How many of you currently feeding raw came to the diet because your cat was already ill? Because of diarrhea, vomiting, hair or weight loss, fur chewing or skin licking, diabetes, kidney failure, or urinary tract blockages? Reeling in desperation as veterinarian “solutions” failed one after the other and the medical bills piled up?
Almost every raw feeding cat owner with whom I’ve ever worked or spoken was driven to considering raw in reaction to an unknown or unsolvable illness caused by commercial pet food.
How many of you had to fight your own inherent fears of bacteria in the process? Or shivered with trepidation that you would hurt your beloved cat by feeding it something that was *gasp* raw? Or had to learn to stand firm in the face of shock and horror from friends, neighbors and, worst of all, your trusted DVM?
I’d venture 100% of you. I’d even go so far as to state that many of you *still* struggle with those fears and handling those reactions.
And for every one of you who continues to lovingly lay that raw meal on a plate and set it in front of your four-legged friend, I say, “Congratulations! You’re one of the few, the strong, the passionate!”
It is that passion I want to discuss today. Raw feeders, by and large, are forced to undergo a baptism of fire to protect and heal their pets, overcoming years of indoctrination via the pet food industry and its paid-for cohorts (veterinarians, AAFCO, FDA, etc.), and their own more deeply ingrained fears of bacterial contamination, promulgated by the human food and drug industries and passed down and strengthened through the generations.
It takes someone exceptionally strong and dedicated to get through all that, making raw feeders, pretty much by definition, an especially passionate group of folks.
That passion is both a blessing and a curse. It means we’re loud, highly visible and unusually willing to share our experiences and encourage others to heed our message. We’re talking on FB, websites, and forums, forming groups dedicated to teaching one another everything we know and taking over the comment sections of personal and commercial anti-raw blogs and articles alike.
We are, in fact, an unstoppable force.
Naturally, this strikes fear into the heart of the anti-raw crowd, especially the pet food industry; although we’re still a small percentage of consumers, our message is racing across the pet world landscape and fundamentally altering it. Several dozen commercial raw foods – unheard of just a few short years ago! – are now available, and not one single pet food manufacturer’s advertising program has remained unaffected. Many manufacturers have also created new products that swap the most well-known carb sources for lesser-known starches, and/or “reformulated” current products with a reshuffled ingredients list, in the hopes an increasingly educated and demanding consumer base will miss the deception and remain loyal to the brand.
We are small, but the light of the truth we speak shines under every rock.
Unfortunately, our passion also works against us. The ubiquitous and often derogatory rhetoric from the anti-raw crowd is like catnip to many raw feeders; we can’t help but throw ourselves into the discussion, matching contempt with scorn, swapping insult for mockery.
This is unprofessional, paints us in a poor light, and diminishes our effectiveness.
Also, sadly, that harsh reaction too often spills over onto people who aren’t actively anti-raw, but only questioning. This causes hurt feelings and may very well shove the other person solidly into the anti-raw camp, ensuring their cats will be denied the benefits of a species-appropriate diet and we will lose the support of their potential sponsorship.
Even worse, raw feeders routinely attack one another. It is a natural human tendency to define the world by our own experiences and as a wonderfully diverse and yet uniformly passionate group breaking ground with no guidance, it is all but inevitable there would be conflicts among us. Moreover, the larger the raw feeding population grows, the more vociferous and adamant the differing factions defend their perceptions.
This is understandable but terribly destructive. Both to each another, and to the raw-feeding “cause.” How can an often-already distraught pet owner come to trust raw feeding when raw feeders themselves revile the different methodologies? And oh, what a lovely gift our in-fighting presents to the anti-raw crowd!
As difficult as it may be, we must channel and control our passion so it serves our purposes, rather than undermining them.
When an anti-raw campaigner whips out another distorted and/or pet food industry funded “study” and delightedly describes how the raw feeding nut crowd must be hating on it, take a deep breath (or three) and calmly refute the study if you have the expertise, or walk away.
When someone who is curious but ill-informed (as we all were at one point!) comments upon the “dental benefits” of kibble or the “dangers” of raw bone, take another deep breath, then find a way to turn the discussion into a gentle sharing/learning opportunity.
When you see or read of another raw feeder using a methodology to which you don’t subscribe, stop and remember – that person has been through the same fire and withstood the same challenges as you to arrive at raw feeding, and even though their experience was different (as they all are!) and led them to a slightly different version of raw, you are both on the same side. You both love your cats, and you would both risk everything for their well being.
In fact, keep that thought uppermost in your mind when discussing species-appropriate nutrition with anyone; on the whole, they love their cats just as much as you do. And as fellow cat lovers, we should be supporting one another, not denigrating each other!
I encourage all of you – please be kind and gentle with other cat owners. Approach the topic of raw feeding with all your passion, but shape it with love. Never stop sharing the truth about feeding carnivores the fresh raw foods they are biologically designed to thrive upon, but do it with affection and care.
The world needs more acts of love, of charity and affection, not of hate or arrogance or despite. Be the persuasive, eloquent, loving advocates I know you can be!