Raw Feeding Kittens and Cats

Ever since I got my three sister cats as tiny, supposedly 8 week old kittens about five years ago, I have tried to feed them raw as much as I can.

Long story short, their much-loved kitty predecessor died at the young age of six from undiagnosed diabetes and acute renal failure and I strongly suspected her commercial, “high-quality” dry kibble diet. I wanted to make changes to fresher foods with my new girls, like I was doing in my own life with good results.

No, I do not spend a fortune each day feeding pre-prepared raw. I make my own!

DSC_0009I’d like to emphasize that you have to do your research with homemade raw cat food diets. They don’t have to be perfect, just as your own or your children’s diets are not perfectly balanced at every meal, but they absolutely must provide certain key elements.

I bought an electric meat grinder, found a great site online with a great recipe, and I’ve adapted it over the years to fit my cats and my budget. I’ve found that a homemade raw diet can be slightly cheaper than a good-quality, grain-free commercial canned food diet, although preparation time is a factor. I do still offer store bought canned food sometimes, and I do get lazy and give them a kibble meal sometimes, but I strive to keep cat kibbles strictly in the treat zone, where they belong. Even the most expensive “doom pellets” make excellent, low cost treats!

Well, of course I couldn’t resist starting this hard-luck litter of kittens on raw food right from the start. At this point in my life I don’t think I could bring myself to offer kibble to a small kitten. It would be like offering McDonalds to a baby.

Let’s be clear here: High quality commercially produced dry cat food is made from meat and byproducts (both generally fine), vegetables and (often) grains, all cooked at very high temperatures and coated with fat to make them palatable. Cooked food may taste good but it isn’t a natural primary diet for a cat.

Think about how convenient dry foods are. They require no refrigeration, no preparation. It’s the cat equivalent of a meal replacement bar. How would you feel about eating a big bowl of the same room-temperature, dry, possibly rancid, super-processed nuggets every day? These are completely dead foods that include significant proportions of things like vegetables and grains that cats cannot digest. They might as well be adding sawdust. Some probably do… Cellulose, right?

Cats are true carnivores and only need to eat meat. In the wild they catch and eat small animals, a diet very high in moisture. Cats evolved in the desert, and naturally have a very low thirst drive since they are accustomed to getting most of their moisture from their food. A healthy cat on a healthy diet never drinks much water at all.

Ok so, I’ve had these kittens since they were three days old. I was a little nervous about offering them my humble homemade cat food. Would they hate it? I had already been feeding the mother cat raw from nearly the start. She arrived with a bad case of diarrhea and did not produce a solid stool until I did so. Luckily she was totally into it and now has well-formed, firm stools. She’s a real wild girl who knows what’s good for her.

Benefits to Raw Feeding:

-Improved overall health, energy and longevity, shiny coat
-Vastly improved tooth and gum health, more natural eating motions, less bad breath
-Improved and reduced stool formation. Small and dry crumbly stools with no odor
-Improved mental stimulation when eating, each meal is different and fun to eat
-Sufficient hydration is maintained
-Wash glass jars instead of tossing cans

I noticed a couple of the kittens sampling the mama’s raw food at about week three. They were keenly interested in it. I had been adding water to make it soupy for them, but I don’t go out of my way to serve it warm. One kitten was gumming a piece of bone-in rabbit ribs for a good ten minutes while I watched. With no teeth yet it was a futile endeavor, but I was pleased with his enthusiasm.

At some point as kittens grow you may begin to worry that perhaps you should just leave out a bowl of kibble. Let me tell you, I’ve had this feeling. What if the babies get hungry between meals? The truth is, if you care about your cats then you’ll feed them regular meals and they will never go hungry for long. Cats were not made to eat all day long. They are made to catch a meal, eat that meal, and then let the gut clean itself out until the next meal. I would never go back to the All-Day-Kitty-Buffet. And it sounds funny, but it’s actually not funny at all, because my kitty died from it. Every cat out there is “doing fine” on their kibble diet until they’re not.

At week four, four of five kittens were eating the raw food meals and enjoying them very much. Now they all love it and much prefer it to all else, especially the batches made with fresh home-grown rabbit.

I feed about 3 to 4 big meals a day, (about 1.5 cups for 5 kittens and one momma) for the first four or five weeks, then reduce to two meals a day with fresh water always available. Use your own best judgement and keep in mind that kittens need to eat more frequently than adults. The momma cat is very helpful, she lets me know very clearly if it’s been a little too long between feedings.

The new chicken, rabbit and turkey formula seems to be a big hit. It’s very satisfying to be able to use my own rabbits and eggs to feed my precious cats. I love knowing exactly where the food has come from, down to the last detail. Today many bunny spines and other bones were ground up for them.

We do not waste a single bit of our rabbits. Literally, nothing is thrown away or even makes it as far as the compost, other than boiled bones. Everything is consumed by either human, dog or cat.

I’ll provide my catinfo.org inspired recipe in an upcoming post.

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