After my ‘how to’ litter box YouTube video, several people suggested that I do something on the raw diet. Maybe I’ll do a video at some point, but for now … here goes!
A while back I took pictures during one of my more ambitious raw diet making sessions, so I will use those photos. Bear in mind that I hope I’m NEVER stupid enough to do that amount again. Also you should know that, though I started out grinding my own meat, I rarely do it any more — about once a month to make a small amount of chunked chicken for the cats to chew on. I now purchase pre-ground WHOLE carcass from a couple of suppliers, which I consider more ideal as it includes all of the organs.
First a little history. I transitioned my cats over to an all wet food, mostly raw diet in early 2004 in an attempt to alleviate the inflammatory bowel condition that one of my elderly cats suffered from. After two weeks on the raw diet, Daisy’s diarrhea stopped and there was no going back for me after that. Although it didn’t turn out to be a cure, it may have given her a couple more years. The raw diet is NOT a miracle. We need to be clear on that. There are no miracles, however while researching and re-RE-searching the raw diet and feline nutrition, I became convinced that nutrition for carnivores is off track and we can do better. Now THIS, in its self is the miracle here: convincing me of anything — I’m a chronic skeptic. I do not buy into the ‘au natural’ crap. I consider homeopathy no more than snake oil, and don’t try to convince me otherwise, because my ears are dialed shut on the subject. Yes, I know! Many believe in it, and will to their last dying breath. I don’t. Never will. I can get my stultified analytical mind around some of the herbals and other supplements, and have tried many of them on myself and my cats, but strongly suspect that 95% of those are useless as well.
Don’t let me get side-tracked! So, off I went on one of the great tangents of my life. I do not necessarily recommend feeding a home-prepared raw feline diet. But I do recommend ditching the dry and feeding high animal protein, low carb. foods. If I bring the subject of feeding raw up and someone says something along the lines of “I guess I could go out and get some ground hamburger,” the hackles on the back of my neck stand up. Don’t misunderstand me, many people are doing this right and doing it well, and are more dedicated at it than I am but in general, I don’t think people can be trusted to do it right. The smart ones will realize that and either stick with their current regimen or go with commercial raw meat products which are becoming more readily available.
There are a number of ways you can feed a raw diet to your cats. I decided that I wanted a diet that was easy to do and balanced on any given day. In other words, with some diets, you feed “A” on Tuesdays, “B” on Wednesdays, and so forth. Over time, the diet is balanced. I didn’t want to go that route. I also shied away from diets that required cooking. I can barely cook for myself! Give me a break. Plus most of the cooking involved adding vegetables to the mix. Cats do not need veggies, fruit, or grains. In fact they do not need carbohydrates at all, though some people will insist that they do. Cats in the wild (if there is such a thing any more) get perhaps a maximum of 5% carbohydrates through a little grazing or from the content in the stomachs of their prey. Nor do cats usually require fiber, however if you have an elderly cat who has had a high carb., dry diet most of its life, you may need to add fiber. The fiber usually added is psyllium husk.
The recipe I use is simple and basic. Whole carcass is ideal because it includes all of the nutrients a carnivore needs in the bone, organs and muscle meat. To this you add a few supplements, mainly for insurance. When I grind my own chicken as shown in the photos, I buy chicken thighs, BONE IN. The chicken thigh with bone has a calcium to phosphorus ratio that is correct for cats.
Below is my recipe for the pre-ground whole prey meat. I use the same recipe for grocery store chicken thighs except I also add approximately 2 oz of chicken liver per pound of chicken thigh.
For each pound of meat :
- 1/2 capsule vitamin E (this is the 400 IU capsules — mix one capsule for each 2 lbs of meat)
- 1/2 capsule vitamin B-100 complex or 1 capsule vitamin B-50 complex
- 3000 mg of Taurine (this is probably more than you need, but I add extra in case some is lost in freezing)
- 1000 mg capsule of Salmon Oil (these are soft gels, just prick and squirt into the mix
Take one of the large packages of meat out of the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator (a couple of days, usu.), then dump it into a bowl and add the above supplements, multiplied by however many pounds of meat you are mixing, then divide into smaller containers and refreeze. Some people use baggies. I tried that, but found the wide mouth canning jars (you can get a flat of them cheaply at the grocery store) easier to dip in and out of. This worked fine for only 3 cats, but now I use larger, plastic storage containers. Just make sure you don’t fill to the top or the lids will pop off when the meat freezes. I usually have a couple of containers defrosting in the back of the refrigerator. You’ll get an idea of about how long it takes a container to defrost so you can start dipping out of it. Once a container is defrosted, it’s good for 3 – 4 days in the fridge, but you’ll probably use it up before you have to worry about it spoiling.
Below is the why of adding the various supplements, which may be of interest to you.
All fish oils are an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, with salmon oil being the most concentrated source. The use of Cod Liver oil as a fatty acid supplement is not recommended since it can easily lead to a vitamin A and vitamin D overdose, unless no other source of these vitamins, such as liver is given to the cat.
Although additional vitamin supplementation to the raw meat diet should normally not be necessary, since the diet is well rounded and provides a rich, easy to digest source of all essential nutrients, including vitamins from natural food sources, addition of a B complex vitamin and vitamin E is recommended.
Vitamin E mostly serves as a preservative, preventing oxidation of the fats in the diet when exposed to the air during preparation or any time of storage in an unfrozen state. Oxidation means that the fats turn rancid thereby destroying critical fatty acids.
Vitamin B complex including Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Pyridoxine, Cyanocobalamin, Biotin, Choline, Folic Acid, Inositol, and Para-Aminobenzoic Acid, are most essential, influencing the health of nearly all bodily functions and play a major role in maintaining a healthy nervous system – combating signs of stress, depression, and anxiety. Due to their water-soluble nature, vitamin B complex resources are easily depleted in the body and must be replenished daily. Signs of deficiency occur quickly and are severe. Since this vitamin can be consumed in quantities many times greater than required without causing toxic effects, it is only logical to supply this essential yet frail nutrient in ample amounts.
Taurine is a beta amino acid required by cats but not dogs. There are two reasons for this. First, the liver of the cat has a limited ability to make taurine, as the rate-limiting enzymes required for converting methionine and cysteine to taurine are only minimally active in the feline liver. Second, cats lose taurine in the secretion of bile acids (whereas other mammals also use glycine in the conjugation and secretion of bile acids, freeing up taurine for other uses). Found in the nervous system (including the retina) and muscles (especially the heart), taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body (and is the most abundant free amino acid in the heart). It is thought to help regulate heartbeat, maintain cell membranes, and affect the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Taurine also protects the heart from calcium overload and assists in calcium uptake by the heart cells during periods of hypoxia (reduced oxygen levels).