[WARNING: This is an adult conversation. It contains things you may not want to read. Tough. It is the truth. If you are interested in your cat's long-term health and wellbeing, read on.]
"The most important health decision you make for your pet is choosing what to put in the food bowl" - Dr. Barbara Royal, DVM
Since the question of ‘what to feed my cat(s)’ is on the minds of every cat-caregiver ever to shop for cat food, it requires more attention than one might think. This is an in-depth answer to that question.
Those of you who know me understand that I have done a tremendous amount of study about cat food - all in an attempt to 'do better' for my 3 cats. This article is about my evolution as a cat-caregiver/guardian/parent. It’s about how I learned about cat physiology and the ideal cat diet.
Knowing full well that I’ll be catching the wrath (and cat poop) of a lot of readers, I’ll make the following assertion. I may, in fact, know more about cat food than some veterinarians. If veterinarians knew any better they wouldn’t be selling substandard cat food in their vet clinics.
Read more about that here.
Anyway - to the question of what should I feed…
Long-term, in-depth study has taught me that all dry cat food (kibble) and 98% of wet, canned cat food are detrimental to a cat's long-term health. Don't like hearing that? Don’t just take my word for it. Look at the facts. Research my website CatFoodIngredients.com, and learn how to evaluate cat food brands.
Start with the 'Reject 1 - Dry Food' page and see the evidence provided by 10 experts about why dry food is bad for your cat(s). With the lack of moisture, the high carbohydrate content, and the susceptibility to pathogens during the storage process, dry food will come back to haunt you as disease in your cat's future. Imagine eating nothing but cereal for every meal for the rest of your life. Come on now folks. Have some common sense.
Then read the 'Reject 2 - Bad Stuff' page, and see how many of the bad ingredients listed there show up on the label of the cat food you are feeding or considering feeding. How are those ingredients going to affect your cat’s long term health?
So if dry food (definitely) and most canned food (undoubtedly) are out, what should I feed my cat(s)?
If you had a jet plane you really wouldn't expect to run it on car gasoline would you? Your jet plane wouldn't last very long running on fuel not intended for it's design. Same for cats.
Cats are 'designed' to take in and utilize nourishment in a particular way. They require a certain kind of food to thrive, prosper and flourish.
Yes, you'll hear many people say that their cats have gotten along just fine for years by eating dry food (cereal - every meal of their lives), and that their cat's have lived for 15-20 long years without a single health problem. (Of course people themselves have gotten along just fine by eating junk food all of their lives too.) (Yeah - right)
But I ask you (and them) could their cats have done even better? Could their cats have achieved a more healthy, fulfilling, 'thrive-prosper-flourish' life? Could their cats have done even better by eating a species appropriate diet?
Here’s a simplistic comparison to humans.
(After all, isn’t it us humans who are trying to push our superior knowledge and product preferences onto our cats? “Carrots must absolutely be good for a cat’s eyesight.” - NOT)
In humans the digestive system begins in our mouths when our chompers start tearing and grinding and our saliva begins to break down our food into smaller, more digestible fragments.
Those fragments get dumped into our stomachs where stomach acid soaks the food breaking it down even more. [Now remember, this is a really, really simplistic description...]
Human food enters the intestines, a long, curvy, undulating tube where the food begins to sit, soak, and in some cases, ferment. At this point particle breakdown continues, nutrient absorption occurs and then comes what most every military enlisted person dreams of - ‘discharge’ (as opposed to that other term used by executioners - ‘elimination’).
Compared to cats, human food has a relatively long, slow ‘transit time’ from mouth to rear end.
Compared to humans, a cat's food handling system is streamlined. There isn't the 'transit time' as in the human digestive system. The food zips right through cats. (I can personally attest to this fact because I both feed my cats (at one end), and clean up after them (at the other end). lol
Instead of grinding their food with their teeth, cats simply bite, tear and gulp bits of food whole. The food enters their stomachs where an extremely high acid content (low ph) acts to directly breakdown the food then and there. Then, yes, nutrient absorption occurs in the intestines (among other places).
Cats have intestines which are short and smooth, not long and undulating as in humans. Think of a corridor/passageway/tunnel to move something fast. Food doesn't sit and ferment in a cat’s digestive system before it gets ‘discharged.’
So bottom line (pardon the pun), in the end (pardon the pun), if you are a human being reading these words you simply are wrong if you support the belief that whatever foods are good for humans are good for cats.
