This is a question that all cat dads and mums have asked themselves. What is the best food for my cat.
We are not vets and we are not experts in the field of cat nutrition. This blog post is written entirely from our experiences and what we have learnt from them.
We feed our cats raw food. In our opinion this is the best type of food you can feed your cat. Our meowscot, KitKat McFluffkins, has in fact never eaten anything else but raw food. Our other little one, a haughty tortie, is from a rescue shelter in Auckland and was on kibble for the first few weeks of her life. We got her as a wee kitten of 12 weeks and since then she has been on raw food too.
So what is a raw food diet for cats?
A raw food diet for cats means feeding them uncooked animal products. This type of diet is also sometimes called the BARF diet, "Bones and Raw food" or "Biologically Appropriate Raw Food".
What we learnt when we were investigating what to feed Mr Fluff was that not all raw food diets are created equal. In fact, balanced raw food diets require meaty bones, organs and green tripe from a variety of sources.
Why should you consider a raw food diet for your cat?
Cats are obligate carnivores this means they require animal products to survive. In fact, cats don't actually need carbohydrates or vegetables. They tolerate carbs in a small doses but what they need is moisture-rich, high-protein diets which contain things that are only found in animal products, things like amino acids like Taurine, fatty acids and essential vitamins and minerals.
Why not just cook the food then?
The reason we prefer to raw food is because we feel it most closely mimics a biologically appropriate diet i.e. what a cat would hunt and eat in the wild. So things like small rodents, small mammals, birds, fish, insects etc. The idea is to recreate this "natural" diet as closely as possible. There is also some research that suggests that cooking can lose or alter some of the naturally occurring goodness.
Benefits of raw food?
Some of the benefits we've seen with raw feeding our cats are shinier coats, better overall health, cleaner teeth, fresher breath, and automatic weight management. An added benefit is that KitKat McFluffkins is not interested in human food, table scraps etc at all. He just raises his fluffy little nose and walks away. We feel quite judged sometimes that he doesn't consider our pizza real food! Our younger one will still try and nibble on some table scraps (we do not encourage this at all) and we believe it is because she has acquired the taste for processed carbs much like her hoomans.
One of the biggest concerns that people have about raw food is its safety. Many worry about pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli in raw food. Humans cook their food so as to get rid of these pathogens. Cats however have much more acidic stomachs and shorter digestive tracts so they can digest this food easily without any problems. In terms of bones, we suggest you find species appropriate bones for your cat, remember, they have very acidic tummies that can handle bones.
Whenever handling raw meat, cross contamination is always a risk so we do recommend that you use proper hygiene practices to protect yourself and your family if you do decide to start raw feeding your cats.
How do we get our hands on a raw food for our cats?
There are two options - you can either make your own raw food or you can buy commercially produced raw food.
A balanced and complete raw food diet is not as easy to make as it sounds. One of the easiest mistake for pawrents to make is feeding their cats "all meat and bones" from a variety of sources without paying attention to specific nutrient content, protein, fat content and calories etc. Just like a human diet, a cat diet needs to be balanced and complete in its nutrient content, simply feeding your cat lots of meat and bones will not meet its nutrient needs and will in the long run cause health issues. We haven't ever tried to make our own raw food so we won't be recommending any resources for it.
We buy our raw food from Raw Essentials and they have many educational resources on their website. We have found their food to be very good for our cats and their staff are knowledgeable. We do recommend however that you do your own research and consult with a vet, preferably a vet nutritionist who has experience with raw feeding diets to find the best raw food diet for your cat.