Before we switched to raw, Molly and Maggie ate a very respectable high-end kibble. I never had issues with them while on kibble. But when I saw the results of my dogs thriving on a raw diet, I decided that switching the cats would be the next step.
If you stumbled onto this blog post while researching a raw diet for cats, I'd like to share with you my favorite websites about raw feeding for cats:
Raw Fed Cats
What About Cats?
These websites will explain better than I could why a raw diet is the ideal diet for a cat. Keep in mind that a raw diet is not a panacea for all ailments. Just like not all cats thrive on a kibble diet, some cats may not thrive on a raw diet.
Making The Switch
As I mentioned earlier, when I saw the awesome results of my dogs eating a raw diet, I made the decision to switch Molly and Maggie. It wasn't easy! Molly and Maggie are seniors; both are eleven-years-old. It took me a long eight months to switch them completely over to an exclusive raw diet.
I first started by eliminating free feeding. I took the kibble away and moved onto feeding twice a day: AM and PM. This choice was influenced by the fact that I could also monitor if one of them decided to stop eating.
Once the cats were comfortable with that, I moved on to introducing wet food. I added small amounts to their kibble until they were eventually eating 100% wet food.
The next step was to start adding small amounts of raw to the wet food. I literally had to add a dime-sized amount to the wet food (and no bigger!) or else Molly and Maggie would walk away from the food. I took it at their pace. This is important! If you rush anything, you'll be back to square one. You have to take it at the cat's pace. Imagine if you'd been eating McDonald's for your entire life and someone removed it from you and placed fresh vegetables in its place. You would immediately reject it. Keep this in mind.
Another important thing to mention is do not withhold food from your cat. Do not think that if you starve them they will eventually cave in and eat the raw. Cats can acquire what is called Hepatic Lipidosis. Having battled this first hand with our now deceased cat Blue, trust me when I tell you do not want to go down this road!
After eight long months of slowly reducing the amount of wet food and increasing the amount of raw food, Molly and Maggie are now eating 100% raw.
Premade vs. Homemade
I chose to make my own food as opposed to buying premade for various reasons. One of the reasons is that I have total control over what goes into the food. I am not paying tooth and nail for unecessary items such as fruit and vegetables. I'm also in complete control over the amount of bone my cats are eating.
Another reason is cost. Premade is much more expensive than going out and getting the ingredients on your own. I get more bang for my buck if I make the raw food myself. And in this economy, it's all about making my dollar stretch.
The flip side of this is time. It does take me a bit of time to make the food. However, I'd much rather give up two hours to make three months worth of meals if it means I am saving money. So ask yourself if you have the time to commit.
Making The Food
I use the Northern Tool grinder. This little dude can grind chicken bones with no problem. It has served me well.
I chose to grind my food because Molly and Maggie barely have any teeth. Ideally, if your cat is young, try to move into whole prey raw feeding. Your cat's teeth will benefit tremendously from eating whole prey.
I don't follow a "recipe." I don't micromanage or stress that my cats are getting every single nutrient in every meal. With the exception of salmon oil and a powder form of probioitics, I really don't add much to the raw food. Mother nature made it complete already and me messing with it is not going to help. Raw feeding is all about achieving balance over time. Think about it...do you get all of your nutrients in every single meal?
So this is what I do...
I buy one whole chicken roaster and a package of chicken thighs. I buy the thighs so that I can include some extra taurine. Dark meat has lots of taurine and cats need taurine in their diets. You can also get tons of taurine from hearts, and, from time to time I'll buy chicken hearts. But if you cannot get chicken hearts, thighs will do just fine.
I make batches using chicken and one other ingredient. I'll alternate using beef, turkey, fish and pork. I use chicken as my "base" because it's always easily available and cheap. The money I save on buying chicken I use to buy more expensive items. For example, in this batch, I bought salmon and trout.
I start by cutting the items into manageable pieces that the grinder can handle. Here is my fish and chicken all cut up:
I also have a tub of chicken livers that I add to the grinder. It's essential that your cat receives some kind of organ meat. Whether it be liver, kidney or spleen, your cat must have some sort of organ meat. Again, I use liver because it's cheap and readily available.
Now that I have everything ready, I start grinding.
First I do the chicken:
I set that aside and move to grinding the fish. First the salmon:
Then the trout:
To each of these, I'll add some of the ground up chicken and liver and mix well. The result is a Chicken and Fish batch.
Chicken and Salmon
Chicken and Trout
I will take this mixture and package it into small tupperware containers and freeze them. One tupperware container lasts me two days and I throw them in the dishwasher once they are empty.
I'm slowly moving over to using Mason jars into order to be more eco-friendly, but use what works best for you. I know a friend who has only one cat and she puts her mixture into ice cube trays. She pops out the trays and serves once cube in the morning and one cube in the evening. Find what works for you.
Why All This Work?
Yes, I won't lie and tell you this doesn't require a little bit of elbow grease and time. But once you get over the hump of grinding the food (or maybe you won't need to grind and your cat will accept whole prey!), it becomes second nature.
I stick to this diet because of the changes I see in my cats. Molly and Maggie have glorious coats. They are more agile and playful. Gone are the eye boogers constantly accumulating in their eyes. Gone are the smelly, monster-sized poops. In their place I have tiny, almost odorless, compact poops. I can rest assured knowing that Molly and Maggie are receiving constant hydration. But most importantly, they are eating what Mother Nature built them to eat.