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Considering Raw Feeding Your Cats?
Here’s Everything You Need to Know!
Have you been considering raw feeding your cats but have no idea where to start?
The very thought of making your own pet food, without killing your pet, can be extremely intimidating.
Don’t worry. It’s much easier than you can imagine. Ask anyone who is doing it. Once you are armed with the information, it’s easy and more preferable to you and your pets.
When my first Bengal, from five months old, got sick and stayed sick for better than a year, I knew I had to try something different.
He suffered from an incurable Upper Respiratory Infection, a heart murmur (according to the vet), constant sneezing, fever, and overall fatigue. I spent thousands of dollars on vet bills, and they couldn’t figure it out.
After trying every vet recommended cat food on the market, I started my own research and learned everything I could about cat nutrition and feeding.
I took it upon myself to save my kitten’s life. To say the least, it was a very scary venture.
The most complete website I found is a non-profit cat nutrition organization called Feline Nutrition Foundation.
I read and absorbed every single word before I decided to jump on board the raw feeding express.
Feline Nutrition answered all my questions and taught me what I needed to know about feeding my cats and keeping them healthy.
Once I got both cats switched completely to the raw diet, my Bengal got well and is today a completely different cat. As it turned out, he was allergic to the preservatives and by-products in the commercially prepared cat foods as well as any kind of scented products.
He has not been back to the vet for two years because of illness, his coat is beautifully thick and shiny, he is muscular and super active as a Bengal should be.
Of course, I also started my Maine Coon on the same raw diet. Although she wasn’t sick, her long coat was rough and always matting up, and what wasn’t matted was shedding onto the living room carpet plus, she was constantly dirty on the butt end. The bathtub was her second home. She hated it, and so did I.
Her raw diet has made her long coat thick and so silky that now it never mats, she sheds very little, and she is never dirty on the butt end. No baths and no brushing for her. Her hair is breathtaking.
I have since gotten another Bengal who I started on raw right from a kitten and a homeless stray I took in who is so beautiful now. She was skinny, dull coated, shedding like crazy with crusty eyes. She looked like a typical neglected street cat. She went from being a beast to being a beauty.
Facts and Tips for Successful Raw Feeding
Every cat parent deserves the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge they are feeding their cats the diet they evolved to eat.
So before I give you the process of making a batch of homemade cat food, there are some tips and information you need to know to alleviate misconceptions about raw feeding your cat.
- Cats are obligate carnivores which simply means, they MUST eat meat to survive.
- Cats have no dietary requirement for carbohydrates. Carbs are not needed in the diet of obligate carnivores.
- Contrary to what most people believe, homemade raw diets can be less expensive than canned diets, especially if calculate including the vet bills.
- They evolved to get their fluid intake from food. A mouse contains 70% water. A raw fed cat will drink very little to no water. Dry kibble has far too many carbohydrates and too little moisture for cats which can lead to kidney and bladder illnesses.
- Making your own cat food gives you full control over goes into your mix.
- A ground raw diet for cats consists of meat, bone, organs, fat, egg yolks, water, and supplements. Raw egg yolks contain a protein called Avidin could interfere with or inhibit the absorption of B vitamins causing skin disorders and coat dullness. Cook the egg whites before adding to the mix.
- Varying the meats you use by adding whole meats, with or without bones will give your cat’s psychological stimulation and dental benefits.
- Switching your cat’s diet from kibble to raw requires some time and patience, but eventually, all cats will switch. Be patient. Cut kibble cold turkey and switch to a good quality canned food from a pet store. If the cat goes on a hunger strike for a couple of days, try adding a few kibbles mixed with the wet. Gradually decrease the amount of kibble. Store kibble in airtight containers in the fridge to avoid bacterial contamination. They start mixing the raw with the canned, decrease the amount of canned gradually until they are on full raw. This whole process may take as long as a month or more for some cats. Others will take to the raw immediately. Introduce raw when you know they are hungry. Be patient. See “How to Transition Your Cat to Raw” at feline-nutrition.org.
- Once your cat is eating raw ground, try introducing meat with bones such as chicken wing tips and chicken ribs. Raw bones are safe for animals. Cooked bones will splinter rather than crush. Don’t feed your pets cooked bones.
- The perfect raw meat blend for cats is 80/20/20 which means, 80% muscle meat, 20% bone, and 20% organ meat. Note: Hearts, gizzards, tongue, lungs, trachea and green tripe are considered muscle meat. Organs consist of liver, kidneys, ovaries, testicles, spleen, and brains.
Fear The Big Bad Bacteria?
The first thing anyone who doesn’t raw feed will say is “bacteria will kill your cat”. This need not be a concern at all with some common sense and precautions.
First is the fact that cats have extremely power stomach acids with a very short digestive tract which allows food to pass through much quicker eliminating the risk of contamination within the body.
There are many things you can do to virtually eliminate the risk of bacteria toxification.
- Follow all the same safe food handling procedures as you would with human food.
- Only buy fresh human grade meat for your
- Don’t buy pre-ground meat from the store. Bacteria contamination is not as big of a concern for human meat as it is intended to be eaten cooked thereby killing any bacteria that may be present. Buy whole meats to grind them yourself. A full cut of meat will have surface bacteria only and can be rinsed with water before grinding so as not to spread it throughout the meat.
