About two years before I met my beloved little poodle, Butch, my cat passed away at the age of seventeen. A ripe old age many may say, but after he died of kidney failure, I had a few years to reflect on why there was no reason he might not have lived many more healthy years had I only known then what I know now about diet and nutrition.
I have since concluded that I was a colossal idiot about how and what I fed my dear Mr. Cat, unwittingly trusting the veterinary establishment to his detriment and slowly killing him with chronic dehydration. You see? I bought the bag.
My vet convinced me it was the good stuff. Healthier for him than the raw eggs, cheese, and occasional gecko he had been living on while he was a stray. In retrospect, however, I now believe he’d have been better off hunting his own. The scientifically-formulated bags of grain and crap we buy aren’t right for any cat or dog however much they may seem to crave it and however much you may pay for it.
Our pet animals simply cannot take in enough water by drinking straight water to compensate for what they need to take in as water content of their food. The grains and other fillers used are indigestible by carnivores and are the source of allergies and auto-immune dysfunction in pets aplenty.
Cats, especially, can only gain access to dietary carbohydrates by consuming them in the gut of prey which actually produce enzymes needed to break these macronutrients down into their various chemical components. Cats’ guts cannot break down carbs at all. Dogs only have limited access to those enzymes.
So why are grains in there? Because the government subsidizes their production, meaning grain is way cheaper than meat, and those fillers make it seem like our animals are eating enough though it’s really stuff their bodies can’t even use. I also suspect, as with people, they also make crap food more palatable—like kitty candy.
And Mr. Cat? Year after year of UTIs? “He’s a neutered male and they’re prone to those.” “Crystals” in his urine? “Let’s switch him to a special, low mineral ‘therapeutic’ diet.” Two years of subcutaneous saline injections? “He’s getting older. It happens. We don’t know why.”
And they don’t know why. Nutrition is about as well-understood by vets as by human doctors. (Read: not at all.)
So when I got my Butch and later fostered a kitten, Gary, I learned about feeding raw. It’s a huge pain, I will grant you, so when I don’t have the time to manage it, I at least feed organic, grain-free canned or organic frozen raw medallions from a reputable source and then supplement with raw meat, skin, bones, fat, and organs as often as I can.
If not raw feeding, just be sure the first two to five ingredients on the canned food or frozen medallions for both cats and dogs are non-pork meat. Not “by-products.” Meat. There also ideally should be a good balance between muscle, skin, bones, and organs.
Should you decide to “go raw,” do your research to learn how and then know this: vets freak out at the idea of feeding bones, even to carnivores, because they see so many critters needing surgery to remove them. Most surgical cases involve COOKED bones, however, not raw.
And pets need to chew raw, flexible poultry bones and connective tissue to keep their jaws and teeth strong. Additionally, bones supply much needed collagen, calcium, magnesium, and other vital minerals to your pets’ diet the way nature normally does—not as an additive. To be sure, your pets’ stomach acid is plenty strong enough to digest soft raw bones long before those bones enter the intestine.
Please note: I do specifically recommend raw poultry bones over raw bones of beef and other large animal. I personally fear that raw bones of larger animals may be more problematic than bones of fowl especially for small dogs, like mine, and domestic cats. I also avoid small, long bones, like poultry ribs, as discussed below.
Cooked bones of all kinds, unlike raw bones, splinter and are easily capable of puncturing esophagi, stomachs and, surviving the stomach, your pets’ delicate intestines. Those bones also lose vital collagen as they are heated. In short, do NOT cook any bones you feed your carnivore!
Also, know your pet. If he’s a gobbler, you may want to grind the bones and meat to a very fine, even consistency before feeding or skip the bones altogether. My dog is a chewer so I feel better about his eating raw bones as he carefully breaks them up with his teeth before swallowing. And, knowing my dog could just as soon choke on dry food, I’ve chosen to feed him the raw and NOT the definitely unhealthful dry.
(The bottom line is you are just going to have to make your own call on the risk-benefit of feeding bones, Cupcake.)
Organ meat is another essential part of a healthful diet for your carnivore as it is rich in needed vitamins and enzymes as well. For goodness’ sake, don’t toss that bag of giblets even if you aren’t into the delights of chicken liver and gizzards. Feed them to your cats and dogs. They will think you are the best!
I even snip chicken, duck, and turkey necks into bite-sized, single vertebrae disks with kitchen shears and disjoint wings for my nine-pound doggie. (I used to give him the whole thing, but then he started “saving” his raw chicken parts between the sofa cushions for later snacking. Mom was not happy. Smaller bits can be doled out to him until he finishes and the rest kept for later.)
The next objection typically raised is about salmonella, e coli, and other crap the establishment wants us to believe is lurking on every bit of raw food ever purchased. My responses are the following:
First, your sweet little doggies and kitties have evolved over eons with gastrointestinal biochemistry specifically designed to kill such critters on contact. If you animal is reasonably healthy, he can handle it! (Read stories of stray pups who make their living on road kill and live to tell, if you don’t believe me….)
Second, feed good quality, organic, pastured meat, if you can. The scariest germs seem to be found on sickly, feedlot, antibiotic-enhanced, Franken-livestock meats. Avoid them. Always. For you too.
Third, cost. Yup. Feeding your animal well and raw may cost you a bit of time or money. That being said, backs and organ meat come free with every whole chicken you plan to cut up anyway. I don’t feed rib bones to my pup because I feel that would just be asking for a medical emergency, but I do skin and trim the back and, between that and the giblet packet, feed him rather well for a two to three days.
My butcher even has been known to give me huge quantities of scrap turkey meat and bones around the holidays—free for the asking. Frankly, it took a little while to trim and pack those “free” scraps, but after re-freezing the gallon bags of meat, my babies ate raw for weeks. You will also find that real meat and fat fills your pet up sooner, and he will eat less in turn. See? Cost-effective.
Finally, practice good sanitation when raw feeding. This includes keeping your pet’s raw feed bowl super clean and certainly washing it following contact with raw meat. Also, be sure to disinfect the areas of the floor and/or kennel where your pet will undoubtedly drag his raw meat “prey” before eating it.
I also cover or bag and refrigerate or freeze meat I don’t plan on feeding within a few hours. Then I take the meat out and allow to warm to room temperature before presenting it to my critter. Chilled food just doesn’t have as much flavor.
As much as I believe in the safety of raw feeding, I do make it a practice to supervise my animal when he eats raw just in case he runs into trouble or decides to wander off with a bit of raw “treasure.” It’s also rather entertaining to see the primal behavior which sometimes surfaces in my sweet, innocent, tame little friend in the presence of raw food. He may shake it, throw it in the air, or pounce on it (as my foster cat, Gary, does). They know it’s prey, people.
Raw food is not just nutritionally necessary from time-to-time, but our animals know the difference between real food and the normal nonsense we feed them in lieu of what they really want to eat. Help them and their health by feeding them they way they need and not the way the industrial food complex would have us believe we should!