Natural Diets for Cats

Discover the health benefits of natural foods.

By Lisa Hanks

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Holistic practitioners say that a properly formulated natural diet can elevate your cat’s health to a whole new level. Although hard, scientific evidence still is lacking, experience and case studies show positive results.

Monique Maniet, a Bethesda, Md.-based veterinarian certified with the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, touts the benefits of a grain-free, raw-meat diet. “Cats develop shinier coats, greater energy and alertness, and they lose excess weight,” Maniet says. “Plus, you end up with smaller, less-smelly stools — a wonderful side-effect.”

But you can’t just pull any bag off the shelf that says “natural.” You must be selective. It takes dedication and knowledge to sort through the often confusing natural-diet options and discover the optimum choice for you and your cat. It’s vital to work with a holistic veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to provide a balanced diet.

The choices and philosophies vary widely. In addition to meat diets, you might see diets that include meaty bones (with or without grains, fruits, vegetables and supplements), and these might be raw, partially cooked or fully cooked, ground or whole, homemade or commercially produced, and fresh, freeze-dried, dehydrated or frozen.

Maniet’s top choice is a raw meat diet. “Cats are true carnivores, and I want them to be on a high-meat, high-protein diet with bones.” Her second choice is 80 percent cooked meat and 20 percent cooked vegetables with added supplements. Her last choice is a no-grain, canned food, for clients who prefer canned food or cats that won’t eat a raw diet.

If you’re going with canned or kibbled cat foods look for minimal processing of high-quality, whole ingredients, preferably organic and human-grade. Ideally, the food will have multiple sources of quality meats, such as chicken liver, turkey, lamb, fish and duck. Natural diets typically don’t have any artificial preservatives, colorings, flavorings, sugars or fillers. Grains, if you feed them at all, should be a minor ingredient and whole.

One potential hazard of raw-meat diets for cats and owners is bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli, particularly if your cat is ill, older or fairly young. Holistic proponents recommend following food-handling, safety recommendations for raw meat and purchasing meat from trusted sources.

For most holistic followers, any possible risk is worth the benefits. “I’ve done raw food for almost 10 years, and I’ve never had a cat that got really sick from these,” Maniet says. She’s also seen many cats benefit from a raw diet. “Everything from the gastrointestinal problems, poor coat and skin, low energy, ear infections and allergies: Once you correct the digestion and the diet, everything else changes for the better.”

Lisa Hanks is a freelance writer based in Newport Beach, California. As she writes each day, her three cats rotate lap duties to be sure she is never catless.

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Reader Comments

A.Noir    International

2/18/2015 4:27:22 PM

For responsible cats owners who want to learn about cat nutrition and improve the lives of their cats: feline-nutrition.org and catinfo.org will be well worth your time to read.

A.Noir    International

2/18/2015 4:15:29 PM

This article says that " hard, scientific evidence still is lacking" about the benefits of raw fed cats.
That statement is wrong. Phooey. A cat is an obligate carnivore. Animals that depend solely on animal flesh for their nutrient requirements are called obligate carnivores.They can digest only animal protein....so they must eat only meat, bone and organs for optimum health and longevity. That is your scientific proof. Kibble and canned food are not a healthy diet. They do not consist of 100% raw meat bone and organ. Pet owners are innocently damaging the health and longevity of their animals with this food. That is the opening statement of a subject that is so huge and disturbing that I will not go there. I feed my cats raw: a balanced raw of 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 10% organ of which at 5% must be liver. I read a lot on the subject before I began raw feeding and still read about it.
So, I want to know; why in the world this article began by saying....."Although hard, scientific evidence still is lacking,experience and case studies show positive results." Why would you publish such an obviously incorrect statement?And " One potential hazard of raw-meat diets for cats and owners is bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli, particularly if your cat is ill, older or fairly young. Holistic proponents recommend following food-handling, safety recommendations for raw meat and purchasing meat from trusted sources" That is silly. I and most people prepare and eat raw meat to feed ourselves and take the precautions of a clean preparation. As do raw feeders do for our cats. Logically. And raw feeders prepare and freeze meals ahead of time. That would kill the slim possibility of any salmonella.
And further you say "If you’re going with canned or kibbled cat foods look for minimal processing of high-quality, whole ingredients, preferably organic and human-grade" You are misleading pet owners into believing that there is such a thing as "good or better kibble" Shame on you for publishing such misinformation. There is only bad kibble, very bad kibble and very, very bad kibble. You are either lying in your article or do not know enough on the subject to advise cat owners.
I came across your article by accident. I doubt that anyone will see my post as you will not allow it to be published. It is just that the information that you gave is so flawed and misleading.I am hoping that you will learn more on the subjects of raw feeding and commercial pet food before you publish again on the subject.

Vendetta    McMinnville, TN

2/5/2014 4:44:21 PM

I started feeding me 8 year old cat raw chicken. I buy all natural and cat into small chunks. I add just a little canned cat food to add a little flavor. I also shake a little Taurine and probiotic Enzymes on her food. She use to puke a lot but now hardly ever. My second cat won't have anything to do with raw or any wet food and my third younger cat will eat raw chicken chunks if I feed her by hand.

janet    bethlehem, PA

10/31/2013 3:44:47 AM

thanks

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