Raw Feeding Cats
By Paula Keriazes, Mom to BK and Teddy McLovin’
Some cats take to raw immediately, others need a little encouragement. Kittens are the easiest to convert – they usually recognize that raw meat is food, as opposed to some grown cats who act like you’re trying to poison them. There are a number of ways you can help make the transition easier. First, if you’re feeding kibble, you should try to get your cat on wet food. Dry food doesn’t resemble meat and it’s harder to make the jump from dry to raw than from canned to raw. If your cat is on canned and doesn’t take to raw right away, you can try hiding slivers of raw meat or tiny amounts of ground raw in the canned and once they’re eating it regularly, increase the amount of raw gradually until they’re switched over. Be patient – it can take weeks, if not months, but it’s not a race.
If your cat will eat table food meat, start there. Start with cooked meat, then gradually reduce the cooking time until you’re just warming it up. This works with ground raw as well – you can just barely cook the ground meat in a cast iron pan or something just as safe (NEVER USE TEFLON, it’s toxic to animals). Cook just enough to get the meat aroma going. Do not try this with bones however – cooked bones should never be fed. They can splinter and cause damage. Bones are usually the hardest to get your cat used to. If your cat will eat raw chicken, start with ribs, wings and necks. Cornish hens and other small game are also good for beginners. Your cat probably won’t be able to chew through bones at first – they have to build up jaw strength. So start with small bones and cartilage. Keep as much meat as possible on the bone to make it worth the trouble. If your cat likes liver you can also put liver juice on meat and bones to encourage them. If you dip a chicken neck into a bag of liver it might be enough to get the cat to try it. You can feed raw in a variety of ways, but they all should amount to the same thing – fully balanced meals.
Pre-packaged raw meals – these are pre-made and frozen ground meat with supplements. Many seem to have fruits and vegetables added and some even have grains. Read labels carefully – especially if you’re trying to avoid certain items in your cat’s diet. Also, bone content varies from brand to brand. Some bone-heavy brands will need to have plain meat added or your cat will become constipated.
Ground meat – there are different ways to do ground raw. You can grind your own meat, or you can buy it ground from a place like Hare-Today that specializes in raw meat for pets. If you’re grinding yourself you can also grind bones and organs and add additional supplements. Hare-Today offers ground meat both with bones and organs or meat without bones. It’s a good idea to use a recipe from a trusted source for your supplements and ratios. Both catinfo.org and catnutrition.org have ground food recipes. You can also buy something like TC Feline or Alnutrin that you just add meat to, but again, check the label carefully – there may be unwanted ingredients in these pre-mixes.
Whole prey – this is pretty self-explanatory. You feed small, whole animals: mice, chicks, baby rabbits – whatever your cat will eat. A whole animal is a complete meal!
Frankenprey – This method is also known as RMB’s – Raw Meaty Bones. The idea is to “recreate” whole prey by using a variety of meat, bone and organ.
If you feed Frankenprey the basic rule is 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 5% liver, and 5% other secreting organ. So you have to figure out what your cat is eating per day/week and what the weight of each percentage should be. You do not have to give these exact percentages in every meal. You can balance it out over a day, a week or even a month (although I don’t recommend going that long). Since it’s hard to supplement the RMB’s the key is variety of protein and making sure you get enough bones and organs in. The following meats are high in taurine and should be fed regularly: red meat, dark poultry meat, liver and heart.
With regard to fat, I have heard that up to 30% of your cat’s diet should consist of fat. With one exception this does not mean you need to add chunks of fat to their food. Most meat and organs contain plenty of fat. The one exception is rabbit. If you feed only rabbit, which is very lean meat, it’s recommended you add some chicken fat or skin to this diet. As far as liver is concerned, your cat is likely to love it but be careful. In addition to causing soft stools, your cat can get too much Vitamin A. When you feed liver, do not supplement the food with vitamin A, which can be toxic in high amounts. Signs of toxicity include anorexia, weight loss, sensitivity to touch, and loss of bone density, which may cause fractures. Kittens and puppies require about 200 IU of Vitamin A per kilogram of body weight per day, adult cats and dogs about 75 IU per kilogram per day.
