(Be sure to read An Open Letter (because apparently that’s what everyone is doing now) to Anyone Who Ever Owned a Cat, Ever. prior to this post!)
What do cats eat in their natural environment? Ok, let’s pretend for a moment that their “natural” environment isn’t your temperature controlled, furniture filled, luxurious city apartment (wait, why aren’t our cats chipping in for rent?). If you answered rabbits, mice, birds or bugs – you would be correct! If you said rice, berries, corn or any other grain, thanks for playing but Steve Harvey is sending you home (not by accident). This. Makes. Sense. Way back when cats were first domesticated, folks started to bring them into their houses because they would hunt the mice and other pests but leave their grains alone (unless you were lucky enough to own a weird, carb-loving cat *coughLuigicough*). Grains and other pet food fillers are cheap to obtain and manufacture and for this reason companies process them into their pet foods and label them as “potentially beneficial ingredients” – saves money, covers their asses, and fools ours. The sad part is, to really learn about this industry you have to get about 7-8 pages deep into your Google search to actually find some accurate information – and I mean coming from a CREDIBLE source, not those that are partially funded or supported by these same commercial pet food companies.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some very admirable commercial diets out there – both raw and wet – and I’d be a hypocrite to say I don’t use them myself. Mario and Luigi have benefited from (and both love) the grain free Wellness brand (conveniently found at Whole Foods and PetCo/PetSmart) and I personally know many kitties who have seen great results eating Weruva, Natural Balance, Tiki Cat, Primal (raw brand that can be found at some Whole Foods) and many others. Over the past few months I’ve taken a stab at making my own raw food for Mario and Luigi. The process has been fun, frustrating, eye opening and time consuming. I know this kind of commitment isn’t ideal for everyone but since I run a cat-lifestyle business and have a bit of an obsession with the feline diet, this is time well spent for me. I love learning about their nutritional needs and prepping their meals knowing I’m doing a good thing for my boys (as a result I’ve been getting better at putting that much thought and effort into my own meals as well!). And of course, they LOVE to eat the raw food….. most days.
We’ve had ups and downs during this transition to raw – sometimes I blame myself and other times I blame the boys. I could feel overwhelmed or unmotivated for a week or two and raw meal prep falls off my priority list and I end up with cans of Wellness – I’m okay with that. It never feels like I’m starting over. I don’t encourage switching back and forth between brands/types of food often (this will most certainly cause digestive issues as all diet changes should be done gradually) but I feel comfortable with our process since we have had zero stomach sensitivities going between the raw and the Wellness. In other instances, Mario and Luigi will have no problem eating the raw for 2 or 3 weeks straight and then all of the sudden they aren’t interested for a few days (hence the frustration piece – “I just SLAVED over this meal for you, you ungrateful little fluffhead”).
I haven’t quite figured out the rhyme or reason to their eating habits – when I meet clients for the first time I often tell them that 50% of my job is spent trying to outsmart cats while the other 50% is spent being outsmarted by cats – and this stands especially true when it comes to my own. There have been times when I second-guess the quality of the meat I just served – are they trying to tell me something, has it gone bad? Have I given them too much chicken this week and their bodies are craving red meat tonight? Did I accidentally leave a small blob of dish soap when I was cleaning the bowl and now they think the meat tastes like soap? Did I drop a piece of onion while cooking last night that was accidentally eaten because it looked like meat when it dried up? You know – those logical, non-crazy thoughts that every seasoned cat lady has regularly…
A lot goes into making a raw diet – it can’t just be thigh or breast meat. Think of it like this: When a wild cat catches a bird, they aren’t carefully removing the wings, dipping them in bleu cheese and having the waiter clear the rest. They are going to get in there and eat the heart, liver, kidney and even some of the bones. These organs and bones contain certain amino acids and nutrients (taurine, calcium, etc.) that are essential to a cat’s health. So in order for a raw diet to work it’s beautiful magic, you’ve got to make sure the proper amounts are being included (whether naturally or via supplements) yet not overdone. I could go on and on for days about the ins and outs of different raw diets but… oh wait, I will go on and on about this in my next post 😉
With all of that being said, it is important to remember – THIS IS ME. You should feed your cat what you want and whatever works with your lifestyle! The last thing I want you to do is jump into a diet that you are uneducated about and although so many do flourish with raw, there are also some cats with kidney issues or immune deficiencies who would not benefit from a raw diet and for these reasons I always recommend speaking with your vet before making any major diet change. The only thing I want to encourage you to do along the way is dig a bit deeper than the enticing words on the front of a cat food bag/can and little by little learn more about what you are really feeding your feline friends – it may surprise you (pleasantly or unpleasantly). To me, this discussion relates to the whole “breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding” argument and ultimately what’s really important to me in this scenario, is that your (fur) baby is EATING FOOD and of course has a safe and loving home. Seriously, whatever you choose to feed – raw, wet, dry – no judgment here and to each their own. [Uh, hopefully an unnecessary disclaimer – but just wanted to clarify that I do not condone breastfeeding your cat. ]
What’s next?? Read Making Ends Meat.