CAT NUTRITION

"Our health isn't made by the meal we choose. It's made by the many, many meals we choose. Choose wisely, your body will thank you."

What does "Species Appropriate Nutrition" mean?


Humans, birds, cats, dogs, squirrels you name it, all have an ideal diet. That's referred to as a "Species Appropriate" diet. Basically ask yourself, "What would a small cat eat in the wild?" Probably a mouse, chip munk, baby rabbit, rat, bird, just to name a few. Yet commercial pet foods are made with difficult to digest processed fillers, grains, starches, soy, peas, corn, chicken meal and flavoring, etc. This is very far removed from an ideal or "Species Appropriate" diet.




If cats can't easily digest carbs and other plant material, how could it be used in cat food, why?


Pet food companies add digestive enzymes among other additives which makes highly processed kibble and canned foods more digestible. But that comes with risks. Eating the wrong foods can cause a myriad of issues. Sometimes right away, sometimes later in life. The most popular issues are allergies, obesity, digestive problems, excessive shedding, hot spots, flaky itchy skin, yeast problems, diabetes, kidney issues, urinary issues, dental problems and cancer. I guess I'll stop there. The why? These fillers are cheap, providing a big profit margin.




Wait, I thought kibble scraped the teeth to prevent plaque?


It doesn't. Kibble does not prevent or scrape off plaque. That would be like saying, "Hey human, eat a bowl of cereal, it will scrape your teeth. No need to brush!" If kibble scraps anything, it's the tips of the teeth. Not along the gum line where plaque actually builds.




If I had to choose, what's better canned or kibble?


For cats, moisture is super important. Canned is typically going to be a better option than kibble. If you can only give canned once a day and kibble once a day, that’s better than never. Cats by nature are desert animals. They don't drink much water because they get most moisture from their prey. Wet food typically contains about 70% water. Kibble contains around 10% or less. That's a big difference for an animal who by nature relys on it's food as a main water source. Many domestic cats live in a constant state of dehydration. They just don't think to go to their water bowls as often as dogs. Their kidneys silently build up toxins without enough fresh water to flush them out. This can lead to urinary issues, blockages and kidney failure. It's sad to watch and expensive to treat, if they are lucky enough to live through a blockage. Providing a fountain for your cat may encourage them to drink more water. If you feed wet food and add a little extra water at their meals, you don't really need to worry about them getting enough water becaus they are getting it! If your cat has been drinking a lot of water and has been eating kibble for years, take them to the vet immediately to rule out diabetes.




Is it best to find a food and stick with it or offer a variety?


Hands down, variety! Variety keeps the gut healthy which is essential for a strong immune system. With the GI in better condition, it helps prevent stomach upset when new foods are introduced. If you feed a cat or dog the same food for years and then change it, they will likely have stomach upset. If you want to start introducing new foods, make a slow transition.




How often do Mikita and Dahlia eat different foods?


Pretty often! We have a variety in the freezer. Sometimes they eat a turkey meal for two days straight. Sometimes they have chicken for breakfast and lamb for dinner with elk treats in the middle. They don't get stomach upset because they're eating fairly close to how he would in the wild. (high moisture, animal based, variety of proteins) I was concerned about stomach upset when we first started feeding raw. I researched how often I could or should switch proteins. At first I was careful. I gave Mikita snacks to test his tolerance. Then I realized that a healthy gut can typically digest a different protein or combo of proteins for each meal with no issue. Everyone who rotates proteins does it a different way. Some prefer to feed a different protein each week and some are more like me and just defrost something new every couple days.




Won't giving my cat different foods make him more picky?


Quite the opposite! Introducing different foods with different flavors and textures makes cats more willing to try new foods. Lets face it, sometimes cats decide they don't like a certain food anymore. Or maybe your brand discontinued a certain protein or there was a recall. If you're feeding additional proteins from different brands, a discontinued product is no problem! Just move onto the next. If you make your own cat food, throw that into the rotation too!




