In recent years there has been a growing trend toward raw food for pets. Just like the Paleo diet approximates the evolutionary diet of man, the raw food diet for pets mimics what dogs and cats would eat in the wild. There is a great deal of controversy surrounding raw food diets for pets for a number of reasons. For one thing, some veterinarians and animal nutritionists question the safety of feeding pets raw meat and bones – there is also the risk for food-borne illness and contamination to affect the people preparing the raw food diet.

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If you do the research, however, you will find that a raw food diet for cats offers a number of potential benefits. Not only can it improve your cat’s digestion and his overall health, but it can give him a boost of energy, giving new life to senior cats and increasing the activity level of adult cats and kittens. Raw food diets are uncooked which means that they still contain their natural nutritional content and all of those nutrients are readily available for your cat’s body to absorb. Before you decide if a raw food diet is right for your cat, take the time to learn the basics about this kind of diet as well as its pros and cons. Below you will find plenty of useful information about raw cat food including recommended brands for commercial raw cat food diets.

Quick Look : Top Recommended Raw Cat Food

Repellent Price Quality Rating
Stella & Chewy's Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat FoodStella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food
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$2.00/oz A+ 5 stars
Primal Chicken & Salmon Formula Nuggets Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat FoodPrimal Chicken & Salmon Formula Nuggets Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food
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$2.21/oz A+ 5 stars
Instinct by Nature's Variety Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat FoodInstinct by Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat Food
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$3.60/lb A 5 stars
The Honest Kitchen Prowl Grain-Free Dehydrated Cat FoodThe Honest Kitchen Prowl Grain-Free Dehydrated Cat Food
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$11.27/lb A 5 stars

What is Raw Food for Cats?

A raw food diet for cats is exactly what it sounds like – a diet composed of raw, uncooked foods. While it may sound strange or unnatural at first, consider the fact that wild cats and dogs eat raw meat on a regular basis – many people say that feeding cats dry kibble is what is unnatural. If you have looked into raw food for pets before, you may be familiar with the term “biologically appropriate diet”. Several high-grade pet food manufacturers use this terms to describe their raw or near-raw commercial pet food products which are designed to mimic the type of diet cats and dogs would follow in the wild. This type of diet is the kind of diet cats and dogs have evolved to follow – it is the kind of diet their bodies are designed for.

For cats, a raw food diet is composed primarily of raw meat and bone. Meat includes more than just the skin and muscle tissue – it also includes the ligaments, cartilage, and connective tissue. Raw bones are also an important part of a raw food diet for cats, especially the nutrient-rich marrow. Before you become too skeptical about feeding your cat bones, consider that it is cooked bones that are dangerous for pets. When animal bones (like chicken bones) are cooked, they become less flexible – they become brittle and prone to splintering. If your pet eats cooked chicken bones, there is the risk that a bone might puncture his esophagus, his stomach, or his intestines. Raw bones, on the other hand, are soft enough that your cat’s teeth can break them down into digestible pieces.

While meat and bone are the primary components of a raw food diet for cats, there are other ingredients which may be included as well. Some raw cat food manufacturers include fresh fruits and vegetables in their raw food products to help provide nutritional balance. Eggs are another common component of raw cat food diets because they are rich in essential nutrients. Most raw food diets only include the yolk of the egg, however, because the whites contain a protein called avidin which may disrupt the ability of your cat’s body to absorb and utilize B vitamins. Organ meats are also very important in a raw cat food diet – especially liver. Generally, a raw food diet for cats consists of 80% to 85% meat with 10% edible bone and 5% to 10% organ meat (half of which is liver).

Pros and Cons of Raw Cat Food

Before making any changes to your cat’s diet, you need to consider both the advantages and the disadvantages of the change. Raw cat foods have the potential to provide some significant health benefits, but there are also some risks involved. One of the main benefits for raw cat food is that it more closely approximates the cat’s natural diet than most commercial products. Cats are obligate carnivores which means that their bodies are designed to process meat and other animal products, not plant materials. If you think about it, the only carbohydrates wild cats get come from the stomach contents of their prey and they have already been partially digested. A diet that is high in carbohydrates and fiber (especially if it comes from grains) is unnatural for cats.

