Raw cat food—roaring good idea or paw choice?

For some cat parents, tailor-made food for their feline friend is the ultimate expression of care and love.

There is a growing trend towards wet cat food based on raw ingredients—the thought being that a raw food diet for cats comes as close as possible to what they would eat in the wild and what their evolution has prepared them for.

If you are looking at feeding your cat a raw diet, Untamed can help you with facts, advice, and watch-outs to make sure your kitty gets the best possible nourishment.

Raw cat food—back to the future or much ado about nothing? Untamed gives you the facts!

A happy cat makes a happy home

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What’s the idea behind raw food for cats?

A raw food diet for cats is based on the idea that cats’ heritage makes them ideally suited to eating uncooked, unprocessed food.

Cats have a short, acidic digestive tract that can metabolise meat, turning it into the amino acids and energy they need. Most food passes through a cat’s intestines relatively quickly—any harmful bacteria are removed before they have a chance to gain a foothold.

Supporters of feeding raw food to cats don’t like to refer to their approach as a raw meat diet—while it is the main ingredient in most cases, many raw food diets also use other ingredients to provide a balanced diet.

Raw cat food is typically homemade, using recipes either developed by cat parents or found online. In bypassing the major commercial cat food manufacturers, raw cat food proponents also claim it to be:

  • Ethically sound
  • Grain-free
  • Suitable for sensitive cats
  • Free from artificially-produced cat jelly or cat gravy

What do cats need in their diet?

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they need animal-based food to get the necessary nutrients.

The basic requirements in any nutrition consist of:

  1. Protein
  2. Fat
  3. Carbs
  4. Vitamins
  5. Minerals

Protein

Proteins are made up of different combinations of amino acids, which are the building blocks of:

  • Muscles
  • Skin
  • Hair

Of the 22 amino acids, cats can make 12 on their own but need the remaining ten in their food. Our feline friends are good at metabolising meat to release these ten—they can get them from cereals, grains, or other vegetable protein sources but need to consume considerably larger amounts of vegetable protein to cover their requirements.

All animal proteins are not equal—a cat can metabolise certain animal protein sources better than others.

The quality of an animal protein source for a cat is known as its biological value, which determines to what percentage a cat can extract amino acids. The biological values of the most common protein sources are:

Protein source

Biological value (how much of a protein source a cat can use)

Egg

100%

Chicken

98%

Lamb

95%

Tuna, salmon, sardines, shrimps, fish meal, poultry meal, and poultry derivatives

92%

Beef and pork or ham

87%

Soya

68%

Wheatgerm, corn, sweetcorn, and other vegetable proteins

Below 65%

Proteins to turn your kitty into a tiger

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Fat

Fats are the primary source of energy your kitty needs—fat delivers at least twice as many calories as protein, so the more fat in a cat’s food, the more calories they get.

Cats also get essential fatty acids from the fat in their food, which help maintain cell membrane structure and regulate their healing mechanisms.

Animal fat also has the added benefit that kitties love the taste—food containing animal fat is guaranteed to be considerably tastier than meals using vegetable fat.

Carbs

Cats don’t really need carbs in their diet, but small amounts can help with digestion.

If you have ever noticed your cat eating grass, it may be as a result of wanting carbs to help ease food through the gut.

High-quality, high-protein food is generally easy for kitties to digest, so many raw food cat diets do not use carbs at all. High-fibre diets are only used under specific circumstances and vet recommendations.

Vitamins

Vitamins help with the chemical reactions in your cat’s body and also help boost the immune response.

The vitamins cats need in their food are:

Vitamin type

Sources

Fat-soluble

  • Vitamin A—liver, fish, egg yolk, and butter
  • Vitamin D—liver, kidney, fish oil, and eggs
  • Vitamin E—liver, egg, wheat germ oil, milk, and butter

Water-soluble (B complex and C)       

  • Vitamin B complex—meat, milk, eggs, and liver

Cats can produce vitamins C and K themselves, so these are not essential in their diet.

Minerals

Minerals are essential for:

  • Bones and teeth
  • Body fluid balance
  • Chemical reactions in the cat’s body

Your cat needs small amounts of the following minerals in their diet:

  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium

What kind of raw cat food diets are available online?

Numerous websites offer easy-to-follow complete raw cat food recipes that you can download.