Does Mikita really eat raw meat, organs and bones and stuff formulated for cats?


He sure does! Mikita doesn't eat any form of kibble or canned food.




Why do you feed Mikita and Dahlia a raw diet?


It's 100% for health reasons. After a lot of research, we prefer to provide Mikita and Dahlia with cleaner, less processed foods with fresh ingredients that come from the human food supply. The commercial pet food industry is just too mysterious. The prepared raw meals for cats that we buy are typically from smaller companies, minimally processed and species appropriate. A prepared raw diet is not as perfectly nourishing as catching a live mouse, but it's a much better fuel source than highly processed, commercially available cat food. Our motto is, "Start from what they would eat in the wild and choose something close to that."




Can I just go to the butcher shop and get some raw beef or chicken and give that to my cat?


Not really. It's not a guessing game. In the wild, cats eat whole prey or close to it. That means they are consuming muscle meat, organs, the heart (packed with taurine which is ESSENTIAL for cats), bones, cartilage, enzymes, blood and maybe even a small amount of stomach contents and fur. Not exactly what your butcher is offering up. You can absolutely purchase meat from your butcher but you'll need to add other things like organs, appropriate raw bones, supplements and more, in the CORRECT proportions. This involves some patience, research and a little science and math. But if you want, try giving your cat some pieces of raw meat as snacks. You don't have to worry about it being balanced if it's fed as treats.




How would I formulate my own raw diet for my cat?


I wish there was an easy answer. There are a lot of methods people use to make it. Some people feed big chunks of meat and organs, some grind it all up. Some add more supplements than others. It is entirely possible to formulate your very own balanced homemade raw meals for your cat or dog, but you MUST follow a reputable recipe. Never get comfortable though. Always stay in tune with your cat, what they consume and what their "normal" is so that you can make adjustments where needed. And know that just because your cat is acting fine, doesn't alway mean they are.




What happens if my raw meals that I prepare aren't balanced?


Short term they might have some digestion issues. Minor or major. They might actually seem totally fine. Having unbalanced meals here and there is not a big deal. But eating unbalanced for an extended period of time (weeks, months, years) can cause major issues down the road. MAJOR! An unbalanced homemade diet is lacking and is extremely dangerous and can cause bone density issues from mineral deficiencies. Retinal degeneration from insufficient levels of taurine and organ failure from other vitamin deficiencies. These are just a few examples. If your cat starts to show signs of digestion issues, lameness, trouble seeing, jumping etc, always look at what you're feeding. Even if you're sure your meals are balanced, always keep learning. Always. A commercially available kibble that meets AAFCO standards is more adequate than an UNBALANCED homemade fresh diet. That's tough to say because I think fresh is best but an unbalanced homemade diet is unfortunately much worse.




Does each individual raw/fresh homemade meal need to be balanced for my cat?


Actually, no. Just like humans, a healthy raw fed cat can eat a variety of Species Appropriate foods which balances throughout the week. There are different methods of raw feeding. Balanced each meal, balanced over the course of the day, balanced over the course of a week etc. Obviously, making these types of decisions comes with some specific knowledge. There isn't one easy answer but if you start at the beginning and transition your cat to a properly formulated prepared raw diet, you'll eventually be able to work into a variety of feeding styles.




Raw sounds gross, are there cooked recipes out there?


Yes, there are gently cooked recipes available in books and online from reputable sources. I'm not entirely opposed to these, especially for pets with compromised immune systems. But it's an extra step and it cooks out some enzymes. Personally, I prefer to stick with raw.




Feeding raw sounds complicated, what should I do if I want to switch but I'm not ready to make my own raw food?