Some general info: One of the first rules of raw is “Watch The Poop!” If your cat’s stool is too soft, the culprit is usually too much liver or not enough bone. If he becomes constipated, it usually means too much bone. When weighing bones, keep in mind that a chicken neck or wing is not 100% bone. So if you’re feeding 10 oz. of food, a 1 oz. neck is not really 10%. Approximately only 60% of that neck is bone. You can feed meat from any source, but it is not recommended to feed pre-ground human meat (like hamburger). There is just too much possibility of contamination and bacteria and since you’re not cooking it for your cat like you would for yourself, the bacteria doesn’t get killed.
The butcher is a great place for organs and things you can’t find in the standard grocery store. You can order online or try your local green market. Ethnic markets are also a great source for cheap, “exotic” meat, and organs. There is a lot of debate about fish. In general fish is not recommended more than once a week (even in canned food) because of the mercury and contaminants contained in it. Some people say fresh water fish is okay and some people say farmed fish is okay. You should use your own judgment if your cat is a fish lover, but be careful. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.
Allergies and raw feeding: If your cat has allergies you can still feed raw, you just need to be a little more cautious. If you’ve done an elimination diet and you know your cat is not allergic to one protein source, I recommend starting with that particular protein in either ground or chunks. However, if you’ve done your elimination diet with a “novel” protein source it could get complicated. For example, if venison was your novel protein you may not be able to run over to your local grocery store for venison liver! The good news is that cats are generally only allergic to the protein of animal. So for example, if you cat is allergic to chicken, he is not necessarily allergic to chicken organs, skin or fat. So you could do a mix of venison meat with chicken liver and beef kidney and you should be okay. This doesn’t take into account your bone source however. If your cat is allergic to chicken they’re not going to be able to eat a chicken wing or neck for bone. You would have to get your bones from other sources – rabbit bones are generally small enough, some duck bones, etc.
I would suggest staying with your single protein source for a full week or two to make sure there aren’t any reactions. Then you can start to test alternate proteins. The best way is to add a single protein at a time to make sure your cat doesn’t have a reaction. Give it a week or two and if there’s no reaction, add a third source into your rotation. If you are patient you may even be able to identify your cat’s allergens. Some more good news is that sometimes a protein that will set off your cat’s allergies when served in canned food, will not affect them when eaten raw. If you suspect your cat is allergic to grains you should use pasture-fed meat only. These can usually be found at your local farmer’s or green market, an organic store like Whole Foods, or from a source like Hare-Today. I have seen cats have reactions to a protein that they’re not allergic to, simply because that protein ate something they were allergic to.
If you feed ground raw you will need to be careful about the supplements you add to make sure your cat is not allergic to any of them. You may want to make food in small batches to test your cat’s reaction. If you add pre-mixes read all labels very carefully – there are some that contain grains or fish – common allergens. But again, even if your cat is allergic to fish, fish oil should be okay.
Helpful hints: Although prey model and whole prey will keep your cat’s teeth clean, ground raw will not. If you’re grinding your own or feeding commercial raw, you can add chunks of meat that the cat will have to chew. You can also feed chicken gizzards, which require chewing and help clean their teeth.
The most economical way to feed ground raw is to make large batches of it that you can defrost as needed. I’ve come up with a way that works for us and keeps packaging costs to a minimum. This is probably only useful for feeding small numbers of cats. I imagine if you have many cats storing large quantities is not an issue!
Raw Feeding for Cats – An Overview:
By: Brooke Lowry, Mom to the Dynacats
Should all cats eat a raw diet? More importantly – should yours? In my opinion, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes! And the good news is that under the raw diet umbrella, there are a few different options to choose from, which can be boiled down to three main options: Frankenprey (prey model), whole prey, and pre-made. Of the three options, I am only going to discuss Frankenprey/prey model in any depth, as that is the method I have the most experience with, and it is also the way I am currently feeding my three cats. Though as a full disclosure, I still do feed some pre-made raw occasionally, primarily when I have a pet sitter in, just to make it easier on her in terms of weighing/measuring, and so forth. However, these occasional nods to the convenience of my wonderful pet sitter aside, I have essentially abandoned pre-made raw for two reasons:
1) I prefer not to feed commercial food on a routine basis due to my lack of confidence in the pet food industry as a whole.
