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HOMEMADE RAW DIET

It is important to remember that you must attain blood work for your cat before any diet change, to make sure your cat will not have any adverse effects from the conversion. Speak to your veterinarian so he/she may address any concerns. This diet is not recommended for cats that have chronic renal disease.

If you wish to make a homemade diet for your cat(s), use only a raw food recipe. Cooking the diet will destroy many of the required nutrients and you will be serving a less than balanced diet. If you would prefer to serve a cooked food, purchase a quality canned food. Commercially produced raw food is also available. However, making raw food for your cat will be more cost effective than purchasing it and you will have absolute control of the ingredients used.

The recipes below are based on Natascha Wille's, initial recipe for raw cat food, distributed since 1997. These recipes or ones similar to them have been fed for years, worldwide. Veering too far from these appropriately balanced recipes may be detrimental to your cat. Ingredients that are optional, if your cat has an aversion to them or has problems digesting them, will be noted.

The recipe below is the one that Dr. Lisa Pierson uses with slight modifications.

The only recipe offered is made with ground bone. There really is no substitute for fresh ground bone. It is also important to note that cooked bone can splinter and is very dangerous to cats. However, raw ground bone is easily digested by carnivores.

If you are taking on the task of making a homemade raw diet, you might as well buy a grinder and use bone with the recipe. There are a number of reasons to do it this way:

•  Pre-ground meat has the surface bacteria already ground into it.

•  The pre-ground meat is often placed in the display case at the store for an unspecified amount of time, allowing bacteria to grow.

•  The butchers that prepared the ground meat expect that the consumer will be cooking it, so, their equipment and/or handling procedures may not be as sanitary in its preparation.

If you are converting a dry-fed feline over to a wet diet, it may be wise to convert them to a canned or commercial raw diet before introducing them to a homemade diet. Conversion can sometimes be a long process with cats and you shouldn't get discouraged to the point of giving up. Give yourself and your cat time to adjust to the new diet. One quick way of introduction would be to cut up a chicken breast into small bite-size pieces to see if your cat is already interested in this natural diet.

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Protein Sources - Main Ingredient

This recipe calls for chicken thighs but whole chickens can be used as well. When using whole chickens, remove the necks and backbones to reduce the amount of bone or the calcium-phosphorus ratio may be compromised.

Beef and fish have been shown to be hyperallergenic in the cat and raw fish should never be fed because it contains thiaminase which will lead to a thiamin (vitamin B1) deficiency in the cat. Fish also tends to be addictive to cats because of the strong scent and taste. Certain species of fish, such as tuna, may be contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury. Fish is also high in magnesium which may cause a problem for cats that already have or are prone to urinary problems.

Grain-fed beef is also higher in fat, lower in protein, and usually loaded with antibiotics and growth hormones than grass-fed and/or organically raised cattle. Bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE – mad cow disease) may also be spread to cats in the form of feline spongiform encephalitis (FSE).

Pork is not recommended. Trichinosis is caused by eating raw pork that is contaminated with the larvae of the roundworm Trichinella spp. Pork is also extremely high in fat and is no substitution for small rodents and birds.

Additional meats that can be used are Cornish game hens, quail, turkey, or rabbit. The turkey bones will not go through the grinder as is, without first being broken into smaller pieces.

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Tips

It is best to use organic, free-range, antibiotic-free chicken and eggs. Whatever best fits your financial situation is appropriate. Currently, there are no FDA approved growth hormones for poultry, therefore, all poultry in the United States is currently hormone-free.

Chicken hearts are sometimes hard to source, especially in the quantities needed if you make large batches of food. In this case, taurine is substituted. Check with your local butcher or large grocery store chain. They may be able to source the hearts for you if you give them a few days notice each time you need them. Ethnic food stores are also a good place to check as they typically offer foods not offered in the traditional grocery stores.

You'll notice that chunking much of the meat is suggested, providing some dental health benefit. Using poultry shears works much better than a knife. However, if your cat will not eat the chunks, grind all of the meat instead. If chunking the meat, make small pieces about nickel-sized or smaller for your cat.

