In their natural environment, your cat would likely hunt for their food and eat it raw, but most commercial pet foods are cooked and stuffed with fillers that aren't meat. Switching your cat over to a more natural raw food diet can lead to better health, and it will also put you in more control over the quality of the food. Learn about concerns over switching diets and ways to switch your cat over to a raw diet.
Transitioning to a raw diet requires a careful assessment of nutrition and food safety. Understanding the basic dietary and food standard needs of your furry friend helps ensure a healthy and stress-free transition.
Cats have very specific nutrition needs. They are obligate carnivores so an animal protein-rich diet is a must. The food must also provide a balance of amino acids. Generally, cat diets should be relatively low on carbohydrates and fats, with protein making up the bulk of their calories.
Calculate the calories provided in a raw diet, as too many calories will result in obesity concerns, while too few can lead to malnutrition and a host of health complaints. Calories needs depend on the age and weight of the cat, with kittens generally requiring more calories than older cats. A 5 1/2 lb. adult cat, for example, requires about 190 calories a day, while a larger 15 lb. cat will need at least 280 calories to maintain their weight.
With packaged raw food, store it as directed and follow use-by dates closely to avoid contamination. Bacteria is the main concern in this case. If you make your own food, you must be concerned with both bacteria and parasites. Practice proper food safety at home, including sanitizing all surfaces and materials used in food preparation. Further, purchase meat and other ingredients that are fresh and properly stored at the point of sale.
A slow transition onto a raw food diet can help prevent many of the initial challenges. Cats, in particular, can be sensitive to changes in food habits, so a slow start also helps prevent your cat from feeling stress.
Many cats can be nervous about changing food, so they might turn their nose up at a new meal. Further, a drastic diet change can lead to stomach upset. To counteract these concerns, try introducing raw food in small amounts as a simple treat before their regular mealtime. You can then gradually increase the amount of raw food provided while decreasing the portions of their previous food.
When you first begin with a raw diet, opt for prepared food instead of making it yourself. This will help ensure your cat receives the proper nutrients and that the food was prepared in a food-safe facility. Check the label on the food to make sure it provides proper nutrition and that it is recommended by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Once your cat fully transitions to raw food, you can begin experimenting with your own recipes and methods.
Gastrointestinal upset is a main concern when you initially begin a raw diet, but starting the transition slowly helps reduce them. If you notice an increase in vomiting or litter box issues like diarrhea or constipation, then a vet visit is recommended. Other concerns include lethargy, food refusal, or hiding more than usual. Also, take behavior changes seriously. Your vet can check for stomach issues or nutrient deficiencies that may be causing the health changes.
A raw food supplier like Dogs and Cats Rule can help you begin a raw, natural diet program for your cat. Learn more on our website.