2) I don’t believe that obligate carnivores need the veggies and fruits, or for that matter the vitamin/mineral supplements and other “extras,” that are present in these foods. While they may not necessarily hurt anything, I also don’t believe it makes sense to pay a premium for ingredients that aren’t necessary, and probably don’t do much good even if they don’t do any harm.
WHY FEED RAW?
A raw diet of meat, bone, and secreting organ is the most natural, species-appropriate way for a cat to eat. In fact, as recently as the early part of the 20th century, it is the way that most cats ate. Commercial pet food is a fairly recent invention, and quite frankly although it has made things easier for the humans, by and large it has done cats no favors, particularly in the case of dry cat food (kibble). Cats were not designed to eat highly processed little dry nuggets full of grains and other carbohydrates. They are obligate carnivores, and they were designed to eat meat. Further, though much is made about how high protein diets are not good for pets, the reality is that raw meat is only about 18% protein. The rest, perhaps not surprisingly, is water. So, if it’s the moisture that’s needed, just feed canned food, right? Well, that’s certainly the better option, and although it is indeed moisture rich, canned food by virtue of its being processed can simply not provide to a cat what a raw diet can.
In a day and age when we are constantly being advised that eating more whole, living foods, rather than so much processed or fast food, is better for us, why would we not take the next logical step and realize that our cats will also benefit immeasurably from this same philosophy? My two adult cats, Olivia & Tanner, certainly have: though already appearing healthy before switching from a diet of premium canned foods to a Frankenprey raw diet, they have slimmed down, leaned out, toned up, and their teeth, while not bad on canned food, now positively gleam!
Certainly that aforementioned premium canned food I was feeding to my cats, however preferable it certainly was to dry food or other canned foods full of byproducts and fillers still did not do for them what a fully raw diet has done. And the proof of that is not just in their sleeker physiques, brilliantly white teeth, and increased energy level. It is also in the litter box. Such is the extent that a raw diet can be effectively utilized by the feline body that there is almost no fecal waste to speak of, something which often alarms the new-to-raw feeder who fears the worst when the litter box leavings are so small as to almost be nonexistent. Surely Fluffy has a blockage of some kind, no doubt caused by those edible bones? Well, anything is possible, and raw feeding certainly has its risks, just like everything else in life, but odds are that Fluffy is just fine. It’s simply that her body can make more and better use of the food she is being fed, and therefore less of what she takes in is excreted out as waste.
WHAT IS FRANKENPREY?
Frankenprey (also sometimes called prey model raw feeding) is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek nod to the monster of literature and film, which was built out of spare human parts. In the case of Frankenprey raw feeding, rather than building a mythical monster, we instead build a complete prey animal from bits and pieces of various protein sources, so that we are feeding a balanced diet over time.
Though the percentages may be slightly different from prey animal to prey animal, it is generally accepted by the raw feeding community that the muscle meat to edible bone to organ ratio of the average prey animal is roughly 80% meat, 10% edible bone, 5% liver, and 5% other secreting organ (the latter category of which includes such things as kidney, spleen, thymus, etc.) Even more succinctly, you could say that a raw diet is comprised of a lot of meat, a little bit of edible bone, an even smaller amount of liver, and a comparably-sized amount of kidney or other secreting organ.
In the meat category would basically things like chicken or Cornish hen, turkey, duck, beef, pork, lamb, venison, and on and on. It will also include items such as gizzards (from chicken, for example) and heart. The latter are menu items that you might naturally assume would fall under the organ category, but because they do not secrete, they are fed instead as part of the meat ration. Chicken gizzards and hearts are particular favorites of all three of my cats, and have the added bonus of being inexpensive (usually a dollar or so for a large container of mixed gizzards and hearts). Additionally, gizzards are a good teeth-cleaning item when served whole, as they are tough and chewy, and hearts are taurine rich, always a plus for cats.
