(Be sure to check out [Cat] Life in the Raw prior to reading this post!)
I’ve done out the math on this process about twenty times now and each time I’m still pleasantly surprised to see that the cost of a homemade raw diet is less (significantly less in some cases) than most commercial diets. I’m lucky enough to have a super reasonably priced specialty meat market right up the street where I have no trouble finding the meats and obscure organs needed for nutritionally balanced meals (shout out to McKinnon’s Meat Market in Davis Square – one time I asked a gentleman working there if they had any chicken hearts left and after going in the back to get me some, he asked how exactly I planned to cook them.. when I told him I was going to feed them to my cat, two other employees came over to hear more about the raw diet – one of them even had a cat and said he never thought to feed her raw meat – it was neat, the place can’t be beat!).
Here’s a pic of my “harvest” from earlier this year when we had first started our raw journey. Goes without saying that since you are handling raw meat, be sure to work on sanitary counter spaces and be very conscious of contamination along the way.
I found pretty early on that the meats were a lot easier to work with when they were frozen (especially organs and thigh meat) and since I was buying in bulk it made sense to preserve via freezing anyways. Below are the “meat bags” (gross, I promise never to use that term again) labeled with the type of meat and date. I put the large pieces into the bags and froze them overnight.
I’d let the meat thaw in the fridge just long enough that I’d be able to cut into it without breaking a knife. As I mentioned, it’s a lot easier to cut into nice small cubes when frozen! At this point in our transition, I was still cutting all of the meats into really tiny cubes. I decided not to ground their meat with a meat grinder (although that is a raw feeding method!) and instead jumped right into small chunks of meat mixed into the grain-free canned food they were already eating. Look at that pretty meat hombre below – isn’t it hauntingly beautiful? No? Fine.
When these pictures were taken I hadn’t yet purchased my food scale, so at this point I was eyeballing amounts based on the ounces on the package and my estimated serving size math. With my scale, it’s easier to be confident in my ratios to ensure Mario and Luigi aren’t getting too much – or too little – of what they need. SCIENCE. It’s never been my strong suit but I do feel like some type of mad-meat scientist playing with their food in a way their mother never let them as a child… Anyways, here I laid out individual servings – note that these are small amounts compared to a full raw meal, again this was the very beginning of our transition. These serving piles are mostly meat (chicken thigh & breast, beef chunks) with some organ (chicken livers and beef kidney). I first started out trying to get a little bit of everything they need into one meal serving – since that’s how us humans like to do it – again balanced meals made sense to me. But as I did more research, I realized that cats are different than us and rather than focusing on daily nutrition, a long-term nutrition approach might be more appropriate. What I mean by that is… by portioning carefully and correctly, your cat could get the necessary amount of Vitamin A from eating liver once or twice a week rather than every day. Or perhaps letting them gnaw and eat the bones two or three days per week will give them the proper amount of calcium without overdoing it. Omega 3’s also enhance a kitty’s diet but instead of feeding fish frequently, one sardine a week would be all the contribution your cat needs! BALANCE. And there are also different pre-mixes that contain all of these essential nutrients (including bone calcium!) that can be added to your raw meat meals to make them nutritionally complete – like this one from Feline Instincts or this mix from TCfeline.
Annnnnd then they go into individual bags (but don’t do as you see here and try to use reusable containers as much as possible!). These go into the freezer and then into the fridge to thaw about 12-24 hours prior to feeding. BOOM!
Mario and Luigi took to the raw meat FAST! I wasn’t too surprised by this, I had read before that raw meat was okay to give to cats so over the years the boys gotten pieces on occasion and always ate them with gusto. Here is the “first supper” – grain-free canned mixed with the raw chunks – NOMNOM.
And here’s a video of Luigi munching away a few weeks later – bigger raw chunks, less wet food 🙂
If you’re looking for more information on raw feeding and/or cat nutrition in general, I’ve found the following resources to be immensely helpful and enlightening (and quite refreshingly honest if I’m being, well…. honest!).
Natural Care Pet Blog – Today’s best cat foods–reviews of canned and raw options
^ Winners! I love this list of the best commercial cat foods and the detailed information about ingredients, sourcing, cost, additives, etc.
Natural Care Pet Blog – These natural cat foods didn’t make the “best” list: here’s why
^ Runner Ups! More great cat foods that just weren’t quite as purrfect as the ones above – and why.
CatCentric, Non-Profit – Better Lives through Better Care!
^ Hands down my favorite organization and site when it comes to cat health, behavior, and nutrition. Founder Tracy is a Massachusetts native and knows her stuff.
Feline Nutrition Foundation, Non-Profit – Bio-Appropriate Diets
^ Educating pet parents about the benefits of raw meat diets for felines and to advocate for changing how cats are fed.
Cat Nutrition – It’s About Putting Optimal Fuel Into Our Cats
^ Mother Nature knows what a cat should eat… You should too!
Making Cat Food – Lisa A. Pierson, Dr. in Veterinary Medicine
^ This was the first site I ever found related to making raw diets, she broke it down into a science I could understand and I appreciate her outlook on the process.
… and if you don’t believe all of us, how about Jackson Galaxy? That’s right, cat fanatic and star of Animal Planet’s My Cat from Hell also fully supports the raw movement!
Here is an example of a weekly raw menu from one of my favorite, local sources!! ***Note: this is for SIX cats***
Happy Feeding! Always feel free to email me with questions 🙂 firstname.lastname@example.org