A cat is an 'obligate carnivore' meaning, he/she survives on the nutrients primarily found in animal tissue.
For you vegans out there, of which I am one, this is the part that makes us want to throw up. This is where we come smack up against our values of ahimsa (do no harm). I, for one, hate it that life on our plane of existence is designed the way it is. What a way to create a universe - to exist everything has to hurt and/or kill something else. F that.
We hate it that our cats, obligate carnivores, must hurt and/or kill other animals to live, and we come fact to face with this problem in considering feeding our cat(s) raw.
Fact is, we are ALREADY feeding our cats other animals. What do you think was in that bag or can of cat food you served today? It may be DISGUISED as pated, cut, flaked, minced, shredded, chopped, sliced, chunks, gravy, stew, bits, and morsels. It may not register in your brain what you are giving your cat(s). You may not want to recognize the truth, but you are already feeding your cat(s) other animals.
As long as you must feed your cat(s) other animals, at least feed them the best FORM of other animals. Don't feed your cats processed cereal or cooked mush full of carbohydrates (more on that below). Feed he or she or them the food which will enhance their lives.
Anyway, I digress to make the point that life isn’t always the way humans want it to be. In other words, there is a TRUTH about life that sometimes we can’t ignore.
A lot of people out there believe (Notice the word ‘believe’. There’s no evidence for believing so, but since it’s good for humans it must be good for cats - NOT.) believe that cats need vegetables and fruit to get their vitamins and minerals. This BELIEF is held fast and true by cat food manufacturers (and some veterinarians) who pedal their stuff to ignorant cat parents.
While it is true that cats in the wild may consume prey stomach and intestinal contents which include undigested and/or semi-digested carbohydrates and starches (like vegetables and fruit), this portion of their 'catch' is proportionately meaningless and physiologically unnecessary. Moreover, cats in the wild usually leave their prey’s ‘inferior organs’ strewn about the ground at the kill site.
Even if consumed… without the relative digestive enzymes, and without a long digestive ‘transit time,’ carbohydrates don’t 'breakdown' in a cat the way they do in humans.
Mary Marsiglia, homeopath extraordinaire, remarked in a Facebook group about her years of keenly observing wolves (carnivores) in the wild.
[Mary Marsiglia knows everything there is to know about the physiology of dogs and cats. For over 40 years she has studied and observed almost every single wild cat on the planet and knows the anatomy and physiology of wolves, all wild cats, and all domestic dogs and cats as well. Mary is a Certified Pet Nutritionist and a Certified Homeopath. She is also a Certified dog behaviorist and trainer. She is a pet expert knowledgeable in proper, complete raw food feeding of both dogs and cats. She knows how to raise animals/pets naturally without horrible vaccines; toxic heart worm pills; chemical flea, tick & mosquito products or de-wormers. Search for Mary Marsiglia on Facebook, and find out more about her in Cat News Headlines®. Connect to just some of Mary's articles here.]
To repeat from above, cats don't have the physical structure (mouth enzymes, stomach, and long, undulate intestine where plant fermentation takes place) to support the breakdown and subsequent nutrient absorption/utilization of plant matter.
To repeat again, while it is true that carnivores stomachs contain a high acid content, it is not acid alone which breaks down vegetables. To be simplistic about it... in other animals (and in humans), vegetables stay in the digestive tract for enough time to ferment and break down. Not so in carnivores.
Anyone thinking of feeding their cat(s) vegetables would be wise to join homeopath Mary Marseglia's Facebook group 'Best Natural Raw Canine & Feline Nutrition and Homeopathy Health' and read her article 'Dogs & Cats are Carnivores. They are NOT omnivores like Human Beings.'
Here's an excerpt from that article - ample evidence that cats should not be fed vegetables:
Mary goes on to explain other cat physiology proving that vegetable consumption is actually detrimental to a cat. Cats don't need vegetables, and the vegetables you see in so many commercial cat foods are just cheap fillers included to appease uninformed cat parents.
I know you don’t want to hear it. Feed your cat meat. Raw, uncooked meat.
You may not like it. You may wish it weren’t so, but cats thrive and survive on eating animal tissue. BUT NOT MEAT ALONE. Meat with powdered bone in - for calcium. (Powdered egg shells are a substitute for powdered bone.) I also like to add some nutritional supplements to my cat's diet. I’ll get to that subject a little further down the page.
