Raw Food Diets For Cats (Are They Safe Or Not?)

If you follow pet news it has recently become quite trendy to follow raw food diets for cats.

If you’re not familiar, this basically means feeding your cat a diet of uncooked animal muscle meat, organ meat, and in some cases even including the bones.

You’re probably wondering if it is safe to try a raw diet for your cat. Before we answer the safety let’s get a full understanding of the raw diet (or feel free to pop open the quick nav and read the answer).


What Is a Raw Diet for Cats? 

To reiterate above, a raw diet means uncooked meat, muscle or organs, and bones. This type of food is sometimes called the BARF diet. No, it isn’t because it makes your cat get sick and barf all over the house.

BARF stands for "bones and raw food" or "biologically-appropriate raw food." Note you may also hear a Raw Diet or a BARF diet called a Fresh Food Diet as well.

chunks-of-raw-meat

The ideal raw diet is prepared based on a carefully designed recipe. Many cat owners choose to prepare these diets themselves, but you can also buy them pre-made in freeze dried packaging.

If you choose to feed your cat a raw diet, it should be one that has been determined complete and balanced by a veterinary nutritionist.


Why Consider A Raw Food Diet?

Cats thrive on high-protein and high-moisture diets rich in substances only found in meat. Felines are obligate carnivores. Which essentially means they must eat meat to survive.

This means that wet cat food is healthier than dry food cat food, but the negative PR associated to commercially available processed food (dry foods make your cat fat, both wet and dry food can suffer from product recalls) has many people starting to pursue alternative diets for their cats.

These diets are considered both healthier for your cat and better for the planet by avoiding mass production of meat and the hazards that come with it.

I've also heard of a few individuals attempting vegan diets for their cats. If you happen to run into anyone considering feeding a cat a vegan diet please point them to a veterinarian immediately to ensure they know this will be fatal to the cat!

Raw diets are becoming more popular because commercially available foods have additional ingredients cats simply don’t need to survive or they aren't made of high quality ingredients.

Additional unnecessary ingredients can include anything from grains to vegetables to other carbs. But ​most commercial foods also include preservatives that improve shelf life and taste.

Low quality ingredients can basically be the throw away pieces from meat processing for other purposes. Basically meat that isn't fit for human consumption is fed to cats instead.

One of the biggest proponents for raw food diets is Dr. Karen Becker. In this video she discusses how the pet food industry historically used low quality ingredients and how trends are moving toward raw food diets as pet owners are starting to understand more and more about pet health.

Supporters of raw food diets believe that processing or cooking meat isn’t in line with what a cat would experience in the wild and they'd like to help the cat live as close to naturally as possible.

But the owners have other things to consider as well. These cat owners want to remove the dangerous aspects of hunting (like getting lost or injured)​ while ensuring the diet ​is as close as possible to what the cat might experience if it were a wild cat.

a Siamese cat hunting in the grass

Cats, left to their own devices, hunt and eat rodents and other small mammals as well as birds, insects (some cats do an amazing job at this when bugs get in the house), and even reptiles.

Although a wide variety of both wet and dry cat food is seafood based, most wild cats do not actually hunt or eat fish or seafood. There are some rare wild cats that do this, but most don’t.

Supporters of raw food diets for cats note numerous benefits all the way from a shinier coat to losing weight through to better overall health and longevity.

Little research has been done to scientifically prove the benefits of raw food for cats, but research does indicate dry food and carbohydrate ​heavy foods cause obesity in cats which has a direct impact on overall health and lifespan.

Given this it only seems logical to consider a raw food diet. They key item that comes up time and time again with raw diets is whether or not they are actually safe for your cat.


Are Raw Food Diets Safe For Your Cat?

The biggest consideration for any pet owner is that raw diets don’t use cooked food. We humans cook food because it kills large percentages of bacteria that tend to cause food borne illnesses. The most common to impact people are Salmonella and E. coli.

The same risks exist for your cats, especially since you’re not going to catch and kill an animal yourself then feed it to your cat.

The longer meat is "out," refrigerated or not, the more likely it is to develop a risk of infecting your cat. Refrigeration only reduces the speed bacteria multiply, it doesn't stop it.

But Cats Evolved In the Wild

Cats can of course digest raw meat better than humans due to their acidic digestive tracts. They evolved specifically to catch and kill their own prey, but keep in mind they would eat it immediately after killing it.

This means that there’s still a risk of infection and the resulting sickness as the time between killing their prey to eating their prey increases.

As with humans, any cat that has something impacting their immune system should assuredly avoid a raw diet where the risk of infection is higher. FIV cats in particular should take extra care in pursuing a raw food diet due to their susceptibility to get infections.

One other major safety risk ​is bones. Bones break and splinter and can cause all sorts of injuries and obstructions within your cat’s digestive track and throat. Wild cats can and have died from bones, but we humans have solutions for this problem in a meat grinder! 

So What's the Verdict, Safe Or Not?

The short of it is that raw diets can be totally safe for your cat and they can likely provide a host of health benefits for your cat.

