Written by Tracy Dion, September 2009
This is the story of how I transitioned my cats to raw food, captured in real-time as it happened. I hope you find it interesting and informative!
As many of you know, there was a massive pet food recall due to melamine contamination in 2007. Hundreds of food brands were recalled and thousands of cats and dogs across the US died; many more are compromised for life. I was feeding some of the recalled and poisoned foods. Three of my four kittens pulled through — for which I remain eternally grateful — but I lost their brother, Oliver. Since then, I have been obsessed with all things cat food related.
Even before Ollie passed away, I knew kibble was a bad deal. Processed dog food evolved out of a World War II food shortage, a need to give pet owners the convenience they wanted and an excess of agricultural by-products. As companies found cheaper ingredients for their pet food, they flavored the kibble — often with animal digest — so dogs would actually eat it.¹ When the increasing popularity of cats made it profitable to create a kibble for cat owners, the pet food industry simply tweaked their canine formulas without either understanding or acknowledging the fundamental difference between a canine’s digestive and biological system and that of a feline.
After Ollie’s passing, I began feeding canned foods that did not contain grain or fish. I wasn’t impressed by the consistency of quality or delivery, so I began looking for something better. Better for my cats, better for my wallet and better for my peace of mind. It didn’t take long for my research to show me that a raw diet was the healthiest and most natural for my feline family.
At the beginning of this project, siblings Allen, Rachel and Meghan were 2 ½ years old and siblings Spencer and Heather were 4 ½ months old. I don’t have a starting weight for the kittens as they were rescued ferals who couldn’t be still enough long enough to weigh. The adults weighed 9.9lbs, 9lbs and 9.13lbs respectively. Rachel could stand to add some weight, Meghan could lose a bit and Allen was at his perfect weight.
Here is my day-by-day entry into the raw food world as it really happened, with all the doubts, questions and researching that happened along the way. (I’ve added some footnotes for those interested in following up on the info.)
Wednesday Jan 28, 2009
Ok. *deep breath* I’m doing it! I’m going to start feeding my beloved furbabies a raw diet. For now, it’ll just be in the evenings, but at some point, when we are all comfortable with the raw food model, I expect to go 100% raw. If I can pull all the pieces together, I’ll be using the whole prey diet.
I’m a little nervous, but I’m so completely convinced it’s the right thing to do for them that I can’t justify keeping them on a commercial diet any longer, even if it is a canned, nearly 100% grain-free diet.
So, from everything I’ve read, I need to take it fairly slow. I’m going to go out this weekend and purchase chicken, quail, turkey and maybe duck meat parts, then chop them up into bite size pieces and offer them as a regular part of the evening meal. Eventually, I’ll make those pieces bigger and add in pieces of organs, then pieces of meat with little bitty bones, then bigger bone-in pieces, and then voila!, I should have them right where I want them. *grin*
One of my brothers-in-law is a chef and he said he’ll be happy to give me all the organ meats they routinely throw away. I didn’t talk to him long enough to know how frequently he serves those kinds of meals, but he cooks for a really large number of folks, so it should be a fairly good quantity each time.
*rubs hands together* This is going to be interesting!
Any suggestions, advice, or tips you raw-food-experienced folk think might be helpful is greatly appreciated. At this point, I’m most interested in how/where you purchase what you need, how often you feed what parts of the prey, and how you made the transition for your cats.
Well, that wasn’t very well thought out.
I was too excited to wait until the weekend, so I picked up some chicken on the way home tonight. I worked late, so it was really late when I finally walked in the door.
So late, in fact, that the cats – all the cats – began snatching chicken off the plate and fighting with each other while I was hacking pieces off! I could NOT keep up with them.
All total, they ate nearly a pound and a quarter of half-frozen chicken in their first raw meal. And, yes, I did say half-frozen!
Guess I can’t prepare and serve at the same time anymore. LOL!