Another potential benefit of raw cat food is improved nutrition overall. A properly formulated raw food diet for cats contains all of the nutrients your cat needs from ingredients that his body is designed to digest and absorb. High-quality meats and raw bone are loaded with protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and digestive enzymes – everything your cat needs to be healthy. When your cat’s nutrition comes from high-quality sources, you will see the benefits in every aspect of his health and wellbeing. He will have more energy, his immune system will be stronger, his digestion will become more regular, his coat and skin will be healthier, his teeth will be cleaner and his breath fresher, and he may also experience relief from food allergies and sensitivities.

The benefits of raw cat food are very real and definitely worth considering, but there are some disadvantages you should think about as well. For one thing, raw cat food does not have the same shelf life as dry kibble – it must be refrigerated or frozen and it only lasts 3 to 5 days after thawing. Dry kibble can sit on the pet store shelf for weeks or months and, once opened, it doesn’t go bad nearly as fast as raw food. Another important factor to consider is the cost of raw cat food versus traditional kibble. A large bag of high-quality cat food might cost you about $20 and last you a whole month – this equates to a daily cost around $0.60 to feed your cat. Raw cat food diets can cost anywhere from $1.00 to $3.50 per day, depending on the brand and the size of your cat.

One of the biggest concerns people have about raw pet foods is the risk for contamination and food borne illness. Raw meat and eggs require certain safe handling procedures to reduce the risk for contamination but these concerns are primarily directed at the humans preparing the food – animals have an increased ability to tolerate bacterial contamination to some degree. If you think about it, however, handling raw cat food is no different than handling raw foods that you prepare for your family – if you follow the same safety protocols there shouldn’t be a problem. The packages for commercial raw cat foods typically offer safe handling instructions as well.

What You Should Know About Homemade Raw Cat Food Diets

If you think that a raw food diet might be the right option for your cat, you may be tempted by the idea of making your own homemade cat food. Homemade cat food can be a more economical option than commercial raw cat food diets and it gives you complete control of what your cat is and is not eating. Before you decide to switch your cat to a homemade cat food diet, however, there are a few things you need to know. For one thing, it is very difficult to create a complete and balanced homemade cat food from scratch. While the main portion of a cat’s diet should be meat, there are other nutrients your cat needs that he cannot get from chicken, fish, or other meats. Some people assume that they can fill in the nutritional blanks in their cat’s diet by feeding him a multivitamin, but this is not necessarily true. Vitamin and mineral supplements are less biologically valuable than natural sources of the same vitamins and minerals – the actual amount of the nutrient your cat’s body is able to absorb and utilize from the supplement may not be adequate.

Though creating a complete and balanced homemade cat food diet from scratch is very challenging, there are plenty of recipes online that have been approved by veterinarians and animal nutritionists. If you decide to try a homemade cat food diet, be sure to choose a recipe that is formulated to meet all of your cat’s nutritional needs. This kind of recipe will include more than just fresh meat and raw bones – it will probably also contain egg yolks, organ meats, water, a source of omega fatty acids, a taurine supplement, and other nutritional supplements. You may also see something called a raw cat food premix like TC Feline. This is a commercial nutritional supplement powder that is specifically designed for use with homemade raw cat food diets and it will help to ensure that your cat gets all of the nutrients he needs from his homemade diet.

Another thing you need to think about when considering a homemade diet for your cat is how you are going to store and serve the food. When preparing homemade cat food from raw, fresh ingredients, you need to exercise the same precautions as you would when preparing a meal for your family. Raw meats and eggs need to be handled with care and you need to keep your hands and all work surfaces clean and disinfected. After preparing the food, be sure to store it properly in the refrigerator for no longer than 3 to 5 days – if you need to keep it longer than that, put it in the freezer. When it comes time to offer the food to your cat, you may need to warm it up a little bit to make it more palatable. In terms of how much you should be feeding your cat, this gets a little tricky because you don’t have a package with feeding instructions to refer to. As a general rule, cats eat about 2% of their bodyweight daily and you should divide it into two or three small meals. If 2% is not enough (like if you have a young or very active cat), try bumping it up to 3%.