I have lots of tips on switching! But the best way I can suggest you begin is to start using prepared raw, freeze dried or dehydrated cat foods from small companies who truly use, good quality meats that are fresh. Don't read the front of the bag and be fooled by the pretty pictures and buzzwords to make your decision. Look at the back of the product and even feel free to reach out to these smaller companies and ask how they ensure the quality of their meat. Ask about their process, visit their website, call, email. An educated consumer can make educated decisions. Note that foods labeled "Human Grade" can get a bit tricky to navigate. By regulation, raw pet foods are not allowed to claim "Human Grade" as the final product even if they are using ALL Human Grade ingredients. Know where your food comes from and you'll be on the right path.




What are your favorite, trusted pet food brands?


BRANDS I LIKE: Darwin’s- Available online, ships right to your door. Hare Today- Raw whole and ground meats with organs and bones. Great variety. Perfect for the semi-homemade raw feeder. Small Batch- Frozen meals, sold at smaller boutique pet supply shops. Stella and Chewys- Frozen and freeze dried meals, sold at smaller boutique pet supply shops.




How do you know you can trust the brands you use?


It's like anything, there is always a little mystery in every food we eat and every company that produces them. The reality is, unless we're growing our own, we don't know every detail. As I've researched, I've learned how to pick out the companies who are being transparent. The ones who aren't have become glaringly obvious to me. I continue to ask questions. If a company I currently purchase from gives me a reason to no longer trust them, I will stop recommending their products and I won't give them to our cats. We do our best to be informed consumers.




I've heard there are pathogens like salmonella in raw foods, isn't that bad?


Certain bacteria like salmonella aren't typically very pathogenic to cats. Although in large quantities or poorly sourced, rancid meats, a high number of pathogens can harm your cat so make sure you're choosing your meats wisely. Homemade raw meals should always be frozen for 24 hours prior to feeding. Freezing inactivates parasites. Wild game requires a longer freezing time (approx. a few weeks) as it may harbor additional parasites. Always do your research! A cat and dog's digestive tract is much shorter than ours, which doesn't allow the bacteria to proliferate like it would in a human digestive tract. Cats also have a very high acidity in their stomachs which combats those pathogens. Raw meat carries bacteria. Some, more than others. But raw pet food companies use a number of methods including HPP, phages or just plain responsible sourcing and freezing of meats so that they are producing a raw food that has as few pathogens as possible. The less processing the meat goes through, the more raw it truly is and the more "Species Appropriate" it is for our cats. We should treat raw meat for cats like we treat meat we'd feed our family. Clean up any surfaces and utensils that the raw meat touches. And don't let raw meat sit in the fridge for more than a couple days. Raw meat and organs for dinner seems weird to us, but fresh meat is exactly what a cat needs to thrive. If we prepare it properly, it's perfect for felines and canines!




Are there any reasons I shouldn't feed my cat a raw diet?


Yes! There are a some reasons why raw feeding might not be for you or your pet. 1. If your cat has a compromised immune system, raw might not be the best answer. But working with a nutritionist who is qualified in raw feeding will be able to help you determine this. 2. If your pet has a certain illness or degenerative disease where raw might interfere with their health. Often times, a gently cooked balanced homemade diet is a great option in these cases. 3. If you're not interested or unwilling to learn a little about nutrition and think going to the butcher for some raw meat is good enough, definitely don't feed your cat a raw diet. An unbalanced raw diet is worse than a balanced processed diet, unfortunately.




What kind of treats do you feed Mikita and Dahlia?


Whole single ingredient treats are at the top of our list. We like Pure Bites which you can buy on Chewy or at several pet supply shops. Our favorite is available online at Pure Primal because they are super high quality. You really can't compare these to anything in the store. They use a lot of novel proteins which is great for variety. The rabbit treats are our cat's favorite!




My cat is on a prescription diet, I don't have a choice, do I?


