How to Build a Raw Food Diet for Cats + Transition Tips
Posted on October 18 2022
All animals on the planet are biologically wired to eat a specific way. Carnivores eat meat. Omnivores eat plants and meat. Herbivores eat plants. Now some may argue about what category some animals fall under. Some say that dogs should only eat meat and others believe that dogs and wolves can and should eat a little plant matter. But there is little argument as to what category cats should fall under.
Cats are called "obligate carnivores" meaning they require only meat product in their diet. They have zero requirement for plant food or carbs.
So why would we feed them any other way?
While the category cat fall under is undisputed, it seems like kibble companies like to pretend it's not the case. In fact, there can be very little meat used in the production of kibble for cats.
Many kibble diets will start with one protein source at the beginning of the ingredient list, followed by corn gluten meal, rice, and/or wheat products. Hill's Science Diet Adult Oral Care Cat Food even includes fruits and vegetables at the end of the list:
When feeding our animals, it's important to consider the digestibility of the food. Digestibility, also referred to as bioavailability, looks at how easily a food is digested, used, and absorbed by the body.
Food that supports digestibility is food that the animal is biologically set up to eat. A cat that is fed grain and plant matter, will have a harder time processing and using the nutrients from their food than those who are fed a diet strictly composed of meat product.
Benefits of a highly digestible diet are:
- Proper digestive function
- Efficient nutrient absorption
- Ease of weight management
- Reduced stool size
- Consistent energy levels
- Slows aging process
Creating a Raw Food Diet for Cats
The foundation of a raw diet for cats is: meat, bone, and organs. Ideally your cat will be getting a variety of protein options served to them. Variety allows them to regulate their vitamins and minerals, achieving balance in their diet over time.
Bones are important in a raw diet to provide the necessary calcium and to work together with the phosphorus in the meat for proper growth and development. Cats can eat raw meaty bones, but they should never be fed cooked bones.
Bone content for adult cats (cats over a year old) should be around 6-10% of their daily intake and 17% for kittens. Bones can come from sources like: chicken wing tips, chicken neck, ground bones (like what is included in our Doggy Moggy Mixes), chicken feet, rabbit, or quail. Kittens, older cats, or cats fed a kibble diet for most of their lives may have a hard time with the whole bone. In these cases, ground bone and/or bone powder (Four Leaf Rover Better Bones) is a great option.
Another important aspect of a cat's diet is taurine. Taurine is one of 22 amino acids. Amino acids are protein building blocks. Some amino acids are non essential which means that a healthy body can produce it. Other amino acids are essential, the body cannot produce them and they must be included in the diet. Dogs have 10 essential amino acids and cats have 11. Most dogs are able to produce taurine in their bodies, but cats cannot.
Taurine is found in fish, meat, organs, and milk. The amount of taurine found in meat products varies depending on the animal. Larger animals tend to have smaller amounts of taurine while small animals have more. Hard working muscles such as the heart will also have a higher concentration of taurine present.
When meat thaws, there is a liquid that leaks out. Don't throw this out! This liquid is called myoglobin and is a great source of taurine along with other nutrients.
A balanced diet is achieved through variety. In addition to the foundation of meat, bone, and organ we recommend adding in a food from each category below to help ensure your cat is getting what they need through their diet. Below is a list of important Vitamins and Minerals for cats and their sources to include in your cats meals.
Vitamin B: Nutritional Yeast
Vitamin D: Raw eggs, Sardines, Herring, Mackeral
Iron: Beef or Lamb Spleen (Spleen is included in our Doggy Moggy Beef blends)
Zinc: Oysters & Red Meat (Doggy Moggy Beef)
Vitamin E: Brain & Eggs in small amounts. Supplementation is recommended. (If you have a Vitamin E product you have used for your cats, drop them in the comment section below!)
EPA & DHA: Salmon, Sardines, Mackeral, Herring, Adored Beast Potent Sea Omega 3
For additional supplements like Probiotics and Leaky Gut protocols, we recommend Adored Beast. They are a trusted supplier of many items for dogs, cats and horses.
PAID PARTNERSHIP: ADORED BEAST CAT SUPPLEMENTS
HOW TO TRANSITION
Cats are notorious for being particular about their food. Transitioning a cat to a raw diet can be a longer process than transitioning a dog. It will require patience and consistency.
To research for this post, I watched a Facebook Live hosted by Gwen from Dr. Judy Morgan's team with Julie Anne Thorne from Naturally Cats. It was an extremely informational watch and I highly recommend taking some time to check it out if you want to deep dive into a raw transition for your cats. The tips I outline below reflect some of what was discussed.
TIP 1: Assess their past experience
Are you feeding a kitten who is being weaned to solid food or an adult who has been eating kibble for the majority of their life? Is your cat a house pet or do they spend a lot of time outdoors? When outdoors do they like to hunt? Have they had exposure to different foods other than kibble?
Assessing where your cat is now is an important step in determining a plan for the transition process.
Cats who haven't had a lot of exposure to hunting outside or raw meat might require a system reset. When eating kibble, they are not required to access their prey drive instinct and they might not realize that the raw meat you put in front of them is food. Part of the process will be reacquainting your cat with what should be normal for them.
TIP 2: Free Feeding & Feeding Vessel
Before making changes to their food, examine how you are currently feeding your cat. Free feeding is tricky when dealing with raw food as it can't be left out for long periods of time. READ: How to Thaw and Store Raw Pet Food
If your cat is currently free feeding, introduce a new feeding schedule before changing their food. Ideally your cat will be getting 3-4 meals a day. Twice a day is also acceptable. Decide on a frequency that works for you and determine set feeding times.
