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Can a Vegetarian Feed Her Cats Raw Meat?

Can a Vegetarian Feed Her Cats Raw Meat?

I’ve always been wary of my cats’ dry kibble. My two cats — Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix — are predators, after all, with fangs, claws, and an instinct to hunt. Their teeth are designed to tear flesh from bone — eyeballs, organs … everything! When you think about it, a bowl of grayish pellets of extruded foodstuffs left out for my cats to graze upon throughout the day seems just too … easy.

I’m not gonna lie, though – I like it to be easy. I am terrified of my cats’ natural diet. I can barely stand to touch raw meat – in fact, the moment it enters my kitchen, it might as well be surrounded by an electric forcefield. When I’m preparing to cook a salmon filet or a steak, I always stop just short of contact, my fingers hovering paralyzed above that cold, slimy hunk of flesh. For this reason, I eat vegetarian probably 98 percent of the time.

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But I know it isn’t fair to let my fear get in the way of my cats’ health, so I sucked it up and threw my cats a bone (with meat on it). Here’s what I learned.

Why feed my cats a raw diet?

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their survival depends on nutrients found only in the flesh of other animals. They are not physiologically designed to consume plants or vegetables. Therefore, many of the primary ingredients in most pet foods are not beneficial to cats’ health, including corn, grains, and flour. It also bears mentioning that the “meat” in most pet foods consists largely of animal by-products – like, the stuff even Taco Bell throws away. Plus, the meat in pet food has been cooked, which negates most potential benefits.

According to Raw Fed Cats, which has offered advice on how to switch cats to a raw diet since 2006, kitty kibble is akin to “doom nuggets.” I believe its position is a bit extreme; after all, my cats have been eating kibble their whole lives, and they are healthy. But then again, from the ages of 18 to 21, I survived primarily off of Easy Mac and microwave enchiladas. I was fine, but I could have done better. So can my cats do better? Yeah, probably, especially because a raw diet can improve a cat’s oral and digestive health.

Transitioning to raw: An awful offering of offal

To prepare my cats for the more adventurous flavors of real meat, I fed them canned food and tuna regularly for a couple of weeks. As with most changes, it’s best to let kitties gradually adjust to eating raw food; in other words, don’t go cold turkey on the kibble. Raw Fed Cats recommends initiating the switch by having set mealtimes each day instead of free feeding, but my schedule this month has been too hectic to allow for this kind of planning.

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Then there’s the matter of what to feed them. Here are a few tips for beginners:

  • Feed small pieces of boneless meat. Anything works: beef, chicken, fish, other.
  • Serve the meat at room temperature. (Note: Do not microwave the meat to warm it up.)
  • If the cats seem uninterested in the meat, drizzle it with something they do like, such as canned tuna juice.
  • Serve it on a plate instead of a bowl so the cats can see and smell it more easily.

I got a salmon filet for introductory purposes, as well as a whole rainbow trout, complete with bones and eyeballs, in case the cats took to the raw meat as though they’d been waiting their whole lives for me to figure it out and wanted a more advanced option.

Once a cat has been eating raw for a while and learned how to gnaw his food, he can progress to eating whole critters, such as mice, guinea pigs, and hamsters. This option is ideal, as whole critters contain the most nutritious bits. It also makes me the most nauseous.

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Important: Always consult a vet before making any major changes to your cat’s diet, and never try to “starve” an uninterested cat into eating raw food, as this can cause liver failure.

A slow start for my cats

I thought Phoenix would snatch up the raw fish and proudly carry it to the couch, and I fully expected to spend the evening doing laundry while crying. Instead, Bubba Lee Kinsey ate a couple of hunks of salmon before he stalked away, and Phoenix merely licked a couple. I tried pouring some enticing canned tuna juice on the salmon, which did pique the cats’ interest long enough for them to lick the salmon a bit more.

By the time I busted out the rainbow trout, Bubba had left the room. Phoenix did not know what to make of the scaly, slimy fish. She was curious, and she licked its face a few times, but she did not seem interested in eating it. I knew giving them an entire fish was ambitious for their first time. I plan to filet it and give it to them later in bite-size chunks.

I’m not giving up! I’ll try scheduling mealtimes for my kitties and sneaking a few hunks of raw meat in with their canned food each morning, and I’ll do as Raw Fed Cats recommends and freeze several small portions to save time. I might also broaden my horizons and try giving them (gulp) beef or chicken (free range, of course).

