This post is part of our “Journey to Raw” series, published every Wednesday, and comes to you from Robin AF Olson, the mind behind the award-winning blog, Covered in Cat Hair. She’s also President & Founder of the non-profit cat rescue, Kitten Associates. Olson lives with ten full-time cats and a varying number of rescue kitties.
My journey to raw began nine years ago. I had a couple of cats. I loved them to pieces, but I didn’t understand the role nutrition played in their health. I assumed the pet food manufacturers were doing a good job. The ads on TV assured me that their brand of food would give my cat wholesome nutrition, so feeding grocery store brand kibble seemed like a good thing.
One day, my cat Squeegee’s back legs went out on her. Frantic, I rushed her to the vet to find out she was diabetic and suffering from neuropathy, a side effect of the diabetes. Though her ability to walk would return, she’d have to be on insulin for the rest of her life. I was completely crushed and terrified. I’d have to give her shots twice a day. I’d have to put her on expensive, “sciencey” dry food that would manage her illness.
I followed my vet’s advice. Why would he tell me something wrong?
Squeegee died from cancer a few years later. I was still giving her insulin right up to the day she died.
Then our cat Nicky, started blocking up from gunk in his urethra. A vet tech told me we might be able to cure him with a diet change, but it would take a few months. I didn’t know what to believe and time was running out. Nicky kept blocking up and after the third time we opted to do the PU surgery to remove his penis. YES, his PENIS. That way he’d have a better chance to void urine since the opening would be bigger. He’d likely be incontinent, dripping urine all over the house, but we’d have to deal with it. So we spent $6000.00 and had the surgery done.
What the vet tech said so many months earlier finally hit home. I started to do research about diet and, like so many other folks, that’s when I found Dr. Pierson’s web site. As I read it I felt my blood boil. I’d been lied to my whole life. Every TV ad showing the healthy cat, racing to the bowl of kibble, was a big greedy lie. I later discovered most vets only got a few hours of nutrition training, IF that much. Guess who sponsors the nutrition seminars they DO get? The folks who wrote the 1500 PAGE book on Small Animal Clinical Nutrition that vets refer to; none other than the “good” folks at Hill’s.
They control the dissemination of information. They control what the vets are taught. They make the presentations on nutrition to the undergraduates in college. Most vets learn to vilify anything that’s even remotely close to a raw diet, fearful of salmonella poisoning (which is a myth-how do you or your cats get sick from raw meat? Did you ever poison yourself or your kids? Probably not. You know to wash hands and bleach surfaces if you handle raw meat. Geez!) or that owners are too stupid to feed a cat on their own when science knows best. How arrogant! Mother Nature knows best. What cats eat in the wild is what they need to eat in our kitchens—or, as close to a wild diet as possible.
The truth is, the big pet food companies make less money if we figure it out. The truth is, our cats WILL be like those cats in the TV ad, only they’ll get there by eating a species APPROPRIATE diet, not junk.
It is flat out common sense that an animal who gets energy from animal protein will suffer if given food with fillers and cheap vegetable-based proteins like corn, wheat, soy, etc.
So I began to change my cat’s diet. It was a NIGHTMARE. When someone says to me their cat won’t eat it, I don’t believe it for a second. If I can transition NINE, “crack-head” kibble-addicted cats to a raw diet, you can transition one or two. It was not easy. I had to start slowly. I had to be persistent, but it was SO WORTH IT.
I went through about 30 different brands/flavors of canned food first. I sprinkled a bit of ground up dry food on top to get them going. I warmed the food so it smelled more. I elevated my cat’s dish and gave them a flat plate, NOT a bowl, to prevent whisker stress while they ate.
I remembered: DO NOT GIVE UP. If they turn up their nose, they do. Maybe they’ll eat it at the evening meal. I was very careful not to let them go too long without eating something, and eventually they did eat canned. Once they ate canned, I began searching for ways to feed them raw. Keep in mind, back then we didn’t have many choices and there wasn’t a lot of information available. There was a leap of faith involved in feeding raw, but being the daughter of two scientists, it just made SENSE to change their diet. I knew if I kept at it, they would transition.
What I didn’t expect was what happened next. My cats changed. It was like someone turned the light on behind their eyes. They seemed like they were in a better mood, beyond the physical changes to their coat and litterbox habits (they hardly used it). They had vitality I’d never seen before. On crap food they existed, but on raw they thrived.
Nicky, even though he had the surgery, had suffered from a gross residue around his back end. It went away on raw. My cat Spencer, who had chronic breathing issues, quit snoring. Over the next year or so he lost 4 pounds, going from an obese 16 pounds, down to 12.
Then, my mother died unexpectedly. I ended up taking her senior cat, Bob Dole.
Bob only got junk food and never had a dental cleaning. He lived outside, intact for many years. I finally got my mother to let me get him neutered only to find out he was FIV+. Let’s just say my mother and I did not get along when it came for how we cared (or did not care) for our cats and it was a constant source of conflict.
Once in my charge, I took Bob to the vet. He had 6 teeth removed. They clipped his matted fur and ran a complete blood count. They told me he had diabetes and that I needed to put him on that dry food for diabetics…or I could use the special canned food version for a change.
I asked to see the label. The vet (who was covering for my regular vet) proudly said the food was designed in a very sanitary facility with strict controls so it was good. The ingredients: Poultry by-product meal, soy protein isolate, corn gluten meal, soy flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, corn starch, animal liver flavor, etc. I asked: “where is the meat?” I was told the food was fine. That it helped other cats. I said no to his offer and took Bob home with insulin and a meter. I began to transition Bob off junk and onto a raw diet, which he loved. He was an easy transition because for years he’d been killing mice and other critters. I bet he was relieved to eat raw.
In four weeks, Bob was in remission. He never had diabetes again. My vet finally believed me that raw might be worth knowing more about. He’ll tell his clients who have diabetic pets about it, but he still sells that crap food, too.
After that there was no turning back. I’ve helped a lot of cats with one illness after another regain their health on a raw diet. Not only do I feed my cats raw, but my non-profit cat rescue, Kitten Associates, is one of the few no-kibble-fed rescues in the country. Our kittens NEVER see kibble (actually once they did and they thought it was a toy!) and now that we’ve had a number of litters through our program, I can report that our kittens are A LOT bigger and healthier than I’ve seen elsewhere and they LOVE raw so much they growl with delight the first time they get a taste of it.
I sometimes get flack and lose out on adoptions. I’ve been called a “cat nazi” because I’d rather not adopt a cat into a home where they won’t be open-minded about nutrition. It’s in their adoption contract. They can feed high protein canned or raw. Many choose raw when they find out their cats poo won’t smell. Whatever reason they choose, they don’t feed junk, so in my small way I’m fighting the good fight.
Maybe one day I won’t have to feel like I’m on a battle field. Maybe one day we’ll start seeing the numbers of cats with cancer start going down, diabetic cats will become a rarity, cats won’t block up when they try to void urine. And what a wonderful world that would be, but it’s up to us to make the effort to change our cat’s life for the better.
I did it. You can, too.
If you feed a home-prepared raw menu to your kitties and would like to see your story featured here, please contact us via private message through Facebook on our page or in our group or leave a comment below!