Is a Raw food diet for cats good? We compare 3 types of food

Is the raw food diet good for cats? And safe? In recent years, some pet owners and veterinarians have started to butt their heads when it comes to nutrition. This is especially since some commercial food scares. There is a trend on feeding your cat with a RAW food diet or Animal by-products. How this compares to feeding your cat with dry or wet food?
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Raw food diet for cats

Is the raw food diet for cats good? And safe? In recent years, some pet owners and veterinarians have started to butt their heads when it comes to nutrition. This is especially since some commercial food scares. There is a trend on feeding your cat with a RAW food diet or Animal by-products.

Some cat owners want to feel more in control of what their felines are eating and not eating. On the other side, the veterinarians warn that there are some negative effects that can make this chosen option to go wrong. One of them being without quality control there is a risk of salmonella poisoning. This might put your cat and all the family at risk. Also, without enough knowledge, your cat might be having an unbalanced diet. Not everybody would do the effort to study all that´s to know about how to balance the nutritional value of your pets’ meals.

What do cats need in their diet?

Cats are obligated carnivores. This means that, like their ancestors, they need high protein dietary requirements. This is because they use protein instead of carbohydrates as a primary energy source. They also need a high level of vitamins and amino acids, like taurine and arginine, in their diets. Besides, they need fatty acids, minerals and water. [1]

Commercial food has all the nutrients a cat needs to sustain life. Raw food for cats needs to have all those nutrients to be balanced.

What is the Raw food diet for cats exactly?

Raw food diet for cats is simple. Just giving your cat raw food ingredients, as opposed to the processed commercial food we get for them.

Raw food diet, sometimes marketed as “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” or “Bones and Raw Food” (BARF) diets, include uncooked ingredients from either livestock or wild animals. It is home‐prepared or commercial. The latter is supplied as fresh, frozen or freeze‐dried complete diets or as premixes intended to be complemented by raw meat [2]

The principle of Raw cat food diet is to put raw meat, fish or internal organs on the top of the ingredient list. Also, ground bone is offered as a source of calcium and minerals. Vitamins and other minerals supplements are added, as well as other ingredients, are added to the kibble to round up a balanced diet. The goal is to get all the nutrients your furry friend needs in a more “natural” way.

Types of Raw food diet for cats

There are different options for Raw food to feed your cat. Some cat parents prefer to get the ingredients and prepare the meals at home to later put them in the kibble.

Others prefer to get ready prepared Raw food meals for cats, which are normally frozen.
A third option is used by people who prefer to buy prepared vegetables, vitamins and minerals mixes. Then they add Raw meat or fish.

We will explore the different kinds to check which one is best.

Raw cat food made at home

Some cat parents like to prepare their cat´s meal entirely, as they feel more in control over what their kitty eats. The difficulty with this option is that you really need to plan the menus, have extensive knowledge of your cat´s dietary requirements and needs, and also consider his medical history.

Cats need the correct amount of vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids and minerals, in addition to the protein. These nutrients are best served on a combination of meat or fish, organs, supplements of vitamins, and other ingredients such as some vegetables.

Check first the list of ingredients you shouldn´t offer to your cat.

In order for your cat to get a balanced and nutritious diet is necessary to extensively research for menu options for your furry friend´s meal, which together with the preparation is quite a time consuming, especially when there is not always warrantee that you are providing just the right amount of the nutrients your cat needs in order to be healthy. As some studies show, is very difficult to find nutritionally balanced recipes on the internet for a Raw food diet for cats made at home. [3]

There are documented risks associated with raw feeding, principally malnutrition, due to inexpert formulation and testing of diets, and infection affecting pets and/or household members. It´s particularly concerning the risk of salmonella, that can be in uncooked meat, fish and/or eggs. [4]

If you decided to change your cat´s diet and go for a Raw option, check with your vet and agree to work on a meal plan together. Once you agree, stick with it and don´t make modifications or try to be creative. Some of the failures of this option are because several pet owners couldn´t be consistent over time with the plan made and agreed by their veterinarian, which triggered malnutrition and unbalanced diets on their kitties.