In any case, I feel a bit like a guilty mother whose kids have grown up eating nothing but McDonald’s and are horrified by the mere concept of spinach. I’m not sure I’ll be able to transition them to a fully raw diet — Bubba is 11 years old, and Phoenix is almost 5 — but I do intend to incorporate raw meat as a kind of morbid “treat,” if you will.

But can I handle it, y’know, emotionally? Yeah, totally … I think.

Photo: A cat trying to eat raw meat by Shutterstock

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This post was written by Angela Lutz, regular contributor to Catster Magazine.

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7:07AM PDT on Jun 3, 2014

I have four cats and they all have different favorites when it comes to food. And I give them that freedom to choose. Three of them eat partly raw, but one cat eats only raw food. I got him as an adult, and he surely was fed, but with low quality food, and the first month at my place he gained 1,2kg (nothing later) and 10 months later his fur is just amazing. It was so ruff and 'dead' and now he sparkles of live and joy :) And he has not eaten a mouth full of cat food since.

7:00AM PDT on Jun 3, 2014

The kitten I adopted last summer from the kennel, was sick all the time and had terrible problems with his stomach and eyes and nose, he also got huge things on his legs as venous disease (and the size of it would be big even to humans) My vet ran all the test and said that he has so many crazy parasites that the curing him is going to take a long time. He was still very playful and hungry. After hundreds of euros and weeks of treatments, nothing got better - - the parasites were still there and nastier - I didn't have to worry about my adult cats, as this parasite will only 'adopt' kittens. I started feeding my kitten raw. And after 10 days the venous-disease-alike-thing was gone, 3 days later, his stomach was working perfectly and he finished sneezing. So raw meet saved him :) He eats it daily, though he chooses to eat a bit cat food as well.

1:36AM PDT on Mar 31, 2013

Mariah M., tuna is not advised for cats. Most of it contains excessive amounts of mercury, and I've also read that tuna has an adverse affect on cats digestive systems, in particular, the liver & kidneys. I'm not a vet, so can't say this is true, but I've read it several times from several sources. I have fed some cats that are recooperating from an illness and/or refusing other food, their regular food with the juice from human-grade tuna on it. That seems to stimulate their appetite.

11:25AM PDT on Mar 30, 2013

i'd rather stick to catfood & tuna

5:13AM PDT on Mar 26, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

1:00AM PDT on Mar 24, 2013


1:19AM PDT on Mar 14, 2013

Cats are killers and most often they eat what they kill.. Nonsensical remarks about raw meat not being good for cats is utter stupidity. Nature is as nature does.

11:31AM PDT on Mar 10, 2013


1:38AM PST on Mar 9, 2013

(cont)....No, YOU won't change my mind. Information supported by FACTS might. I'm not close-minded, quite the opposite :) At this point, the facts support feeding RAW when it's done with knowledge and a balance is assured.

1:37AM PST on Mar 9, 2013

Barbara, I believe my own 7 decades of having cats and having HEALTHY cats, and 7 decades of doing my own research thru various sources, as well as what I read and am told by knowledgeable professionals, not by what someone on a blog site like Care2 says, who has a different P.O.V. I don't know you, nor can you show me your credentials or prove your expertise to me online, can you? I DO know my vet, my former vet (who sold Science Diet in his clinic but told me he wouldn't feed it to his own dogs!), and I do respect the sources of nutritional information from Cornell. After reading the information put out by the makers of Life's Abundance, that all makes sense as well (it isn't raw but 100% human grade and organic ingredients). You claim to have expertise with cats, but yet you claim it's not natural for them to eat raw food? What on EARTH do you think cats at before Purina, Hills or Friskies? Yeah, I remember Terrells and how much that crap STUNK to high Heaven (brand of canned junk my Mother fed). I have 4 cats and they all are fed high quality kibble, but they all also hunt, and not a single one has brought their kill into the house to nuke it. My two outside cats haven't seen a vet since spayed/neutering was done and they're not babies. One barn cat I had lived for 19 years on mostly what she caught, killed and ATE, even though I did alway provide kibble for her. She rarely ate it.

No, YOU won't change my mind. Information supported by FACTS might. I'm not

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