As a general rule, I believe that the most variety I can source and can reasonably afford is what is best for my cats. Over time, this works out to about 40% poultry (which would include chicken, goose, turkey, duck, quail, pheasant, and the occasional highly prized and much enjoyed free range ostrich or emu steaks), roughly 15% rabbit, and the remaining 45% red meat (which is usually a pretty even split between beef and pork but which also includes lamb and the occasional bison. It’s debatable whether this much variety is necessary, and certainly I would say that if some of the more exotic proteins such as ostrich, emu, venison, etc., are either impossible for you to source or beyond your budget, this is no reason to feel that you cannot successfully feed a balanced and healthy raw diet. And in fact, oftentimes the most reasonably priced cuts, such as dark meat poultry, chicken gizzards/hearts, beef heart, etc., are some of the most healthful for your cat.
As to the provenance of those meats, about 80% of what I buy for my cats comes from the same meat cases where I buy meat for my own table. The remaining 20% or so, I purchase from online raw feeding suppliers such as Hare Today or US Wellness Meats (the latter actually sells pasture-fed organic meats and dairy for human consumption). Speaking of which, I would prefer to buy nothing but organic/pasture-fed/free range meats, but budget and availability dictate that roughly half of the meat I serve to my cats is factory farmed. Nonetheless, in the overwhelming majority of cases it is human grade meat fit for my own consumption, so I content myself with that.
On the whole, if you can try to feed about 50% white meat to 50% red, you should be doing okay, and it’s totally fine if those percentages are not exact, so long as you don’t let them go too far in one direction or the other for too long a period of time. If one week there are great sales on chicken, and the next you find great deals on pork or beef, it’s no problem if your cats eat the same protein source several days or even a week or more in a row. They might not like it, but assuming they’re in general good health, they are going to make out just fine nutritionally. A lot of times people get very concerned about making sure that their cats are getting a balanced meal at each and every feeding time, or that they achieve that 80/10/5/5 balance every single day, but while there is nothing wrong with this, it can be difficult to accomplish when dealing with such small amounts of food per serving, and frankly is not necessary. Rather, balance over time is the mantra. Even those of us who pay the needed attention to our own diet and strive to eat healthful, balanced meals, are not going to hit the optimum balance at each and every meal we eat, nor is it necessary, and the same holds true for our cats. SO – that about covers the meat. Moving on …
The edible bone category is somewhat more complicated. Specifically, I am always amazed at how many people think that you hand the cat a bone and expect them to chow down. In fact, edible bone is “packaged” in meat, and of course if you are feeding bone-in items, you need to have a rough idea of what the percentage is of meat to bone in a given cut so that you know, then, how much meat without bone you need to feed to balance the diet out. For cats, most of their edible bone is going to be chicken, Cornish hen, rabbit, or the like. I prefer Cornish hen bones for newbie raw cats, or kittens, as they are quite soft and pliable, and therefore wonderful for cats who probably don’t have the jaw strength to crunch through bones much harder than that at first. And why would they, after eating nothing but dry food that disintegrates upon contact with teeth not built for consumption of that kind of foodstuff, or wet food that basically needs no chewing whatsoever?
Just as a general idea, chicken backs are roughly 49% bone, wings are approximately 30%, and breasts approximately 15% bone. So when, for example, you take your kitchen shears (an invaluable tool for any raw feeder – much more useful and efficient than a knife, not to mention safer!) and cut a chicken back into suitable sized chunks for your cat, just know that if a chunk of that weighs 3 ounces, roughly half that weight, or 1.5 ounces, is bone. Therefore, depending upon how many ounces your cat is eating at a particular meal (as a reference, my six year old spayed female indoor-only cat weighs ten pounds, and eats between 3% and 3.5% of her body weight per day, which is approximately 4.8 to 5.6 ounces per day, split into two meals of roughly 2.4 to 2.8 ounces per meal), you would follow up that bone-heavy meal with one that is boneless, so that over the span of a week or so, you would feed approximately 80% meat and 10% edible bone, the remaining 10% made up, of course, of the organ meats.