Friday Jan 30, 2009
The cats ate even more raw tonight, but I was better organized this time. It looks like I’ll need to feed the kittens separately from the adults and let them get pretty full before I put down the adults’ food. Otherwise, the kittens steal the others’ food and run off with it. Which causes the adults to grab pieces and start running too, and I just can’t have raw meat all over the house. *eye roll*
Plus, if I cut great big chunks for my two piggies (which I did tonight), it really slows them down so my delicate girl can eat in peace. That’s a nice perk, since I don’t like how thin she is.
I’m amazed at how much raw they’re eating. I was originally going to give them canned in the morning, raw when I got home from work and canned again before I went to bed. They’ve always had three meals a day and I wanted to stick with that; but they might not need that third meal. We’ll have to wait and see.
This is so much fun!
Saturday Jan 31, 2009
Tonight, they all got chicken gizzard pieces and shared a whole Cornish Hen. Everyone ate the gizzards, but holy cow; those suckers were not easy to cut. I seriously need to upgrade my knife set.
The hen was interesting. I wanted to see how many of the cats, if any, would venture to eat bones, so I threw the two wings down first. Surprisingly, Spencer, one of the kittens, grabbed the first one. Though he worked on it for quite a while, he didn’t get far eating it. Meghan ate the other one. It was really weird hearing the bones crunch, I’ve got to tell you. I’m soooo conditioned to think bones = bad, bad, bad!, and I kept wincing.
I also cut off some of the ribs with a bunch of meat still attached. Spencer and his sister, Heather, ate them with no problems at all.
While I was socializing/fostering Heather, I had several conversations with the shelter about her slow growth and thin body. I even asked them if they would do a blood panel when she went in for her spay (they refused). They kept telling me some kittens grow slower than others. Well, finally, finally! my little girl is putting some weight on! And it’s only been three days with a single raw meal each. Although … er … she’s been eating a lot at each of those meals!
Something else I’ve noticed is the condition of their fur. Right up front, I’ll be honest and say I’ve always rolled my eyes at folks who’ve talked about a difference in their cats’ fur after only a few days on a new diet. I mean, come on, it takes several days for fur to grow! However, my cats’ fur really is softer, most especially the two shorthairs Spencer and Meghan. Interestingly enough, I’ve noticed another difference on my other skinny girl, Rachel. She’s always had a patch of slightly oi ly fur on her back, near the base of her tail; this patch is now nearly gone.
So I’m wondering, maybe the change in diet affects their skin condition and that’s why their fur feels different? Or maybe it’s a change in their saliva and that affects their fur when they groom? I’ve been told that folks who are allergic to cats often have fewer symptoms around raw-fed cats.
The things I’m learning!
Tomorrow I’m going to pick up some rabbit, quail, chicken and turkey from a local butcher and spend some time cutting and packing single meals to cover the next week (or two, if I can get enough), so I don’t have to do it every night. That part gets tedious real quick!
I was talking to folks at work today about what I’m doing and one of my coworkers was adamant I’m endangering my cats … right up until I asked her: “Have you ever seen zoo tigers fed anything other than raw meat? Can you even imagine a tiger eating pate-style glop from a can?”
The conversation got much better after that. She even let me lend her my copy of Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins’ book, “Your Cat, Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life“.
Sunday Feb 1, 2009
People keep asking me why my cats have taken to raw so quickly. I don’t have an answer, but maybe it’s because I’ve always fed a really large variety of foods. There was usually between 15 to 21 different canned flavors in any given two-week period.
No bones tonight. We had chicken breast again, along with chicken heart and some chicken liver. Everyone ate what I gave them; although I helped the adults along with some Whole Life™ freeze-dried chicken treat sprinkles. They started eating quite eagerly, but I think they began to tire halfway through the meal and needed an incentive to finish it.
Each kitten got a small whole chicken heart, but the adults got two large hearts cut down for them. That was a little … um, gross. They bled when I cut into them and kinda squished, too. Cats aren’t the only ones who have to get used to the whole “raw” thing!
