Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they must have meat to survive for the essential amino acids and unique proteins. Many nutritionists and vets would agree that a raw meat diet is best for a cat, although many people find the idea overwhelming or complicated. Done right, it is quite simple and can help with many chronic ailments. A cat will usually live a longer, healthier life on a raw meat diet. Read on to learn how to feed a cat a raw meat diet.
Understand cats eat a true "Catkins" diet. There are many ways you can feed your cat raw meat (also known as BARF or Bones and Raw Food, the term coined by Austalian vet Dr Billinghurst). You can even add raw meat to kibble and canned foods for variety and extra good nutrition. It is not difficult to make recipes from scratch, using a grinder and making large batches to be frozen and fed as needed. There are now many commercially available raw diets on the market at specialty pet stores and through distributors. Some people feed smaller bones and different meats they buy from the grocery store or butcher.
Do your own research. There are excellent books and websites for learning how to raw feed cats. The following is a basic recipe that would feed two cats for a month but more variety over time is best. This is for a recipe you would grind up with bones, put in smaller containers or Ziploc baggies and feed at approximately two large tablespoons per cat, twice a day. You will need two large roasters (including giblets and liver), three or four egg yolks, approximately 1/2 lb, mixed vegetables (no onions or tomatoes), 3 tsp. taurine powder, 10 fish oil omega 3 capsules, five cod liver oil capsules and water to desired temperature. Disjoint the chicken and run everything including the supplements through a meat grinder capable of doing chicken bones. Mix thoroughly before storing. A similar recipe can be made if you do not have a grinder that will do bones. Use 6 lbs. of ground chicken and add 1 tbs. calcium powder or food grade bone meal per 1b. to the mix, along with the pureed vegetables and supplements.
Keep in mind that experts' opinions vary widely on the use of supplements. Some think they are necessary, others believe that as long as a varied diet with different meats is fed, there is no need to add supplements. Read as much as you can about cat nutrition and raw diets before deciding for yourself.
If you want to save time and buy commercially prepared raw ground diets for your cats, check with specialty pet stores and search online for raw pet food distributors. Many sell everything from rabbit and venison to organic chicken and quail, both with or without vegetables and supplements added. This will be a little pricier but much easier and a good way to get important variety into your cat's raw diet.
It's quite possible to feed a cat with what you buy at a grocery store or butcher; cats don't need to have their food ground. The challenge is to find bones small enough that they can eat. Some people actually buy pre-killed mice sold for snakes. If you ask, butchers will get chicken necks for you, these are easy for a cat to eat and great for their teeth. Cornish game hens, smaller chicken bones, rabbit and fish are other good bone sources. It is essential that cats have taurine in their diet. This is found most abundantly in heart meat so buy chicken gizzards and hearts, beef heart and any other heart meat you can. Since it's virtually impossible to over supplement taurine many people also supplement with taurine, available anywhere supplements are sold. Canned clams, mackerel and sardines are also high in taurine and highly nutritious when fed as part of a raw diet for your cat.
Always give your cats fresh water. Many vets realize that urinary tract problems and diabetes is due to domestic cats being chronically dehydrated on a dry-only diet. Even if you decide not to feed a raw diet to your cats, consider adding canned food to their dry pellet food. Cats are descended from desert carnivores and Nature designed them to get their moisture from raw meat, so they have a very low thirst drive. Many cats do not drink enough water to compensate for the dry pellet diet and have chronic health problems as a result.
Some cats can be very resistant to any diet change, while others will take to a raw diet without a second thought. If your cat is resistant, switch the diet very slowly. If you feed any canned food, mix a very small amount of the raw mix or chopped raw to their canned food. Over the course of several weeks increase the raw portion until they are eating it. Most cats dislike eating food straight from the refrigerator. Warming it with hot water or for about 20 seconds in the microwave makes it more palatable.