A raw meaty bone diet is nature’s model for cats
Blog interview by Claude West (cat man)
We are honored to have Linda Zurich as our guest to answer some questions about the proper diet, the results of that diet, and long term health requirements of cats. She has done extensive research in these areas and will share some of this knowledge with us.
Linda is a passionate advocate of feeding and caring for our domestic pets as naturally and holistically as possible. She is a writer and independent researcher, and in 2006 created the first free online resource dedicated to educating the public on the benefits of feeding cats a diet of whole raw foods.
More recently she completed her first book on the subject, entitled Raw Fed Cats: Feeding Cats a Diet of Whole Raw Foods Based on Nature’s Model, which is available as an e-book on her website. She is currently researching and writing her second book, which focuses on holistic and dietary approaches to human healing and wellness.
Her websites are:
1. Please explain to my readers why feeding cats commercial pet food is harmful to their health?
First of all I’d like to thank you, Claude, for inviting me to be interviewed on your blog, and also to thank everyone who takes the time to read our exchange here. I feel very honored and grateful to have this opportunity to connect with you and your readers, and to share my ever evolving understanding and insights about caring and feeding our furry friends naturally.
I’d also like to encourage everyone who might be interested in this subject to do as much research, reading and investigation as they can about it, so they can become informed and empowered to make the best and healthiest choices possible on behalf of their beloved feline companions.
There are a number of reasons why commercial pet food is so potentially harmful to cats’ health. Some of the most important of these are because:
a) Domestic cats’ bodies were never designed to consume either cooked or highly processed food such as kibble or canned pet food. Rather our pet cats are the product of many millions of years evolution, and their bodies, just like those of every other wild cat in the world, have been made by Mother Nature to eat their food in its raw state. This is the way all felines on this planet have naturally been consuming their food for eons.
b) All cats, whether they be wild or domestic, are obligate carnivores. This means that in order to thrive, the feline body requires those particular nutrients that are derived specifically from animal tissue.
Yet the vast majority of commercial pet food, particularly kibble, often contains a considerable amount of plant based foods, especially in the form of carbohydrate laden ingredients such as corn, rice, wheat and soy. Such plant derived foods, particularly those which are starchy in nature, are totally unnatural and inappropriate for obligate carnivores like cats to consume.
The feline body was simply not designed to either digest or assimilate the nourishment contained in such foods. Therefore, feeding cats pet food containing these inappropriate ingredients day in and day out can, over the course of time, have an extremely detrimental impact on the overall health and longevity of these animals.
It’s important to note here that even so called ‘grain free kibble’ products are little better than those which contain grains, as the former are not only still highly processed and cooked, but they’re also almost always chock full of starchy fillers such as potatoes, peas and sugary fruits. Again, such foods are carbohydrate rich, plant based ingredients that do not belong in any appreciable amounts in the diet of an obligate carnivore.
c) Despite some extremely persuasive and effective multi-billion dollar marketing and advertising campaigns designed to sway the masses into thinking commercial pet foods are full of wholesome, health promoting ingredients, many people would be shocked and very dismayed to know the truth about how most all commercial pet food manufactured, and also what it is really made out of.
Unfortunately for the pets that eat it, most all commercial pet food actually contains a variety of very low quality, nutrient deficient waste materials, most of which are left over from the manufacturing of food for people. Most of this sort of waste ends up in places called “Rendering Plants”, which some of the most unspeakable of all food waste products are processed.
These wastes include such things as 4D livestock, (Disabled – Diseased – Downed – Dying animals), road kill, expired, rotting grocery store meats along with their plastic and styrofoam packages, and even euthanized pets, many with their flea collars still attached. All this nasty stuff is cooked at extremely high temperatures then ground up and dehydrated at rendering plants, and ends up as cheap pet food ingredients with euphemistic names like “meat by-products,” “meat and bone meal” and “animal digest.”