My cats eat on a long narrow table. Last night, I set up a separate one for the kittens so that everyone will be able to eat sitting quite some distance away from each other; the three cats on the original table that all five were using, and the kittens on their own table. I was hoping that this would allow them to become comfortable enough to stop running away with the food, ’cause that was making me uncomfortable.
No one ran off with any pieces tonight, so my little scheme worked, yay! Everyone but Rachel was growling though. I had to laugh. I’m happy they liked their dinner so much, but I’d rather they just relaxed a bit, you know?
My shopping trip lasted three hours and was rather disappointing. The butcher shops were closed; I don’t know why I just assumed they’d be open today. So I had to go hunting through several grocery stores. I picked up a couple of Cornish Hens and whole small chickens, as well as a couple packages of chicken hearts and gizzards. Not much variety, but at least enough to last ’til next weekend.
Dealing with the whole bird is confusing. I pulled the first one out of the package and then just stared at it for a minute. What the heck am I supposed to do with this thing? I finally pulled and cut the legs off, then pulled and cut them into two pieces each. I also pulled/cut the wings off, but left them whole. Then I cut off the breast meat and diced it. Finally, I cut the ribs off the spine on both sides.
I’m thinking I’ll feed the kittens the diced breast meat and the ribs with meat for dinner tomorrow and the adults will each get part of a leg. If anyone’s still hungry, I’ll give them a wing. Everyone will also get a small piece of gizzard. How does this sound to you experienced folks?
I’m rather distressed about the shopping trip because it looks like my cats are thinking about not eating the canned food anymore, and I’m absolutely not ready to feed them a 100% raw diet. Last night, they refused their bedtime meal. I wasn’t too, too concerned ’cause they’ve been eating so much during their raw meal. But they also refused the canned breakfast I gave them this morning, even after I sprinkled it with the freeze-dried chicken. They ate the chicken and whatever food was stuck to it, but left pretty much everything else.
I’m feeling pressured to get this whole thing together and soon. I don’t want my guys hungry, and I don’t want them missing any of the nutrients they need either. At day four, I’m thinking this is an awful lot of work!
Thursday Feb 5, 2009
Today marks a full week my crew’s been eating raw dinners, and all is going splendidly well.
I’ve given them bone-in chicken wings, thighs, and drumsticks, as well as de-boned and diced chicken from all parts of the carcass. They’ve shared a Cornish Hen and eaten chicken hearts, liver and gizzards. Everything has been devoured eagerly, if slowly.
The only issue I’ve run into is procuring desirable foods, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to get that straightened out over the next week or so. No one’s shown any sign of being tired of chicken, but the sooner I can get a steady source of various meats, the happier I’ll be.
I’m picking up some squirrel this weekend. I’ll let y’all know how it goes! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this pic of a happy, well-fed Spencer.
Saturday Feb 07, 2009
The squirrel wasn’t ready for me today, so I picked up some frozen mice instead. I’m happy to say three of my five cats found their inner tiger.
I was so proud of them while I watched them eat! I took some pics but haven’t shown them to anyone; as natural as this behavior is, it can still be disturbing. Lots of folks don’t like snakes because of their diet, but our cats eat the exact same prey in the wild. I actually felt a shift in my perception while I watched them eat. Kinda weird, really.
Spencer was hysterical with the mice. Holy smokes, you’d have thought he hadn’t eaten in days, the way he was behaving. And growl?! He was growling and snarling like a Mack truck shifting into second gear on an uphill incline!
The two holdouts, Rachel and Meghan, were like, “You’re kidding, right?” LOL!
Sunday Feb 08, 2009
I’ve received multiple comments from some readers referencing the “risks” of feeding raw foods.
I’ve done a ton of research and read article after article from folks who’ve been feeding or recommending raw food for years, some for decades. I’ve yet to come across a single documented instance of a cat, dog or owner becoming ill from feeding raw food; although I’ve read of multiple cases of people hospitalized with salmonella after handling dry pet foods.
