This post is part of our “Journey to Raw” series, published every Wednesday, and comes to you from Leslie Ann Goodwin, (find her on Facebook!) the author of CAT SKILLS: Loving Care for Cats (available on Amazon.com). She lives with two rescued kitties who are constantly trying to teach her new tricks.
Years back, before I started feeding raw, my cats were constantly seeking a delicious raw dinner… prey in the form of voles and mice. The house backs to farmland and I let my previous cats out to hunt for a few hours every day.
Once, when my Runtie cat was quite old, 15 and a half, he stopped eating for three days. My vet and I tried everything but he refused food and drink. Finally, he responded to my vet’s treatment and asked to go outside. He promptly ran out to his favorite vole hole and waited. He broke a three day fast with a vole. What greater testament to the power of raw food? My cats proved that day that their favorite meal does NOT come out of a bag or a can!
For those who are concerned about their cats eating raw meat with bones, you should see one consume prey in a few bites. It is nature’s perfect food and it feeds more than their bodies, it feeds their souls. This meat lust is in their DNA. They are hunters by design; not vegetarians.
Yet, like most everyone, I fed kibble for too long before I added some canned food. Then after the 2007 wheat gluten recalls, I started cooking food at home to supplement. But I didn’t know enough to stop feeding kibble until I was researching CAT SKILLS. After reading the science behind feeding cats and consulting with Dr. Jean Hofve, I could no longer feed kibble. It was all homemade cooked and canned.
I was curious about raw. I wanted to take the plunge, yet I had questions about hygiene, meat sources, recipes and commercial raw food was so expensive. Would it be as difficult to transition as it was to get them off kibble? With some help from other raw feeders and the experienced crew on CatCentric, I stopped cooking and joined the raw revolution!
Molly is the first cat I have had to transition from 100% kibble to raw. My other cat, Millie the chow hound went straight from kibble to canned to raw.. no problem, but Molly, AKA Miss Fussy, had a hard time shaking the kibble monkey off her back.
When I adopted Molly, she had been in five homes already by age two and twice in the same shelter! They insisted I take a bag of the kibble she was being fed at the shelter when I left with her.
I wasn’t going to feed her any dry crap. None. But Molly said, it’s kibble or nothing!
For the first week home, she was anorexic and lethargic. She would eat five little pieces of kibble and nothing else: No fancy beast, no can’o tuna yum yums, no dishie of fishie. NADA except for five little yellow kernels: Kibble made with corn. The last thing she needed. Oh the horror! At the shelter she had gained two pounds in three weeks and was considered overweight. She had a big fat belly and a dull coat and she was also constipated from not drinking water or getting any in her food. She hid under the bed, either sleeping or hissing when Millie came by.
Even with appetite stimulants, Molly couldn’t enjoy eating. She would jump on the counters and look for treats.. the things I was using to dress her wet food… but would eat little else. Then we treated her for pancreatitis… and I started top dressing her wet food with Advita probiotics powder that tastes like liver. Finally, she started to eat… little bites at first and after 8 weeks home, FINALLY eating a decent amount and all wet. By now I was testing Millie on bits of raw meat and gizzards.. no problem.. all I had to do was top dress with a crumbly treat or Advita probiotics powder. Luckily, the transition from wet to raw was much easier than breaking a kibble addiction.
Molly’s transformation in the past year is nothing short of amazing and I attribute at least some of that to raw feeding. When I got her, she was ill. She was droopy, fearful, anorexic and mistrustful. Now she has the energy of a kitten, is playful, affectionate, she has come to dominate my other cat and knock wood, appears to be in top health with no recurrences of pancreatitis. Now with Lysine, her herpes symptoms have been under control for many months. I no longer have to beg her to eat. She is now the first to grab the gizzards and sneak them off the plate as if she had just caught a lovely wild treat. When I took her to the vets for her rabies shot, they praised her firm muscle tone, perfect weight and her coat which is shiny as patent leather.
Millie, too, made a big hit at the vet’s office. The tech swooned over her body condition , her splendidly soft coat and healthy gums and teeth. I said, it was from raw feeding and no kibble. She said, “Really? I didn’t know you could feed raw to cats!”
I never miss a chance to share my secret with a veterinarian. Too few of them advocate raw feeding or feed it themselves. A vet came to my house to get a copy of my book and I had a plate of raw out. He asked what I was feeding. Raw. Just then, Molly came tripping by and grabbed a hunk and started gnawing. “She’s eating it,” he said, alarmed. “Well, I guess you won’t hurt them TOO much doing that.” Not sure I convinced him, although he had to admit Molly is the poster kitty for raw feeding.
One of my friends in Canada warned me that a friend of hers made some raw and she ended up in the hospital with Salmonella. I am not one of those germophobes who coats every surface in bleach, but I wash my hands and all receptacles and utensils with hot water and soap after preparing raw meat. After making countless batches with no incident, I feel pretty confident now. If you are immune compromised, and your cat has consumed some salmonella tainted food and you kiss on the lips, you might be in danger.. but salmonella is less a threat to cats than to us. I don’t feed 100% raw yet because I can buy two proteins at my grocery store: Chicken and Turkey. I can also get some beef hearts and kidneys. This summer I got lamb liver and kidneys at the farmer’s market. The canned food I supplement with is made of other proteins. I feed a little of canned sardines/mackerel/or salmon… which I wouldn’t feed raw anyway.
If you want the benefits of raw for your cats, just jump in and take the gizzard challenge.. start by just giving them a few hunks of raw chicken or turkey… a gizzard, a little beef heart (Molly’s ultimate fave!) Some will devour it like hungry lions and others won’t.. at first. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t gobble it instantly. Top dress it with some freeze dried raw bits or Advita or Fortiflora, or whatever they like until they get a taste for it. Follow the advice here on Catcentric.org or get personal help from the Facebook group CatCentric. Get help from an experienced feeder.
I am grateful to Tracy Dion (CatCentric’s founder), Laurie Goldstein (CatCentric contributor and co-founder of Raw Feeding for IBD Kitties), Carolina Liima (also a CatCentric contributor and the other co-founder of Raw Feeding for IBD Kitties) and other raw feeders for giving me a little nudge and tips so I can feed my cats the very best.. or second only to whole prey.
My dream is to have my guys live long and happily, avoiding the illnesses that should be preventable with a good diet.
My only regret is that my journey to raw took so long. I wish I had started years ago. At least my old guys, like all their forecats before them, were able to hunt a good meal. I only hope I can inspire someone else in this journey. Here’s to healthy, happy, cats eating the true breakfast of champions.
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!