I regularly get asked about the diet I feed my cats, so I decided a blog post was in order. This way I can point people here in the future! Truly, my laziness knows no bounds. I should say up front that most of this post discusses cats, because that is where my experience has been. However, I know as many or more people who feed raw diets to their dogs. The diets are not identical, because cats and dogs have different nutritional needs, but the benefits are the same. So if you have cats or dogs, I highly recommend you consider a raw-based diet for them.
Like I imagine is true of most people, when I first got my cats I fed them food I bought at the supermarket. Now, I didn’t give them the cheapest stuff. I think I usually got Science Diet, because it was more expensive and it claimed to be better for them. Eventually one of my cats (Frankenstein) developed a food allergy, so she and Rasputin switched over to IVD (Innovative Veterinary Diets) Grean Pea & Duck food.
That was what the cats were eating when Keri and I adopted Felix and Matilda. To make a long story short, Felix had some strange medical problems and we eventually discovered that conventional veterinarians were having no success in treating him. After trying many things (which at one point ended with an overnight stay for Felix at the emergency vet clinic) the best option we were offered was to basically keep Felix on steroids for the rest of his life. We didn’t think this would be great for his health, but we had seen three or four different vets by this point, two of them specialists, so we decided to start broadening our search. We ended up contacting Dr. Will Falconer who is located here in Austin. His big thing is homeopathy (which could be a subject of an entirely different post), but one of his conditions for treating an animal is that you first address their diet. He had seen so many issues cleared up simply by taking that step that he was unwilling to treat animals otherwise.
He called the optimal diet the feline raw meat diet. That link is the first place I recommend that you check out. It gives a basic recipe for a raw meat diet, and explains how to best transition your cat(s) over to it. The diet is a simulated whole prey diet, which means that it aims to simulate the sort of thing that a cat would eat in the wild — small mammals, birds, etc. The idea is that the various components of the raw diet combine to be similar to what would be in the prey that they evolved to eat. The only healthier option would be for the cats to eat the actual prey (If you’re curious about that, I’ve tried this with mice, which I’ve previously discussed here, here, and here).
For a long time my cats were fed the diet that Dr Falconer describes on the above link. At first the ingredients were purchased at local grocery stores, but this was pretty expensive. Eventually I joined the Austin Raw Feeders’ Co-Op. The Co-Op is made up of people who feed raw diets to their dogs and cats. The basic idea is the members get together to place bulk orders to suppliers of meat, organs, etc. In this way we can get a much better price than we would by purchasing at the grocery store. If you live in Austin and wish to feed raw, I cannot recommend the Co-Op highly enough.
In addition to buying the ingredients from the Co-Op, you can also buy premade raw mixes. This is a little more expensive than making it yourself, but it’s a lot less hassle. You can also buy these raw mixes locally at some pet stores, but this is significantly more expensive. The Co-Op is also where I buy the previously mentioned mice that I feed my cats from time to time. Finally, the co-op members are a great resource for any questions about pets.
If you don’t live in Austin, there may still be a co-op in your area. I’m aware of a big one in California called the Bay Area Raw Feeders Co-Op, but I don’t know much about it specifically. In any case, even if you don’t live in or around Austin, you may want to search to see if there is a co-op local to you. Or if you’re feeling really ambitious, you could start your own. I am friends with the woman who started the ARF Co-Op here in Austin. It took a lot of work on her part, but it is evidence that it only takes one person who is passionate about it to get the ball rolling.
Oh, so I’ve neglected to discuss the benefits of a raw diet for cats and dogs. There are several.
- As previously mentioned, this diet more closely reflects what they evolved to eat. Their bodies are designed to function best with this sort of food.
- Almost all commercially available foods have additives and filler which are not natural parts of their diets, and are not healthy.
- As the pet food scare a few years ago demonstrated, there is VERY little oversight, regulation, and quality control when it comes to commercial pet food.
- Cats on the raw diet have smaller and significantly less stinky poop. (I don’t have dogs, so I don’t know if this is true of them or not).
- Cats and dogs on the raw diet tend to have much nicer coats of fur and tend to smell much nicer.
- Everyone I know who has switched over to the raw diet has commented on how much more energy and playfulness their cats have.
So that’s it — I think I’ve covered everything that I meant to cover. I hope this is helpful information to fellow cat and dog lovers! The raw diet does cost more than regular catfood, but consider the money saved in veterinary bills. And, of course, the improved quality of life of your pet — something on which you cannot put a price tag.