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Raising cats on a raw food diet

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I Live with a Raw Food Carnivore
by Jolie Arlin

I was lying on the grass, enjoying the sweet air, warm sun and incredible vibrations of Maui when I overheard a conversation that changed my cat's life. David Wolfe was telling someone about the dregs that make up commercial pet food. I had known for a long time that the pet-food industry uses lots of useless fillers, reject meats and cancerous animal parts in its commercial foods. That is why I switched to "Science Diet," thinking I was doing my cat a favor. But until I overheard that conversation, I didn't know that every pet-food manufacturer adds addictive chemicals to their "food" so animals will get hooked and eat and crave the foul stuff.

I just sat there in the grass, thinking about my awesome little feline friend, Kona, back in San Francisco, and all the times I had unwittingly poisoned her. Her diet was totally cooked, devoid of enzymes, and thus, lifeless. I knew at that moment she was in for some big changes. I started out feeding Kona raw tuna because it was the only meat I could get that was super fresh. (You can also feed your cat fresh poultry, just make sure the meat you get is chemical free, free-range and fresh. As long as it is really fresh, don't worry about parasites because your cat's acidic system will take care of any of those little critters.) She was really excited about the fish but kept looking over her shoulder. I finally realized that smelling and eating the raw fish was awakening her raw instincts. She knew this was her natural food, but she knew she didn't catch it, so she kept looking for the bigger cat who did! As I've helped other cats go raw, I've noticed the same phenomenon again and again. She still wanted her dry kibbles sometimes but I was feeding her less and less of them every day. It only took three weeks to get her completely off of them. In fact, now she won't have anything to do with them. My uncle took care of her recently while I was out of town and thought he would feed her dry kibbles because the raw fish gave him the oogies. Kona just looked at him like "what are you thinking? I'm not going to eat that crap!" And she didn't eat for a day and a half until he broke down and gave her the raw fish.

The next step was adding vegetables to her diet. You may ask why. The reason is that if Kona was eating her real natural diet of mice, birds, reptiles and insects, she would eat the whole animal or insect, getting minerals from the bones and cartilage and enzymes from the vegetable soup in her prey's intestines, as all carnivores do. There are vitamins, minerals and enzymes necessary for your cat's optimal health that are not in raw muscle. Adding fresh, organic vegetables and fruits is essential. Just remember that because cats' short gastrointestinal tracts cannot digest roughage the way ours can, you must put your cat's vegetables and most fruit through a food processor.

Some cats will eat the vegetable "gruel" you make for them right away, but most will need a slow transition. You should always try a new food a few times, don't give up after the first rejection. Two transition ideas:

  1. Add a little salt to the gruel (unfortunately commercial pet-foods are loaded with salt in different forms, so our pets have developed a taste for it). Add less and less salt over time, finally using none at all.
  2. Add organic baby food of a meat flavor to the gruel, again, using less and less over time until you are using none.

Kona's favorite fruit is avocado, which she eats almost daily. In fact, I now use an avocado base to introduce new foods. Her second favorite is mango. Other cats I have helped transition have fervidly enjoyed melons, cherry tomatoes, bananas, grapes and sapotes. Just remember with grapes and berries especially (and other fruits that you can't skin) that your cat may not be able to digest them well so put them through a food processor first. I haven't met a cat yet who doesn't love wheatgrass, especially when they are on their natural diet (or as close as we can get). One of Kona's favorite things is a new flat of wheatgrass. She loves to chew it and roll around in and near it, and she's always charged with frisky energy for hours afterward.

As far as water goes, cats are savannah animals and naturally don't drink much. When Kona was on her totally cooked diet, she drank a bowl of water every day. Now she drinks a bowl of water every two or three weeks. When you do give your cat water, make sure it is purified. I feed Kona twice a day. It is not wise to feed cats more than twice a day or to allow them to graze. Since it is not natural for adult animals to depend on another for their food, putting your cat on a schedule will give her/him security. At feeding times, let your cat decide when she/he is finished eating as scarcity makes animals behave much differently (naturally!). An overweight cat will slim down on a natural diet and a scrawny cat will fill out. Some people think it is good to fast your pets once in a while; I do not. Animals know when they need to fast, don't force it on them. I am of course still learning and experimenting and trying to give Kona the most nutritious, varied diet possible. I have been a vegan for ten years so the meat part makes me sick, but I know that cats are carnivores and I want Kona to have a diet as close to her natural one as possible.

Witnessing the changes in her disposition, behavior and health has made it more than worth it! Kona had been abused so she was afraid of everything. She was always cowering and hiding. Lots of people who knew me for years never even knew I had a cat because they never saw her. Now she is brave and outgoing. She actually displays behavior that is dog-like. When the doorbell rings, she is the first one to the door to see who it is. When I do dishes, she lies at my feet and "guards" me. I had a friend over that jokingly slapped me on the leg, and she bit him. She also loves to play now. Her health has skyrocketed. She used to have a lot of dental problems, including decaying teeth, halitosis and painful mastication. I couldn't figure it out because I only fed her dry food (poison) and it didn't seem natural for a cat to have such problems. Even though she actually lost some of her smaller teeth, the vet said I shouldn't be alarmed but just make sure she has regular teeth cleanings (which are awful because they actually have to put cats under!). Now her teeth are fine, there is no more awful, stinky buildup and she will never have to go through a dental exam again. She used to have bloody stools, and the vet said that since she was on an "optimal" diet, it must be nerves. Now her stools are normal. Her coat is just beautiful. She is so soft, has less dander and sheds less. Kona, like most other San Francisco cats, was always afflicted with fleas. Now that she is raw and healthy, she is flea free! There is no reason the animals in our care should not enjoy the paradise health we raw-foodists do. So remember, cooked pet food is poison too!

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