Make sure to wash your hands well before beginning and use only clean utensils and bowls. For most meat grinders, including the one I use, it is best to wash all parts by hand to prevent rusting.

If you will be freezing your cat food for more than two weeks, you may wish to sprinkle a little extra taurine on your cat's food when serving one or two of the meals per week. It is well known that taurine is sensitive to both grinding and freezing.

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Chicken Raw Cat Food Recipe

Ingredients:
4.5 pounds (2 kg) chicken thighs including bones and skin
14 oz (400 g) chicken hearts [if not using – add 14 oz (400 g) meat/bones to recipe and add 4000 mg taurine]
7 oz (200 g) chicken livers
2 cups (475 mL) water
4 egg yolks or whole eggs (optional)
200 mg vitamin B complex
800 IU vitamin E
1.5 teaspoons (9 g) lite iodized salt
4000 mg taurine additionally, if freezing for more than a week.

Directions:

  1. Remove half of the skin and 20% of the bones from the chicken thighs and discard.
  2. Chunk up most of the muscle meat with poultry shears (or grind all of it).
  3. Grind the rest of the muscle meat, bones, skin, heart, and liver. Stir well.
  4. Measure two cups (475 ml) of water into a bowl and whisk in the eggs, vitamin B complex, vitamin E, lite iodized salt, and added taurine (if using in place of hearts and/or adding because of freezing).
  5. Mix the chunked meat, ground mixture, and supplement mixture together.
  6. Fill containers. Leave room in the containers for expansion from freezing. Mark the containers with both the contents and date and freeze.

• Makes approximately 6¼ pounds (100 oz) or 2.8 kg.
• Cats eat about 4-5 ounces (110-150 g) per day.
• This recipe is not recommended for cats with chronic renal disease.

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Nutrient Analysis

Although there is not currently a nutrient profile of the homemade raw diet, the following table lists the basic nutrients of a rat carcass. As you can see, high (meat) protein, moderate fat, and low carbohydrates would be on the menu of a wild-fed cat.

Nutrient profile of a rat carcass.

Nutrient*
Rat Carcass

Moisture

63.6%

Protein

55%

Fat

38.1%

Carbohydrate

1.2%

Fiber

0.55%

Ash

5.22%

Calcium

1.15%

Phosphorus

0.98%

Magnesium

0.08%

Linoleic Acid

9.1%

Iron

288 mg/kg

Vitamin A

84,800 IU/kg

Niacin

156.6 mg/kg

*All nutrients expressed on a dry matter basis except moisture.
[Vondruska, JF. The effect of a rat carcass diet on the urinary pH of the cat.
Comparison Animal Practice. 1987;1 (August): 5-9.]

Supplies

The following supplies are for the recipes listed above.

Tools: Recommendations:
electric grinder Tasin TS-108 meat grinder comes with grindplate needed
electronic scale digital scale
poultry shears purchase at local store or online
bowls stainless steel is best or large container up to 40 pounds
spoon or paddle for stirring, paddle is used in large container batches
whisk or a fork may be used
mortar & pestle for grinding supplement tablets, unless capsules are used
freezer containers plastic, glass, vacuum sealed bags, or zipper freezer bags
freezer space space for the containers, may need additional freezer
   
   
Ingredients: Recommendations:
chicken thighs free-range, antibiotic-free, freshest are best
rabbit west coast supplier, east coast supplier or local market
chicken heart local butcher or above suppliers
chicken liver local butcher or store
chicken eggs free-range, antibiotic-free are best
water filtered tap water is best and cheapest way
taurine dry capsules
vitamin B complex capsules
vitamin E dry capsules - natural preservative
lite iodized salt contains potassium, sodium, iodine
   

The supplements listed above may be purchased from your local Whole Foods Market or ordered online from Amazon.com, iherb.com, or the Vitamin Shoppe.

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Storage

Raw food may be stored in plastic containers available from your local grocer. You may also wish to use freezer specific glass jars. Another method is to vacuum seal the contents in plastic or using zipper type freezer bags. The most important issue is making sure that the storage container is rated for freezer use. Also, if at all possible, only use BPA -free plastic.

