Marlene Siegel, DVM
I trust by now, there is no disputing the fact that the F.S.O. (food shaped objects otherwise known as processed pet food) are NOT species appropriate, are NOT sustainable and they are the number one contributor to the astronomical rise in today's pet disease, including cancer.
This article will focus on how to make the transition from kibble or canned processed food to a sustainable species appropriate raw diet.
There is no one best way to get a cat to transition to a raw diet.
Dogs are usually much easier to transition.
The key is:
Consistency – Determination – Patience
Converting older cats or dogs from a can food or kibble (dry food) may be challenging for several reasons:
1. Stop free choice feeding. Do not leave food available 24/7. If this has been your feeding practice, start by feeding twice daily only. No snacking either!!! Take a few days to get kitty used to the new feeding schedule. There is no incentive to try anything new when there is constant access to a bowl of the dry stuff they crave. Create “pockets” of hunger (not to be confused with self-imposed fasting).
2. Transition slowly, no sudden dietary changes. Once they are used to eating twice a day, begin introducing 15%-20% new food (or less) while reducing the old diet by the same percentage. The new food can be offered before the old diet (some will be curious and try it) or mixed into the old diet so they can’t pick around the new food. Do not put down a new food and expect them to eat “when they get hungry enough”. Unlike most dogs, a cat may starve itself if they don’t like the food. Not eating for even 2-3 days can cause a life threatening condition called Hepatic Lipidosis, also known as Fatty Liver Disease. Some cats need to go from kibble to can and then from can to raw. Some will prefer the texture of freeze dried. Whatever you do, transition at the rate that keeps your cat eating, even if that is small changes once a week!
3. Be sure the raw meat is at room or body temperature. Defrost the meat in the refrigerator but warm it before feeding it to the fur fam. Warming can be done by adding warm bone broth or putting the meat in a glass bowl and setting the bowl over hot water (like a double boiler) so the heat transfers through the glass and warms the meat. NO MICROWAVE and NO pan frying!
4. Build up the gut microbiome. Feed a fermented organic probiotic like Kefir (homemade fermented, not store bought) or organic sauerkraut. Avoid long term use of commercial probiotics as studies have shown they inhibit gut diversity, due to the fact that they are flooding the gut with a limited number of varieties of organisms.
5. Repair the Leaky Gut. Bone broth is another wonderful addition to the diet. Homemade, organic, using high quality filtered structured water and cooked several days is ideal. Many of the commercial bone broths are cooked at high temperatures and high pressure for a few hours, which in my opinion does not result in the healthiest product. Feeding 1 ounce twice daily is sufficient.
6. How much raw to feed. With raw, the rule of thumb is 1 ounce of meat for each 5 pounds of body weight. A 10 pound cat would eat about 2 ounces a day (1oz am and 1 oz pm). Adjust up or down as indicated by the desired weight changes. If the cat is overweight (be honest…) feed them to a weight 3-5 pounds lighter.
7. Digestive enzymes are essential for cats and dogs who have eaten highly processed, high carbohydrate diets their whole life. Enzymes work best when given with meals and between
meals for fur babies who are obese or have chronic degenerative disease.
8. Supplements needed to make the diet complete and balanced. The best raw food products are specifically created as a macronutrient diet (containing the proper portions of meat, fat, bone and organ meat) and do not have added synthetic vitamins and minerals. I prefer to separate the vitamins, minerals, superfoods and fatty acids in order to ensure that degradation and oxidation of critical nutrients does not occur. This method also allows for more accurate dosing based on body weight and the pets needs. Organic, plant based, biologically available vitamins and minerals together with Parent Essential Fatty Acids (which are plant based) are critically important to the immune system.
The best plan of all is to start your fur babies on raw from the time they are weaned. The more pet parents demand healthier