But as a cat owner you'll need to be careful about how you prepare food and how you feed your cat a raw diet. It requires extra special care to ensure the food is made properly and has the right nutrients.


How Can I Reduce the Risk of Illness & Injury With a Raw Food Diet?

The biggest thing you need to consider when you’re dealing with a raw diet is to ensure you sanitize the entire preparation and eating area thoroughly and often.

This can be done with a 1:32 bleach:water solution which can be prepared in bulk in advance and put in a spray bottle. I recommend paper towels so you can throw them away after use.

Some of the easiest and best things you can do to minimize risks from a raw diet are:

  • Only purchase your meat from a reliable and trusted source
  • Freeze the meat and prepare it frozen or as cold as possible
  • Prepare the food in a controlled area, preferably away from your kitchen
  • Sanitize everything immediately after preparation
  • Keep your cat out of the preparation area before sanitation
  • Feed your cat in an area that is easy to clean sanitize
  • Use stainless steel bowls that can be boiled or run on a separate dishwasher cycle
  • Be sure bones are ground thoroughly so they don't get stuck or puncture anything

Where Can I Find Raw Diet Recipes?

Consult with your veterinarian before you switch your cat over to a raw diet. Some vets will support this transition, but many will not due to the risks outlined above.

If you feel strongly about trying a raw diet and your vet is not flexible about raw diets then you’ll definitely want to explore finding one who is.

There are plenty of vets experienced with raw diets so they can provide professional support in transitioning to the diet and informing you of any potential issues that might arise.

What Ingredients Do I Need?

The absolute best place I've found for a raw diet recipe for cats is on Feline-Nutrition.org. It'll give you a comprehensive overview of everything you'll need and the recipes themselves. Below is a quick overview.

Ingredients used in a raw food diets typically focus on the following core items: muscle meat, organ meat and eggs. Something like PetMD can get you started with more details on ingredients, but it is important to note that this is not enough.

The short of it is that you can’t simply buy hunks of high-quality meat, grind them up, then let your cat figure the rest out. 

What Supplments Do I Need? 

It is essential that you find an expert to help you outline a comprehensive diet plan due to the additional supplements your cat will need.

A key example here is taurine. For years cats were suffering from a wide variety of issues due to a taurine deficiency in their diets. The simple addition of taurine from all major cat food producers reduced several issues, namely blindness and heart disease.

There are several other potential supplements or additional ingredients an expert may recommend ensuring your cat has a complete diet.

A Great Video To Help

This video also provides a great overview of how to make a large batch of raw cat food for your feline friends:


Do I Have to Make The Raw Food Myself?

The short answer is no. You can buy "raw cat food."

If you want the benefits but simply don’t have the time to make the food yourself then you can consider one of the commercial raw cat food diets. 

These are healthier than traditional dry cat food and they’ll require far less time and dedication.

Be sure to follow all instructions on the packaging as the food was typically prepared raw and then freeze dried for shelf life and shipping.

Note it may run the same risks as making the food at home yourself and you may want to ensure the diet is complete and balanced according to AAFCO standards.

If the risks simply seem to high for you then you can also lean toward a high quality wet cat food. There are many options today that are completely grain free and some that are even vegetable free as well.


How Do I Transition to Raw Food?

Transitioning your cat to a raw food diet can be a time consuming process, especially if you've got a cat that is a picky eater. 

This video with Dr. Becker and Tracy Dion will give an excellent overview of how to help you and your cat make the transition!


Other Things Worth Considering

Feeding your cat a raw diet has many other things worth considering before you decide to move forward:

  • Making food ​can be incredibly time consuming and requires an extensive amount of patience and planning. Just like making food for yourself or you're family it is a serious commitment.
  • Storing raw cat food requires space in your fridge and freezer and preferably you’d have a separate space for it since you usually don't want to mix raw meats with other foods.
  • Making raw cat food requires kitchen equipment most people don’t have at home already. The most common items you probably won’t have are a meat grinder and poultry shears.
a meat grinder
  • If you use an automatic cat feeder due to your cat eating too fast then you’ll want to avoid a raw diet because the longer the food is out the more dangerous it becomes.
  • You’ll likely find making raw cat food diets far more expensive than buying commercialized cat food.

Wrap Up On Raw Food Diets For Cats

​Feeding your cat a raw diet has both benefits and risks associated. The most likely thing to determine whether you go this route is if you have enough time and dedication.

Raw diets are a large commitment from a time and from a resource perspective, but they can provide health benefits to your feline friend if you’re interested in improving their overall health.

If you've got any personal experience with a raw food diet for your cat then please leave a comment below and let us know how it has worked out!


If you find this useful spread the meows...
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

12 thoughts on “Raw Food Diets For Cats (Are They Safe Or Not?)

  • April 1, 2019 at 8:09 pm
    Permalink

    Hey there,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this article as you’ve provided us with tonnes of valuable information. Raw foods are very dangerous for cats because this is something which I’ve experienced. I fed some raw meat to my cat in the afternoon, and when I gave it milk after a couple of hours, it didn’t drink it. Didn’t even have supper that night.

