The Feline Raw Diet Journey

Meet Jazz! This handsome guy is almost 6 years old, and since I rescued him he has brought me so much joy! From the beginning Jazz was very shy and cautious with most people, but we immediately bonded and became best buds. As a kitten he was always extremely energetic and could play for hours, racing around so fast it would make your head spin. Leaping, bounding and pouncing – the play never seemed to stop! However, as with most cats, over the years he has slowed down, opting for more sunbathing and cuddles than energized play sessions. Naturally, with the decline in activity I began to notice an increase in his weight.

Cats have a difficult time when it comes to losing weight and it has to do with what we are feeding them. If cats have more carbs in their diet, they will not be eating the correct protein levels their body requires. Low protein is not ideal for general maintenance and energy levels. When looking at the evolution of cats, they use fat and protein as sources of energy. There is no need for carbohydrates in the food they eat. Cats metabolically use protein for energy. Lower protein diets lead to lower muscle mass and lower muscle mass leads to a lower metabolic rate and higher weight gain. There have been studies which analyze how high protein and low carbohydrate diets are good for weight loss while maintaining lean body mass. Dry food uses carbohydrates to bind the kibble together, and so it’s difficult to produce a low carb food in a dry form. High protein, low carbohydrates and low calories are better found in a canned or raw diet. In addition, portion control is very important as indoor cats don’t move around as much as outdoor cats and therefore, we need to constantly monitor the energy they consume and use.  

With Jazz I acted early. At the time, he was on a premium quality kibble and wet diet. I decided my first step would be to switch entirely to a wet food diet. Canned diets typically have a lower calorie content which can help with weight management. It also has the added benefits of having a high moisture content which mimics their natural ancestral diet, keeps them hydrated and can reduce the risk of urinary tract issues (particularly common in male cats). Jazz definitely approved! He loved his wet food and would gobble it down in seconds! While I did see a slight increase in his energy and a shinier coat, unfortunately it was not having the results I hoped for his weight. I had been planning on introducing a raw diet at some point, so now seemed the perfect opportunity!

However, Jazz had only ever had wet and dry food since “kittenhood” and was much more wary of the raw when it was introduced. Because of this, I had to slowly integrate it into his diet. He didn’t make it easy! Now for some cats, they absolutely love raw and will take to it instantly. However, if you are like me and have a fussy cat (like many are) who doesn’t like change, keep reading for how we made the transition!

I started with adding just a pea sized portion and mixing it in with his wet food and gradually increased the amount. But how, you might ask, with raw food? Ice cube trays. Yes, you read that right. Ice cube trays! They are the perfect tool to portion out several servings of raw. Take out one patty of raw and allow to thaw for a short period of time until it is just soft enough to divide into the ice cube tray. Once you have filled the tray, seal it in a freezer bag to keep it fresh and store it in the freezer. When you are ready to feed, just pop out a cube and it will thaw in minutes. As you complete the transition you will likely no longer need such small portions and can eliminate use of the ice cube tray. It took about a month to transition Jazz onto a raw diet and he is a picky cat when it comes to food. A month is an approximate time frame to transition your cat to a raw diet and you need to remember every cat will be different. Therefore, it could take a month or longer or as little as a week. Now for some of you the ice cube task may not be an option, but don’t be discouraged. There are also several raw cat food brands that offer bite sized morsels so you can easily serve as much or little as you need.

In addition to Jazz’s raw diet, I also choose to add in the BaieRun Feline Omega-3 fish oil supplement to optimize his joint health and keep his skin and coat healthy, particularly in the winter. Finally, I top his meal with Flora4 Ground Sprouted Seeds Topper to support his digestion and gut health. You can learn more about some of the other great digestive supplements in our Probiotics & Your Pet’s Health blog. Your cat will have its own unique requirements that the right supplement can benefit greatly.

It is important to keep in mind that many cats can be very fussy. With Jazz, for example, he likes variety so while he is on a raw diet now, I still mix in a teaspoon of wet food which gives the meal a different flavour with each new can. It can take some trial and error, but the benefits are absolutely worth the initial frustration. Take the time to try different proteins and brands as each will have its own distinct taste and texture and you will find what’s right for your feline friend.

Benefits of Raw Cat Food

Before I share my results, let me discuss some of the facts and potential benefits of a feline raw diet that influenced my decision to take this route. Domestic cats are obligate carnivores like their ancestors and therefore need a diet that is biologically appropriate. Dry foods are not ideal for a cat’s diet, as they usually have protein that is not from animal sources, are high in carbohydrates and do not contain much moisture. Cats have evolved with absorbing water through the foods they eat and thrive on a moisture content between 65-80 percent in their food, which is closest to their natural diet in the wild. Since they do not have enzymes in their body or in their saliva to break down the carbohydrates they eat, carbohydrates are not suited to being part of their diet. When we look at the protein, we look at its biological value. What that means is the higher the value, the better the cat can make use of the protein they eat, with meat being higher biological value than grain or legume sources. 

Cats typically get the best results when on a diet that is rich in protein and moisture that they can easily metabolize. Raw diets have not been heated, thereby retaining the natural vitamins, minerals and co-factors. Taurine, most importantly, is found naturally only in meat and without sufficient amounts, cats can begin to develop health issues which can be fatal.

A feline raw diet can have several potential benefits, including:

  • Improved digestion
  • Increased energy
  • Easier weight management
  • Better dental and urinary health
  • Healthier skin and coat
  • Decreased shedding and hairballs
  • Smaller stools with less odour

After a couple months of being on raw food I was happy to see Jazz’s weight dropping slowly and steadily. But what amazed me even more was the additional benefits I began to notice. His energy level rose significantly, and he would race up and down the stairs and want to play more again. His coat was shinier and softer than ever. The litterbox was now so much easier to deal with! Additionally, Jazz always had weepy eyes which his vet insisted was an infection under the eyelid, as there was some inflammation. But no matter how carefully I treated it, it never fully went away – until I switched him to raw. After a couple weeks I noticed that his eyes were no longer weeping or inflamed at all. At one point I had to feed him dry kibble again just for a meal or two, and within a couple days his eyes began to weep again. So, I discovered that the dry food was a trigger. I am thrilled to say that Jazz is still a very happy cat, but now healthier than ever!

Every cat’s journey to a raw diet will vary, and Tail Blazers is here to help! Not sure how much raw to feed? Check out our raw food calculator! Looking to get more information or to try raw food? Come in and talk to one of our knowledgeable staff about your cat’s needs!

By Michael Thompson

Michael enjoys engaging with other pet lovers, building relationships with others in the industry, and providing education. Through his education he became passionate about natural, high-quality pet nutrition and products to enhance the life of our beloved pets. Outside of work, Michael enjoys relaxing at the cottage, spending time with family and friends, and spoiling his dog and cat.