The food must be kept frozen until it needs to be thawed. If you do not have enough space in your kitchen freezer, you may need to purchase an additional small freezer or make smaller batches of food. Small freezers are available at large department stores, home improvement stores, and appliance stores.

This raw food diet should not be stored more than a couple of months in the freezer. Extended storage may lead to the breakdown of most if not all of the taurine and there could be a decrease in essential fatty acid activity and destruction of vitamin E. Freezing this diet for a minimum of 48 hours (when first made) before serving may help kill some to all of the parasites (not bacteria – they become dormant) that may be in the food.

If you live in an area that experiences frequent and lengthy power outages, you may need a portable generator. Make sure to follow the directions for the generator, as it produces invisible and deadly carbon monoxide fumes. Used correctly, they are safe and handy to have.

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Thawing & Feeding

Calculate the approximate amount to feed each cat per day. Most cats eat about 4-6 ounces per day. Then calculate how much you will be feeding per day and place that amount in the refrigerator to thaw, at least 24 hours before. Smaller packages will thaw more quickly so you may opt to split a daily serving into two smaller containers. Larger containers may take up to 48 hours to thaw. You should not leave thawed meat in the fridge more than 48-72 hours after thawing, before using or discarding.

Plates are easier for cats to eat from than bowls. Small plates allow cats to put their heads down without interfering with their whiskers. When eating small prey, cats' whiskers are held straight out from their faces. When cats try to eat from a bowl, their whiskers are forced backwards, which for some cats may prove bothersome, causing them to walk away from the food.

Feeding two to three meals per day is suggested. Leave the food down for no more than 30 minutes and then take away any leftovers. You may cover the food and return it to the refrigerator to try later and then discard it. Never place food that has been served back into the original container.

Kittens will eat more than adult cats and seniors will eat less. Kittens should be fed several times a day to keep up with their active metabolisms and growing bodies. Whether feeding kittens, adults, seniors, or pregnant or lactating queens, the recipe is the same. However, this recipe is not recommended for cats with kidney disease.

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Thawing Raw Food in a Pinch

If you forgot to thaw the food out or need to quick-thaw the food that is not completely thawed, put the food to be thawed in a plastic baggie and zip it closed tightly. Float the bag in cold tap water for about 30 minutes or until thawed. You may change the water out after 15 minutes with cold tap water again. It is imperative you do not use warm or hot water. Meat may be warmed in hotter water for serving but not for thawing. The heat will activate the bacteria that may be present in the food.

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Warming & Serving the Raw Diet

Take the serving of thawed food from the refrigerator and transfer it to a zipper type baggie. Press it flat then zip it closed tightly. Let it soak in warm water, in a shallow bowl, for a minute or so then replace the water with warm water again and flip the bag to the other side for another minute. This will heat it up a bit. Cats prefer their food at mouse body temperature (98°F) but room temperature works just fine.

You may also opt to remove the raw food from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. This method is fine if when served, it is eaten right away.

It seems no one agrees on whether microwaves damage the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals in the food when heating. I have been unable to find any definitive sources that agree one way or another, so to be safe, always warm the food in a water bath and never microwave it.

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Safety & Handling of a Raw Diet

Your cat evolved to eat its food raw and makes efficient use of the nutrients in a raw diet for optimum health.

A raw food diet is the most natural of all diets to feed the feline. "The Campylobacter and Salmonella organisms present on chicken skin are well tolerated by the gastrointestinal tract of kittens and cats, but owners should wash their hands well after meal preparation." [Richard Malik DVSs, Centre for Veterinary Education, University of Sydney, 2006]

Cats in the wild often drag their food up trees or bury it to save for a later meal. Food poisoning is always a possibility, but with proper handling as you would with any meat product you would prepare for yourself or your family, cats may be fed a high quality raw diet safely.

