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One instinct that all cats have, even if they are adorable and friendly apartment cats, is to look for food. If cats are left on their own, they would start hunting and their food would be made up of raw meat.
There are of course some questions that cat owners keep asking themselves. Isn’t it better to feed the cat with raw meat – and is that healthy?
Of course, every cat owner wants the cat to be as good as possible and to have a long, happy, and healthy life.
The trend towards self-sufficient feeding with home-cooked food is increasing, as many pet owners want to know and decide for themselves what their cat really eats.
And so, there are many who cook the food for their cats themselves and some even feed their cats with raw meat, as this corresponds to the original food.
What Should Raw Food Include for Cats?
The feed consists of uncooked animal parts. This includes muscle meat, bones, and organs. There is now a name for this type of diet, the so-called BARF diet “biologically appropriate raw feed”, which means nothing more than the feeding of raw meat.
This feed can be purchased from the pet retailer or you can make the feed yourself. However, a balanced diet should be the priority, because if your cat goes on an unbalanced diet, there is a risk that you will expose it to health problems.
Since cats are by nature carnivores, they do not need vegetables or carbohydrates. The tolerance of carbohydrates for cats is rather low.
Cats need a lot of protein. Amino acids are also important for cat health, as well as taurine, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
What Do the Proponents of Raw Food Feeding for Cats Claim?
People behind the BARF diet claim that cooking meat alters or reduces the biologically important diet that mimics the natural life of cats.
Their reasoning is because cats, when they are on their own, eat birds, insects and even reptiles. That is why advocates think this is the best diet for their cats, as it copies a similar diet.
However, there are different opinions on this. While some claim that the raw meat gives their cats:
- a shinier coat
- cleaner and healthier teeth
- less tendency of being overweight and generally appear healthier
Others have legitimate concerns about the safety of raw meat.
Risks of Feeding with Raw Meat
You should know that feeding raw meat is not harmless. Meat can contain salmonella and E. coli bacteria, which may have a significant effect on your cat’s life as they can cause infections.
When you cook meat, these pathogens are destroyed. This is also sometimes a reason why we humans cook our food, and not only because of the taste.
Cats have a different digestive system than humans. Their ways of digestion are shorter and in an environment that is more acidic than that of humans.
For example, cats have less trouble digesting raw meat. However, there are different physiological states of cats.
Nevertheless, cooked meat is a better choice for cats, not just those that have health problems.
Another danger for humans is so-called cross-contamination. Pathogens can be transmitted from one food to another.
This means that these can remain in the cat’s feces or on the cat’s common area where food is prepared. If you then cuddle with it, there is a possibility that dangerous pathogens will infect you.
So, if someone in the household has a weakened immune system, you should not feed your cat raw meat. If there are young children or elderly people living in the house, feeding cats with raw meat should be avoided.
Caution with Parasites in Raw Meat
Are Bones Safe for Cats
Some owners worry about the bones and ask if they are safe for their cats. Keep in mind that a cat in the wild can chew and digest an entire prey animal (e.g. mouse or bird), raw bones without any problems. Bones contain nutrients, including calcium.
When bones are cooked, problems can arise and must not be fed to the cat. Cooking makes the consistency brittle and they can splinter after ingestion, damaging internal organs.
Precautions in Handling Raw Meat
If you still want to give your cat raw meat, you should be careful, as it is practically impossible to avoid all the risks posed by handling raw meat.
- Prepare the meat in a closed room in your apartment/house.
- Clean and disinfect all kitchen utensils and surfaces thoroughly after preparation.
- Use gloves when preparing raw meat
- Feed your cat in an area that is easy to clean. Avoid carpets as a base.
- Clean the feed containers with hot water immediately after feeding.
- Avoid offering bones (except ground bones) when feeding, because small bones or pieces of bone can cause serious problems to the cat. These can range from constipation to injuries.
Ensure A Balanced Diet When Feeding Raw Meat
Always pay attention to a good and balanced diet if you want to feed your cat with raw meat. Some people think everything is good for their cat. Any meat and bones or many different types of meat would be good for it.
You must pay attention to the calories, fat, protein, and nutrients if you want to feed your cat raw meat. By giving your cat raw meat as food, it does not mean she gets everything she needs to stay healthy. This can lead to health problems over time.
Even if you think that it does not matter, because wild cats live only from the procurement of raw meat, you should remember that their life expectancy is also much shorter than that of the domestic cats that live with us. One reason for this is diet.
What Does Research Say?
A team of researchers from Utrecht University studied conventional BARF products and came to a worrying conclusion. E-coli was found in 25% of the 35 products studied and salmonella in 20% of frozen portions. (8 brands, all from the Netherlands).
These pathogens are very dangerous, not only for your cat, but also for humans. They found listeria in 43% of products, which are very dangerous for immunocompromised people, infants, or pregnant women.
In addition, Toxoplasma gondii were found in two products. This is a parasite that infects the brain and changes the behavior of animals, possibly even that of humans.
In this research, only products marketed in the Netherlands have been studied, so the results are limited. However, there are similar studies and results from other countries:
The study’s researchers also said that cats, as well as dogs, are more likely to become infected with antibiotic-resistant germs than pets that eat conventional food.
This poses a serious risk, not only for the animals, but also for their owners.
Therefore, it is not recommended to agree with the vets to feed raw products to cats. There is also no confirmation that this brings benefits for the cat.
So, there are no convincing arguments that it is healthier to feed cats the way they do in nature.
Through scientific advances and research in nutrition, medicine, and treatments by veterinarians (vaccinations, castrations), domestic cats can live very long and healthy with conventional diet.
Also, cats do not need to live in the natural environment and can therefore live much longer and stay safely in our home without transmitting any diseases to us.
Even if it seems fashionable to feed pets with raw meat, as some people think this is more “species-appropriate,” you should avoid it.
In another study https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/6822-long-term-raw-dog-food-diet-ups-gut-bacteria-levels?v=preview, researchers found that after a year of feeding dogs with home-made raw meat food, intestinal bacteria levels were increased, as opposed to dogs fed with conventional dog food.
Many scientists agree, as well as veterinarians, that there are risks in feeding raw meat to cats or even dogs, as this can be harmful to health, not only for animals, but also for us humans.
Therefore, conventional cat food is preferable to the diet with raw meat. Specialist pet food shops offer a variety of different products tailored to your cat. It always depends on the weight, age, and condition of your cat. You can also seek advice from your veterinarian.