Heck yeah you do! When we adopted Mikita he was recovering from a urinary issues. He was very uncomfortable. Poor guy. At the shelter he ate both canned and kibble. It's possible that he was stressed. Cats tend to manifest stress in their bladder. After a few weeks of having him, he peed outside the litter box a couple times. We knew something was wrong. We took him to the vet and they did a urinalysis. Crystals were present and he had a high pH. It appeared as though he was still struggling with sme sort of cystitis. The recommendation was prescription Science Diet. I was crushed. At this point I had researched all about feeding raw and had already started transitioning Mikita from kibble and canned onto a human grade dehydrated cat food with the plan to transition him to raw. I waited in line to fill a prescription that I didn't want. I felt like I failed him. I was so confused because I thought raw food was the answer to urinary issues. My veterinarian knew I wanted to feed raw and she supported my decision by recommending DL-methionine gel, a urine acidifier. I could mix in his raw food temporarily to help get his pH back on track. (Using it too long could result in a urine that's too acidic. This could breed oxalate stones. So you must be sure to follow up and get additional urinalysis when needed.) Our vet warned us that we might need to feed the prescription SD (Science Diet) for awhile, if not forever. I don't think she knew at that point how dedicated we were to his health and finding a better way. Once I picked up that prescription I dove into research. A cat that is getting high quality, moisture dense, balanced (preferably raw) meals should have no need for a "special prescription" diet. Mikita likely just needed some adjustments to his diet so that he could eat clean and grow a strong immune system. I hated using SD canned food. It smelled so bad, and I hated the poor quality ingredients. One day, about a week or so into feeding SD, Mikita vomited it all up. The smell filled the apartment. That was the last time he's ever eaten SD. We transitioned him to an entirely raw diet. He did have another spike in his urine pH, but with some extra water and cranberry supplements, we got it back on track in no time. Mikita is a cat who is easily affected by stress. Even on a raw diet, he can still develop urinary issues, so we have to prepare for stressful situations like vacations, moving, etc. The point is, do your research. Real, whole foods are much more healing. If your vet is only willing to write a prescription, find a new vet. Better yet, find a holistic pet nutritionist!




I use big box brands but I don't think I can afford anything else. What should I do?


There are pet parents who want to improve their pet's diet but can barely afford the cheapest kibble. If this is the case, don't feel bad. A lot of people are in the same boat. Make sure your cat is drinking lots of water. Make some homemade plain broth from leftover chicken bones. Do the best you can and learn about nutrition. Make it a goal to improve their diet once you can afford something a little better. We are at a time in our lives where free education is literally everywhere. Providing even small fresh meat snacks might be more affordable than you think. If you're curious, join Facebook groups dedicated to raw feeding, be a fly on the wall. Listen to podcasts, research raw feeding and integrative veterinary methods. I promise you, it will all start to make more sense. There are some great resources out there as well as trailblazing veterinarians who provide tons of free information. Learn to make homemade treats. Make it a goal to give fresh foods as snacks and maybe even figure out how to formulate your own raw or cooked balanced meals and provide them a few times a week. If you do it right, a homemade diet can be really cost effective! Or aim to improve the diet you're currently feeding. Baby steps. You don't have to jump right to raw. Nothing worthwhile is super easy. But providing your cat or dog with real, fresh food supports their immune system and provides countless benefits. It can even save you money on future vet bills. Feeding a fresh, balanced, species appropriate diet is investing in your pet's health. Know that no matter what stage you're at, you can always incorporate new foods and new ideas from information you learned. And you don't have to go broke doing it.




What will happen long term if I continue to feed highly processed, commercially produced cat food?


There is a set of risks that comes with any long term poor nutrition choices. Cats are not meant to eat highly processed foods with carbohydrates and poor quality rendered meats. If we as humans ate fast food everyday for the rest of our lives we know that we'll likely develop health issues. Cats are no different. They will suffer from eating processed foods too. Diabetes, obesity, shedding, allergies, liver and kidney issues, urinary issues, GI issues, dental problems. The list goes on and on. Highly processed, commercially produced pet foods will keep our pets alive, but these foods will never help them thrive. That's the difference. Every cat is different and we all have different goals and concerns. Personally, I want to do everything I can to help Mikita and Dahlia live a long healthy life. I want to share this information so your pets can live awesome, healthy lives too! I see nutrition as the foundatin for health.




