By Lisa Provost
There are many websites that make the claim that a raw food diet will “cure” your cat of IBD and other associated conditions. While there is no disputing the fact that raw food will greatly improve your cat’s condition and even alleviate symptoms, there simply isn’t a cure for Feline IBD. Nothing would make me happier than to be able to state that raw is the complete, once and for all answer. For some kitties it can do wonders for controlling this disease. But it does not help all kitties. The truth is that once the inflammation is present and spreading, it can be stabilized but not cured. And nothing, including raw, home cooked, or any kind of food, can change that.
Having said that, I believe strongly in a raw and/or home cooked diet and would still recommend trying it. They are without a doubt the most important tools so far in recovery with this disease and its symptoms. Even if there are setbacks, major or minor, they are by far the one thing that helps above all others. They have a higher success rate for keeping IBD in check and keeping their system running on an even keel. These diets should never be used to forgo medication if needed and they should not be the only tool used, especially when first diagnosed.
As far as worries of salmonella are concerned, you’d be surprise to know that canned and even dry food can just as easily contain salmonella and/or e. coli or fungal infections. Dry food sits in the warehouse, trucks, stores, etc., and if there’s any leak in the bag then condensation can occur and you’ve got yourself a recipe for poison. The cooking process kills bacteria in the ingredients, but the final product can pick up more bacteria during the subsequent drying, coating, and packaging process. Getting dry food wet can allow the bacteria on the surface to multiply and make pets sick.
A cat’s digestive system is short and acidic. It can handle and process meat, bones, and most bacteria very effectively. But a grain-heavy or purely vegetarian diet spells trouble for a cat’s tiny fermentation system. Carbohydrate rich foods, such as dry grain and plant material, are difficult to digest and can cause an imbalance in the normal pH levels of a cat’s urinary system, potentially leading to irritation of the bladder lining and increasing the risk for urinary tract infections. Production of the digestive enzyme amylase becomes greater and the overworked pancreas becomes stressed. Undigested grains and a pH imbalance create toxins in the kidneys and bladder and the weakened immune system can’t fight off illness.
Animals in the wild have healthy digestive systems because they eat a variety of foods including prey flesh, internal organs and stomach contents. The combination of these foods provides a diet that is rich in high quality protein, enzymes, vegetation and vitamins. Raw foods help your pet maintain a healthy PH and enzyme level in their stomach and digestive track. This in turn helps your pet to maintain a naturally strong immune system which helps prevent degenerative diseases from attacking their bodies.
Why is Raw the Best?
Raw Meats properly prepared and minimally processed are high in essential fatty acids. These fatty acids are attained in the wild naturally from the carcasses of the prey animals. Live enzymes, phytochemicals, antioxidants and friendly bacteria are also found in a readily absorbable form in raw meats along with predigested grains and vegetable materials. Minerals are scientifically found in abundance and in nature’s own ratio in the uncooked bones of animals.
While the processed pet foods today are better formulated than in the 1930’s, they do not provide the live materials that A FRESH RAW DIET can.
Top 10 benefits of feeding raw food:
1. Teeth brighten and lose plaque, eliminating the need for cleaning.
2. Breath becomes almost odorless indicating a healthy start to the digestive process.
3. Skin becomes healthy and vibrant and creates a hostile environment to most parasites.
4. Coat shines brightly and sheds minimally.
5. Stool is less in volume and much less offensive even in the litter box.
6. Optimal body weight is easily obtained and maintained. As a result, the vascular system is much less stressed, allowing the best function of the heart, liver and thyroid.
7. Large breed animals have much less chance of growing too fast. Their joints can grow without undue stress and their long-term quality of life is optimized.
8. Arthritic conditions are minimized and many geriatric companions feel rejuvenated and youthful. This is greatly attributed to the natural essential fatty acids as well as the overall PH balance becoming normalized, reducing inflammation. Glucosamine, chondroitin and collagen are a natural component in raw meat.
9. Quicker recoveries from infections or infestations as well as over-all healing occur. The strength of the immune system is revitalized and better equipped to handle illness or injury.
10. The ravages of a degenerative disease seem to be decreased and overall chances for full recovery are optimized.
When it comes to handling raw food, wearing latex free vinyl gloves used for food handling while touching the food and then disposing of them after each use will curtail any chances of contracting salmonella. Do not wear the same gloves to handle different kinds of meat and/or foods. Keeping your working area completely clean and washing it with Clorox or some other form of antibiotic cleaner or bleach, every time, is important. Make sure to clean your cat’s dishes with antibacterial dish soap or use hot water in the dishwasher, and keep their food area clean. We all know what slobs cats can be when they eat and there’s usually food strewn about their dinner area to prove it. Don’t let food particles waste on the floor or carpet.
The amount of time leaving raw food out for them to eat is a controversial issue. Most say 30 minutes tops but cats will play with their kill outdoors for hours, sometimes days before eating it and not have any problems. Cats are natural grazers and nibblers. If left to their own devices, a cat will eat between ten and sixteen small meals per day. Their teeth are designed to stab and tear through raw or tough food rather than chewing it. In fact, in the wild, cats can swallow and digest food without having to chew it.
They have a higher acidic level for food break down and digestion and they metabolize it at a quicker rate than humans do. Normally it takes us between 35 to 55 hours to fully digest our meals whereas it can take a cat between 12 and 16 hours. Most of my friends and even vets will leave their cat’s raw meal out for a couple of hours before removing it and tossing out any leftovers.
Depending on where you live in the country and if you have the A/C running while your cat is eating, 30 minutes really doesn’t need to be the limit. I certainly wouldn’t leave the food out all day but a couple of hours in a cool temperature shouldn’t cause any problems with a good quality food that’s been frozen for at least three days first. If it’s a pre-made, frozen raw food, it’s been in the freezer since it was put in the bag at the manufacturing plant. If you have to travel longer than 30 minutes to pick up the food, bring a cooler with a freezer pack and/or some ice with you for the ride back just to be safe, especially in summer months.
Eventually switching up the raw food is as important as when you fed canned or kibble. Give them different options of meats and organs to ensure they don’t become allergic. I’d even recommend switching up the raw food supplements occasionally. Any time you use a product continuously, you run the risk of their flora becoming too accustomed to it.
There’s a lot of different information regarding a raw food diet on the web and some sites suggest that when feeding whole prey, you don’t need to supplement. That statement is in question by many experts and some people I know who own a couple of holistic pet food stores say it’s nice in theory but can’t be 100% proven. They use supplements no matter what just to be safe. When they use whole prey, they lessen the supplemental ratio per meal. They’ve been doing this for many years and have never had a problem. Just make sure to read your supplement labels and if you’re going to prepare raw food yourself, figure out your ratios for organs, bone, meat and supplements accordingly. And be careful when adding liver as too much can cause an overload of vitamin A and it can be toxic.