Thursday, May 20, 2010

CATS: Largely Ignored in Raw Feeding

I know this message will annoy passionate cat advocates, but 90% of discussions about pet feeding and raw-meaty-bones concerns dogs.   Cats are seldom mentioned.  Irony is dogs are less severely affected by inappropriate, starchy, commercial pet-food diets than cats are.

Even veterinarians and pet-food companies acknowledge that cats are "obligate carnivores", while dogs are called "opportunistic carnivores".  The distinction between "obligate" and "opportunistic" is important.  Cats MUST have animal proteins and fats in their diets to develop well and live healthy lives.  Dogs need diets that consist primarily of animal proteins and fats, but they can digest and use more carbohydrates as food than cats can.

One interpretation of cat-neglect in rmb discussions is that outdoor cats catch enough mice and birds to supplement their own diets.  Domestic cats are highly effective predators.  Even if their owners are misled into providing dry starches as cat food, free-ranging cats can fend for themselves, as they have for tens of thousands of years.  Indoor cats, however, are captives of their owners' misguided feeding,

A less favorable interpretation of cat-neglect is that pet owners do not know that cats can live for more than 20 years on natural diets.  Pet owners are told that 15-year-old cats are seniors who can be expected to die any minute.  The fact that many teen-age cats have serious chronic diseases, caused by inappropriate diets, has come to seem normal.  Indeed, aging cats' with diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic renal failure have become the norm.

Domestic cats are close relatives of desert cats.  Desert animals evolved in water-scarce areas.  Desert cats do not have access to copious water supplies. Prey provide a large percentage of fluids in wild cats' diets. Domestic cats often do not drink enough water to compensate for a diet of dry kibble, and they become chronically dehydrated.  Canned, water-laden foods are not as damaging to cats' health as dry foods are, but veterinarians recommend and sell tons of commercial dry food for cats.  Dry foods are convenient for owners but deadly for cats.

Discussions of cats bring back painful memories of my own Burmese cats, from 30 years ago.  I didn't know that feeding dry cat chow was deadly.  One beautiful male died of urinary tract stones, and a couple of others were put on special diets to address other digestive disorders.  I look back in shame and dismay that my lovely cats suffered and died from my ignorance.

Today I have a beautiful Maine coon cat, just 18 months old, who has been fed raw-meaty-bones from early kittenhood.  Daisy eats her rmb with Ben the Papillon and three Poodle puppies -- away from bigger dogs.  She chews chicken legs, beef cheek meat, and loves heart and liver.  I don't worry about Daisy getting a feline-appropriate diet.

Pet owners can buy meats and meaty bones at affordable prices though co-operatives in many parts of the country, including our Kona Raw Pet Food Co-op.  Although Kona Raw gets orders for hundreds of pounds of  meat per week, virtually none of it is ordered for cats.  I asked members if they have cats and if they feed them raw.

Perhaps, half of the members have cats as well as dogs, and a few feed cats some rmb, but not exclusively.  Several members said their outdoor cats are accomplished mousers, so they don't feel they have to feed them rmb.  Others report their cats are so fixed on a specific food, they will not even try raw meats.  I send these owners to Tom Lonsdale's web site to read his advice on switching cats' diets to rmb.

Experts generally advise owners of pedigreed cats to keep them indoors for safety reasons.  These poor cats, and other urban cats, are captives of their owners' feeding practices.  When veterinarians tell these owners to feed "a complete and balanced" commercial food, I hope they will remember that cats are "obligate carnivores", which means their natural diet is raw meats and meaty bones, not cooked grains with artificial nutrients sprayed on..

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