Congratulations on deciding to switch your cat to an all raw food diet and help extend their healthy years of life by feeding them a real whole food diet like nature intended. Just by reading this shows that you have the love and dedication required to successfully switch your cat’s diet and stick with it for years to come! Now the question you are asking is how to switch your cat to a Raw Food Diet???
I am often asked what kind of raw food we recommend and although a great healthy balanced raw food diet CAN be made at home… unless you are a breeder or have multiple cats and want to invest the time and money to make your own we recommend a pre-made raw diet. We personally like the brand Natures Variety; after much research into the different commercial brands currently available we have found this to be the best quality at the most affordable price.
If you do decide to purchase the Natures Variety food you will find that it comes in various different sizes and flavors. We recommend finding a local holistic pet food store who will order the food directly for you as this is typically the most economical way to purchase it. Also pet supermarket now carries Natures Variety as well and they offer a VIP program which if you buy 10 bags you get one free. You can use the store locator on their website, but please note they do NOT list every store that it is available at so do your own research. http://www.naturesvariety.com/
You will note that Natures Variety recently changed their formulation and are now only offering the “cat” raw in chicken, duck, and rabbit formulas and only in 1.25 lb. bags of the raw bites. This formulation change seems to have been merely a marketing decision because the previous formulations were AAFCO approved for both dogs and cats and listed dogs and cats on their label. The only difference they have made is to add Taurine to the list of ingredients in the cat food. This was likely only because there was confusion from consumers because of the label showcasing both a dog and a cat and the fact that many people are aware of the importance of Taurine in a cat’s diet. In many cases this may have caused consumers to not purchase the product when they did not see Taurine listed in the ingredients. I personally contacted the company and they did inform me that they have never experienced any cases of taurine deficiency in cats on any of their diets previously so it is my assumption that is was merely a marketing change. It must be understood that taurine is an amino acid found in abundance in all animal meats especially high in organ meats like liver and heart. Therefore when your cat is eating a whole protein diet like a raw food diet which contains raw muscle meat and heart and liver organs they will be consuming adequate amounts of taurine.
Therefore we recommend that you be free to purchase the raw “dog” food formulas in all of the available flavors and sizes you prefer. Even though eating a non-processed raw food diet should provide adequate amounts of taurine to ease minds of everyone we have decided to add an additional supplement of beef liver powder to the “dog “food formulations to help ensure that the diet is well balanced. We choose beef liver powder because it is a great source of natural taurine as well as a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats that are all extremely beneficial to your cat’s health. We purchase our beef liver which is sourced from Argentina from cows which have been grass fed, pasture raised, free of antibiotics, hormones and steroids. It is also important to be sure that the beef liver powder you purchase is Un-Defatted which means that it is has NOT had the fat removed before dehydrating because the fat in the liver is what contains the highest quantities of nutrients.
The dose we use is for the beef liver powder is about 1 tsp. per 1 cup of raw food. You do not have to worry about an exact dose here because it is a whole food product therefore there is little risk of over-dose unless you really go crazy with it! We typically measure out the beef liver powder and the L-lysine onto a thawed portion of about 1 lb. of meat when it is thawed before the first serving so we do not have to add it to each feeding for a couple of days. We also add a probiotic daily, be sure not add to the frozen meat as the temperature could create crystals and destroy some of the active bacteria. The great thing about the beef liver powder too is that cats LOVE the flavor of it so it will actually help your picky eaters to eat the raw food better.
* We generally do not feed the rabbit formulation however because the Winn Foundation conducted a study which proved that a purely raw rabbit diet can cause taurine deficiency in cats over time. This is not to say that the Natures Variety rabbit diet is deficient as they do add in pork liver, pork hearts, and pork fat, and taurine in the cat formulation; but there is also some documentation available which warns against the digestibility of ground rabbit bone, so we choose not to feed it. Also not to devalue any of the other animals, but we personally don’t like the idea of our cat’s eating Thumper!
