What is Raw Cat Food?

J.M. Densing

Raw cat food is food for felines made primarily from uncooked meat, together with supplements to ensure complete nutrition. The food is supposed to be as close as possible to what cats would eat in the wild; those who advocate feeding this diet say that it improves feline health. Raw cat food can be prepared at home by following a proper recipe, but it needs to be done carefully, and can be messy and time consuming. There are also some commercially prepared products available.

Raw chicken is often parboiled and mixed with other ingredients to make raw cat food.
Raw chicken is often parboiled and mixed with other ingredients to make raw cat food.

Cats are carnivorous predators by nature; in the wild they survive by catching and eating prey. They eat very little plant matter. Most commercially prepared cat foods are made of highly processed cooked meat and large amounts of plant materials. Although these products do provide carefully balanced nutrition, they are quite removed from a cat's natural diet. Raw cat food, with the high concentration of uncooked meat, is much closer to the diet cats are designed to eat.

Raw cat food advocates say it improves feline health.
Raw cat food advocates say it improves feline health.

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Supporters claim that feeding cats raw food instead of the typical dry or canned diet is much healthier for them. They base this assertion on the fact that an uncooked diet is closer to what cats would eat in nature and on the theory that raw foods are more efficient at delivering nutrition. They claim that a cat on raw cat food will live a longer, healthier life with increased energy levels. Many also say it can be helpful in the treatment of a variety of feline medical problems including diabetes and a blocked urinary tract.

If desired, raw cat food can be prepared at home, but it needs to be done by following a balanced recipe from a reputable source. The typical recipe consists of the following: raw meat such as chicken, rabbit or turkey, including the bones; water, egg, and liver; and supplemental nutrients including vitamin E, B-complex, taurine, psyllium, salmon oil, and salt. The meat can be parboiled to kill surface bacteria, but not cooked through, and the egg can be cooked to avoid salmonella. The majority of the meat, the liver, and bone are usually ground, with some flesh left in chunks; it's then mixed with the water and supplements.

Most people who make raw cat food prepare it in large batches that yield enough to feed a cat for a few weeks, spending several hours at a time on the process. Once prepared, the food is usually stored frozen until needed, and defrosted and brought to room temperature before feeding. For those who wish to avoid the time and mess involved in home preparation, there are several brands of commercially prepared raw cat food available for purchase. This option is typically more expensive than homemade and often needs to be ordered from a supplier and shipped.

Salmon oil is a popular ingredient in raw cat food.
Salmon oil is a popular ingredient in raw cat food.

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