There is much more to know about the deplorable quality of many of the ingredients used in most commercial pet food products that is beyond the scope of this interview. Therefore if this information is new to you and you want to learn more about it on behalf of your pet, I urge you to do your own research.
A good place to start is to read the information at the links below. Reading through these articles will help you to get a better understanding of the utterly appalling truth about how most all commercially available pet food is made. It will also educate you about the kinds of of atrocious and wretched ingredients that really go into those cans and bags of what essentially amounts to toxic junk food for pets:
From my website: Toxic Junk Pet Food: The Shocking and Grisly Truth:
An excerpt from the book, “Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food.” By Ann N Martin:
Pet Food – Our Pets are Dying for It by Sandra Brigola
The Whole(istic) Truth About Pet Food by Christi Keith:
d) Consuming a steady diet of kibble and canned pet food for an extended period of time, which as explained above is terribly unnatural for a carnivorous animal such as a cat, puts a chronic strain on the digestive system and overall health of that animal. This can lead, especially over time, to a number of different health issues.
Digestive disorders, such as obesity, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), diabetes, chronic vomiting, diarrhea and constipation, as well as urinary disorders such as CRF (chronic renal failure), urinary tract infections and struvite crystals are some of the most common diet related ailments from which far too many cats are suffering today.
e) Years of eating nothing but kibble and/or canned pet food often also lead to deteriorating oral health in the form of gingivitis and periodontal disease. Sadly, statistics show that the majority of adult domestic cats over the age of 4 that are fed a steady diet of commercial pet food suffer from some degree of gum disease.
f) Gum disease is a known precursor to a number other, much more serious chronic systemic ailments, particularly including diseases and disorders of the kidneys. If left untreated, advanced cases of gum disease can also lead to permanent tooth loss.
For a graphic description of the sort of painful, unhealthy and debilitating damage that can happen over time to the mouths of domestic animals fed commercial pet food, please check out this link showing the diseased teeth and gums of a kibble fed cat compared to the healthy mouth and teeth of a raw fed cat:
2. What does a diet of whole raw food consist of?
A diet of whole raw foods generally consists of an assemblage of minimally processed animal based foods including plenty of raw meat, along with some raw meaty bones and raw organ meats. These various body parts are fed in the approximate proportions as are found in the average prey critter, the idea being to approximate what Mother Nature has been feeding her carnivorous felines for ages. Raw eggs are another very nourishing animal based food that is also often included in a diet of whole raw foods.
Whole raw prey critters, such as small birds like quail or chicks, rabbits, mice or other rodents, which are available for purchase as frozen feeders specifically for pets, can also be fed as a part of a diet of whole raw foods.
Please see my website for a more detailed description of this diet, which is also known as a prey model diet:
One of the most important distinctions to note about the raw diet I recommend and promote is that it does not include any significant amount of ground raw food, and instead focuses primarily on non-ground whole raw foods.
The reader should be aware that there are more and more commercial raw diets coming onto the market these days, and that by and large virtually all of them consist of ground frozen food in one form or another. In my opinion, these products are inappropriate for any cat that has all or most of its teeth.
If by chance you’re dealing with a young kitten, you may use some ground raw food in the very beginning of the baby’s transition as it’s being weaned from its mother’s milk and onto its first few meals of raw, although many young kittens may be able to begin their initial transition to solid food with finely chopped raw meat instead of relying on ground.
The only other situation when ground raw food is appropriate is in the case of an adult cat that has lost a significant portion of its teeth due to poor oral health and cannot handle hunks of boneless meat or raw meaty bones. In these cases, I recommend people purchase their own grinder and use a recipe at this website to make their cats raw food:
The primary reasons why I don’t recommend feeding adult cats that have their teeth ground raw food are because: 1) feeding mushy ground raw food to an adult carnivore like a cat is totally unnatural, and 2) ground food supplies none of the teeth and gum cleaning and scrubbing action that happens when whole raw foods, particularly raw meaty bones, are consumed by carnivorous felines.
