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A life-changing option for cats

If you read my column regularly (thank you), you know I am a real/raw food advocate. Most of my columns about nutrition focus on our canine companions but today I’m going to focus on cats.

Cats are obligate carnivores – meaning they cannot properly digest vegetation. There may be dispute about whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores, but there is no debate that cats are carnivores and need a meat-heavy diet.

The first dry/canned foods for cats caused a lot of issues because they did not contain sufficient taurine, an essential amino acid for cats, either because the ingredients were not meat, or the processing cooked it out.

In nature, and for hundreds of years before we started feeding them processed foods, cats ate mice and other vermin. On average, they’d eat four nice, fresh mice a day, and they were trim, sleek and at the peak of health.

Like us, when processed foods became the bulk of their diets, we saw changes in our cats, and not for the better. We accepted that the norm shifted to cats like Garfield, the cartoon character who loves carbs (lasagna). It was normal that he was overweight.

We have an epidemic of overweight, diabetic cats, and the lion’s share of the blame for is poor diet. Dry crunchies are so convenient – just fill the bowl when it is empty. Nowadays a cat doesn’t get much exercise hunting for food. If they are lucky, they get some canned food, which at least gets some water into them.

Water. Yes, dogs eat kibble and lap up a gallon of water after in a less than a minute. Their tongues and mouths make drinking easy. Cats, however, cannot drink like dog, nor do they actually want to drink. Cats are ancestrally from the desert, and do not trust standing water. Which is why they like to drink dripping water from the tap, or toilet water. There are many brands and types of fountains designed to encourage cats to drink but their tongues cannot scoop up water like those of dogs, so what sticks to their tongues when they dip is what they get. So it is hard for cats to hydrate when eating dry foods.

We know, as humans, that if we don’t hydrate enough, we will have problems. In cats, this is a major reason they have kidney issues and crystals. Which is why most vets encourage canned food, either all canned, or at least some. But canned food is expensive, and that can cause cat owners to not give them enough.

So now we get to my favourite solution – raw foods. Raw cat food is about as close to eating mice as you can offer a cat. And – here’s the fun part – it can be cheaper than feeding canned food, even cheaper than feeding canned and dry.

The best part is that raw-fed cats get hydrated food, so they have fewer kidney and bladder issues. If given treats such as chicken necks or feet, or other meaty bones, they can have much fewer dental issues. They also tend to shed a lot less, especially if you include Omega 3 supplements. And, because there are no fermenting carbs to deal with, their litter box has far less odour and 75 per cent less fecal matter. They will, however, urinate more, which we all know is a good thing, and there are litter options that do not include scooping out clumps caused by urine.

Next column, I will address how to get cats to eat raw food. Being cats, they don’t always do what we want.