When deciding on a schedule, take note of when your cat is most active during the day. Try to plan meal times to be during these periods. This is when they will be more alert and may be more receptive to new foods.
Next examine what you are using to feed your cat. If you are currently feeding in a bowl, consider using a plate or a Mine Pet Platter. Reasons for this will come into play in later tips, but there is also something to be said for how the bowl can affect your cats meal time.
Bowls can contribute to "whisker fatigue" for cats. Cat's whiskers contain extremely sensitive sensory organs at the tips of their whiskers. They use them to gather information about their world. The constant contact with items, such as the high walls of a bowl, can cause overwhelm and in some cases discomfort and pain. Mixing the overwhelm from the whisker fatigue with introducing new food may complicate the transition process.
Signs of whisker fatigue:
- pacing in front of bowl
- refusing to eat but appears hungry
- pawing at food and relocating it to another spot before eating
- acting aggressive toward other animals when food is around
Using a flat surface like a plate or the Mine Pet Platter will remove this barrier and will likely produce a more comfortable feeding situation for your cat.
TIP 3: Introduce Small Changes Over Time
Now that you have addressed when and how your cat eats, time to introduce the new food. The key will be introducing small changes over time.
Assess what changes you can make to help move towards your goal based on your specific cat. Create a plan that allows for progressive changes over time.
To start, you can test their instincts and see how they respond to a raw piece of meat. Do they shy away from it or start to play or even eat it? This will stimulate them mentally and will get them to start to awaken their prey drive.
Next you could consider adding moisture to their kibble. This could be bone broth, goats milk, or myoglobin. I would start first with the bone broth and then work your way up to the myoglobin. Smell is important. If cats don't recognize a smell, they might resist. Once you work your way up to myoglobin, this might help introducing the meat smell to them.
Once they seem comfortable with the liquid, serve one plate of their regular food (with or without the liquid) with a plate of raw food beside it. Your cat might not take the raw food right away. Consistency is key here. Keep presenting the raw food with their regular food until they start to show interest.
Once they do, you can consider adding some raw along with their kibble. Once they eat the raw, reduce the amount of kibble and repeat until they are eating raw full time.
It's important to note that cats will starve themselves. You will hear in the dog world that most healthy dogs will not starve themselves - they will eat when they are ready. Cats are different. If they decide they won't eat, they won't eat. This is one of the reasons why slow and steady is the name of the game when introducing a raw diet.
As mentioned, smell plays a big role in transition. If cats smell something in the kitchen that they prefer, they might hold out and resist. Consider moving those items to a space away from the feeding area.
If you experience resistance, go back to a previous step and stay there for a period of time before you continue on. Be open to the fact that you might waste some food in the process and will need to adjust your plan depending on your cats progress.
TIP 4: Consistent Exposure
Even if plans change, remain consistent. Remember that you are rewiring their brain to recognize a "new to them" source of food. Consistency will be your friend and will yield the best results.
TIP 5: Explore Textures
As you go along your journey with your cat, you might find that exploring different textures might help.
Say your cat isn't responding to the raw meat at all. What would happen if you dial back and try mixing freeze dried with the kibble? Eventually switching from kibble to freeze dried and then reintroducing raw along with the freeze dried as a topper?
Maybe your cat prefers the raw food partially frozen or completely thawed. Or a raw meaty bone included with the raw meal.
Whatever you try to do, always make sure there are elements of consistency in the meal.
How much to feed
How much food your cat receives depends on their activity level, if they need to gain/lose weight, if they are an adult or kitten. Below are guideline percentages to calculate feeding amounts. It's important to remember that all cats are different. These guidelines are meant to provide you with a starting point and you will need to adjust over time based on what works best for your cat.
Adult Cat: Cats over one year require 2-4% of their current weight per day. Cats that have little to no activity during the day would start at the lower range of 2%. The more active the cat, more food is required. An average cat will do well with 3% as their daily intake.
Example: A cat that is 15 lb x 3% will receive 0.45 lb per day.
If a cat needs to lose weight, use their ideal weight (not current weight) for the calculations.
Kittens: The amounts that kittens are fed is dynamic through out their first year of life.
4-12 weeks old: 9-10% of their current weight
3-4 months old: 8% or 8.5% of their current weight
5-6 months old: 7% or 7.5% of their current weight
6 - 8 months old: 6% or 6.5% of their current weight
8 - 10 months old: 5% or 5.5% of their current weight
10 - 12 months old: 4% or 4.5% of their current weight
Try these blends!
These are the blends featured in our store that would be appropriate for feeding to your cats:
Doggy Moggy Beef (Includes tripe in the formula)
Doggy Moggy Tripe (supplemental feeding only, this is not a full meal)
We want to hear from you!
If you have transitioned to raw, feed our raw pet food (or any raw) to your cats, or have insight that we didn't cover please leave a comment below for our #granddograwpack to learn from your experience!
Thanks for taking the time to read and share our post! If you have any questions about this or any other topic, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amanda Monsma (she/her)
Disclaimer: All information presented on this website is for informational and/or educational purposes only and based on our experience and those shared by our clients. These statements have not been evaluated by a veterinarian. This website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and is not intended to be a substitute or replacement for any medical treatment. Please seek the advice of a holistic veterinarian for your dog’s specific health concerns.