3. What do you think the biggest challenge is converting a cat from commercial to a whole raw food diet?
There are several main challenges:
a) As most anyone who has one knows, domestic cats in general are notorious for being fussy and hard to please when it comes to their food!
b) Cats can have a peculiar tendency to fixate or latch onto certain foods to the point where they’ll refuse to eat anything other than their chosen favorite(s).
c) Many cats, particularly those that are older and/or have been fed grain filled kibble their whole lives, have become addicted to the taste and texture of kibble as well as to the carbohydrates it contains. These cats can sometimes prove to be more challenging to transition to a raw diet than younger cats, or those that have not been allowed free 24/7 access to kibble throughout their lives.
d) Anyone who has ever smelled an open can of cat food or bag of kibble knows all too well, the stuff generally stinks to high heaven. In comparison, fresh raw meat has very little odor. As a result, many cats that are used to eating commercial pet food don’t even recognize raw meat as being food when it’s initially offered to them.
e) Because of their susceptibility to contracting a form of liver failure called hepatic lipidosis when they don’t eat for a few days, it’s not possible to force a cat to make the switch to raw by withholding its preferred commercial food and making her go cold turkey. This means the cat must be transitioned more on her own time than according to a schedule that we humans might prefer to impose. Depending on the cat, this can sometimes take a good deal of patience on the part of the human.
4. How should one handle a cat that absolutely refuses to eat this diet, even when you mix it in with commercial can cat food?
A reluctant kitty’s person must be very patient, determined and full of perseverance in order to help their stubborn furry friend to make the transition to raw. There are many tips, hints, tricks that can help, particularly those involving continually disguising the raw food with other ‘bribe’ foods the kitty finds enticing. It can also be very helpful to start disguising such a small amount of raw food that it initially goes unnoticed by the cat, and then ever so gradually increasing the amount of raw being offered over time, while slowly decreasing the amount of bribe food as the cat becomes more accustomed the the taste of raw and increasingly willing to eat it.
It may take time, but with diligence and persistence the transition to raw can and will happen as long as the person keeps on making the effort to help the cat learn to eat raw food and does not give up.
There are any number of suggestions for bribe foods, as well as a step by step guide for helping reluctant cats make the switch to raw, both in the practical guide section of my website and in my e-book:
5. In your e-book you mentioned that you knew some folks who did a whole raw food diet for their pets and it made an impression on you. Was there a specific event or information that motivated you to change your cats to this diet?
What really convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I needed to feed my cats raw was learning about how foul and nasty commercial pet food really is. How dreadfully unnatural and inappropriate it is for our animals to eat and how damaging it can potentially be to the health of domestic pets, both cats and dogs. This realization, combined with my growing understanding of the many incredible benefits of feeding cats a whole raw diet, were the determining factors that compelled me to learn how to feed my cats, (who were kittens at the time), a diet of raw food instead of conventional pet food.
6. What is the best way of converting a cat to the whole raw food diet?
There’s certainly no one way, however there are a few key steps and ideas that most people find to be most helpful and effective.
First, just offering your cat some small morsels of raw boneless meat to see if she’ll eat them is a fantastic idea. Some people are amazed when their cats gobble this new and different food right up with no hesitation whatsoever! And, although this doesn’t happen with every cat, just testing the waters by offering some raw meat is still a great way to begin and gauge the kitty’s response. If the cat is responsive and willing to eat some raw food, this is a great sign, and means she’ll most likely be relatively easy to transition to raw. If not, then a bit more time and effort on the part of the person will most likely be involved.
It’s also a good idea to stop “free” feeding kibble, especially to kibble addicts, so as to begin breaking them of the habit of grazing on this junk. Please understand that this does not mean removing the kibble altogether all at once, but rather only allowing access to kibble during several limited ‘meal times’ and then removing it, rather than leaving the kibble buffet open 24/7.