Most of them are based on poultry, fish, or more exotic meats, such as rabbit, and use:

  • Muscle meat
  • Organ meat
  • Crushed or ground bones

Many of the online diets that are available have been tested by veterinarians and deemed “complete and balanced,” meaning that they contain all the nutrients your feline companion needs for a long and healthy life.

The recipes need to be followed to the letter—any variation or deviation from the exact proportions stated could lead to an imbalance, giving your kitty too little of one nutrient and too much of another.

You can also investigate the many commercial raw food diets that are sold online or in pet stores by raw cat food suppliers.

These are pre-prepared meals that you can keep in the freezer at home and use as you need. The best of these offer you the benefits of homemade raw food without the hassle of preparation.

How easy is it to prepare a raw food diet for cats?

Slaving away, as a good human should

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Feeding raw food to cats isn’t a simple matter of chopping up meat and plating it—raw cat food requires careful preparation.

To prepare a raw meal for your cat, you will need the following equipment:

  • Meat mincer
  • Poultry shears
  • Glass mixing bowls
  • Sealable plastic containers
  • Dishwasher-proof chopping board
  • Enough space in your fridge and freezer
  • A plentiful supply of disposable nitrile gloves

The crucial part of your food preparation is hygiene—your recipe will almost certainly include raw meat and eggs, both of which can be breeding grounds for harmful bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli. There is a risk of illness for your kitty and cross-contamination for you.

If you are following a recipe you have found online, you have to make sure you weigh and measure everything exactly. If you fail to do this, you may end up preparing food that:

  • Doesn’t fulfil all your cat’s nutritional needs
  • Varies in quality from batch to batch, possibly causing stomach upsets

If you have created your own recipe, it is sensible to seek the advice of a vet who can evaluate it for balance and completeness. The vet may recommend supplements to be added to your recipe to address any shortfalls.

What are the basic ratios a raw food diet for cats should stick to?

The balance between the major food groups in your raw food is essential to make sure your kitty stays healthy.

Proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals all play a crucial role in your cat’s well-being, and the ratios you should aim for in a raw food diet are:

Nutrient type

Ideal percentage

Animal protein

Over 25%

Fat

20% or more

Carbs/fibre

Maximum 3%

When you are preparing your raw cat food, you should make sure the quantities of each ingredient reflect these ratios.

The risks of raw food for cats

Ask any ten cat experts for their opinion on the safety of raw food, and you are likely to get 11 answers.

The topic of food safety in raw cat food is hotly debated and mostly focused on the idea of preparing and feeding raw meat.

Chicken and many other types of meat are prone to contamination with harmful bacteria, the most common of which are:

  1. Salmonella
  2. Listeria
  3. E. coli

Salmonella

Salmonella can infect the digestive tract and cause diarrhoea, vomiting, and dehydration.

Salmonellosis is treatable but can lead to days of discomfort for your kitty.

Listeria

Listeria is also a common harmful bacterium that thrives in uncooked chicken and will result in:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Digestive problems
  • Vomiting

Both listeriosis and salmonellosis can be fatal if undiagnosed and untreated.

E. coli

E. coli bacteria cause similar effects to salmonella and listeria.

All three of these bacteria are already present in a cat’s digestive system. Still, they are usually kept in check by the beneficial bacteria in the gut, such as Bifidus and lactobacilli.

Eating contaminated raw food leads to an imbalance, in which the harmful bacteria gain the upper hand—this is not a pleasant experience for your feline.

You should take particular care with:

  • Kittens—A kitten’s immune and digestive systems may not be developed enough to cope with harmful bacteria
  • Older cats—As cats get older, their bodily functions start to lose their effectiveness, meaning that infections can take a heavier toll

Other concerns

There are other areas of concern in feeding your cats a raw food diet, namely:

Area of concern             

Explanation

Bones

Larger bones may splinter and injure your cat’s mouth or throat, while smaller bones can get stuck in the stomach or intestines

Taurine

Cats need the amino acid taurine in their diet—it helps them maintain the health of their:

  • Eyes
  • Heart
  • Reproductive system

Muscle meat doesn’t contain much taurine, but liver is a good source for your cat. Your raw diet needs to ensure your feline friend gets enough taurine to cover their needs

Anti-vitamins

The anti-vitamins avidin and thiaminase are present in uncooked meat and bind vitamins together—your cat can’t metabolise them. Cooking destroys anti-vitamins

Cross-contamination     

Apart from the potential risks to your cat, you are also in danger of infection as a result of handling raw ingredients while making your cat companion’s food. You need to go to great lengths at all times to keep your preparation area and yourself sanitised. Ideally, your hygiene routine should include:

  • Wearing disposable gloves
  • Disinfecting all surfaces after use
  • Washing all pots, bowls, and utensils in a disinfectant solution
  • Taking extreme care in sourcing all your ingredients from reputable suppliers

Pretentious? Moi?

