Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.
Cats are true, obligate carnivores and should be treated as such. Walk into any grocery store or pet store today and you can find a vast variety of cat food available. So much variety it is difficult to choose what can be considered an extraordinary diet vs. just a good diet.
Commercial cat food started in the early 1900s and gained popularity in the ’30s and ’40s with dry food due to World War II’s metal rations, and a few select companies producing pet food. Step ahead a century later, and there are so many brands it can make your head spin. No longer are cats just eating birds, squirrels or anything else they can hunt for, they have their human counterparts they can count on!
For the past decade, there has been a rise in feeding “natural” cat diets vs. stuff in the bag that is full of cornmeal, byproducts, pillow fluff and staples (just kidding about the last ones). Now you have whole meats, veggies, omega fatty acids added etc… to make them more nutritionally complete.
But what makes a good diet vs. a bad diet? Why are we not feeding cats a raw diet based on ground up mice, squirrels and birds? They have berries and grains in them too. They must be the perfect diet! It can be if you are an outdoor cat and can manage to hunt five-to-six rodents per day; they sure can sustain a cat easily.
Many cats that hunt leave behind the digestive tract of the rodent, and other parts they find less appealing, so saying they eat the whole thing is not a true statement. I have yet to see a commercial pet food company jump on the bandwagon on making foods with the names of “Chipmunk Stew and Robin’s Delight.” It is expensive and time consuming to create diets based on a true outdoor, natural diet, not to mention a public outcry on grinding up songbirds and other fuzzy critters.
Commercial diets are readily available and they are easy to feed, which is why the public likes them vs. making a homemade or raw diet. Commercial pet food must meet the minimal AAFCO standards on nutrition as well. A company cannot just dump in a bunch of ingredients, hand it to the consumer with a smile and say “There you go! Enjoy the food! Your cat will live a long life thanks to us!”
They must go through rigorous testing and formulations to meet the minimal standards. If a company wants to go above and beyond those standards, they can and that is what makes the premium diets popular, and a good majority is grain free!
This is where the huge controversy on cats that should not be eating grain takes place. While it is true that cats are carnivores, in some situations carbohydrates can help ill cats by being a source for fast energy or assisting in treating a metabolic disease. So carbohydrates do have their places in cat diets. Not all carbohydrates are bad.
For those people who wish to feed a raw diet, there are two options. Purchase one that is made correctly and meets the safety standards for creating these diets, or make one at home. While you do feed less with a raw diet, it is expensive and time consuming, but those who feed it find it totally worth the price and labor involved.
The bottom line is, if you are going to feed a raw diet, do it correctly or not at all. Raw diets are not for every pet or living situation. Do your research, learn proper food handling and preparation or purchase already made diets.
The benefits of raw diets have been noted in many homeopathic, holistic and other feline forums. All report better coats, resolved digestion issues that were due to food sensitivities, and providing specific nutrients that might be killed off during commercial processing that are necessary for combating specific diseases.
I fed a raw-based diet to two of my cats with heart disease. I can say I saw the benefits, but it was very time consuming to prepare the food for a month. You also have to take up the food within a half hour and toss it if they don’t eat all of it, and that can be costly if your cat suddenly decides it no longer wants whatever protein based diet you created that month.
Not to mention the additional costs of supplements you have to add to the food. Do I still feed raw now? Sure, to one of my ill cats I do. I do it specifically to attain the essential amino acid, argine. Do I currently make the diet? No way! There are lots of great companies that make it for me. I just defrost and go.
What you feed your cat is your personal preference, just be sure what you feed is nutritionally complete and it is the correct diet for you too feed and for your cat to eat.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.