The point above is so important that I want to repeat it again. Meat alone is not sufficient for a balanced diet and a meat-only diet can cause other health issues. MEAT WITH BONE IN PROVIDES CALCIUM. A diet deficient in calcium can lead to growth deformities and/or osteoporosis and/or skin problems.
Now having said that, TOO MUCH CALCIUM CAN BRING ITS OWN PROBLEMS (like kidney calcification), SO I SUGGEST THAT YOU DO NOT SUPPLEMENT CALCIUM WHILE YOU ARE FEEDING A RAW DIET WITH BONE-IN (or with egg shells)
So the story is... know the ingredients of whatever supplement you might be using.
[Let me take a second while we're discussing bones to say something else I consider to be important. Only feed RAW powdered bones. NEVER feed cooked bones. Cooking affects the bone density, and MAY allow for splitting or fracturing. Who wants to take that kind of risk with their cats or dogs.]
SO WHAT SHOULD I FEED MY CAT(S)?
FEED YOUR CAT(S) species appropriate foods - herbivore/ungulate animals including:
Fortunately, there are various dietary supplements available prepackaged to simply add to the raw meat. Here’s my page in CatFoodIngredients.com which discusses dietary supplementation. (I don’t make money from these products. I present them on my website to support your education and to support your cats.)
As I said before up above, know which supplements you are adding to your cat's raw meat, bone-in diet. You especially don't want to overdo adding calcium.
One nutrient necessary to a cat’s daily diet is taurine. Cats need taurine in their diet as they are unable produce sufficient amounts naturally. Taurine is primarily found in animal muscle meat.
"Cats are a particular challenge because they cannot produce certain proteins such as taurine themselves. They instead have to absorb it from their food, with beef, chicken and fish being particularly rich sources. Cats that don’t have enough taurine are at risk of developing a potentially fatal condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)" - the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
"In cats with DCM, the heart muscle becomes very thin and weak, preventing them from pumping blood and supplying oxygen to the body normally. This is a fatal disease if not corrected early on." - ASPCA
"Taurine deficiency in cats causes a host of metabolic and clinical problems, including feline central retinal degeneration and blindness, deafness, cardiomyopathy and heart failure, inadequate immune response, poor neonatal growth, reproductive failure, and congenital defects. Found abundantly in many fish, birds, and small rodents, taurine is either absent or present only in trace amounts in plants." - Your Cat's Nutritional Needs, published by the National Research Council of the National Academies, pg2
Study the work of homeopath Mary Marseglia (quoted twice above). Here’s an excerpt from her article 'Making your own Complete Raw Food Diet…’
Now don’t jump off a cliff thinking that there’s no way you could even remotely sanction the killing and chopping up of another poor, unfortunate animal just to feed your cat(s).
After all, if you tell yourself the truth, every time you stop at McDonald’s for a salad or for a cheeseburger, that’s exactly what you are doing - sanctioning the hurting and death of something, plant or animal.
(At the outset of this article I told you this was an adult conversation. I can imagine that ethical vegans reading this (me included) are sick-to-our-stomachs about now.)
Having someone kill food for your cat is the thing you do every time you feed your cat(s) - whether you feed them canned or raw food or whatever.
You have just come face-to-face with the truth of our existence on earth!
Many cat owners go through the process of preparing their own raw meat cat meals. They do so to completely know what ingredients have gone into the preparation process.
There is, however, another way to feed your cat(s) raw without going through the killing, chopping, grinding preparation process yourself.
Pay somebody else to do it. (Just as you payed McDonald’s to prepare your cheeseburger earlier today.)
You can probably find many raw meat suppliers in your country by simply doing a Google search.
If you are in the U.S., Hare Today is a Pennsylvania company that prepares various raw foods for cats, dogs and ferrets and ships anywhere in the country.
Another U.S. company that will ship anywhere in the country is MyPetCarnivore.com. They are in Indianapolis, IN.
Yet another company that ships country wide (U.S.) is Darwin's Natural Pet Products. Located in Washington state, Darwin's has raw meals "specially crafted by experts to be complete and balanced."
An Auckland, New Zealand company is called Raw Essentials.
So that takes care of finding a source for raw food for your cat(s), but there’s more...
Here’s a page from my website about transitioning your cat(s) to new food - whether it be from dry to canned, or from canned to raw. You can find out more about transitioning by searching the internet.