Cat saliva contains an enzyme called lysozyme, which attacks bacteria as it enters the mouth by digesting the coating of the bacteria . Any remaining contaminants enter the cat's extremely short and acidic intestinal tract. A cat's short digestive transit time, as compared to other carnivores and omnivores, prevents the remaining pathogens in the gut to grow before they are evacuated from the body.

It is always important to follow safety protocol when working with raw meat. Food dishes, countertops, and feeding areas, as well as hands should be washed before and after working with the raw meat. Disinfect the area where you prepared or fed your cats, even if it looks clean. A bleach solution (1:22 bleach/water) or distilled white vinegar followed by a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution are the cheapest, easiest, and safest to use around cats for disinfection. Your home will not smell like vinegar because the smell dissipates as the vinegar dries.

As with any possible pathogen, the young, elderly, and people with compromised immune systems should handle raw meat and foods carefully. This is also necessary when feeding dry food, as most dry food s are contaminated with fungi, bacteria, and molds.

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Treats & Snacks

When using a raw diet, treats or snacks are not needed. A raw diet is an optimum diet for cats and no other supplementation is required. If need be, you may opt to give raw chicken gizzards or some chunks of raw chicken breast as a snack or training aid. Chunks of raw chicken breast are also good for cats with few or no teeth. The chunks of meat are easy to swallow whole, as most cats eat that way anyway. Just don't make the pieces too big.

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Benefits of a Raw Diet

You may notice some of these changes immediately or it may take a few weeks to months for a positive outcome. It depends on the current health and physiology of your cat.

•  High digestibility.
•  High bioavailability.
•  No odor from the food.
•  No stool odor and stool will be well-formed.
•  Adult cats may only defecate every other day. Stool will be light in color and dry and crumbly.
•  Overweight cats will lose weight.
•  Underweight cats will gain weight.
•  Normal weight cats will add muscle tone.
•  Urine production will double due to proper hydration. Your cat will probably drink little to no water. However, keep fresh water available at all times.
•  Dry, flaky skin and dull coat will disappear. Fur will become soft and glossy.
•  Cats may become more energetic and playful.
•  Some cats exhibit less shyness and exhibit more social interaction with other cats and people.
•  Less vomiting and diarrhea. However, when a diet change is instituted, some cats may experience these symptoms for a week or two.
•  Decrease of hairballs.
•  BUN (blood urea nitrogen) a non-toxic by-product of protein metabolism, may be higher than the laboratories' safe range limits due to the high-meat-protein content of the food.
•  Cats with urinary problems may see a marked improvement which may lead to complete remission without recurrence.
•  Cats with IBD may see a marked improvement which may lead to complete remission without recurrence.
•  Cats with diabetes will see a marked improvement which may lead to complete remission without recurrence. (only change your diabetic cat's diet with the assistance of your veterinarian – as blood sugar decreases, the insulin dose will also need to be decreased or a deadly condition of hypoglycemia may occur usually within 24 hours).

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How to Approach your Veterinariam About Serving a Raw Diet

Many veterinarians that are concerned about clients feeding their cats a raw diet stem from experience treating cats who have been fed an unbalanced home-prepared diet. Infection from pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella sp or E. coli is rare and undocumented at this time. However, many cats have presented with deficiencies either of minerals or vitamins etc. due to overzealous owners getting artistic with recipes or trying to formulate one from scratch, themselves. It is of utmost importance that you do not alter the balanced recipe unless you specifically seek out your veterinarian's or feline nutritionist's expertise on the subject.

When approaching your veterinarian, bring a copy of the diet so he/she may review it and discuss with you any concerns or changes they feel are necessary for your individual cat's nutritional needs and health. Many veterinarians are more than willing to help you achieve the optimum nutrition for your cat. Having a starting point such as the recipe above will allow for open communication. Your veterinarian may also want to keep the recipe to review at length or to consult an animal nutritionist for more information.

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Information on fnae.org is for general information purposes only and is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. The content on this site is inspired by the research and observations of professionals. The website is not intended to replace professional advice from your own veterinarian and nothing on this site is intended as a medical diagnosis or treatment. Any questions about your animal's health should be directed to a professional animal health care provider. Please consult your veterinarian before attempting any diet change.


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