    The next day, I took him to the doctor and found out that there was some bad bacteria developing in the stomach due to the raw meat. My cat showed some symptoms of food poisoning, but now it’s perfectly healthy. As you’ve mentioned in this post, feeding raw food for cats is not safe.

    Thanks a lot for taking your precious time in writing this blog. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • April 2, 2019 at 9:31 pm
      Permalink

      Feeding some types raw food to cats is definitely unsafe, but you can definitely feed your cat lots of raw foods and have it be 100% safe.

      In fact the whole article was written to indicate that it IS safe to feed your cat a properly prepared raw diet. high quality ingredients and proper preparation are a must to maintain that safety though.

      On top of this I would add that you shouldn’t be feeding any adult cat milk. Adult cats cannot process milk or lactose (which is true of most adult animals in general).  Feeding them milk is not good for them.

      Reply
  • April 1, 2019 at 8:13 pm
    Permalink

    I absolutely love what I read in this insightful article because it is full of great information. This is fascinating and interesting to me. Am a fan of cat lover who owns cat and plays with cat always. Your article is a great advantage for me on preparing raw food for my cat. I would love to read this article over again and do what satisfy my cat. Thanks for the Information review. Best regards

    Reply
  • April 1, 2019 at 8:15 pm
    Permalink

    Hello Craig, your article is an eye opener. Come to think of it, since felines are carnivores, it makes perfect sense to feed them with uncooked meat and bones. This article made me understand the importance of wet food than dry food when it comes to cat nutrition. The benefits of feeding cats raw diets are numerous, especially the fact that commercially available foods do contain ingredients that cats don’t usually need.

    Thanks for your tips on minimizing risks from raw diet. I particularly love the idea of preparing the cat food in a controlled area, away from my kitchen. Thanks for your wonderful article.

    Reply
    • April 2, 2019 at 9:33 pm
      Permalink

      Happy to hear that you found the article helpful, thank you for your kind words!

      Once you have had a chance to try a raw diet with your cat please let us know how it goes and how your cat likes it!

      Reply
  • April 1, 2019 at 8:16 pm
    Permalink

    Raw food diet is safe for cats. After all, they hunt small animals by themselves, such as rats and reptiles, when left to go on their own, and feed on them.

    I just learned from your post that cats or rather feline animals are obligate carnivores. Meaning, they are obligated to eat raw meat, weather they or we, like it or not. 

    They have to eat it to survive, that’s how nature built them. So we shouldn’t risk their lives by keeping them away from raw meat. 

    Reply
    • April 2, 2019 at 9:38 pm
      Permalink

      To be clear, being an obligate carnivore doesn’t mean they are required to eat raw meat, it just means they are required to eat meat. Meat contains many things that cats require for their body to function and they can’t get it from vegetables.

      Raw diets are a more natural and can be a more healthy way for cats to eat, especially compared to large scale mass produced foods we see in pet stores today.

      Reply
  • April 1, 2019 at 8:17 pm
    Permalink

    Hello,

    There are days I also feel the urge to give my cat raw food, however I’m not sure if this is good for her health.

    Thanks for the article, now I know I can feed my cat raw food as I desire. You’ve also helped me to know the best way to prepare her diet to avoid bacteria or virus, this has really been a big help. Thanks for sharing this, love your blog!

    Reply
  • April 1, 2019 at 8:26 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for sharing this article on raw diet for cats. Your time and effort in putting this article together to share with us is appreciated. I will agree with you that raw diets can be totally safe for your cat and they can likely provide a host of health benefits for your cat. But care need to be taken in the way the food is being prepared. Precautions to prevent cats from injury or harm is to purchase meat from right sources. I agree with you on all the ways to minimize risk from related diet. This article is really informative, thanks for sharing. 

    Reply
    • April 2, 2019 at 9:28 pm
      Permalink

      I’m glad you found it helpful. Thank you for reading!

      I really do agree that buying all of your ingredients from a trustworthy and well known source is one of the key pieces to ensuring your raw diet is safe for your cats.

      The other biggest factor is definitely in preparation and storage! You want to make sure you sanitize extensively and store your raw food in a properly cooled space.

      Reply
  • April 1, 2019 at 8:32 pm
    Permalink

    I had heard friends talking about the new raw diet for cats, but I never read a detailed review on the subject. Thank you for making that possible! I was surprised to learn that cats don’t eat fish in the wild. I would have thought they would dine on dead fish that they found around water. When you feed the raw egg to the cat, is it beaten to break up the yolk? My cats do not like eggs raw, but they will eat cooked eggs. I think it sounds more healthy for cats to eat the proper raw diet, especialy with the problems of pets dying because of contaminants in pet food from China.

    Thanks for the education of this diet. 

    Reply
    • April 2, 2019 at 9:26 pm
      Permalink

      Each recipe will be different in regards to the egg related piece, so I don’t want to give you a generalized answer of yes or no, many recipes won’t even include eggs.

      Raw diets certainly can be healthier if they are designed right! But just like the trend in ‘clean eating’ you have to make sure you know what you’re doing and that you use good quality recipes so your cats nutrition needs are being met.

      Reply

Leave a Reply to AV2001 Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *