About This Website
I started this website in 2007 after seeing the beneficial effects of a home made raw meat diet for my own three cats, two of which.had developed IBD while eating premium grain-free diets. I have been asked by many people to share my adaptations of popular recipes and the research that I have done on feline nutrition. I maintain this website as a free public service. I am not a veterinarian, the information shared here is available in research journals, scientific textbooks on animal nutrition, and from veterinarians educated in feline nutrition.
This website is dedicated to the memory of Tristan, who passed away at age 21 in 2015 from an aggressive form of gastric lymphoma. Tristan began to develop IBD symptoms when he was about 8 years old. After a few years of unsuccessful veterinary treatments including speciality diets, we finally decided to make the effort to transition our cats to a home made minimal ingredient raw meat diet. The results were astounding. Tristan’s IBD went into complete remission and remained so for the last 11 years of his life. He bore the scars of inflammation, however, in the form of permanently thickened intestines. Tristan had 11 very happy, healthy years after making the switch to a more natural diet, and it is my hope that by sharing this information other cats suffering from IBD and other afflictions related to an inappropriate diet.
What Your Cat Was Meant to Eat
- Cats are the most specialized hunters of all the mammals, they are strict carnivores. Cats evolved to eat raw whole rodents and small prey, they cannot digest carbohydrates the way other mammals can.
- Dry cat food is much higher in carbohydrates than a cat’s natural prey, and even the grain-free kibbles contain potato which is a very starchy vegetable. When fed long term, high-carb dry cat food leads to obesity, diabetes and often irritable bowel disease in cats.
- Cats are descended from desert creatures, naturally they get most of their water from their food. Feeding dry cat food causes chronic dehydration which leads to serious urinary tract problems such as crystals and infections. It can also lead to kidney damage over time. High quality meat based canned foods or a raw meat diet are much more suitable for cats.
- Contrary to some theories, dry cat food does nothing to clean teeth. The only way to effectively clean your cats’ teeth is by veterinary cleaning under anesthesia. In fact a high carb diet contributes to dental problems due to the sugars that form when carbohydrates are broken down.
- Commercial cat food was invented relatively recently. Before commercial food, cats mostly lived outdoors and hunted for their food and were supplemented with scraps of meat and milk. When cats started to become indoor pets and move into cities, commercial cat food was invented, and since then there have been a multitude of problems with these commercial foods – from lack of taurine resulting in blindness and heart disease to contamination with a variety of toxic substances.
- Commercial cat food production is not regulated or subject to testing on a routine basis.
- We all know that a diet based on whole foods is healthier than processed foods. The same is true for cats! There is a difference between meeting the basic needs for short term sustenance and sustaining long term health.
The Ideal Diet for Your Cat
- The ideal diet is the one your cat and his ancestors has been eating for thousands of years – primarily whole fresh raw rodents, rabbit and a few game birds and insects.
- For kittens and young cats with good teeth, introduce whole prey such as mice and rats available from reptile feeder suppliers. Whole food provide all the nutrition your cat needs as well as the dental benefits of chewing their food. Yes, just thaw the mouse in the fridge or at room temperature and feed to your cat, fur and all. Some cats prefer their meals warmed to body temperature which is best done by immersing in a bag in warm water for a few minutes.
- The closest many of us can come to this – especially when transitioning older cats or those with many missing teeth – is to feed a home made raw meat diet, consisting of whole ground prey with added supplements to make up for what is lost by freezing, thawing and storing the meat.
- If a home made raw meat diet is simply out of the question for some reason, a high quality grain-free canned food is the next best thing. A food with very high meat content and limited total number of ingredients is best. However if your cat has IBD or food allergies, you should try a home made diet so you can control and eliminate ingredients.
- Generally it is best to change your cat’s diet gradually. Mix in some of the new food with the old food, or feed small amounts separately and gradually feed more of the new food and less of the old food. You do not need to transition your cat to canned food before raw, but it is easy to mix in raw food with canned. If you currently feed kibble just start out with a tablespoon of raw meat 2x a day and transition over a period of 2-4 weeks. It is not a bad idea to start out with only the raw meat/bones/organ mix and added taurine – no other supplements. This way you can add the other vitamins or supplements one at a time and you’ll know if one of them causes a problem.
- Cats evolved to eat the whole prey – muscle meat, bones, organs and all.
- Cats cannot synthesize their own taurine, so taurine is an important ingredient. We add additional taurine because studies have shown that freezing, thawing and storing meat can deplete the natural taurine. In addition, domestically-raised meat may be lower in taurine than wild prey.
- Cats cannot synthesize Vitamin A, they get it from liver, so liver is also essential. I do not recommend long term feeding of a diet with vitamin A and D added to replace liver, but for short term rotational batches of food it is acceptable – please refer to catnutrition.org for recipes with vit A and D substitute instructions.
- The ideal Calcium to Phosphorus ratio for cats is 1.2:1 – that means 1.2 units of calcium for every unit of phosphorus.
- The acceptable range for cats is from 1.17:1 to 1.4:1 which is the range found in small prey animals such as mice, rats and rabbits (rat carcass analysis: JAVMA 221:11 Nov 2002).
- A diet too high or too low in this ratio will, if fed long term, lead to hyperparathyroidism or hypocalcemia. Fortunately, an entire carcass of a small prey animal such as rabbit, mouse, quail, chicken contains a ratio in this ideal range.
- If you are not using whole small prey, make sure you are feeding the correct ratio of meat, bones and organs.
- Other places to find safe, tested recipes are catnutrition.org, catinfo.org and holisticat.com.
- Do not feed commercial “grinds” or pre-made raw diets unless you know the calcium:phosphorus ratio or you know for certain that the entire carcass is used -many are not correctly balanced because they sell the meaty parts for human consumption and grind up the rest. Look for the nutritional analysis and divide the amount of Ca per serving by the amount of P per serving – any units as long as the units are the same for both minerals – to determine the ratio. For example if a food contains 1.15% Ca and 0.98 % P, that comes out to a Ca:P ratio of 1.17 to 1.
- Do not feed your cat boneless meat alone for more than the occasional meal without adding the correct proportion of calcium. Doing so will create a calcium deficiency which affects not only the bones but also the brain, heart and nerves.