Animal care and behaviour

Raw Food for Cats


 Cats fed raw food can become more alert and have more energy. Portrait by Gillian Harvey

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Cats: Raw food diets for cats

Why feed raw?

As most cat owners know, cats are obligate carnivores. That means that they have to eat fish and meat, or their health suffers. And, whether we like it or not, cats are designed to kill and eat their prey, tearing through flesh and crushing bones. And what do we give them to eat? Often a poor substitute, like dry biscuits or canned food, neither of which are much like real meat, nor do they require cats to use their teeth in the way they were designed to be used. 

For a long time we were told that dry food would help keep our cats' teeth clean. Now we know this is probably not true because, when cats bite on a piece of dry food, it usually shatters at the tip of the tooth rather than having any abrasive effect along the tooth as a whole. Furthermore, many cats simply swallow dry biscuits whole! There are now dental biscuits, and time will tell if they are more effective at helping cats keep their teeth clean than are conventional biscuits.

A further problem with dry food is that it lacks moisture. This lack can cause problems for cats, because they are animals evolved to derive most of their water intake from prey. Commercial cat foods also tend to contain grains and cereals, especially dry foods. Some even contain soy as a cheap form of protein. None of these vegetable-based foods are appropriate for a carnivorous animal like the cat, certainly not in the amounts found in most commercial cat food. It's true a cat in the wild might consume some form of grain, seed or vegetable matter if it eats the stomach contents of its prey, but the amount would be very small, and in any case, cats do not always consume the stomach of their prey. Commercial cat foods are popular because they are easy to use, and there are some better quality commercial wet foods around, but evidence suggests that it's time to return to a more natural way of feeding our cats.