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Feline Health: The Importance of Feeding Raw

Posted on January 28, 2013 | 0 comments
*Please note that I am NOT a doctor of veterinary medicine. This post is mainly my opinion, and my own experience with raw feeding. I expect you to do your own research to find out if raw feeding is right for your cat. If your cat is sick, elderly, or has allergies please consult your vet first. Nature knows best. When I say that I love my cat Sage more than anything in this world, it's only a slight exaggeration. No other being has brought so many moments of joy and comfort, with practically no pain. Sure, I may become distressed when he claws holes in the furniture... And when he recently urinated outside of his litter box, reclaiming his territory from the stray kitten we rescued? Yes, incredibly frustrating. But those moments can't be considered pain. The most painful moment in our relationship was when he was nearly taken away from me as a kitten, having suffered from an adverse reaction to an FIV, Leukemia or rabies vaccination. It was so difficult to watch such a tiny, helpless little creature suffer so. We had already formed a bond, you see... I was his mother now, and he my son.

Little Sage

The whole experience was a nightmare. I had been taking Sage to an expensive and reputable vet because I wanted the best care for him. The way they handled the situation was awful. They almost killed my cat, lied to me about his condition, and then charged me an additional arm and a leg to get him back in shape. No apology, no sympathy, just a huge bill. Fine, I was relieved to have him back alive. I monitored him and prayed all night, through sobs. What its like to have a sick or dying child, I can only imagine. The next morning he felt a little better, and drowsiness fading, became more playful. So life went on as it does, and about two years later I received a notification in the mail from the county animal services that Sage's licence was due for renewal and that he was also due for another round of vaccinations. A wave of panic ran over me, followed by anger. There was no way they were going to get me to take that risk again. I considered marking "Deceased" on the card and returning it that way, but decided to seek professional guidance from a holistic practitioner instead. Hawthorne Veterinary Clinic in SE Portland was a godsend. I explained our situation to the receptionist and set up a consultation with Dr. Jeff Judkins (who as of this date, has unfortunately moved to Southern Oregon.) It is truly an amazing experience to work with a doctor who understands you, shares your skepticism of orthodox medicine, and believes the best medicine is preventative- through proper diet and lifestyle choices. Dr. Judkins wrote Sage a lifetime exemption for vaccines (which I sent back to the county along with a check for his license renewal, and a triumphant "Ha!"). At the time of the consultation I was feeding Sage a high-quality dry food, but had done research on feline nutritional needs and was considering feeding him raw. Unfortunately with so much information out there, so many recipes, so much contradicting information- I didn't really know where to start. It made sense to ask the new vet about a proper diet, but before I had the chance, Dr. Judkins removed Sage from the scale and said, "I insist that you transition your cat to a raw diet." I felt my face flush, a bit embarrassed for having a slightly overweight cat. We discussed the "whys", and I asked, "I bought a meat grinder, but what are the best supplements for the raw meat?" He gave me some information, but suggested that I try out Rad Cat, which is an amazing raw cat food made by two very knowledgeable, cat-loving ladies here in Portland, OR. This is probably THE best cat food in existance. Unfortunately, its expensive. (Portland residents can pick it up at New Seasons, or Meat for Dogs & Cats, which is the cheapest place to buy it.) Some other points were addressed in the interview, including flea control. Sage had previously experienced a painful chemical burn from topical flea medication, and I wanted to find an acceptable method of flea control. Dr. Judkins recommended FleaGo, which are harmless (to humans and pets) boric acid crystals that you apply to your carpet, and under sofa cushions. It kills the flea eggs that fall from your pet and stop the life cycle there. Though it takes some time to get rid of the flea problem, it is very effective, and I have yet to see another flea in my home or on my cat, a year after applying it!  Dr. Judkins gave Sage a pill which kills off all the fleas on the animal's body, and is essentially only used for an infestation... but it does not prevent fleas. I believe it was called Capstar. Another obstacle I've encountered in cat motherhood is that cats enjoy destroying furniture. Nice furniture. Possibly your favorite furniture. There are ways to deter your cat from shredding your possessions, but remember that it is INHUMANE to declaw them, and any attempt to inhibit their desire to scratch will be futile. Provide several scratching boards for their use, and consider buying one of these amazing posts. Its worth the initial investment, and less expensive than new furniture! Speaking of investments, taking your cat off dry food is the single most important thing you can do for your feline companion. Better yet, give those little carnivores a diet they will thrive on: Raw meat goodness. The most comprehensive site I have found on raw feeding is Dr. Lisa V. Pierson's site http://www.catinfo.org/ She goes over the whys and hows in a way that is easy to understand, so I strongly recommend that you visit her site and soak up everything you can. Your cat's life may depend on it, and if you're the type of owner who will shell out thousands of dollars on veterinary bills for a sick cat, your bank account depends on it, too. Important points to remember:
  • Cats are obligatory carnivores. Their bodies are designed to get nutrients through animal proteins, and they lack the metabolic enzymes to do this with plants. Taurine is also only available in meat, and cats will go blind and develop heart problems without it.
  • Cats have a low thirst drive. That means that even though you are providing a bowl of water with kitty's dry kibble, and you see her drinking from the water dish- She is still not drinking enough water, likely only half the amount she requires. For this reason, Dr. Pierson states that a cat on the worst quality canned food is better off than a cat on the best quality dry cat food.
A quote from her page on Feline Urinary Tract Health: "If I could have the reader of this webpage take away just one word from this discussion, it would be "water".  If your cat is on a properly hydrated diet of 100% canned (or homemade) food - and no dry food - you stand a very good chance of never needing to read this webpage. " So being able to decrease the likelihood of your cat getting diabetes, kidney disease, cystitis, urethral blockage, UTIs, crystals, inflammatory bowel disease, hairballs, obesity, hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), or asthma seems worth the extra effort it might take to switch to a wet or raw food diet. For many months I fed Sage RadCat with amazing results. He devoured the stuff like crazy, he loved the raw meat! His body slimmed down, his coat became shiny, his energy and playfulness skyrocketed. There was only one problem. I was struggling financially, and spending about $60 per month on Sage's food. As with most things, DIY/homemade can cut costs significantly, and I'm happy to report that I've been feeding Sage a nutritious raw food diet with a monthly expense ranging from $17 - $26. It was actually a bit tricky to find good quality whole chicken and organ meats from local butchers, so I was pleased to find a company called Moe's Meats, which is a small business/ distributor of Columbia River Natural  pet foods. They sell raw human-grade meat for use in pet foods in convenient, pre-ground, 2 lb chubs. I use these chubs and a supplement called Alnutrin. *Note: Please pay attention to how much organ meat, bone, fat, moisture, etc. is in the food you make. When I'm up for it, I will likely buy all the necessary supplements individually for his food, but for now I will continue to use this method of preparation:

 Homemade Raw Meat Cat Food

What you'll need: 8 lbs of raw meat with appropriate percentage of bones and organs 32 grams of Alnutrin (for meat with bones) supplement 4 cups cold, filtered water Several freezable storage containers (I use 6 24 oz reused plastic tubs) Large mixing spoon Small bowl (For dissolving supplement in water) Large pot, for defrosting chubs and mixing the food Directions: Thaw meat chubs in large pot filled with cold water. Change the water every half hour. Keep the water cool, do not allow it to become tepid  or warm. Keep in mind this is raw meat and it needs to be handled properly.

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When prepping the area to assemble your ingredients, it helps to have all your tools out and handy. It's not fun to have to wash your hands every time you have to pull something out of a cabinet- and nobody appreciates you touching the kitchen knobs with your raw meat hands!

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When the meat has thawed (it should still be very cold, but not frozen), empty the water from the pot. Line up your plastic containers and keep lids off but nearby. In a small bowl, dissolve the Alnutrin supplement in 1 cup of cold, filtered water. Cut the tips off of the meat chubs and squeeze the contents into the mixing pot. (I'm using duck this time, more expensive than chicken, but Sage loves it!)

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Add the cup of water and supplement to the meat and mix thoroughly.

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Make sure the meat and supplements are thoroughly mixed, but you don't want to dilly-dally too long. Keep the meat nice and cold. Now scoop the meat into the storage containers.

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Put the lids on, and store them in the freezer. To use: You will want to determine the exact feeding portion for your cat by their weight, but for Sage I typically feed 1/4-1/3 cup, once in the morning, and once in the evening. Have one container of raw food in the fridge, thawed. Cats should not eat cold or hot foods. If it is too cold they may not want to eat it, and if the cat does eat it- he may throw up. The food should be warmed to "freshly-killed mouse body" temperature. To warm the food, I scoop a meal serving amount into a small tupperware container and leave it submerged in warm water for 5 minutes, then plop it into his feeding dish. I will often add a little extra warm water to his food. Always keep a dish of fresh water for your cat, but you will notice that they rarely drink it. That's because they are getting all their fluid requirements from the food! This is a very good thing! You will also notice that your cat's feces has less mass, and both their urine and feces have less odor. The litterbox will smell better! Not only am I passionate about human health, but I am equally concerned about that of our furry companions. Cats are beautiful, powerful, and enigmatic little beasts; well deserving of our admiration and respect. We should feed them as nature intended, give them what their bodies crave (and I don't mean carbohydrates!). What better way to show them our appreciation for everything they contribute to our lives than by giving them the ability to thrive? I hope you enjoyed reading this post, and were able to take something away. Thank you for reading! [caption id="attachment_1261" align="aligncenter" width="600"]IMG_0324 Baby Sage -vs- Baby Pigeon[/caption]
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