meat sources that feral cats would hunt in the wild, such as chicken, rabbit, hare, and possum. Limit fish intake to a maximum of three times per week.
- Consume frozen meat within 6 months to preserve vitamin content.
For every 90-95g of meat, feed 5-10g of pureed raw vegetables:
- Cats usually avoid vegetables, but by pureeing them, you can mix them with the meat or mince, making them more appealing.
- Include a wide variety of vegetables, including leafy greens, if possible.
- Pureed pumpkin squash can be useful for cats prone to constipation.
- Some cats may also eat a small amount of green tripe as an alternative to pureed vegetables.
Feed raw meaty bones:
- Bones should be fed with plenty of meat on them.
- Use bones from a prey source that cats could reasonably hunt in the wild, such as chicken wings and necks or rabbit.
- Feed raw meaty bones every 2-3 days.
- Only introduce meaty bones after cats have been eating and digesting uncooked minces well for 2-3 weeks.
Feed fresh tripe once a week or as part of the daily intake:
- Vary the organ meat weekly, but include heart regularly as it is rich in taurine.
- Be mindful not to overfeed liver (maximum once a week).
- A general rule is to feed 2% of the cat’s body weight per day. Adjust amounts based on activity levels, metabolism, and age.
- Consult a veterinarian if you’re unsure if your cat is the correct weight.
Do not feed cereals and avoid mixing raw feeding with processed commercial cat food, as the cat’s stomach will not fully adapt to digesting the raw diet.
Homemade vitamin and mineral supplement:
- A well-balanced raw diet should not require additional vitamins or minerals. Adding supplements may create an imbalanced diet, so it should only be done under the supervision of a veterinarian.
- Cats not accustomed to raw feeding may take some time to adjust. Starting with poached meat chunks can enhance flavor and encourage them to try something new. It’s important to transition to a balanced diet after a short period.
- Older cats may benefit from lightly cooked food for easier digestion and better palatability.
- Ideally, feed cats once per day, mimicking the natural hunting pattern. However, short periods of fasting are normal.
- Young kittens can be weaned directly onto raw feeding, gradually increasing the amount and introducing meaty bones.
- For cats with chronic digestive issues, consult a veterinarian and start with bone broths to heal the gut before transitioning to raw feeding.
- Cats with few or no teeth will need minced frames instead of meaty bones.
Can raw meat cause health issues?
Cats fed a balanced raw diet have more acidic stomach acid, anti-bacterial salivary enzymes, and a short gut, making them less likely to develop illness from exposure to pathogens. Sourcing high-quality food from the human food-chain, ensuring proper freezing, and practicing good hygiene standards reduce risks for both cats and humans.
For further information, visit Katten TrimSalon.