- Thorough cleaning of all utensils and surfaces is important. Use dishwasher-safe cutting boards. Wood is not a good choice.
- Wear gloves when working with raw meat.
- Eliminate bacteria by washing meat before cutting it into grinder size chunks. Freeze the chunks on a tin foil lined pan then bag and freeze for 2-3 weeks to kill bacteria before preparing a batch. If you mix the batch first, freeze it for 2-3 weeks before feeding to the cats.
- Refreezing meat of meat is safe to do as long as you don’t leave the meat out to reach room temperature or gather bacteria sitting around.
- Partially frozen meat is much easier to cut and to grind. Then package and return to the freezer as quickly as possible.
- You have more control over the quality and condition of the meat that goes into your cat food by doing it yourself.
How to Make a Batch of Raw Mix
You can go to the Feline Nutrition website to follow their very detailed instructions for smaller batches or for larger batches you can do what I do.
We are feeding four cats with raw, so when I prepare a batch, it’s a large one. I usually end up with about twenty to twenty-two pounds of packaged product.
I always grind my own meat but only about half of it. I cut up the other half with a knife to mix it in, so the cats have to actually chew their food. It’s better for their teeth. My cats would eat or even chew on bones, yet!
My grinder will grind smaller bones like leg bones, ribs and wings off of chicken but nothing bigger. Skin and sinew seem to plug the grinder the worst so try to remove the skin. Not the fat.
When grinding meat with bone, I use a finer blade than if I am grinding meat alone. I don’t want the cats to choke on a big chunk of bone when they are lapping up the grind.
For this batch, we are using meat only and will add supplements to compensation for bones. I do it this way for every second batch. My cats enjoy variety. You will find what your cats like the best.
I bought boneless chicken breasts and thighs, pork, chicken gizzards, and beef for this mix. For organs, I used chicken livers. I buy whatever is on sale for the week.
Next, I washed all the meat in tepid water and cut it to a size that would go into the grinder.
I use the biggest holed grinder blade I have to get a chunkier grind.
I will grind all my meat into a bowl and then weigh it, minus the weight of the bowl to determine exactly how much meat I have.
For this batch I had 16 pounds of ground meat so for 80/20/20 mix, I need 3.2 lbs of organ meat. I course grind that and add it to my meat mixture. Because I’m not grinding bone into this batch I will need to use supplements. The amount of supplement I need for the 16 lbs of meat would be 64 grams. This is where a digital scale comes in handy.
I use supplements for cats from Alnutrin.
Please note: This supplement comes with or without calcium depending on how you are mixing your batch. Bone-in – no calcium, no bone – add calcium. This supplement comes packaged as 140 grams for $19.95 or you can order pre-measured packages for more money. It mixes at a rate of 4 grams per pound of meat (one package is enough for 35 lbs) for this batch (16 lbs) I weighed out 64 grams.
I also add Taurine to my mix. Cats must have Taurine. Taurine is found in the heavy muscle tissue such as thighs and hearts but grinding and freezing can deteriorate the Taurine in the meat. Cooking removes it completely. Note that this package of supplements contains Taurine as well but I have it on hand for the treat batches I mix when I get some special meat like turkey, duck, rabbit, deer or elk. Taurine is water soluble so if your cat gets too much they will just pee it out but if they don’t get enough, it can be critical.
Because I used the supplement mix without calcium, I also added the eggshell powder to compensate for the lack of bones.
Nutritional yeast is optional but contains necessary B vitamins so I add it for that reason and it also adds a cheesy flavor. It can be added at the time of serving. A pinch or two sprinkled onto top the meat.
In a large measuring cup or mixing bowl add:
- 10 egg yolks (separate and save the whites aside)
- 5 scoops of Eggshell powder (scoop is included in the package)
- 4 scoops of Taurine (scoop is included in the package)
- 4-5 cups of cool water
You can always add more water when serving if it seems overly dry.
Cook the egg whites until firm but not solid. Add to the meat mix. Mix well then add to meat mixture. Wearing gloves get your hands in there and mix it very well adding more water as necessary.
Once everything is mixed well, have your quality control team and the taste tester check it over.
How you package your batch will depend on how many cats you have and how much they eat. You can package it in daily serving sizes in zip lock freezer bags, or in plastic re-usable containers. For kittens just starting raw, you can freeze it in ice cube trays then bag the cubes once frozen.
I am feeding four adult cats so I bag mine in measured 2 lb bags. My cats eat roughly ½ lb each per day.
This batch gave me 22 lbs of mix bagged in 2 lb packages. This will last me about 2 weeks.
This batch cost me $4.88 CDN per pound total. Normally I can make it for around $3.00 per pound when I shop for sales in the city. We live a rural community. It cost more.
Shop around and watch your fliers for meat sales and buy in bulk. My next purchase will be a calf for the cats.
I spend between $150 – $180 CDN a month on cat food and supplements. On the upside, I was spending $200 plus a month on vet bills.
I also hit up my hunter friends to get fresh deer, elk, moose, etc. The cats think they have died and gone to heaven.
If you really want to make it simple, you can buy frozen pre-made whole animal raw food at pet stores. I use Carnivora which will cost about $5.50/lb for beef or bison and $4.75/lb for chicken or turkey.
To get all the information you will ever need about feeding your cat a raw diet, visit Feline Nutrition. Their website is full of wonderful and useful facts.
Your cats will thank you but your vet will hate you.