One final thing you need to think about with a homemade raw food diet for cats is the quality of your ingredients. If you aren’t going to buy high-quality ingredients for use in your homemade cat food diet, there is no point to it. You don’t necessarily need to feed your cat prime cuts of meat, but the type of meat you choose does need to be fresh. If possible, try to avoid meats that are treated with hormones and antibiotics – you can avoid these by going organic and by choosing grass-fed meats. To help save money on quality ingredients, try to find a local butcher who might sell you things like chicken necks, chicken wings, and organ meats at a discounted price – butchers are often eager to do this with things they might otherwise throw away. Overall, if you make an effort to choose the freshest, most natural ingredients, your homemade cat food will be very healthy and nutritious.

Types of Commercial Raw Cat Food Products

With the popularity of raw cat food diets increasing at a steady rate, more and more pet food manufacturers are starting to offer commercial raw cat food products. These products come in a variety of different forms, including the following:

  • Rolls – This type of raw cat food typically consists of raw ingredients ground together and then shaped into a roll. Generally stored in the refrigerator, you can open the roll and cut slices according to the proper feeding amount for your cat.
  • Patties – These are similar to rolls except that they have already been separated into single-serve portions. Like rolls of raw cat food, patties typically consists of blended raw ingredients that have been passed through a grinder to create a uniform texture.
  • Fresh – Another way that pet food manufacturers sometimes package their raw foods is in pouches, tubs, or bags. The actual state of the food varies from one manufacturer to another – it could be small or large chunks of fresh ingredients or it could be a blended mixture broken into pieces.
  • Frozen – All of the above types of raw cat food can be frozen and, for some manufacturers, that is the only way they will sell their products. Frozen raw cat food offers a much longer shelf life than fresh food, though it must still be thawed before serving and, once it is, it is only good for a few days.
  • Freeze-Dried – This type of cat food consists of raw food that has been air-dried to remove moisture. By air-drying the food, manufacturers are able to increase the shelf-life and make the product more stable at room temperature. The bonus of this type of food is that most of the nutrition content of the ingredients is preserved since the product is not cooked.

Best Brands for Raw Cat Food

If you are considering switching your cat over to a raw food diet, you may want to start with a commercial product instead of jumping right into homemade cat food. It is very difficult to achieve completely balanced nutrition with a homemade cat food diet unless you use a recipe approved by an animal nutritionist. To get your cat started with the raw food diet, consider one of the top-rated cat food brands below which offer raw cat food products:

Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food

While the name may be a little bit odd, Stella & Chewy’s has a great reputation for producing high-quality, all-natural pet food products. This company was founded on the idea that pets are most likely to thrive when they are fed a natural, evolutionary diet. Stella & Chewy’s designs all of their products with inspiration taken from the diets of wild cats and dogs, featuring premium ingredients like grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, and cage-free poultry. They only use organic fruits and vegetables and their production facilities are FDA-inspected and –approved. Each of their cat food products is free from gluten, grains, and artificial ingredients, plus they are complete and balanced for cats in all life stages. As an added bonus, every formula is loaded with natural flavor your cat is sure to love.

Stella & Chewy’s offers five options in freeze-dried dinners and three options in frozen dinners. Not only does this company offer a good selection of products, but they also provide valuable information for consumers to help them choose between a freeze-dried and a raw diet for their cats. Stella & Chewy’s freeze-dried dinners are ideal for transitioning cats onto a raw food diet and they are convenient to use and store. The five flavor options for freeze-dried dinners including the following: Chick, Chick, Chicken; Duck, Duck, Goose; Sea-Licious Salmon & Cod; Tummy Ticklin’ Turkey; and Yummy Lickin’ Salmon & Chicken. The three options for frozen dinners are Chick, Chick, Chicken; Duck, Duck, Goose; and Absolutely Rabbit. Your cat would be lucky to have any of these products.

Primal Chicken & Salmon Formula Nuggets Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food

If you are concerned about your own health and nutrition, you may have done some research about a popular diet called the Paleo diet. Primal Pet Foods, Inc. follows a similar set of nutritional principles in producing raw food diets for dogs and cats. The Primal Pet Foods Company was founded in 2001 and they currently offer an extensive array of raw, frozen, and freeze-dried products. Based out of San Francisco, CA, the Primal Pet Foods Company uses human-grade ingredients in manufacturing their products and they follow the strictest standards for quality and safety. This company uses only the freshest ingredients including antibiotic- and steroid-free meats and poultry, organic produce, and organic minerals and unrefined vitamins.