Cats have shorter digestive tracts with a specific enzyme mix that evolved to process raw meat completely and quickly.² It took me a while to get to this point, but based on everything I’ve read, I’m comfortable feeding raw food, both human-grade and wild-caught.
Tuesday Feb 10, 2009
They had their first raw beef dinner tonight. I was kinda skeptical about offering it because I’ve read that beef is an iffy prospect for most cats.
Not at my house. Between the five of them, they downed just a hair over a pound of Round Stew Meat in about ten minutes flat. And I gave it to them exactly as it came out of the package, in nice big chunks straight out of the fridge.
Man, I’m loving this!
Wednesday Feb 11, 2009
Now that I’ve established that the cats’ll eat pretty much anything, I need to do the calculations to determine how much of what to buy for any given week, then take a look at Hare Today and Rodent Pro to create my first order.
I’m seriously leaning toward getting mostly whole prey (mice, baby chicks, quail, rabbit pieces, etc.) with maybe some diced chicken and beef thrown in every now and then. It’s so much easier than trying to cut down a whole hen or chicken, you know? Plus, the deal with my brother-in-law fell through, so that leaves me without a source for organ products. I have to do a cost/benefit analysis first, but even if it’s a bit pricier for the whole prey diet, I’m willing to spend it for the convenience. I really dislike cutting down those whole birds!
Wednesday Feb 11, 2009
Got a question about what my floor looks like when the cats are done eating. My answer is this: I got sick of cleaning the floor under the cats’ bowls every day long before I started feeding raw and bought them a table of their own. It’s 28 inches tall (the perfect height for comfortable cleaning), 4 feet long and 20 inches wide. I wash it with soap and water after every raw meal. I set up another table across the room from the original one for the kittens, to make them more comfortable and less inclined to run off with the raw food, but I decided today that I don’t like cleaning it (it’s low and has a grainy surface), so I’m just going to feed them on the counter where I cut the meat. It’s where the two of them start out every meal anyway, so I might as well give myself one less item to clean. *eye roll*
Friday Feb 13, 2009
I’ve encountered the first resistance to an offering. Since the reaction to everything has been so positive, I started looking around for regular or large-quantity suppliers. I got lucky right away and scored a couple hundred good-sized mice off Craigslist for a nice price. Unfortunately, after the second whole-mouse meal, my guys all decided they like the first half of the mouse, but not the second. They won’t eat the darn things from the waist down, not even my most voracious eater, Spencer. Oh, and the kittens insist on playing with them first. I had no idea a cat could toss a mouse that high. *sigh*
Happily, a local raw-feeder I was talking to today is giving me a meat grinder (some people are awesome), so I’m just gonna grind the little meesers up and give it to them that way. *grin*
Saturday Feb 14, 2009
Today is two weeks and two days I’ve been feeding at least one raw meal a day to my cats. About a week in, they became reluctant to eat their canned meals and a few days ago began leaving more canned than they were eating.
Because they’ve done so well accepting everything I’ve offered (with the single exception of the whole mice) and with the improvement I’ve seen in their coats and their energy levels — despite the fact I was watching them closely for possible negative reactions to their change in diet and was not, with only a single raw meal a day, expecting any positive changes — I decided to give them what they want and feed them entirely raw.
So I sat down and finally performed the calculations necessary to plan their diet: 3% of food by weight with 80%/10%/5%/5% meat/bones/liver/other organ respectively. And guess what I found out?
The buggers are supposed to be eating around 9 ounces shared between the five of them per meal, not the pound and a quarter they’ve been gobbling down every night! I repeated my calculations several times to make sure I was doing it right, and there is no doubt about it.