Most transitioning folks generally agree that you should introduce the new, raw food gradually alongside the food your cat(s) have already been eating. Gradually diminish the amount 'old' food as you gradually increase the 'new' food. Some cats (2 of 3 of mine) jump right into eating raw food and never bother with their previous food again.
There is, however, one thing I have learned about transitioning cats. Cats, like humans, prefer junk food over wholesome, quality food. Sit a plate of filet mignon (just kidding) and kibble (cereal) in front of them and they will choose the chemically-ladened dry food kibble every time.
And... it's not as if you are trying to get your cat(s) to "like" another kind of food. The word "like" implies something to do with taste, and it's not only taste that factors in during transitioning.
What you are also doing during transitioning is getting your cat's gastrointestinal tract 'used' to unprocessed foods. In other words, just as in your own body has become accustomed to eating certain foods repetitively, your cats digestive system has also grown accustomed to eating certain kinds of foods. Other words for having 'grown accustomed to' are - ADDICTED TO.
So the transition process becomes a time when you are really trying to break your cat's addiction to previously fed, unhealthy processed foods. Hang in there. It takes time and patience.
Bottom line? We have to be responsible pet-caregivers, guardians, parents and go through the process of transitioning their preferences for food. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it - on their behalf (just like I had to get my step-son off of Twinkies).
Once your cat(s) are on a raw diet, it's time to begin introducing a variety of proteins from the list above be it beef, rabbit, venison or whatever. Usually, once a cat is on a raw food diet, changing between various kinds of protein doesn't require the transitioning time and attention.
It's may be bad practice to immediately followup feeding with the cat's previous food just because he (she/they) walks away from his dish of raw food. I'm not saying deprive or starve your cat into submission. I'm saying that a cat just may not be hungry enough 'at the moment' to go for the new stuff just because you have placed it in front of him. He won't starve to death if he turns away and misses this meal time. Don't give in and give him his old food. Wait awhile and try the raw food again in a few hours.
Some cats may experience bowel problems such as constipation or diarrhea. They may, in fact, be detoxing from suddenly loosing their 'addicted' food. Changing your cat's diet may present a 'healing-crisis' just as it would if you were to change your own diet. In a 'healing-crisis' all sorts of seemingly adverse reactions can occur within one's body as it cleans and detoxes. Some cats may get sick and vomit as they begin to discharge previously held toxins.
Just keep in mind two things. It is unlikely that the raw food is causing their 'seemingly' adverse reactions, and whatever adverse reactions are occurring are, for the most part, not detrimental at all. They are a normal, beneficial part of the cleansing process. Give it time.
Also, it is very important to keep in mind that these 'healing-crisis' reactions sometimes RECUR. Your cat can go through a period of time while eating the new, raw food diet and his or her sickness has abated. Suddenly BAM, something else is wrong. Again... it's more probable that detox from the previous food is happening rather than that your cat is experiencing anything bad about the raw food.
One thing that may assist in not having adverse reactions show up at all is giving your cat(s) probiotics as a food supplement. Simply put, if a cat experiences digestive problems during the transition it is most likely because the bacteria in the cat's system is being 'changed over', and the addition of probiotics into the new, raw food can assist in the change.
If adverse physical things happen first suspect that the beneficial detox process is occurring before you even begin to look for fault with the species appropriate raw food.
Obviously, each of us must decide for ourselves - and for our cats - what we can afford to feed. I suggest that you look at the Hare Today prices, do the math, and decide if you can make the diet change for your cats. Always, however, keep in mind that whatever money you spend today for wholesome food may be offset in the future by less costly vet bills.
After arduously studying cat foods, I have come to the conclusion a raw food diet is best for my cats. It really wasn’t a difficult conclusion to reach. I simply had to learn how a cat’s digestive system is designed. The truth speaks for itself.
Best to you - Doug Hines
PS. I may revise this article from time to time. After all, should I learn something new, should I become smarter (lol) I owe it to you, my readers, to keep you informed (of my infinite wisdom).
Sharing this information will let them know that you are an up-to-date, first class cat-care person, and that you want the best for their cats as well as for your own.
The manufacture’s website info and product label design doesn’t matter. Advertising doesn't matter. Internet product reviews and caregiver’s testimonials don't matter. Whether or not your cats’ “like” it doesn’t matter (all kids like junk food).
“If you are feeding canned cat food, the ONLY things that matter to your cats’ future and wellbeing are the ingredients in the can and the quality of those ingredients." - Doug Hines
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