Our furry little felines, descendant from wild ancestors, are equipped with the necessary teeth and claws to capture small prey. Why? Even though they appear to lazily nap away most of the day, they're obligate carnivores - meaning it is an obligation to their health to eat the flesh and organs of other animals. This diet provides them with specific essential nutrients that they need to survive, which their own bodies do not synthesize themselves and cannot be absorbed in any other way.
Kibble is the single most detrimental way to feed a cat. As with all living species, a whole foods, fresh diet is best - due to the very minimal processing and the bioavailability of amino acids and vitamins in raw meat. Has your cat experienced urinary tract issues? Vomiting? Gastrointestinal illness? Cancer? Kidney disease? These health problems can be traced back to a severely deficient diet. Forced digestion for an animal that is meant to process whole meats and organs - not dried, highly heated and processed bits. I'm not just a crazy, raw-feeding fanatic. These claims are based in scientific fact, and I firmly believe that nutrition is an important preventative measure to not only see an animal merely survive...that animal should, theoretically thrive. Dry food needs a carbohydrate base in order to hold together in dry kibble form; cats have no need whatsoever for carbohydrates in their diet and food that dry does not provide the 70% or higher level of moisture that a cat needs in order to retain the appropriate amount of water. I make my own cat food. It's not difficult and one of my cats loves it. The other gets a mixture of grain-free kibble and freeze dried raw commercial cat food. I have tried over 6 of his 13 years to get him onto a fully raw diet, but he refuses to eat enough of the different meats and organs to provide a balanced nutritional long-term intake. I supplement as much fresh food as possible, but he just does not tolerate a fully raw diet. You have to compromise at some point with what your cat can tolerate, and what works for you as well, however I will continue trying to get him to eat fresh foods until he's no longer living on this earthly planet...though it pains me to buy kibble at all, in any form.
The real solution to the major health issues in cats is raw feeding, and I am thankful our other cat has no issue with it. He's stunning, handsome and absolutely gorgeous with very soft, blindingly white fur and no real health issues. Sound gross? Remember, it's not about you, the owner and what you need. It's about your pet, the commitment you have taken on by agreeing to care for the animal, and their species specific nutritional needs. Ready to start a diet to give your cat the energy and vitality he needs, but can't deal with the idea of raw food, either homemade or commercially purchased? A canned diet with no kibble, grain or carbohydrates is a great place to begin, and many cat owners move on to raw diets after seeing the change in the health of their cats on a canned food only diet. Canned food with a raw topper is also a great option when transitioning.
Do you like to give your cat treats? Who doesn't want to spoil our handsome, furry tigers? One way you can work fresh foods into a diet is to use them as treats. In freeze dried or dehydrated form, treats marketed to pet owners can be difficult to navigate. So, here's a great way to differentiate the bad from the good. Most commercial raw food companies also sell a line of treats and theirs are the best place to begin. One of my favorite businesses for a huge variety of treats is Vital Essentials. From rabbit to whole fish, their selection of fresh-food treats is a great way to add in vital nutrients and give your cat the prey-driven enrichment he needs as well. What's the difference between 15 different types of treats, all labeled "salmon", for example? The ingredients list and the country of origin. For example, compare these two treats, both marketed for cats:
1. "Single source protein, USDA certified facility, gluten and grain free, sourced, made, and packaged in USA. Ingredients: Salmon."
2. "Made with the finest ingredients available, [these treats] do not contain any chicken (or poultry) by-product meals, corn, wheat or soy. Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Maple Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Potatoes, Gelatin, Natural Flavor, Salt, Fish Oil, Brewer’s Dried Yeast, Taurine, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols,Phosphoric Acid, Sorbic Acid, Ascorbic Acid and Citric Acid, Oil of Rosemary."
...Which one sounds more appropriate for a whole food, healthy diet - now that you know what it means to be an obligate carnivore? It's not enough to just look at the advertising on the front of the package. Read the ingredients and you'll know exactly what's in food and treats you're feeding your cat. Questions? I can be reached for help with improving pet nutrition at any time via any of my social media or email. The websites linked in this article are extremely valuable and full of important information as well.
More on sourcing treats and food toppers in my next article...raw food for dogs!