I guess that explains the 6.5 ozs Allen’s gained, the 6 ozs Rachel’s put on and the 3.5 ozs Meghan’s added in the last two weeks. In Rachel’s case, I’m happy about the weight increase; she has always been too thin for my comfort and has steadfastly refused to gain no matter what I fed her. The kittens have picked up quite a bit, too, but I don’t mind since they’re so young and Heather was another too-thin kitty.
I spent several days trying to find sources and figure out the best way to handle the ingredients with little progress, and then I got a call from a local raw-feeder who had heard I was looking for help. She gave me some very awesome, very specific tips. Putting her information together with my research, I’ve come up with a plan I’m comfortable with. The best tip she gave me: I can order any amount of anything a local Whole Foods sells and they will grind it up for free!
I had to rule out my first choice of whole prey, since the cats have declined to eat the mice and ordering other prey online is crazy expensive. I wanted to continue to feed as much chunked meat as possible, but needed a way to get the bones and other stuff into their diet. So I divided their monthly numbers by three and calculated the percentages so that meat alone could be fed twice a day and a ground combo of meat, bone, heart, liver, organ and supplements that could be fed for breakfast every morning. Feeding them this way, their ratios will be balanced at the end of every day.
Today, I made the following Whole Foods order: 10 lbs chicken wings, 13 lbs chicken hearts, and 5.5 lbs chicken liver. This will be mixed with 6.5 lbs of ground chicken breast and some salmon oil, vitamins B complex and E, taurine and maybe a multi-gland supplement. This mixture will be fed for breakfast and will last for two months. That, plus the 9 ozs of raw chicken, beef and whatever else I pick up for their lunch and dinner meals, will cost me an estimated $240.
Compare that to the $200 I was spending every single month for canned food!
Monday Feb 16, 2009
I offered turkey for the first time tonight. It was supposed to be chunked meat I cut off a drumstick (wow, those tendons are tough), but by the time I was done peeling the bones bare, I think the food was more mush than chunky. *sheez* I seriously need a new knife!
They went crazy for it! Meowing and scarfing it down as fast as they could. Clearly, turkey will be a favorite around here.
Tomorrow night, I’m going to try to pick up some beef heart and see how that goes.
Tuesday Feb 17, 2009
I’m finding that as I refine my sources, feeding raw food is considerably cheaper than buying canned.
In the above post, I went from paying $200 per month for canned to about $240 for every two months feeding raw. Last night, however, I found a source of turkey for only $1.29 per pound and chicken for only $.59 cents per pound. That cuts my original grocery bill in half.
Add to that a considerably reduced litter box load since the cats are able to digest so much more of their food, and fewer vet visits (not to mention happier cats) and I think I’ve got myself a winner!
Sharing a tip I learned tonight: To minimize the mess and necessary clean-up of a raw-feeding, spread a towel on the feeding surface and dump the food on the towel. Once everyone’s done eating, simply roll the towel up and throw i t in a (lidded) laundry hamper. Voila! Clean up over!
To all you other raw-feeders out there: Are you ever concerned about cuddling your cats after they’ve eaten? Mine use their paws to hold the food down sometimes and they almost always groom immediately after eating – but not always.
In all the research I’ve done and the folks I’ve talked to, I haven’t come across a single instance of either cat or owner becoming ill as a result of raw feeding, but, given the above, what’s the mechanism that keeps that from happening?
Wednesday Feb 18, 2009
You know what I think? I think the public (myself included) have had it hammered into our psyches that raw meat is (cue the spooky music) dangerous, when in fact, it’s really not so much. If it were truly riddled with e. coli, salmonella, etc., I’m betting a lot more people would be dropping dead than we currently hear about.
Did you guys know that both e. coli and salmonella are actually contaminants?³ They come from waste products and don’t belong on our raw food to begin with.
Pardon me, I’m gonna go pin a kitty down for a hug.
