Saturday, February 28, 2009

Want to feed your cat “natural”? Feed her meat!

Feeding “natural”: What does that actually mean? Aunt Jeni, one of the nation’s prime raw food manufacturers says on her website: “The word "natural" means different things to different people. It joins the list of buzz words of the 90’s, along with other favorites of the dog food world, such as "healthy" and "organic." "Natural" might mean simply that the product contains no dyes or artificial preservatives. However, the word "natural" as used by a certain group of pet nutritionists is accepted to mean a "species appropriate" diet. This means that we feel dogs are carnivores, and should be fed as carnivores, rather than as forced-omnivores. The pet food industry has managed to convince many of us, most vets included, that dogs can exist well eating as omnivores. Well yes, they can exist that way alright, but wouldn’t it be much nicer to have them do more than exist? Don’t we all strive for the healthiest, happiest pets we can possibly manage to have? Manufacturers of pet food have a job to do: Produce the cheapest possible product that will taste good enough for the Fidos and Fluffies of the world to gobble it up by the bag full. Despite their advertising claims, their main concern is not with the health of your pet, but with the sales of their product. How do they produce the cheapest possible product? By using "4D" meat (meat from diseased, down, dying, and dead animals) and then filling it up with a lot of grains, for which dogs and cats have no dietary requirement , and a limited ability to digest and utilize. Sounds unappetizing, but then why does your pet "love" his dog food so much? Easy: They add sugar, salt, cancer-causing chemicals and tasty preservatives to entice your pet to eat more. On top of all that, the whole mess is heat processed at extremely high temperatures, thereby destroying any remote nutritional goodness that may have been in there in the first place. The end result is a very artificial food that causes your dog to produce a lot of excess gas and other "output" that you must then clean up. Many dogs also suffer itchy/bumpy skin, dull hair coats, brittle nails, diarrhea, early-morning vomiting, and a host of other ailments. But there is a better way to feed your pet a truly healthy, wholesome, and "natural" diet that will bring out the true beauty and outer glow of inner good health. To feed your pet a species-appropriate, natural diet, you need two things: a desire to see improvement in general health problems, and a willingness to make a commitment to bring about the desired changes. Making your pet’s food yourself will never be as easy or convenient as opening the bag or can and filling the dish; however, you may be surprised at how easy it can be, and you certainly will be pleasantly surprised by the results it brings to the life of your pet. You are probably also thinking you can’t afford to feed your pets "real" or "people" food. Surprise again! It is no more expensive, and in many cases is actually cheaper, to make your pet’s food on your own than it is to purchase a premium brand pet food.”
I actually have nothing to add to her assessment but would like to make a change: Replace “Dog” with “Cats & Dogs”. And since I wanted to talk about cats today I decided to let a great expert on the subject write what he has to say: Steve Brown, co-author of
“See Spot live longer”. Steve’s take is: “The Natural Diet of Cats Is Meat
Cats are meat eaters, designed to thrive on a wide variety of small prey animals, eaten fresh and whole. Their natural diet is high in water and protein, with a moderate amount of fat, and a very low percentage of carbohydrate.
Dry cat food is high in grain.
A diet of dry food is high in carbohydrate, between 35 and 50%. “Diet” and “Lite” foods have even more. Dry food contains almost no water. Dry cat food is convenient to feed, and it’s relatively inexpensive, but it’s the opposite of the natural diet of cats. Cats have no dietary need for any carbohydrate.
Cats need to get water from their food
Cats are descended from feline desert dwellers. These cats did not have the option to stroll over to the water hole for a drink, and cat tongues are not even very well designed for drinking water. Cats are adapted to obtain most of their water from their prey, which contain over 75% water. Cats who eat dry food consume only half the water of those who eat wet food, and live in a state of chronic dehydration.
Common health problems of cats are related to diet
There is increasing evidence, published in peer-reviewed veterinary journals, that many of the health problems seen in cats are the result of diets inappropriate for a feline. Dry, grain-based foods fed to a meat eater, over time, result in both chronic and life threatening diseases.
Since cats are designed for a high protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrate diet, it is not surprising that obesity is often seen in cats fed dry food. Diet cat foods have even more carbohydrate than regular ones, and less fat, so they depart even further from the natural diet of cats, making it harder for them to lose weight.
The high level of carbohydrate in dry cat food contributes directly to the development of diabetes in cats. Blood sugar levels rise when cats eat dry food. When this is an ongoing event, insulin producing cells down-regulate, which leads to diabetes.
Kidney Disease
Kidney disease is the most common cause of death for cats. The kidneys require an abundant supply of water to do their job. Without water to process the byproducts of the digestion process, the kidneys are overloaded, become unable to do their job, and are damaged over time.
Bladder Problems
Cystitis, bladder irritation, and Bladder/Kidney stone formation are also strongly connected to dehydration. If the body is well hydrated, these problems are minimized.
Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome and Disease
These problems are often characterized by vomiting and diarrhea and are very common in cats. Cats who eat a species- appropriate diet rarely suffer from these issues.
Dental Disease
Dry food has a high sugar (carbohydrate) content, which has been shown to cause dental decay.
In order for any supposed abrasive benefit from dry foods to be seen, cats would have to actually chew their dry food. Since dry food shatters and they then swallow the pieces, there’s no abrasive action from chewing something hard.
Cats eating dry food often have very severe dental problems. Many factors contribute to dental health, but it is clear that a high carbohydrate diet is not beneficial!
The solution: A diet appropriate for the species
It's simple: cats need to eat a diet that is high in protein and water, with a moderate amount of fat, and almost no carbohydrate.
Most of the health problems we discussed above are either radically improved or eliminated by eating a diet that meets the needs of a carnivore - one which closely resembles the nutritional balance provided by a mouse.
For example, many veterinarians now treat diabetes with a meat-based canned diet. We'd like to go a step further, and prevent these diseases.
Feed your cat a meat based diet!
We suggest that you buy canned food that is designed to be complete, or complete frozen diets that have very little vegetable content. No grain sources should be listed in the ingredient panel. There are grain free canned cat foods that have some vegetables in them, but the vegetables should not be a major component of the food. “All meat” diets are just that, all meat, and they will not meet your cat’s nutritional needs alone.
Make the switch successful!
It sounds simple to just switch your cat’s food, after all, meat tastes better than dry food! Your cat may disagree. Dry foods are designed to be tasty, and many cats are addicted to them. Often, cats are not open to the idea of variety, especially if they have only been fed one food (as we have been advised by pet food companies for decades). Creativity and patience may be needed to switch your cat.
Cats will starve themselves, and they are not good candidates for the tough love approach. Some very serious conditions can occur if cats do not eat for an extended period, especially if cats are overweight. A slow switch will prevent problems.
Here are some ideas to help you along:
Establish regular feeding times and put food away in between meals. For many reasons, it’s best for the body not to have food available all the time. If you have dogs, you know what to do with leftovers!
Feed multiple cats separately.
Consider dry food to be a snack only, not left out all the time, a few pieces as a treat. This is the equivalent of “kitty junk food”.
Offer bits of other kinds of fresh food that you are eating. They may be refused, but one day….they won’t. Your goal is to get your cat to consider things as food other than dry, crunchy items.
Cat whiskers are very sensitive. If food is served in a bowl that interferes with whiskers, it could be enough to keep the cat from considering the food. A flat dish works well.
Cats generally prefer their food between room temperature and body temperature. The dry food cats are used to eating is designed to be very smelly. Cats choose food by smell, and wet food is a lot less fragrant than a commercial food they have been eating. This is often the reason that the second half of a can of food is refused -- the first time it was room temperature! Warming the food releases the flavors and fragrances.
Trickery has been known to work with cats: put the food on YOUR plate, or hide it in a location cats know to be forbidden…creativity helps!
Additions and considerations
Add sardines for good fats, or use fish oil. A meal of sardines once a week or one small sardine a day adds omega-3 fatty acids in their best form – whole food. Cats can’t use plant sources of omega-3s at all - animal sources are necessary. If sardines don’t appeal to you, you can use a– fresh, well-preserved, omega-3 fish oil supplement with vitamin E.
Digestive enzymes and a glandular supplement are good additions to replace the parts of prey animals we normally don’t feed: the stomach contents and smaller glands.
We think that the optimum diet for cats is a raw meat based diet.
However, if you feed a canned diet that approximates the balance of the natural diet of cats, their diet will be fully hydrated, and you will be much closer to providing your cat with optimum nutrition.
If you choose to feed meat based canned diet, find a way to simulate components lost in cooking or processing.
One way to add live food is with “Cat grass”, very popular with cats. You can
grow your own from a kit. This addition often takes the burden off the house plants!