As you might imagine, bone is probably the biggest sticking point in the raw diet. Not only because the concept of the meat and bone being fed together, and how much of X piece of food is meat and how much is bone, and will the sky fall if they don’t get it exactly right, but because people are always afraid that their cats will get ill or die from eating bones. After all, let’s face it, it is “common knowledge” that we should never under any circumstances give our pets bones. This, of course, is true in the case of cooked bones. Raw bones are a totally different story, and in fact are completely safe in the event they are size appropriate. My cats can readily consume the bones from Cornish hen wings, chicken backs and ribs, and certain parts of pheasant, quail, and rabbit. Considering how small a part of the diet bone is (ten cents out of a dollar is a good way to look at it) it is not critical that your cat eat a wide variety of bones, just that they eat some consistently.
If bones really scare you, OR your cat won’t consume bone-in items (which, by the way, it’s okay if they don’t for the first month to six weeks, unless you’re feeding a growing kitten where the optimum percentages should be more closely adhered to and fed within a shorter time span due to the needs of their developing bodies), you can, if you wish, choose to buy ground raw products or purchase a meat grinder to grind your own, bone and all. However, by doing this, you will eliminate much of the benefit of the raw diet. Teeth cleaning benefits, for example, will be almost zero. However, ground raw is better than none, and in fact, my cats do eat some ground meat.
Speaking of which, much is made of the fact that you should not feed your cat ground meat unless you grind it yourself, as the grinding process exposes more of the meat to the air, making it more likely to have high loads of bacteria. However, pre-made raw is ground, and so are many of the products from companies like Hare Today, which caters to raw feeders. I have not read anything that would make me believe that my cats are in any more danger eating ground meat from the supermarket than they would be from eating pre-made ground raw or that from a raw feeding supplier. So, though my cats don’t eat a lot of ground food from any source, I do occasionally feed some ground meat from the grocery store. What’s more, I know of others who do as well, and their cats have suffered no ill effects either.
However, as just this week a West coast beef supplier recalled massive quantities of ground beef meant for human consumption, it is advisable to stay abreast of news of this nature if you are going to be feeding your cat a raw diet. But before this scares you away, do remember that if you were feeding your cat commercial food, you would be, or should be, keeping abreast of recalls there as well, and at least in the case of recalls pertaining to meat meant for human consumption, the news of any problems will be more widely publicized than news of recalls pertaining to pet foods. Bottom line here is that none of us live in a bubble, and neither do our cats. There are risks to almost everything we do. The key is to analyze the risks and do what we can to mitigate them as much as possible, as well as to determine which risks are deemed acceptable and which ones aren’t. For myself, I feel that overall my cats are going to be better served by eating meat that I could, if I wanted to, eat myself or serve to my family, than by eating that which is not fit for myself or my fellow humans to consume.
Next up are organs: Specifically 5% liver and 5% kidney or other secreting organ. The liver can be beef or chicken (both commonly available in most supermarkets), but pork liver, lamb liver, and the like are also fine. Then, to round things out, 5% kidney or other secreting organ, which can be things like spleen, thymus, pancreas, etc. etc., Generally speaking, my choice for 5% secreting organ other than liver is kidney, simply because it is the easiest for me to source, but I have recently found a source for beef spleen, and so have fed some of that as well. I like to mix up my protein sources as far as organs go the same way I do with my meaty meat. In other words, one time I might feed beef liver, the next chicken or pork. If it’s time for me to feed some kidney, I might feed pork kidney one time, and the next time lamb kidney. Again, my thinking here is that the most variety I can source and afford is what I want to provide. It makes the most logical sense, at least to me, that with increased variety comes a more complete nutritional profile and a more balanced, complete diet overall.
OK, I’M IN – HOW DO I START?
