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Is raw food better for cats than the typical cooked dry or canned cat food?
Let’s figure this out! If you want to get started feeding your cat raw now, scroll down to the bottom of the page. To help make life easier, we’ve selected a few raw cat foods for you to check out.
Is Raw Food Better for Cats’ Hydration?
In the wild, cats live off of the prey they kill. This prey naturally is comprised largely of water, meaning that the animals they consume provide adequate hydration for these predators. The naturally hydrating quality of their prey makes cats disinclined to sit down and drink water – they expect to get enough water out of their food.
Dry Food = Dehydrated Cats
Unfortunately, if your cat consumes only dry cat food, their crunchy kibble doesn’t provide the natural water content that a cat would naturally consume through their food. Even if your cat does drink water, it’s unlikely that a cat living off of dry food is getting properly hydrated. Inadequate hydration can lead to urinary tract disease.
Raw food has a high moisture content and is hydrating for your cat. Cooked canned food will also provide adequate hydration, so raw food isn’t the only solution to the feline dehydration problem.
Is Raw Food Better for Cats’ Dental Health?
Gnawing on raw meat and bones helps to keep cats’ teeth healthy. While dry food is often recommended to help clean tartar from cat teeth, feeding your cat dry food is not a great preventative measure to keep your cat’s mouth clean and healthy. Raw food engages your cat’s teeth and jaws in a way that the average cat food does not. When it comes to preventing periodontal disease and keeping your cat’s mouth in great shape, you can’t beat raw feeding.
Is Raw Food Better for Cats’ Weight Management?
Advocates of raw food say that it has had myriad benefits for their cats, reporting everything from appetite improvement, eradication of disease, improved skin and fur health, and weight loss. A balanced diet of any sort can help with weight management. Serving your cat a healthy, balanced raw diet can help them to maintain a healthy body weight or to lose weight in a healthy, natural way.
The Problem with Raw Cat Food
Raw cat food is not right for every cat. Some cats with compromised immune systems will not be able to deal with the pathogens naturally occurring in raw cat food. Salmonella and e coli are common bacteria appearing in raw cat food, and these bacteria can cause illness in some cats. Cats with healthy immune systems can easily digest raw food and be completely unaffected by these bacteria, while cats with compromised immune systems and humans can be made sick by contact with these pathogens. It’s recommended that you consult a veterinarian before giving your immunocompromised cat raw food.
Handling raw food can be a danger for humans. Just as when you prepare meat for cooking, you sanitize the kitchen and wash your hands, good hygiene can ensure that preparing raw food for your cat does not make your family sick.
The Problem with Conventional Cat Food
Cats are naturally obligate carnivores. This means that in nature, they eat animals. Not just muscle meat, either – animals. The combination of muscle meat, bones, and organs make their prey nutrient-rich.
The food typically fed to cats is a cheap formula designed to imitate the medley of nutrients that come naturally in an animal.
In fact, commercial cat food is fairly new and therefore, not a very well-developed industry.
In the 1930s, when commercial cat food was first created, there was no such thing as dry food for cats. As we mentioned earlier, cats have naturally low thirst drives. They need to consume water through their food. Most early wet cat foods were made of fish – not even a natural part of a cat’s diet. By 1946, dry food made up 85% of the pet food market. Later, human food companies used the booming pet food market as a great way to make use of byproducts from human food manufacturing.
Pet food has always been primarily meant to be cheap and sellable – not necessarily nutritious.
In the 60’s, pet food marketers began pushing the idea that table scraps were unsafe for pet consumption. In 1964, a huge marketing campaign by pet food industry lobbyists (the PFI) helped to brainwash America into the fear of table scraps.
Today, reliance on commercial cat foods is virtually absolute.
What’s more, there is a profit motive for vets to sell certain commercial pet foods, regardless of their actual nutritional value. Here’s one statement from Colgate-Palmolive, the company behind Hill’s Science Diet:
“…hundreds of thousands of dollars a year funding university research and nutrition courses at every one of the 27 US veterinary colleges. Once in practice, vets who sell Science Diet and other premium foods directly pocket profits of as much as 40%” (Parker-Pope, T. 1997. For You, My Pet. The Wall Street Journal. 3 November 1997. In Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. p266).
Starting in veterinary school and throughout their practice, veterinarians are indoctrinated to believe that these unnatural cat foods are the healthy choice. Some vets will tell you that raw food is better for cats, but many of them have good reason not to.
So Is Raw Food Better for Cats?
Cats historically and naturally have consumed raw food. Just as many people are turning towards diets that better reflect the historical dietary elements of humans, there is a movement to encourage cats to consume more biologically appropriate foods.
People who think raw food is better for cats say that raw feeding makes their cats crazy healthy. We’ve heard of raw eaters developing softer coats, healthier skin, and healthier stools, while their appetites become healthy and balanced.
However, the downside of raw feeding is that, like any diet, it isn’t right for every cat. Cats with compromised immune systems may not be able to safely eat raw food. Similarly, there is a chance that humans can get sick from handling raw food without properly cleaning up afterward.
In our experience, the benefits outweigh the negative effects when it comes to feeding your cat raw food. We recommend that you give it a try!
For a comprehensive scientific assessment of feline diets and a list of some of the best cat foods on the market, check out this amazing resource.
Cat eating raw rabbit photo credit: Eddy Van 3000