Primal Pet Foods follows a particular type of animal diet called the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food Diet, or BARF for short – it is also sometimes known as the Bones and Raw Food diet. All of their products are made with raw meaty bones, organs, muscle meat, and fresh fruits and vegetables. For their raw frozen formulas, Primal Pet Foods, Inc. offers seven different feline flavors including pheasant, pork, rabbit, venison, and more. For Raw Pronto formulas – frozen bits of raw food – there are four flavors including Pork, Turkey, Rabbit, and Chicken & Salmon. For added convenience and easy feeding, there are also some freeze-dried formulas featuring quality proteins like beef, salmon, venison, and turkey. These formulas offer the nutritional benefits of raw food without the extra preparation.

Making the switch to a raw cat food diet is not right for all cats, but it is definitely an option worth considering. Before you make any major changes to your cat’s diet, be sure to consult your veterinarian to make sure that your cat doesn’t have any special medical or dietary needs that might be compromised by feeding him a raw food diet. If you do decide to make the switch, be sure to transition your cat slowly onto the new diet to prevent digestive upset. Once your cat gets used to the new diet, you may be surprised at the results!

Instinct by Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat Food

The Nature’s Variety pet food company is based out of St. Louis, Missouri and they are a company dedicated to providing for the nutritional needs of dogs and cats everywhere. This company is an independent pet food company that follows strict standards of quality as well as sound nutritional principles to produce some of the highest quality commercial pet food products on the market. The Nature’s Variety Company offers two different brands – Instinct and Prairie. The Prairie line of products features premium proteins in recipes that are all-natural but still affordable. The Instinct line of pet foods features a variety of products including raw frozen diets, freeze-dried raw diets, frozen bones, kibble, canned foods, and treats. If you are looking for a commercial raw food diet for your cat, Nature’s Variety Instinct offers some of the greatest variety.

If you are thinking about transitioning your cat onto a raw food diet, Nature’s Variety Instinct offers a variety of products to help. Instinct Raw Boost Kibble is made with a blend of high-protein kibble and freeze-dried raw pieces all in one formula and it comes in three regular and two indoor formulas. To take things a step further toward a completely raw diet, Instinct Raw Bites are frozen bits of raw food that can be thawed and added to your cat’s kibble. When your cat is ready to complete the transition there are Instinct Raw Medallions, bags of single-serve raw medallions available in two different flavors, Rabbit and Chicken. All of Nature’s Variety Instinct products are made with high-quality proteins, wholesome fruits and vegetables, and other natural ingredients – plus, there are many flavor options to choose from.

The Honest Kitchen Prowl Grain-Free Dehydrated Cat Food

The Honest Kitchen pet food company was founded in 2002, so it is not a very old company. Despite being fairly new to the pet food scene, Honest Kitchen has already created a name for itself as one of the top-rated brands, particularly in raw and fresh pet food diets. This company offers their customer’s what they call the “Honest Difference” which promises 100% human grade ingredients, plenty of whole foods, and strict standards for quality and safety. Not only are all of the ingredients that go into Honest Kitchen’s products fit for human consumption, but they are minimally processed, preserved through dehydration rather than cooking or the use of artificial preservatives. Simply put, Honest Kitchen products are all-natural and you can tell just by looking at them.

Honest Kitchen offers a variety of different pet food products for both dogs and cats. Though there are a larger variety of options in products for dogs, there are still two high-quality cat food options as well as a collection of treats, supplements, and other items. The two flavor options Honest Kitchen offers in cat food products are Grain-Free Chicken Cat Food (Prowl) and Grain-Free Turkey Cat Food (Grace). The Prowl formula is complete and balanced for adult cats and it features dehydrated chicken, eggs, sweet potato, organic flaxseed, and a number of other healthy ingredients. The Grace formula features dehydrated turkey, eggs, pumpkin, and potatoes as well as various nutritional supplements. This recipe is complete and balanced for both adult cats and kittens. Each 4-pound box of Honest Kitchen cat food contains a total of 12 pounds of fresh ingredients with no corn, wheat, or soy products and absolutely no artificial additives.

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Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is a freelance writer specializing in the subject of pet health and wellness. An avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate has a great deal of experience writing about all kinds of pets and all aspects of pet care. Her work has been featured on a number of pet websites and she is a regular columnist for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine.

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