Prepared Raw food meals for cats (Commercial Raw cat food)

Commercial Raw cat food simplifies the process researching, prepping, and making sure your cat is having a nutritious and balanced diet. They normally come in frozen portion sizes, so you normally know how much you should feed your cat.

It can be a more expensive option, but if you don´t have the time, is a good option to consider if you want to still feed your cat a raw diet.

Any reputable manufacturers follow the guidelines of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Any commercial cat food, being Raw or not, has to match the standards created by AAFCO, so you can be sure they will be balanced and nutritious meals for your cat.

Raw food diet for cats vs the other cat food. What is best to feed your cat?

It is true that there is nutritionally inadequate commercial food for dry, canned and even raw food.

Dry food

Dry food is the cheapest option, and also easier to store. Although, some dry foods are not particularly helping your cat to get a balanced and nutritious diet. Normally they have less protein, which your cat needs the most in order to be healthy, and more carbohydrates, sugars and other fillers. This can lead to obesity and diabetes.

The premium dry foods don´t have this problem normally, as they are packed with a protein supplement, which helps to maintain your cat´s health, and still a cheaper option than Raw food diets, or canned food.
Also, the premium formulas contain meat cooked at very high temperatures and pulverized. This might lose some nutrients in the process. Although premium brands add supplements of vitamins and minerals.

Canned or wet food

This option is a crude source of protein, and canned foods are normally better in quality. Also, it provides your cat with more water intake, as the food has more moist. My cats love a good extra jelly!

But this type of food is quite high heat processed. It is possible that some of the nutrients that claim are lost in the process, so the content in protein is not great neither.

It is not advised to provide wet food only diet to your cat, as doing that might trigger periodontal disease.
When buying wet food a big percentage is water, which whilst is very good for your cat´s urinary tract and to keep him hydrated, a good part of your buy goes to water.

Raw food diet

It is plausible from a scientifical point of view that, cats with certain health issues, such as food intolerances, inflammatory bowel conditions or allergies might enjoy a raw food diet. In all these problems, the influence of the Raw diet has been established. Nevertheless, if your kitty is on this group, ask your vet before taking any decision. [5]

What appears less plausible are the very broad benefits claimed for raw feeding. The formal evidence is quite limited.

People who propose a Raw food diet underline numerous health benefits associated with this, but the truth is that there is not sufficient scientific evidence to outweigh the negative effects.

The concerns of using raw food diets are mainly associated with nutrition deficiency, nutrition excess, or nutrition imbalances. Also, the is a big risk associated with bacterial contamination and health risks. Bacteria is present in Raw meats and fish, and its consumption will not only affect your pet, but you could be putting your entire household at risk. [6]

Commercially prepared raw cat food suffer from increasing levels of bacteria -Salmonella, Listeria and E. Coli-, when compared with dry or canned cat food. [7]

The Raw diets made at home are not in a better position regarding bacterial contamination. approximately one-quarter of raw chicken parts in human food-production facilities are contaminated with Salmonella and/or Campylobacter bacteria.

Although there are cats who have resistance to food bourne bacteria, some others can develop illnesses or even death. [9]

What´s next?

If you decide to change your cat´s diet and go into a Raw option, please consult with your veterinarian to be sure there is not any deficiency on any nutrient, or the risks are taken in consideration. You will be surprised about the number of people who think they are giving a Raw diet to their pet when it only consists of hamburgers and eggshells.

Check our guides on food a cat shouldn´t eat

Dace Lace

Dace Lace

My name is Dace Lace. My love for my pets led me on a journey. Online forums and discussions opened more questions than answers. Also, I realized that there are more cat and dog owners out there looking for answers on the internet. However, some articles published was not backed up with science and I was uneasy about that.

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