Source: Cottonbro

What should you avoid giving your cat?

Some foods should be avoided in any cat diet but particularly in a raw feline diet—the most important ingredients to steer clear of are:

Although probably not a part of your raw cat food recipes, you should also keep your cat well away from:

What’s the bottom line on raw cat food?

Supporters of raw cat food claim that raw fed cats are being nourished according to the way they have evolved and that their felines are:

  • Healthy
  • Energetic
  • Long-lived

Raw feeding for cats is a matter of choice but does involve:

  • Extensive preparation
  • Rigorous hygiene
  • Extreme care in formulating meals
  • Continuous monitoring to make sure your cat is getting all the nutrients he or she needs and is not suffering any ill effects

Feeding cats a raw diet can also work out fairly pricey as you will have to buy from top-quality suppliers who can guarantee the safety of their products.

What alternatives do you have to raw cat food?

If raw cat food is not your food of choice, there are a couple of alternatives available for you to select from:

  • Dry foodDry food comes in many varieties, but cheaper foods tend to contain a lot of cereals or grains to help bulk the kibbles. If you are looking at dry food, you should check the ingredients list and the average analysis carefully to see what is really in each bite
  • Wet food—Wet cat food is also quite versatile—from pâtés to chunks in jelly. Compare products carefully, though, as many wet cat foods are full of binding agents, emulsifiers, and flavour additives

As in every area of life, you get what you pay for with commercial cat food.

While cheaper brands may not make such a dent in your bank account, you may find you have to feed your kitties more to cover their nutritional needs and keep them full of beans. More expensive foods commonly work out cheaper in the long run as the required feeding amounts tend to be smaller.

The choice is yours, but Untamed has an alternative that you should consider, with our individually-created meal plans for your feline best friend.

Untamed gives you the best of the best for your furry friend!

That’s what ahhm talkin’ bout 

Image (c) Untamed

Untamed is the best way to give kitties exactly what they need—all in a delicious meal they will go wild for.

Our meals are planned to suit your cat’s preferences, and everything we produce sticks to these key principles:

  1. Vet-approved
  2. Only human-grade ingredients
  3. Gently steamed
  4. Complete and balanced
  5. Hypoallergenic

Vet-approved

All our formulas are designed in collaboration with vets to ensure they contain everything your cat needs to be happy, healthy, and full of energy.

Only human-grade ingredients

Our food contains only meat and other ingredients that you would be happy to find on your own plate—no “animal derivatives,” cereals, grains, or incomprehensible E-numbers that you can’t decipher.

Gently steamed

We cook our food but in a way that all the nutrients are preserved and sealed into each meal. Your kitty gets the full benefit of the great ingredients in our products!

Complete and balanced

Each meal contains exactly what your feline friend needs—including twice the amount of animal protein that other manufacturers use.

Hypoallergenic

We only use single protein sources so that we can minimise the risk of your cat having an allergic reaction. Even the most sensitive and fussy felines will love our meals.

We will create a customised diet plan for your feline based on their:

  • Age
  • Lifestyle
  • Taste

You will be able to see the benefits of our nutritious meals in no time at all:

  • Within a week—you will notice more energy and a cleaner litter-tray
  • Within two months—you will see better muscle tone and lots of vitality
  • After four months—your kitty’s coat will be shinier, and fewer hairballs will be apparent
  • For the rest of their life—your feline friend will naturally manage their weight by being active and eating the right amounts

Give Untamed a try and see the difference for yourself!

Personal service—just what I deserve

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We want to give your purr-machine a chance to try our delicious food out.

After we find out a few details about them, we’ll create a tailor-made meal plan that will give your cat all the goodness they need with the flavours they’ll go mad about.

Here’s what you need to do to get the ball rolling:

  1. Fill out our Try Now questionnaire
  2. Check your email for your customised meal plan
  3. Decide between a:
    1. Trial pack
    2. Monthly plan

In no time at all, your kitties’ special delivery will land on your doorstep, and you can watch them tuck into their new favourite food!