Another suggestion many people find helpful, especially for cats that eat mostly kibble and/or are not at all interested in eating raw at their first introduction to it, is to make an interim transition from kibble to canned cat food before offering more raw food. Because the wet texture of canned is closer to raw than the dry crunchiness of kibble, this can be a very helpful step for many reluctant kitties.
As mentioned previously, the next step is all about using bribe foods to disguise the raw in order to tempt the kitty into learning to enjoy and appreciate her new raw food.
There is considerably more information that goes into much greater detail on how to help cats make the transition to raw in the Practical Guide section of my website, as well as in my e-book, which are linked above.
7. Once a cat is converted to the whole raw food diet what short term results or observations can be made about the cat?
The quality of their poop is transformed!
Cats that eat junk commercial pet food have unnaturally large, incredibly smelly stools that take forever to decompose. On the other hand by comparison, raw fed cats have poops that are considerably smaller and much more compact, and which don’t smell nearly so offensive and rank. A raw fed cat’s stool is also readily biodegradable and will decompose quite rapidly, crumbling into an ash-like consistency if left out on the ground.
This is due to the fact that raw food is so much more digestible; because the nutrients it contains are so much better assimilated; and because whole raw foods don’t contain any starchy, inappropriate ingredients such as corn, soy, wheat or other indigestible (for carnivores) fillers which pass through the body without being properly assimilated and come out the other end reeking and appearing unnaturally bulky.
Many people report that their cat’s breath is greatly improved after they start eating a raw diet.
Most folks also find that their kitty’s coat becomes much softer and shinier, and that it has a much cleaner feel to it, rather than the comparatively greasy feeling it had when the cat was eating commercial pet food.
Although this is not necessarily always the case, I’ve also had a number of people tell me that after their kitties start eating an all raw diet, their cats have become more affectionate, present, active, alert and/or playful than they ever were before while eating commercial pet food.
In addition, many cats that have been suffering from various kinds of health ailments start getting better when they’re switched to raw. For instance my neighbor, whose cat had been vomiting chronically for years, found that her kitty began to vomit much less frequently after she was switched to a completely raw diet. I’ve heard from many other people who have shared similar stories of their cats improving or recovering from a number of other health issues after being transitioned to raw food.
To read more about the many benefits of feeding a diet of whole raw foods to cats, please see this page of my website:
Benefits of a Natural Raw Diet: Whole Foods for Better Health
To read about even more amazing stories about the benefits of feeding raw from people who have switched their cats to raw food, you may also wish to join this very informative online forum:
8. Also, what have you observed in the long term with your cats?
Compact, nearly odorless stools, very soft fur, clean white teeth and strong healthy gums, and so far at the age of 6, they’ve never been sick and are in very good health!
9. When your pets become ill, who do you seek advice for their treatment?
Fortunately, my cats have never been ill. But if one of them did show signs of being unwell, I’d seek out the services of a veterinarian (ideally a holistically oriented one if at all possible) and bring the cat in to consult with them as a diagnostician. Vets can be very useful in helping determine what’s going on with a sick pet, which would then give me more information about how to proceed.
Another option would be to consult a veterinary naturopath and/or a classically trained homeopath for pets and consider their treatment recommendations, as my preference is always to avoid the use of pharmaceutical drugs, and to instead rely on the most natural, holistic, non-invasive approaches for caring for my animals whenever possible.
My feeling when it comes to the health of my pets is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that providing them with the highest quality nourishment goes a long way to promoting their continued good health as well as their potential longevity.
10. Some states require mandatory rabies vaccination of pets. Some veterinarians recommend an initial followed by re-vaccinations for life long protection. How do you deal with the regulations and the vaccine regimes that the vets push?