For cats, good diet can make the difference between “”Old Age” at 12, and “Old Age” at 23. Cats who eat dry food are often old and ill at 9 or 10, healthy cats can live a very long time, and that’s what we hope for your feline carnivore!”
Contributed by Steve Brown, co-author of Steve Brown and Beth Taylor “See Spot Live Longer”


souljourney said...

Great article!
Thanks for addressing Kitties!
Some of ours love people meat and fish, and others don't care at all!!! So weird.
We do almost all canned.
One point about the crappy dry foods that use chemicals, etc. to entice your pet to eat it. That is true. If you switch to a good dry food (without all the crap) the cats don't like it as much at first. We do use this for a small part of the diet. Some of our cats won't give up the crunchers.
Thanks for your blog... would love for you to have tons of subscribers. People need this info!!!

The Pet Food Examiner said...

Thanks for the comment and your kind words included in it.
With regards to the dry food, you have a good point there: One of the biggest issues with cats, based on the feedback I am getting every day, is a transition to a different food. Cats are very picky about their food and it appears to me that most cat owners simply don't have the patience to deal with a, what can become extremely lengthy transitional period. They place the new food before kitty's nose, kitty turns it's head away, automatic conclusion: She doesn't like it. Let it sit there, wait, she is going to get hungry. It takes patience and a lot of trial and err to figure out what is not just the best for, but also accepted by the animal. In fact they are no different than us humans. For example, all of us humans know that veggies are good for us (example spinach), yet how many continue to refuse them as much as they can.
One last thing: You say "good" dry food. "Good" is important. There are differences and I always recommend using the best quality (best as as much as your budget possibly allows) kibble. You get what you pay for and low price, low quality dry typically comes with a long term price tag attached to it. It is the ingredients and nutritional value what counts. Doing what ever you can afford is the right way to go. Mixing kibble with good quality cans or raw is still better that simply relying on super market brands.
I appreciate your way of thinking and wish there will be many more pet owners like you one day not too far in distant future. With that in mind let's all keep up what we're doing: Go public with our knowledge and positive experiences. Sooner or later they will hear us, the trends clearly indicate that today.