My cat has eaten kibble all his life and he's super healthy, why would I switch?


It's much easier to keep a pet healthy than it is to improve a bad health situation. It's amazing what our bodies and what our pet's bodies can put up with, nutritionally speaking. Certain animals like humans, dogs and cats have the ability to eat a variety of foods that aren't so great for us and still survive for awhile. We might even appear to be just fine. Many internal issues show no signs until it's very advanced. Personally, I don't want to bank on the exception. There is no guarantee, no matter what you feed but I like to think of food as fuel. Should I eat an apple or that chocolate covered candy bar? Should my cat eat that fresh cut of meat or that crunchy brown ball? Our health isn't made by the meal we choose. It's made by the many, many meals we choose.




Does eating raw fresh food really make your cat's coat shiny?


It really does! Less shedding too. Good in gets good out. It can take months for a cat's coat to reflect what they're eating. One of the biggest compliments Mikita gets is, "Wow he's so soft and shiny!" Our secret? Raw, fresh real foods. It's the easiest cheat code you'll ever be able to use.




So, Cats are obligate carnivores? What does that really mean?


It means they must eat meat to survive. A feline thrives on a predominantly animal based diet.




I heard cat poop smells less when they eat a raw diet. Is this true?


You heard correct! Poop is, well poop. It has a smell. But unless I'm right next to Mikita when he's taking a dump, I wouldn't even notice. Another thing I've noticed that I haven't heard anyone mention is that on a raw diet, the poop smell dissipates really quickly. From my experience, poops from highly processed food hang around.




What is a raw or fresh diet? I hear about it but I don't really understand what it is.


A raw diet is basically a fresh, uncooked, unprocessed or minimally processed diet. You can feed a fresh raw diet to your pets in a number of ways. Not all raw diets are created equally. Example 1: Cat owner goes to a butcher or online and orders different meats, organs, hearts, bones etc and then goes home, may add some supplements and prepars these animal parts into many "BALANCED for cats" meals. They'll be portioned and frozen for later use. This person would use a recipe or is experienced enough to know how to calculate the correct proportions of muscle/organ/bone/supplements to ensure their cat won't suffer from any difficiencies. Example 2: Cat owner goes to a boutique pet supply store to buy a balanced cat food from the freezer section. Or, this person may order frozen raw cat food online which will ship right to their door. There are several small pet food brands that use high quality meats and other ingredients fit for a carnivore. These are the highest quality commercially available fresh, raw diets that a pet owner can buy. Even so, each brand makes their foods a little differently. Its a good idea to visit the brand's website and look at the back of the packaging to make sure that you're getting a product that uses well sourced ingredients. Always ask questions and you'll start to spot the imposters.




Can I feed raw and other better foods occasionally?


Of course! Think about it this way, fresh foods like raw meat diets formulated for cats are minimally processed or entirely unprocessed. It's the ultimate fuel for their body so any amount helps. It's kind of like humans eating whole foods. The more whole foods the better, but some is better than none. Transitioning your cat or dog onto a raw fresh diet does have it's challenges. They might turn their nose up at the healthy stuff at first. Processed food is engineered to be tasty. We essentially have to re-train their taste buds to crave the healthy stuff. It is totally possible. Some people offer one raw meal a day and one processed meal a day. This is a huge step up from an entirely commercially processed over-engineered pet food diet.





DISCLAIMER: I am not a veterinarian or a certified pet nutritionist. My information is based off of experience and my own personal research. I am not liable for any choices you make for your pet. My experience is meant to serve as an anecdotal resource.  As always, consult your veterinarian, preferably integrative or holistic to treat and diagnose any issues your pet may be experiencing. I cannot diagnose or treat any ailments.

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