Generally the advice to anyone who is looking to start a Frankenprey raw diet is to go out and lay in a supply of chicken. Whole fryers or roasters are usually the best bargain, but you can also usually find good sales on bone-in chicken thighs and quarters. Chicken is a fairly bland meat, it’s available everywhere, and it contains bone that is edible for just about every cat that is willing to give bones a go.
After you are home from your shopping trip comes the difficult part – convincing Fluffy to eat it. Different cats have different time-tables – some are more adventurous, others more finicky or stubborn. My own two adult cats took the better part of two years to convert fully to a raw diet, but having seen the benefits of what the diet can do for them, I don’t regret a single day of it. Those with kittens – seize the moment, as there will never be a better opportunity to transition Fluffy to a raw diet than while she is young. Finn, my six month old, was a fully raw fed cat in less than a month of coercion on my part, and I could not be happier with his development. He’s gone from a skinny, scrawny, unhealthy bag of skin and bones (he was a feral kitten) to a beautiful adolescent whose seven and a half lean and lanky pounds feel more like ten when you pick him up because he’s so solid and muscular.
A word of caution: don’t include too much variety too soon. In fact, the general rule of thumb is chicken, chicken, and more chicken for the first several weeks. If you buy whole chickens and hack them up, you’ll also get some gizzard and heart, as well as a neck, in the organ bag stuffed inside the cavity, and you’ll get some kidney as part of the back. This is more or less a complete diet over time if you feed through the whole thing. If you buy Cornish hens, which are probably better for kittens as the bones are smaller, softer, and more pliable, you won’t get the organ bag, but that’s okay. You really don’t need it at the beginning anyway. Remember the mantra of balance over time, and keep in mind the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the raw race every time, though this is less of an issue for cats than for dogs. Dogs usually embrace raw with open paws and are of the “Where have you been all my life, darling, and how long can you stay?” mentality, whereas cats, as we all know, tend to view the world with a more suspicious eye. So unless you are starting out kittens, which generally take to the raw life with aplomb, your biggest concern will not be getting your cat to slow down, but to start in the first place. Just remember that it will all be worth it in the end! Also, don’t feel badly if you have to sprinkle Parmesan cheese or tuna juice or something else your cat finds tantalizing over the raw food to encourage them to take a taste.
In my case, I started mixing very tiny amounts of pre-made raw with my cats’ ration of canned food, slowly increasing the raw and decreasing the canned until they were eating an entire meal of raw food in the evening. From there, I started offering small chunks of meat – chicken breast, beef roast, etc., and gradually increased the size of the chunks until they were about mouse sized. Organ was really no problem – they happily took to liver and kidney. The thing they really didn’t want any part of was the bone – that took several months. In the meantime, I relied upon the pre-made raw they were getting to satisfy their 10% bone requirement, but eventually they capitulated, and we were able to lose the pre-made raw. They nearly staged a mutiny when they realized I was cutting off their morning meal of canned food and replacing it with raw, but soon adjusted to the status quo.
Most all cat owners I know feed their cats at least twice a day, as do I. If your cat is already on scheduled mealtimes, so much the better – if not, they will have to get used to not being free fed. My adult cats, Olivia and Tanner, are fed morning and evening, at about 6:30 am and 6:30 pm. As he is still a growing kitten, Finn is fed more often, usually three times a day most days and sometimes four. If I’m home and he’s hungry, he gets fed. All in all, not much different than the standard advice for anyone with a growing kitten, which is to, within reason, feed as often, and as much, as the kitten seems to want or need.
You will be able to find everything, or almost everything, you’ll need to feed your cats a balanced Frankenprey raw diet by shopping one or more of your local grocery stores or price clubs. Certainly enough meat variety can be had there to satisfy the 80% part of the diet. And for edible bone, Cornish hens and whole chickens or chicken parts are readily available. Liver, both chicken and beef, is also commonly found – I can count on finding it at just about any grocery store I shop, including Super Wal-Mart. About the only thing you might have trouble with is the kidney or other secreting organ. For that, you may have to make the round of butcher shops or ethnic groceries, if you have access to those, and if you don’t, online ordering is always an option. Depending upon where you are in the country, different raw feeding suppliers will make more sense for you. I’m in the southeastern US, and my go-to sites are Hare-Today.com and US Wellness Meats. In fact, a lot of raw feeders I know use sites like this to stock up on organs, which will last a long time as they are such a small, albeit critical, part of the diet, and then shop for sales on the other components closer to home.
