Preparing and Storing the Food
- First I place the water in the bowl, add the supplements to the water and mix with a whisk or a cheap coffee frother. Then I take the thawed meat out of the fridge and place in a large steel mixing bowl, pour the supplement mix over it and mix up.
- I usually prepare food in 8lb batches, I find it difficult to mix larger amounts thoroughly. I make one 8lb batch, put it in the jars, then make another 8lb batch in the same bowl, put it into jars and then clean everything up.
- I use Ball wide mouth canning jars to store the food – the glass does not leach into food and is reusable for years. They can be washed in a dishwasher if you are lucky enough to have one. Instead of the flimsy canning lids that come with the jars, I use these reusable BPA-free plastic lids.
- Wash all used utensils and jars in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Do not use bleach! If you feel the need to disinfect more thoroughly, use a spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide to spray surfaces, then spray with another bottle containing white vinegar. Do not mix the substances in one bottle. The chemical formed by the reaction is peracetic acid, which quickly degrades and leaves no harmful residue on surfaces but effectively kills as many pathogenic bacteria as bleach [Science News August 8, 1998; Vol. 154, Issue. 6; pg. 83-85].
Transitioning from Commercial Food to a Home Made Raw Diet
- We all know cats do not like changes, especially when it comes to their food. Changing the diet too quickly could also cause digestive upset. It’s best to start introducing the raw meat diet gradually, by offering a tablespoon each day and then adding more over a period of about 2 weeks.
- Some cats are addicted to dry kibble, they do not perceive anything else as food. Some cats do best transitioned to a meat based canned food first and then to raw, however in my experience some kibble addicts will not touch canned food but then do fine with raw. Experiment a little to see what your cat seems interested in.
- If you currently free-feed, you should first get your cat used to eating measured amounts at certain times of day – whether dry food or canned. You may want to start with 4-5 small meals and then move this towards 2-3 meals per day.
- You may wish to start out by offering a minimal recipe, since some of the supplements (especially B vitamins) can have a strong odor. A minimal recipe is meat/bone/liver in the proper proportion plus taurine – these are the absolute minimum. You can add in the other ingredients one by one after your cat has accepted the new diet and has been fully transitioned.
- Use toppings to entice your cat to eat the new diet – favorite treats crumbled on top, tuna juice, freeze dried liver powder – something that smells more like food, since raw meat has very little smell. Here is a list of toppings to try!
- Try adding less water, or more – some cats prefer a firmer texture and others prefer more watery. Make your recipe with less water you can always add more at meal times.
- Never try to starve a cat into a new diet, if your cat eats significantly less for a few days they are in danger of fatty liver disease – overweight cats are especially at risk. Always make sure your cat is eating at least 2/3 of their usual amount per day.
- Do not give up or lose patience, try and try again, try different meats, try different toppings and try offering the food when you know your cat is hungry. It can take time to change their minds, but it is worth it! Don’t try to rush things!
Frequently Asked Questions
I read in Dr. Pitcairn’s book that I should use grains and vegetables in my cat’s diet. Why doesn’t your recipe include these?
Cats not only do not need to eat grain, it will make them ill for the reasons stated on the first page of this website and in Dr. Zoran’s publication in JAVMA. Do not ever put grain in your cat’s food, and vegetables can be included for fiber only – less than 5% by weight of the recipe. Even commercial food manufacturers are starting to recognize the negative health effects of feeding grains to carnivores. Be cautious about recipes that were intended for dogs, although dogs are also carnivores, they are more tolerant of a variety of foods than cats are so much of the research done on dogs is not applicable to cats. Cats have even stricter dietary needs than dogs.
How long can I leave the raw food out if my cat doesn’t eat it right away?
At room temperature, I would leave food out for a maximum of 2 hours to be safe. Dispose of any un-eaten food that has sat out for 2 or more hours. The best bet is to simply serve very small amounts and wait until the serving is eaten before offering more. Cats will rarely eat food that has sat out very long, anyway.
What do I do if I will be away from home longer than usual and my cat eats a raw diet?
