What is a Raw Diet?

Life With Cats is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

Could BARF be right for you and your cat?

There are so many options when it comes to cat food. Many of us become overwhelmed in the pet food aisle, reading labels and wondering if we should get turkey, fish, or beef based food. Or should the food have peas and carrots in it? Brown Rice? Isn’t Brewer’s yeast a good thing? Flaked or pâté? Many of our cats only eat dry food. Some only eat canned. Many cat owners are taking the guesswork out of wondering what to feed kitty by going raw. The raw diet is also referred to as the BARF diet, which stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food OR Bones And Raw Food. That’s right, bones. There is more to raw feeding than just raw meat.

The idea behind going raw is that of replicating or at least mimicking what kitty would eat in the wild. Proponents of raw feeding claim their cats are much healthier than when on commercial foods. They report their pets are lean and more muscular, have shiny coats and health problems are almost nonexistent. And they say cats who have access to raw bones have clean white teeth and don’t require expensive dental cleanings. So how exactly do you prepare raw food? There are a few different ways. There are many resources for frozen mice (and other rodents) since so many people keep snakes. And with raw diets growing in popularity, there are many companies selling frozen chicks. Chicken and quail chicks are most common. Bags of frozen chicks and frozen mice of varying sizes and quantities can be purchased online and shipped to your door. The mouse or chick is thawed and fed to kitty in its entirety. Just how it would be in the wild. Organs, bones, feathers, hair and all. This method is not for the squeamish. But some cat owners enjoy watching their cats eating the way nature intended.

If little frozen critters aren’t for you, another option includes buying whole chickens from the store. This method requires a heavy duty meat grinder as you will need to grind the entire bird. Bones, skin, organs, everything. Now you have a ground, unidentifiable meal you can scoop out onto plates or in bowls. A third method involves purchasing meat and adding your own supplements to it. This process is more involved than the previous two. It includes finding and using food grade bone meal and adding just the right amount of trace minerals and taurine. This method leaves plenty of room for error but doesn’t involve purchasing a meat grinder as you can just chop the meat up. Whatever method of raw food preparation one chooses, naysayers claim there are potential health risks. Guidelines are similar to the way you would handle raw meat for humans. It should be kept frozen until ready for use. Thawing should be done in the refrigerator or in water for a quicker thaw. Food not eaten should be picked up and discarded after a shorter period of time.

There is no shortage of information online about raw feeding. There are recipes and instructions and FAQ’s answered. If raw feeding interests you, do your research. Some veterinarians are okay with it, some are not. There are varying opinions on how best to do it. In the end you should do what works best for you, your cat and your particular situation. Bone Appetite!

0 thoughts on “What is a Raw Diet?”

  1. HAHAHA! .. I can just see my purrbabies looking at me when I put a dead mouse in their bowl for food! … They only allow me to live here because I know how to open the cans! … LOL

  2. Another thing people do is think that muscle meats and bones are enough food for a balanced diet. To do BARF correctly, you must also include organ meats. Another reason that it’s more complicated than people think. I have not yet met a practicing vet who likes it, but many of my breeder friends (one of whom was educated as a vet) swear by it. And I must admit that their sight hound teeth look incredible.

  3. Hi Tammy! In researching for this post, I did read that some people do use vegetables for fiber. Low Glycemic Index veggies like zucchini were used in one recipe. I saw another that included psyllium husks. This is a topic that people have written books about. There are so many ways to do it and variations. Like I said, in the end it is all about doing what’s right for your cat. I am not doing raw foods but when my cat was diagnosed with diabetes, I experimented with cooking lots of chicken breasts and shredding the meat and adding canned food for the other minerals and such. He loved it and really it can be cost effective. The raw thing is very interesting but I am not a good enough housekeeper to add blood and guts to the mix. And I agree kitty’s body will lead him to eat what he needs. Which is probably why they eat insects sometimes.
    And speaking of layer crumbles…I have read that people are using crumbles for kitty litter because it is compostable! Isn’t that interesting? hmmmm….50lbs of Layena for $14 vs. 34 lbs of WBCL for $35ish?

  4. OK, this is just gross. My cats won’t even eat canned cat food because it stinks. Their main diet is dry food which is supplemented with chicken. But cooked and no bones.

  5. Before you start promoting the “RAW” diet you need to tell your readers that the opinions are owner testimonials and have no scientific backing. The benefits of a raw diet do not outweight the risk. In fact, by feeding a raw diet, you are increasing public health risks (dogs shed bacteria like salmonella without showing any clinical symptoms) and you are predisposing them to gastric injuries that are very common with ingestion of whole or bone bits.

    People often say, “Oh, this is how a cat/dog eats in nature,” well you should realize that these dogs and cats also die in nature when they get these problems. It is not comparable to modern pets at all.

    Pet owners should look at commercial diets and find which ones actually do responsible nutritional studies for their pet foods. Of course not all brands follow these morals, but there are several well backed food companies out there that make balanced and safe diets for our pets.

  6. i find that very interesting about the layer crumbles…the added benefit to using it would be when teaching young kittens to use a litter box they invariably eat some of the litter…if it is clay i always worry about it causing a blockage, so i must always watch them closely through this phase. with the crumbles that threat would be nullified. i wonder how well it absorbs…should be pretty good. thank you for telling me about it.

Leave a Comment