We DO however recommend mixing the protein sources by switching up the flavors from time to time. Try the beef, lamb, venison, chicken, turkey, duck and chicken. Your cat will typically like the chicken or turkey the best so if they will not eat the beef or venison as well I recommend mixing the two together about half and half once in a while just so that they can get some of the “red” meat into their diet. Red meat contains unique amino acids and proteins which are good in Limited amounts. Red meat about once a week is a good rule of thumb. How to switch your cat to a Raw Food Diet
Natures Variety raw food is available in many different sizes; 5 lb. chubs, 2lb. chubs, patties, medallions, or bites. The larger the size of the package you purchase the less the cost per lb. of food. We purchase the 5 lb. chubs and mix in the patties for different flavors because the 5 lb. and 2 lb. chubs only come in beef or chicken flavors. The size you purchase will depend on the age and or how many kitties you have to feed, or if you will be feeding your canine pets the same food which becomes greatly convenient and recommended. It is typically recommended that you purchase the patties if you only have one to three cats. The key to focus on here is that you do not want the food to thaw out for more than 2-3 days max so whatever you take out of the freezer needs to be completely eaten in that amount of time or thrown away. *Note if feeding the raw Bites be sure to NOT unfreeze before feeding. How to switch your cat to a Raw Food Diet
The instructions for feeding the raw food is the same no matter which flavor or portion you are feeding with the exception of the bites. When feeding the raw bites leave the bag frozen and only remove the amount to be fed right away into a dish. Let the dish sit in room temperature for about 5 minutes then serve. When feeding any other portions you remove from the freezer the night before and place into a raw safe container, which could either be a glass or stainless steel; not plastic, and place into the refrigerator. By the next morning the food will be thawed and ready to serve. Serve the food one a safe plate or bowl again either glass or ceramic or stainless steel but not plastic. Also you will want to feed them on a wipe-able surface which can be sanitized after they are done eating or on washable food mats. Be sure to remove any un-eaten food within 5 minutes and place back into the refrigerator to be served again later that day. Just remember the thawed food must now be eaten with 2 days. If it sits out any longer just throw it away.
Okay so after reading ALL of this information you are probably wondering; “but how do I get my cat to actually EAT the raw food?” Believe it or not we here at LiLNudists Cattery have not always been as educated and proactive about our cats diet as we are now, and we used to make the same mistakes that many of you are making right now by feeding a supposed high quality commercial pre-cooked diet and leaving dry food out all day thinking this was the right thing to do. Despite our previous feeding techniques and the fact that some of our cats at the time were as old as 4-5 years and had always been eating a cooked dry and canned food diet, we were able to quickly and successfully transition all of our cats to the raw food diet. If you follow these instructions exactly and allow yourself and your cat a lot of time and patience you WILL be successful in making the transition as well! How to switch your cat to a Raw Food Diet
- Do not feed ANY treats AT all not even one during this time of transition.
- Do not mix raw food with ANYTHING cooked; this includes dry kibble food, canned foods, and cooked treats. Dry kibble, canned foods, and cooked treats take much longer to digest than raw foods that it causes the raw food to sit in the gut longer than it should and it becomes rancid. This does NOT include freeze dried food or treats as the drying process does not destroy the enzymes and create longer digestion times like cooked foods.
- If you are currently feeding your cat dry food be it by mixing into wet food or by leaving a bowl of food down all day and free feeding STOP immediately. Dry food or kibble diets are the worst diets for cats because it is so highly processed and contains many preservatives which are often very unhealthy, and it is lacking appropriate and needed amounts of water to hydrate your cat properly.
- It MUST be understood that dry kibble is hard for their body to digest because of the way it is processed it does not contain any enzymes. Cat’s bodies are only able to secrete enough digestive enzymes to digest about 70% of each meal, so this means that dry kibble requires more effort to digest than the body is capable of. This leads to problems like pancreatitis, irritable bowel and other similar diseases because of the stress on the digestive system. Cats MUST have at least 70% moisture in the food that they eat or their health will greatly suffer. You might wonder well if I feed dry kibble won’t they just drink more water? Unfortunately the answer is no they won’t; cat’s do not have a strong thirst drive and will live in a state of mild dehydration if not feed a diet with 70% moisture. This will eventually lead to kidney and bladder problems and potentially even death.
- In addition if you leave dry kibble down all day for your cat to graze on you may think you are doing a nice thing for your cat so that they never have to be hungry, but in fact you are hurting them by allowing them to become obese and/or altering the natural function of their metabolism. Cats are not designed to graze all day like a cow they are designed to hunt and kill their pray and eat once or twice a day. The GI tract of the cat is designed to fast in between meals. This allows it to heal and repair. ‘trickle feeding’ as it is known, by allowing them to graze leads to poor digestion, constipation and poor immune health in addition to an unhealthy weight. The GI tract makes up 70-80% of the immune system so it is vital to make what they eat the biggest investment in their health.
- Begin to transition your cat to a raw diet by offering a snack of raw food in the middle of the day between the other two meals. When serving raw leave the food at room temperature for 10-15 minutes until it comes to room temperature and is not extremely cold, the reason being that many cats do not like really cold food because it is not natural, the raw food when served should be a temperature which somewhat mimics a fresh kill in the wild. Please note you can’t cook or microwave the food to speed the process as the heat will destroy the natural enzymes and destroy precious nutrients which are only preserved by the fact that the food has not been cooked and processed. If you cook the food it will no longer be a complete balanced diet for your cat and they could suffer severe health complications as a result.