As for how much to feed, a general guideline for an adult cat is 3 to 3.5% of their ideal (not actual, as those are sometimes different) bodyweight. In fact, there is even an online calculator that will figure this for you, at this website: www.raw4dogs.com/calculate.htm (don’t worry, it works for cats, too!)
So a ten-pound cat fed 3% of body weight per day would be getting 4.8 ounces of food per day, split into two meals of roughly two and a half ounces each. BUT REMEMBER … this is just a GUIDELINE. If your cat is losing unneeded weight or acting hungry, feed more. Not finishing her meal or gaining unneeded weight, feed less. And in fact, the amount fed can vary from day to day or season to season, depending upon temperature, activity level, etc. My cats eat about 5% less overall in the summer months than they do the rest of the year. So long as your cat is a good, healthy weight for his or her body frame, and you’re feeding the correct 80/10/5/5 over a week or two, you should have nothing to worry about.
HOW ABOUT SOME RECIPES?
Well, recipe might be the wrong word. Certainly if you wish, for whatever reason, be it convenience or just a desire to ensure that you are feeding a balanced meal each and every time, you could purchase a grinder, and grind meat, bone, and organ in the 80/10/10 ratios, and then freeze meal-sized portions to be thawed as needed. I prefer, for a variety of reasons, to not feed ground food exclusively, nor to have large batches of food that is all the same. I want the teeth cleaning benefits that come from allowing them to chew through large chunks of meat, and additionally, I believe my cats enjoy the novelty of dining on different protein sources in different manifestations from day to day. They might get boneless ground bison meat in the morning and some bone-in duck in the evening. They never quite know. Not only does this keep them from becoming finicky, it also keeps mealtimes from becoming humdrum.
What I can provide to you is a sample monthly menu, which would be representative of a typical month’s worth of meals for my three cats. An example might be:
Sunday – Chicken gizzards/hearts (served at both meals)
Monday – AM: Cornish hen (meat/bone); PM: Cornish hen (meat) + chicken liver
Tuesday – AM: Beef tongue; PM: Boneless chicken (usually chunks of breast or boneless thigh)
Wednesday – AM: Bone-in chicken; PM: Ground bison
Thursday – AM: Finely ground beef tripe from Hare Today* see footnote; PM: Chunks of beef (stew meat, perhaps)
Friday – AM: Rabbit (meat/bone); PM: Rabbit (meat) + beef kidney
Saturday – AM: Chunks of boneless pork; PM: Ground bison
Sunday – AM: Beef heart and boneless chicken breast; PM: Turkey hearts
Monday – Roughly 5.5 ounce whole dressed quail (from Hare Today) cut in half with kitchen shears – half for breakfast, half for dinner** This is essentially a whole prey item, minus feathers, head, beak, and feet, and contains all components of the raw diet: meat, edible bone, and organ
Tuesday – Chicken gizzards/hearts(served at both meals)
Wednesday – AM: Bone-in duck; PM: Ground lamb
Thursday – AM: Chunks of boneless chicken breast; PM: Lamb heart
Friday – AM: Cornish hen (meat/bone); PM: Cornish hen (meat) + lamb kidney
Saturday – AM: Finely ground beef tripe from Hare Today* see footnote; PM: Chunks of boneless chicken breast
Sunday – AM: Ground boneless turkey thighs (from Hare Today); PM: Duck hearts
Monday – AM: Rabbit (meat/bone); PM: Rabbit (meat) + pork liver
Tuesday – AM: Boneless beef (sirloin, stew meat, whatever); PM: Lamb heart
Wednesday – AM: Bone-in rabbit; PM: Chunks of boneless ostrich steak
Thursday – Chicken gizzards/hearts (served at both meals)
Friday – AM: Pheasant (meat/bone); PM: Pheasant (meat) + beef kidney
Saturday – AM: Finely ground beef tripe from Hare Today* see footnote; PM: Ground turkey
Sunday – AM: Pork heart; PM: Beef lung(this is one of those “sounds like an organ but it’s really meat” items)
Monday – AM: Turkey thighs (meat/bone); PM: Turkey (meat) + chicken liver
Tuesday – Ground goat (boneless) from Hare Today (served at both meals)
Wednesday – AM: Bone-in duck; PM: Ground bison or lamb
Thursday – AM: Finely ground beef tripe from Hare Today* see footnote; PM: Chunks of boneless turkey thighs
Friday – AM: Duck (meat/bone); PM: Duck breast (meat) + beef spleen
Saturday – Chicken gizzards/hearts (served at both meals)
** Keep in mind that the menu above is for experienced raw-fed cats that have been eating a fully raw diet for a minimum of two to three months. At the beginning, it’s chicken, chicken and more chicken. Then slowly introduce small amounts of liver and kidney, then small amounts of alternate proteins. Any time you introduce a new protein, consider that it is wise to feed it in a small quantity alongside something else your cat is familiar with to prevent stomach upset, loose stool, etc.
