Dietary Recommendations for Cats
Cats, whether wild or domesticated, are obligate carnivores - they are designed, from nose to tail tip, to eat, digest and thrive on a diet of whole lumps of raw meat and bone. Mankind may have changed the domestic cats outward appearance and “tamed” them somewhat - but internally they are just the same as their wild ancestors - the African Wild Cat.
Feeding a diet of whole lumps of meat wrapped around bone is the next best thing to feeding whole prey, which is what your cat would live on if left to his/her own devices - mice, birds and rabbits would be the mainstay of your cat’s diet. Many people cannot quite face feeding just whole prey items (more about that later) so the “almost as good” option is to feed things such as chicken wings, chicken necks, chicken quarters, quail, rabbit pieces, game hen, organ meats etc.
By making sure that the size and texture of the food is correct, the cat will pull, rip, tear and crunch the food, cleaning the teeth and gums at every meal, which will keep the teeth and gums clean and free from disease. And the behavioural aspects of feeding an appropriate diet should not be overlooked - working at their own food brings about big mental benefits too. Pets fed on a RMB diet tend to be more relaxed, particularly as they are not being hyped up by artificial additives - much like children when you take out all the fizzy drinks and fast food from their diets!
CHANGING THE DIET
Some cats will take to a raw meaty bone diet quite readily. Others can be more of a challenge. Best to make a complete change, rather than feeding some processed and some raw - most cats will just continue eating their regular food and leave the raw. And feed just once a day ...many cat’s owners allow their cats to snack feed, which is not good for their digestive system and also means that the cat is never really hungry. Adult cats do not have as much demand for calcium as growing kittens, so this allows for more wiggle room when trying to encourage them to eat bone. The following are some things which have worked for an assortment of adult cats of various backgrounds:
Chicken or game hen is a readily available food item and can be worked with in a variety of ways. If whole, bone in chunks are refused, you can start by slicing strips of meat and offering them on a plate. Sometimes, big pieces can be overwhelming.
A little of the cat’s original “regular” cat food, either dry or canned, can be spread or sprinkled over the freshly cut raw meat slices (either grate the dried food, or pummel it with a kitchen mallet). Running the slices under hot water for a moment or two will take the chill off the meat, bring out the smell a bit and make it more inviting to some cats.
Alternatively you could very lightly sear (fry) the meat for a few seconds in a pan. Many cats do not like cold food - so serve at room temperature or even slightly warmer. Over the days, slowly increase the size of the pieces, whilst at the same time making whole, bone- in chunks available as well.
Rabbit is a favourite food amongst many cats and is a good choice for finicky felines.
Sprinkling salmon fish oil (NOT cod liver oil) over the meat can entice some cats. 1000mg is an acceptable daily dose.
Invoking the cats natural hunt/play instincts can sometimes work. Tie some string to a raw chicken wing and play with the cat, as you would with a cat toy. Encouraging the cat to “pounce” on the chicken wing and hold onto it all helps with getting the cat acclimatised to biting into the raw food.
Another little trick is to push some canned food under the skin of the raw meaty bone (chicken wing, rabbit portion etc) to encourage the cat to investigate and pull at the meat.
The smell of the food they are offered is very important to cats. Try smearing some canned sardines, pilchard or tuna over the raw food - by licking this off, they may be encouraged to start biting into the raw meat.
Keeping it simple is a good rule of thumb. If you find something that works for your cat, go with it. Be consistent and keep working towards the ultimate goal of whole, raw, meaty bones and whole prey.
Ground meat can be used as a transitional food in some circumstances - but don’t get stuck on it, or you’ll end up with a cat that will ONLY eat ground meat, and will never benefit from the all important teeth cleaning properties of whole lumps of raw meat on the bone. If you have a stubborn young cat who requires the balanced calcium and phosphorus levels for proper growth and development, it may be necessary to use a ground mixture until you can convince the cat to eat raw meaty bones/ whole prey. The sooner the cat is willing to accept whole food, the better, as ground diets should not be relied on for long term feeding, especially in a cat that is shedding deciduous teeth and sprouting permanent ones. Remember, ground food offers zero benefit to the oral health of the cat.
Certain special needs and geriatric cats may require a ground diet.
MENU ITEMS SUGGESTED
Chicken (necks and wings are good dental cleaning items, but don't feed as a dietary staple), quail, rabbit, game hen, organ meats. Feed boneless meats more sparingly, especially with young, growing cats. Beef, pork, lamb, etc. are all good sources.
If your cat takes to eating whole lumps of meat, but absolutely refuses to eat any of the bone, then supplement with a little calcium. Ground-up egg shells are a great form of natural calcium. But don’t overdo it - too much calcium is as bad as too little.
Your cat may appreciate a container of wheat grass to nibble on at leisure. Other vegetation added to the diet is generally unnecessary.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ‘FAST’ OR STARVE YOUR CAT INTO EATING RAW
YOUR CAT MUST NOT GO LONGER THAN 24 HOURS WITHOUT FOOD, UNLESS UNDER VETERINARY SUPERVISION
All kittens will readily take to a natural diet, if no artificial food sources are made available. However, if the breeder weaned the litter onto processed foods, the kitten will have been imprinted onto a processed diet, so may already have formed a strong taste for these addictive foods. Use the tips for switching adult cats, for these kittens. Depending on the health of the kitten, they need to be fed around every six hours between the ages of 3-5 weeks, then about three times a day from 6 to 9 weeks. Obviously individual kittens will vary.
Introducing a variety of prey items and meats early on in the life of the cat is important to prevent finicky feeding habits.
Bottle raised kittens can pose a challenge. Sticking to natural milk sources is preferred, such as raw goats milks and colostrum. By 4 weeks old, kittens can begin to be introduced to ground meat. These orphans must be carefully monitored as their immune systems tend to be weaker than naturally nursed kittens. Veterinary guidance is strongly suggested for help with these special needs babies.
RMBs or whole prey can be introduced as early as 4-5 weeks of age. 5-6 week old kittens are well equipped with little scissor-like teeth and can often consume whole, adult mice! Smaller rmbs, such as chicken wings can be fed instead if you are squeamish, but by 10 weeks of age, healthy kittens should be consuming adult mice, rabbit kitts, small quail, chicks, etc. By providing growing kittens with a varied diet of whole prey from an early age, the nutritional content of the diet will be well balanced.
THE WHOLE PREY DIET
The thought of feeding whole prey to your cat may be more than you can cope with - but do remember that it is what your cat would naturally eat and quite possibly does eat when out of the house. It is the gold standard when it comes to feeding your little carnivore a proper diet, so please don’t dismiss it out of hand. A raw meaty bone diet is the next best option, but if and when you decide to give whole prey a try, start with offering the whole food, such as a feeder mouse, small rat, or baby rabbit. Your cat might surprise you with its willingness to eat such items. If they won’t attempt to eat the whole prey, try to tempt them by cutting open the prey item and even rubbing some canned food on/ in it. If this fails, try cutting up the food into smaller chunks.
MENU ITEMS SUGGESTED
Whole prey. Mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, quail, young chickens, chicks, fetal pigs, crickets, meal worms. Much of this food can be purchased from your local butcher or pet store - particularly those stores who specialise in reptile supplies.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
And finally, you may like to join our yahoo group at:
There are many experienced raw feeders on that list who are always happy to offer help, advice and support to those new to the concept of raw feeding.
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