- Whatever your cat does not eat when first beginning the transition just throw it away. The cats will take to it more easily if it is very fresh. Once your cat begins eating at least some of the raw food offered at each meal you can then begin to pick up the leftovers and refrigerate until the next meal. Just be sure any thawed food is eaten within 24 hours of being thawed.
- If they eat the raw offered right away that is great, be thankful your cat will make this easy on you! If they do not then after a couple days of offering the snack of raw begin to cut back on the amounts given of the regular meals. Slowly cut back the size of the other meals until your cat accepts it and begins eating the raw food in between. When they begin eating the raw food easily in between the other two meals it is time to replace one of the meals with the raw food diet.
- Do not be surprised if your cat does not eat the food at this step or eats very little. Don’t over-react this is okay and completely normal. You must understand that their previous diet, especially dry food tastes more appetizing to them because it is laden with extra natural and artificial flavorings to help entice cats to eat more. It is reasonable to compare a mid-quality dry food diet vs. a healthy raw food diet to a dinner of grilled chicken breasts and plain broccoli versus Kentucky fried chicken and broccoli in cheddar cheese sauce; both will sustain you and provide needed nutrients but obviously the healthier option does not taste as yummy.
- If your cat refuses to eat the raw food offered as a treat during the day even despite reducing the size of normal meals try to eliminate one meal per day if you were feeding two previously and just offer their regular diet during one meal and the raw diet for the second. If this doesn’t work after 3 days then you can try to warm the raw food and see if this helps. You can first try to place the raw food into a sandwich bag and let sit in very warm water for about 10 minutes before serving. If this won’t work you can even slightly cook the raw food in a skillet and then serve. It must be understood that these methods should only be used for a short period of time while your cat is transitioning, because cooking the raw will render some of the nutritional value of the diet incomplete.
- If your cat still refuses at this point you might have to switch gears and try to feed your cat a freeze dried raw diet in place of the frozen raw food diet. Most cats will typically like this more than the frozen raw at first because it is more like their old diet. Be sure to re-hydrate the freeze dried food to ensure proper amounts of fluid content for your cat. Once your cat is eating the freeze dried food well, replace all other meals with it. Then when you get your cat eating the freeze dried diet well you can begin to slowly mix in some of the frozen raw food. Gradually add more and more until your cat is eating a diet primarily, or entirely of frozen raw food.
- Once your kitty is eating two square raw meals per day it is safe to add some treats back into their diet. The best treats would be a freeze dried raw treat like Natures Variety, or Stella and Chewy’s brands. Just be sure that IF you are feeding cooked food treats like traditional cat treats of any kind, dry kibble or canned food that it is fed at least 3 hours prior to or after feeding the raw food meal. This is so that the raw meal digests completely and doesn’t get bound up in the gut by the slower digestion of the cooked foods.
- We do recommend feeding the frozen raw food with a treat of freeze dried raw from time to time. Also you can mix up the brands and proteins of the freeze dried to help keep the meal interesting for your kitty. This will be like the bit of granola and honey on top of that Uber healthy non-fat yogurt breakfast you eat in the morning. Be warned though, if you give too much of this “treat” they will again become picky and only want to pick out the treats and not eat the rest of their meal.
- If your cat is experiencing GI upset and is vomiting, or diarrhea, or is not wanting to eat it is important to feed a cooked diet during this period of illness. This food could be a properly prepared home-cooked meal for your cat or a high quality cooked canned food diet like Natures Variety Instinct. The reasoning for this is that the GI tract needs warmth to heal itself, and even if the raw food is ‘warm’ at room temperature it is still cooling to the body because it is raw.
- Below is a list of some of the foods and brands we recommend. There are of course other options out there and new foods coming on the market all the time. Just be certain that you thoroughly review the labels and look for whole food sources, free of grains, dairy, soy, and starches in any other food choices.
- Natures Variety Instinct Raw Boost Mini’s:
2. Natures Variety Instinct Raw Boost Kibble:
- Pride by Instinct Kibble:
- Primal Freeze Dried Formula:
5. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze Dried:
We truly hope that this will serve as a great guide and helping to make the switch to a healthy natural raw food diet for your cat just the way nature intended. Your cat will be healthier and happier and quite possibly live longer because of it and your efforts.
Please note: This article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, please consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible. A raw food diet may not be appropriate for all cats in all stages of health and we always recommend having your cat examined and discussing diet changes with your veterinarian.
Keep those Hairless Kitties Healthy and Happy Everyone!!!
Text: Copyright © April Arguin RDH, Founder of LiLNudists Sphynx, Bambino, SphynxieBob, & BamBob Cattery. All rights reserved.