As to tripe, though not discussed previously, I included it in my menu and mention it here because it does address the issue of the oft-discussed stomach contents of prey animals. Tripe, in a nutshell, is the stomach and contents of ruminant animals (cattle, sheep, etc.). It has a perfect 1:1 calcium to phosphorous ratio, and a slightly acidic pH to aid digestion. It also contains lactobacillus acidophilus, which is the main ingredient in many commercial probiotics. Simply put, it’s good, albeit stinky, stuff, and I believe it to be an important ingredient in an optimum Frankenprey raw diet. Please note, however, that tripe must be GREEN to be any good. The bleached, white “tripas” found at some grocery stores and ethnic markets is essentially devoid of all the green goodness. Don’t buy it! Depending upon where you are in the country or the world, green tripe can be purchased at various raw feeding suppliers. But remember that no matter what color it appears to be or what you are told, you will never find GREEN tripe in any store that sells food for human consumption, because it is illegal. For my raw feeding fellows in the eastern part of the US, I get my finely ground (which is what works best for my cats, though they also sell it coarsely ground or in strips) green tripe from Hare Today. If for whatever reason you can’t get it, don’t sweat it too heavily, but if you can possibly swing it, get some, and just serve it in small amounts once every week or two. A little goes a long way.
WHAT ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS?
Generally speaking, if the raw diet is appropriately balanced, supplements should not be required, at least in theory. In practice, however, many raw feeders you speak with include some supplements, probably the most common of which is taurine. Taurine, as previously discussed, is critical to our cats’ health. But what is it? In simple terms, taurine is an essential amino acid, a deficiency of which in the cat’s diet can cause retinal degeneration and eventual blindness, and cardiomyopathy. As previously discussed, heart and dark meat poultry are taurine rich, and since I try to include some of both in my cats’ meal plan at least three or four times per week, I generally feel comfortable that my cats are getting adequate amounts of taurine in their diet naturally. However, it’s a generally accepted rule of thumb when it comes to taurine that a bit too much is preferable to too little, so if you have a concern about the levels of taurine that your cat is getting in his or her raw diet, you might consider purchasing some taurine from Whole Foods or your health food store, and adding a pinch (it is tasteless and odorless) to your cats’ meals on the occasions that you feed a meal of ground meat, or ground meat/organ/bone.
As a full disclosure, I don’t supplement my cats’ diet with taurine at the present time, nor do I include any other supplements on a routine basis. In most cases I think they are not warranted, but certain ones such as an occasional squirt of fish oil, I have no problem with, and I do occasionally do this from time to time.
I very much hope that the above has been a helpful overview of a Frankenprey raw diet. I truly believe that such a diet, second only perhaps to the feeding of small, whole prey (which I have tried but my cats have been thus far resistant to) is the best way to nourish our “house tigers.” Help your cat to embrace his or her inner tiger by feeding her in the most species-appropriate way possible. Meow!