My journey to raw actually began almost two decades ago when I read Dr. Richard Pitcairn’s Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. After reading the book and agreeing with the arguments Dr. Pitcairn made for a species-appropriate diet and for cooking with ingredients I would use to feed myself, I started making raw food for my cats using his recipes.
As time passed and I got busier, though, I stopped making raw food and began feeding the kitties kibble with occasional canned food treats. It didn’t seem to make a big difference in their health. When I adopted a third cat, Thomas, in 2004, the time and money required to cook recipes for my cats when I barely even cooked for myself and was dealing with health issues of my own, put the raw-food thing way out of reach.
Fast forward about eight years, and Thomas began having digestive problems. Major digestive problems. No matter what I fed him, he had regular bouts of explosive diarrhea that smelled bad enough to peel the paint off the walls. Suspecting parasites, I took him to my vet, who screened for worms and organisms like giardia. All those tests were negative. My vet suggested that Thomas might have a food intolerance and advised me to seek out novel proteins for him to eat.
I tried a variety of dry and canned foods featuring novel proteins, but they didn’t have much effect. Thomas was losing weight and his fur was getting dull, and I was worried that he was going to get really sick if something didn’t happen soon. I knew he liked rabbit meat – when we lived in the country a few years before, he regularly caught and ate rabbits – so in desperation I ordered some frozen rabbit from a New England-based raw food company.
The difference was night and day: The morning after he ate his first raw meal, he had the first solid and non-smelly bowel movement he’d had in months. Unfortunately, the shipping cost at least as much as the food and I couldn’t afford to feed this food on a regular basis. I made a couple of attempts to locate rabbit meat locally, with no success.
A few months later I was shopping at my favorite pet store when I noticed they had a freezer full of frozen raw food for dogs and cats. I was so delighted that I bought two bags of the stuff – one of rabbit and one of chicken – and raw feeding was back on the table again, so to speak.
The change in all three of my cats was quick and obvious. They ate with renewed gusto, and even my apparently healthy cats started acting healthier. My oldest cat, Siouxsie, began acting years younger; Thomas continued his digestive turnaround; and little Dahlia became a much more solid and rugged cat.
I’ve been feeding my cats raw food ever since then.
I adopted Belladonna, a diabetic kitty, in 2013. I was fortunate that the people at the shelter where I adopted her were very keen on high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets rather than prescription foods, and they were glad to hear she’d be eating a raw diet in her new home. I was able to get Belladonna completely off insulin by working closely with my vet, home testing to determine her insulin needs, and feeding her raw food.
I’m fortunate to have a vet who’s hugely enthusiastic about raw diets (in fact, the clinic where she works has a retail store that sells several brands of frozen and freeze-dried raw foods) and who believes that a raw diet really is the way to good health for cats. It’s my sincere hope that more vets become open to a raw diet as the best way to set cats up for lifelong good health.
Today, Belladonna is still comfortably in remission. It’s been more than three years since she’s needed insulin.
Siouxsie lived to be 19 years old, largely, I believe, because she ate a raw diet consistently for the last six years of her life. Dahlia unfortunately died of atypical large-cell lymphoma at the age of 6. Thomas is going to be 15 in about a month, and his vet says he’s as healthy as a cat half his age.
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