Thursday Feb 19, 2009
I’ve decided to feed as close to the whole prey model as I can get, so I ditched the ground breakfast idea. Instead, every third day, I’ll offer a bone-in meal for dinner: chicken breast with ribs, chicken wings or whole divided Cornish Hens. This method does not appeal to my need to have exact measures and numbers, but if it works, I’ll deal with it.
Except for the fresh chicken hearts, I canceled the Whole Foods order. My monthly cat food bill has now dropped to about $100, fully half what I was paying for commercial food!
Last night, I spent three hours cutting, bagging, weighing and labeling 10 chicken wings, 10 chicken breasts with ribs, 20 chicken quarters, 4 pounds of beef round stew, 2 pounds of liver (that stuff is way weird to handle *shudder*), two Cornish hens, half a dozen turkey drumsticks, and 1 pound of freaking expensive quail (they won’t get that again). I’m exhausted!
I still have several pounds of pork to prep later today.
I am well pleased. I’ve yet to find a source for non-liver organ meat, but I’ve got a freezer full of good food, with more to come. My furkids are in heaven.
Thursday Feb 19, 2009
I’ve received a private message on the board about the “dangers” of feeding pork…
Cats all over the world eat raw pork just fine, some even eat it exclusively. If you’re in a still developing country, there might be some issues, but commercial pork from the US, Canada, a few EU countries and Australia is safe.⁴ In fact, if you live in Australia, your peace of mind should be even greater; they have never had a problem with trichinosis!⁵
Trichinosis parasites die if frozen for three weeks, so even in the countries where it’s common, it can be addressed.⁴
Again, we’re all brainwashed about meat being ridden with evil, killing germs. Don’t believe it, my friends! Sometimes, it takes a long, long time for fears to fade, even after the threat has gone.
On a totally different note, just for kicks and giggles, I’m picking up some bison meat tonight. I want to see if I can find something my carnivorous little friends won’t eat.
Thursday Feb 19, 2009
I’ve received a tip about the liver: partially freeze it first, then cut it up.
I fed chicken breast with ribs tonight. This time, I did not remove any of the bone, although I admit to some trepidation. Would they be able and willing to handle the bone?
pfht! What was I thinking? These guys know they are carnivores! Not only did they eat every scrap, they ate it a whole lot faster than I would have credited.
*shakes head in wonderment*
I hit what may be a small bump in the smooth ride, however. For breakfast, I served beef round stew pieces. The chunks were quite large, but no one had any trouble eating them. Rachel, my once thin kitty, ate more than is usual for her… but about an hour later, threw some of it back up. Normally, because she ate so much, I’d shrug it off as a reaction to that. However, several days ago I fed beef for dinner and then again for the evening meal, and someone threw up a very small amount after the second meal.
So I’m thinking Rachel either needs to slow down a bit, or she might have some intolerance to beef; I know that’s not an uncommon occurrence.
Fed pork loin chunks this morning. Only the kittens were enthusiastic about eating it, but no one turned their noses up.
Throwing the food down on a towel is working wonderfully. I love rolling that thing up to reveal a perfectly clean table!
Someone asked me if I included any beef flavors when I was feeding canned. The answer is yes. In fact, I fed beef in Wellness®, Evo® and Nature’s Variety Instinct® flavors, among others, and no one ever had a problem with it.
I guess that rules out sensitivity issues. At the least, it makes them more unlikely!!
Beef is harder to chew than chicken and turkey, and Rachel is the slowest of all the cats, so maybe she’s being lazy and swallowing chunks she should be cutting down?
I know too much food and food eaten too fast can cause issues, but can too-large food chunks cause stomach upsets, as well? Anyone have any experience with that?
If so, I’ll be happy to cut her food down a little more while she gets used to all the chewing she needs to do now. Considering how easy this has been for me — yes, I totally recognize that I am very, very lucky — I think I can manage cutting one cat’s food into bite-size pieces.
