Natural feeding for cats
Your cat will flourish on a biologically appropriate diet. What evidence do we have of this? In another article we review Pottenger’s Cats, a book that describes a ten-year experiment involving 900 cats, which led to the discovery that raw fed cats live substantially longer, healthier lives. Most cats love raw food from the moment you switch, and those that don’t generally come to love it within a week or two.
What should cats be eating?
What is a biologically appropriate diet for cats? Cats are obligate carnivores. In other words, they can’t survive on vegetables and fruit. In the wild, cats eat prey (mice, birds, voles, insects &c.) and in a more domestic setting this needs to be replicated with raw meat and raw bone. Almost everything that is true about feeding dogs a natural diet applies to cats, with the exceptions outlined below.
About kibble fed cats
If you feed a cat a high carbohydrate diet – particularly if it consists of a dry kibble – then he or she may become addicted to the blood glucose ‘high’ that the food is providing. Such cats are generally hungry most of the time and will keep asking for more and more food. Almost all processed cat food is heavily flavoured with ‘palatability enhancers’, and this is another reason why some cats are so keen on it. Incidentally, some vets feel that kibble is the cause of dehydration in cats.
Your cat’s new diet
Your cat’s diet should largely consist of raw meat and raw bone. As cats love variety, test lots of different ingredients: poultry, red meat and fish (although not too much herring as it can contain thiaminase, which destroys vitamin B1). The most natural ingredients are smaller prey: rabbit, wild game, chicken and duck. Cats need raw bones and it is important that they chew. Favourites include chicken necks, wings and drumsticks.
Offal meat is excellent but shouldn’t account for more than 5 to 10% of the diet.
Some vegetable matter is good for cats – you can feed between 5 and 10% of the diet.
Unless you are feeding your cat fish on a regular basis we would recommend adding fish oil (500mg) every day. If your cat is allergic to fish oil, coconut oil or coconut milk are both excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acid. A healthy adult cat will eat 5 to 10% of its bodyweight every day.
Making the switch
- The first and most important thing is to stop making food available all the time. Don’t leave a bowl of food on the floor. Create specific mealtimes – between two and five a day to begin with, reducing to one or two. This will ensure that your cat is actually hungry when you serve the raw food. Note, if the cat doesn’t eat the food within a few minutes put it back in the fridge. If it looks a little grey after being in the fridge mix it up with a spoon.
- Try gently warming the food (some cats don’t like it cold). This can be done by mixing a couple of teaspoons of boiling water into it or standing his or her bowl in boiling water. Never be tempted to put it in the microwave.
- Try mixing it with the existing food. Use a very little raw food to begin with and gradually (very gradually) alter the proportions. This ‘weaning’ on to raw food can take as long as 10 weeks. There is no hurry; go with the pace of your cat.
- Other things you could add to encourage eating include tinned or fresh fish, prawns or a little scrambled egg.
- Cats will drink less water once they are on a raw food diet because there’s more water in the actual food.
- If a cat has soft stools or diarrhoea then add a pinch or two of slippery elm (this is excellent for most digestive disorders and can be found in Tree Barks Powder from Dorwest.com), brewer’s yeast or psyllium husk to the food.
‘I had been told,’ said Bill Dana, ‘that the training procedure with cats was difficult. It’s not. Mine had me trained in two days.’ Cats, perhaps more than any other species on earth, seem determined to have their own way. This is especially true when it comes to food. Take the switching process slowly and steadily.
Pregnant mums and kittens
Pregnant and feeding mums will need extra food. When the time comes to wean the kittens onto solid food start with ground raw meat and ground raw bone. A small amount of soft cheese or yoghurt is good. As soon as possible introduce them to hard bones. A raw chicken wing is an excellent starting point. A newly weaned kitten will eat between one and two teaspoons of food four times a day. From 12 to 16 weeks cut back to three times daily but slightly increase the volume of food. Thereafter reduce to once or twice a day by six months. Kittens need between 5 and 10% of their bodyweight in food every day. If they are growing quickly feed them closer to 10%.
A word about taurine
One of the ways in which processed food manufacturers have tried to rubbish raw feeding for cats is to suggest that a natural (biologically appropriate) diet doesn’t contain enough taurine. No scientist has been able to show precisely how much taurine cats ought to eat. However, high levels of taurine exist in all the meats we are suggesting you serve your cat. This is how they would obtain it in the wild. The taurine issue is a red herring (which also contains high levels of the stuff).
We are happy to help
Although Honey’s is, essentially, a dog food company we do have lots of experience raw feeding cats. If you have any cat diet or cat health questions, please do get in touch. Incidentally, our vegetable-free recipes are ideal for cats.
For more information and advice please contact Honey’s – we’ll be happy to help even if you never, ever plan to become a customer.
Telephone: 01672 620 260