Just to bring your readers up to speed about why you’re asking this question, I’d like to explain that while doing research for my website and book, I came across a huge body of information about a subject called vaccinosis, which I had never heard of before. It turns out that vaccinosis is a blanket term for a variety of different acute and chronic health complications that can result from the administration of vaccines to domestic animals.
What I discovered is that not only are there pets that have very serious – and occasionally even deadly – adverse reactions to being vaccinated shortly after they are jabbed, but that multiple simultaneous inoculations, as well as repeated vaccinations in the form of annual booster shots, can also have a devastating affect on the long term health of many animals.
The more I read and studied about this subject, the more critical I realized this issue is, and the more important it began to feel that I share what I was learning about it with others. This is why there’s a section included on my site entitled Vaccinosis: How Vaccines Damage Your Pet’s Health which can be viewed here:
There are also a number of excellent and very informative resources available on the issue of vaccines on the links section of my website. Just scroll about halfway down this page to find them:
I encourage everyone reading this blog today to investigate this subject for themselves on behalf of their pets, and to become as educated and informed about it as possible. My hope is that each reader will take it upon themselves to become their pet’s advocate on this issue, since these innocent animals cannot speak for themselves.
At the very least, please understand that you should never allow a sick pet to be vaccinated, and also that you do not have to blindly bring your pets in to get a slew of annual booster shots year after year after year just because you get a notice from a vet telling you to do so. Instead, do your homework and arm yourself with a conscious awareness of the potential risks involved, as well as your rights as a pet owner.
There are some excellent online forums and resources that provide good information on how to deal with regulations as well as vets that push excessive vaccinations. Here are links to a few of them:
11. Feline Leukemia is like a small pox for cats. Will a healthy immune system be sufficient to combat such highly communicable disease?
Whether or not any particular animal becomes vulnerable to such an illness depends upon a myriad of factors. These would include things like the animal’s age, weight and activity level, its diet, the health of its parents and grandparents, whether it had been given pharmaceutical drugs and/or vaccines or had been routinely treated with chemical flea and tick products or harsh dewormers, whether it’s a strictly indoor cat or it goes outside, or comes into contact with other infected animals. Certainly without a doubt the animal’s overall health, and particularly the quality of the functioning of its immune system would most definitely among those factors.
12. Are there organizations or groups that support the natural whole raw food diet and provide resources similar to your website?
When I first began this journey of learning about how to feed a raw diet to cats nearly 6 years ago, virtually the only information I was able to find about feeding pets this way was focused on dogs. This lack of information about how to feed cats a raw food diet was the reason why I decided to create my website in the first place.
One of the things that also became clear to me early on was that there were many people who were feeding pets various versions of a raw diet which included primarily ground raw food often along with a considerable amount vegetables, rather than feeding whole raw foods including raw meaty bones.
However once it became clear to me that both cats and dogs are carnivores, and that their bodies have been designed by Mother Nature with teeth and jaws that are specifically made for eating whole raw foods – not ground raw food or lots of veggies – I realized that the form of the food we feed our pets is actually incredibly important. I knew then that educating people about why cats and dogs should be fed whole, not ground raw foods, and working to help interested animal lovers understand the great benefits of doing so was something that was sorely needed in our society.
This is why I’ve become such an ardent advocate of feeding our house carnivores a diet of whole raw foods, also known as a prey model diet, as opposed to any other type of raw diet.
There are a few excellent online forums that promote feeding pets a diet of whole raw foods, and which also provide education, practical advice and real time support from folks with years of experience for those who are interested in learning more about how and why to feed their pets this way.
Below is a listing of online resources that support this way of feeding our domestic pets:
Even today, the vast majority of the information about feeding prey model which is available elsewhere still only addresses the needs of dogs. Although there are more and more resources appearing day by day promoting the feeding of raw diets consisting of ground raw food, as far as I’m aware, my book and website are the only comprehensive resources available that are geared toward educating people about how and why to feed cats a prey model diet of whole raw foods.
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