Sunday Feb 22, 2009
I’ve finally found a source for organ meat, the last ingredient I needed. Turns out my favorite grocery store sells both chicken and beef kidneys; I never saw them because the beef only comes in once a week and the chicken needs to be special ordered. I picked up a couple months’ worth of beef kidney today and I’ll order some chicken tomorrow.
I also found a butcher about 45 minutes away that sells pork kidneys and placed an order with him. I’ll keep looking for other organs, but the need is no longer critical, thank goodness!
I gave the cats some beef kidney, beef heart and bison meat this afternoon as a snack, just to see if they’d eat it. Everyone chowed down with gusto. Rachel surprised me; she ate everything without any of the Whole Life™ treats I sometimes have to use to tempt her, especially the beef heart. So yay!
After talking to some folks on another board, I ascertained that Rachel was, indeed, being lazy about properly chewing her beef chunks. I’ve been cutting her pieces in half before offering them to her and we’ve had no more upset stomach issues. Problem solved!
The cats have been on raw food for three weeks and three days now, 100% raw a little over half that time. I have sources for everything I need and I’ve worked out the majority of the kinks in a feeding methodology that I can sustain and that addresses all their needs. Oh, and I bought a lovely set of knives and something to keep them sharp with.
Sunday Feb 22, 2009
I have slightly modified my feeding schedule:
Breakfast: 9 to 10 oz of beef round (comes in precut stew pieces) or pork loin chunks I cut and package myself.
Lunch: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they’ll get about 11 oz of something with bone in it for lunch. Chicken wings, half a quail, a quarter of a Cornish Hen, or half a chicken breast with ribs.
Sunday and Thursday, lunch will be 6ozs of either chicken or beef liver and 5oz of chicken or beef heart.
Tuesday and Saturday, lunch will be 6 oz of chicken, beef or pork kidneys and 5 oz of chicken or beef heart.
Dinner: Either a chicken quarter or a turkey drumstick with the bones removed. The weight for these can range from 12 oz to 18 oz, but averages about 14 oz. Every now and then I’ll try something different, just for the fun and variety of it.
I have enough weighed and packed in my freezer for nearly two months and every night; I just take out whatever they’ll be eating the next day. Once or twice a month, I’ll restock my freezer.
And it’s as simple as that.
I’ve been accused of being an “overachiever.” I will admit to having an affinity for patterns, but nothing more. LOL!
To tell the truth, I’m kinda leaning back towards my ground breakfast idea. My cats are eating whatever I put in front of them, but I am having some personal trouble with the organs. Not to put too fine a point on it; it’s quite thoroughly grossing me out. I feel like I constantly have my hands in blood and, holy smokes, have you guys ever smelled a beef kidney? I cut up a few pounds of it three or four days ago and I’m still fighting nausea. It had great big nasty waxy chunks of fat all through it and it stank… I think I’m gonna be sick just talking about it. *gag* *cough* *runs to wash hands for the hundredth time in the hopes that this time will get the smell out*
Anyway, I switched to frankenprey ’cause its proponents were so insistent that, next to whole prey, frankenprey is closest to what cats eat in the wild. In reality, of course, cats don’t eat one meal of meat, then another meal of organ and then more meals of mostly bone; they get it all in every single meal. And while you’ll never see a cat run down a ground-meal mouse, a ground breakfast is only one meal out of three a day; my cats will still get their chewing workout with the other two and their nutrition will be balanced on a daily basis rather than stretched out over a week. I personally think having a daily balance is better and worth the one-meal trade-off, not to mention I’ll be able to have Whole Foods grind all the ingredients so I’ll only need to exercise a little nausea control while I’m mixing it.
I’ve got too much food in the freezer to make any changes right now, so I’ll feed the frankenprey for another week or so. Then, well, we’ll see. *shrug* My cats are flexible either way; it’s all about my own comfort level right now.
Sunday Apr 05, 2009
It’s been a little over two months since I started my cats on a natural diet. It’s a daily delight to watch them chowing down.