When I plan to miss a single meal time, I have in the past placed semi-frozen raw food in a timed auto-feeder (the kind with a lid that pops up when the timer goes off) for my cats, that has worked well. You can buy auto-feeders with a cold pack, which can keep the food fresh for many hours if it is cold or semi-frozen when you put it in. If it’s very hot and your house is not air-conditioned, you should not leave food out this way.
Healthy cats can miss a single meal and they will just be hungrier for the next meal. However if your cat is currently underweight or ill with IBD I would recommend asking a neighbor or friend to stop by and feed your cat(s) rather than having them miss a meal. Cats recovering from IBD could have a setback if they miss a meal and feel ill, or if you panic and leave out dry food. You can make it easy for your friend or petsitter by portioning the raw food into a bowl and putting airtight plastic wrap over it so your friend needs only take it out of the fridge and put it on the floor.
What about parasites such as roundworms (trichinella) or Toxoplasmosis?
Freezing the meat for at least 3 days will kill all parasites including Trichinella (roundworms) and Toxoplasmosis. [Infectivity of Toxoplasma gondii in mutton following curing, smoking, freezing or microwave cooking. International Journal of Food Microbiology 15, 357-363 Lunden A, Uggla A (1992).] .Since I recommend purchasing meat from online raw feeding suppliers, the meat will already have been frozen in a commercial freezer at lower than -20C for at least a few days before you receive it or handle it, therefore any parasites that might be present would already be killed. Furthermore, domestic meats are much less likely to contain parasites than wild meats. If you obtain fresh meat from a grocery store or game meat from hunters or local farms, simply freeze the meat for 3 days before or after grinding and mixing it up with the supplements, and always wash your hands thoroughly after handling the meat.
My vet told me my cat could get salmonella poisoning if I feed raw meat. Isn’t it dangerous to feed raw meat?
In fact there is a risk of bacterial poisoning with any cat food including commercial dry foods. If you use fresh, well-handled raw meat the risk of contamination from a home-prepared raw meat diet is negligible compared to the risk of your cat being harmed by commercial food contaminated with poisons or mold toxins or the long term health damage of feeding an unsuitable diet to a carnivore. Cats have a very short digestive tract and a very acidic stomach – all designed to deal well with eating raw meat as they have done for thousands of years. Clean fresh meat should not contain significant bacteria counts in the first place, and any small number of bacteria present on the meat will be handled by your cat’s carnivore digestive tract without risk of illness.
There are several Yahoo groups and other forums full of people who feed their cats and dogs raw meat. There are tens of thousands of us who do this, and although the members of these groups and forums may differ in the details of their recipes and approach to raw feeding, the one thing we all have in common is that our pets are healthier thanks to a healthy diet.
Unfortunately, many veterinarians are educated in nutrition with a bias towards one of 2 commercial “veterinary” diets, since these pet food companies fund the research and supply course materials for the vet students. An increasing number of veterinarians are becoming open to the idea of raw meat diets, or even advocating them. However you are still most likely to encounter veterinarians who will try to discourage you from feeding a home made raw meat diet. You must do your own research and satisfy yourself of the risks and benefits of a home made raw diet. Consider the source of all information you discover. What has your vet recommended so far, and how well has the course of action succeeded?
To minimize the risk of bacteria growing, always wash your cat’s dishes and utensils in hot soapy water after each meal, buy your meat from a reputable butcher and ask for today’s fresh meat, or buy online from a reputable supplier of raw meat for pet diets. Recommended online suppliers of raw meat for pet food slaughter and process the meat then freeze it immediately, so there is no time for bacteria to multiply. If you buy meat at the grocery store, buy whole carcasses or cuts and grind it yourself, or ask the butcher to grind it for you fresh on the spot. Never buy pre-ground meat from the deli case, it has been sitting around too long.
Do you feed this diet to your own cats?
Now that our elderly cats have passed away, we feed whole mice as the main staple to our young cats, who have all their teeth. We continue to feed some ground raw in order to provide variety and to encourage our young cats to accept a variety of flavors and textures. They also get occasional snacks such as sardines, goat’s milk, and raw egg yolks.