I’ve made only three real changes since my last post:
First, I cut back on how much I feed and removed most skin from the menu. Though I started off at 3% body weight, I couldn’t get over how small a portion that was and I kept adding here and there ’til I was feeding over 4%. Four of my cats are at a nice healthy weight now (two were underweight) and one is still a bit chunky, so I’m cutting back to 3%.
Two, I still feed the liver and kidney separately (thank heavens the smell no longer bothers me!), but I’ve added ground chicken wing back into the daily menu. I noticed some soft stools — the kind that stick to the fur at the back end *yuck* — when feeding just the bone-in meals a couple of times a week. The ground wing is less than an ounce per cat per meal and it keeps their digestive systems on an even keel. I can order it and pick it up fresh the same day, so I’m happy with that.
Three, I bought a chest freezer! LOL!
Wednesday Sep 16, 2009
We’re just about at the seven month mark. Everyone is healthy, energetic and finally at a good weight, and I have settled into a wonderfully easy routine to maintain.
Breakfast is a rotation of beef stew, pork loin or beef heart chunks.
Three times a week (up from the two I used to offer), lunch is chicken wings (both whole and ground), chicken ribs or, occasionally, quail. Twice a week, it’s beef liver and kidney. The final two days, it’s either a turkey drumstick or a chicken leg quarter, skinned and de-boned.
Dinner is nearly always a turkey drumstick or a chicken leg quarter, skinned and de-boned.
Occasionally, I still offer chicken gizzards, bison meat, Cornish Hen, gutted mice or other unusual meats, just for variety. I’m very low on ground chicken wings and probably won’t restock, since it’s more expensive than whole wings and feeding bone-in meals three times a week is working just fine. I drizzle Salmon oil over their food a couple of times a week, but use no other supplements.
There have been several changes in my cats: no more tuna breath (I kinda miss that, actually), a noticeable drop in poop quantity and odor, and an increase in the softness and shine of their fur, to name a few. By far however, the biggest change is the increase in activity level. I now have five kittens, not two! It’s astonishing, actually, how much more energy and playfulness my cats have.
Today, September 26, 2011
I’ve added another cat to my clowder and made a few more tweaks to the diet – added rabbit bone-in and meat meals a couple of times a week, replaced the beef heart with duck and turkey hearts, doubled the liver and kidney meals but cut the amount in half (making up the difference with gizzards and chicken breast, respectively), added crickets and sardines (canned, packing-in-water-no-salt-added) once a week, and dispensed with the Salmon oil – but for the most part, have kept to the same schedule (you can find it here).
Allen, Rachel and Meghan are five years old now, so I had a urinalysis (drawn via cystocentesis), Chem 25, and CBC tests run on them at a recent vet checkup – they all came through with flying colors. The vet was very impressed with how athletic and strong all my cats are, and remarked upon the extreme friendliness and confidence of the oldest four.
The indications are conclusive: the high-end, mostly grain- and fish-free canned foods I was feeding clearly weren’t providing my furchildren with everything they need to be their happiest, healthiest selves. I am blown away at the differences in them.
Getting your cats on a raw food diet is worth more than just the initial learning curve, it’s worth their lives!
1. Board on Agriculture, Nutrient Requirements of Cats, rev. ed. The National Academies Press, 1986, 30.
2. Claudia A. Kirk, Jacques Debraekeleer, and P. Jane Armstrong, “Normal Cats,” Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th ed. Walsworth Publishing Company, 2000, 297-299.
3. Henry Hurrell Clay and W. H. Bassett, Clay’s Handbook of Environmental Health, 18th ed. Spon Press, 1999, 678.
4. “Trichinellosis Fact Sheet,” Centers for Disease Control. “Trichinosis,” Oklahoma State Department of Health.
5. Walter George Bradley, Neurology in Clinical Practice, 4th ed. vol 2. Butterworth-Heinemann/Elsevier Science, 2004, 1575.
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Created 09/26/11; Updated 08/11/14