We all know how important nutrition is to our health, right? I want to discuss some critical health principles regarding cats that are widely unknown or perhaps ignored by pet owners and definitely not addressed by most conventional veterinarians. Does your cat experience allergies, urinary tract issues; crystals, UTI's, blocked urethra, vomiting or peeing outside of the box? If so, please read how a simple diet change can greatly help with these issues and help optimize your cat's health.
Homemade Diet is the Most Optimal
First and foremost, an optimal diet for our feline friends is going to be a homemade diet comprised of raw and cooked foods of primarily proteins. For a step by step tutorial on exact ingredients, recipes and how to prepare, this is my canine raw food guide. The guide will be the exact same for cat's, EXCEPT no fruits or vegetables, cats are obligate carnivores.
And the bones must be ground with the meat (preferable), or bone meal must be added to the recipe.
Another way to feed a raw meat diet is to purchase ready-to-feed frozen commercial pet diets. Many people feed these diets with great results. Unfortunately, as is also true with canned foods, these products vary a great deal with respect to quality and ingredients. I highly recommend Answers Pet Food, if you don't want to make your own.
If homemade does not work, at at least not right now, I have a plan B and C.
Plan B, if a 100% homemade diet is not doable, you can also use species appropriate mixins, such as well sourced organ meats, fermented cod liver oil, grass fed gelatin, coconut oil and fermented kefir and add to your store bought raw or grain free wet food. (see below for best sourced store bought options)
For pets with cancers, inflammatory conditions, digestive issues, skin concerns, anxiety/stress and arthritis, I recommend a pinch of organic turmeric added to their food 2 times per day.
Plan C would be to switch your cats food from dry kibble to well sourced canned wet food. Simply switching your cat from dry to wet, you will have helped him/her improve their chances of optimal health by 90%.
The evidence is emerging and more and more nutrition saavy veterinarians are highly recommending clients to make the switch and I will tell you why…
There are 3 impeding health issues with dry cat kibble
- The water content in kibble is too low and virtually non-existent for optimal hydration.
- The carbohydrate content is too high for it's breed specific diet.
- Incorrect type of macronutrients. The type of protein in kibble is typically plant protein versus animal, which is not conducive to a cats natural diet.
A few important facts about cats to keep in mind
- Cat's are obligate carnivores, which means they need to obtain their meat, protein and fat sources from animal protein (meats/organs) versus from plant proteins (grains/vegetables)
- And because they are carnivores, an overabundance of carbohydrates very likely can lead to diabetes, weight gain and/or insulin/blood sugar issues
- Cat's inherently have a low thirst drive
- A cats normal prey contains ~75% water, yet dry kibble offers up only ~5-10%, however canned offers up ~78% water
- The lack of hydration leads to serious health issues including urinary tract issues; crystals, UTI's, blocked urethra, vomiting, peeing outside of the box and all the other health conditions that go along with severely dehydrated cells, glands and tissues.
- Do cats thrive on a dry kibble diet? No. They survive on highly processed dry food, but will not thrive and usually with health issues.
Unfortunately the scenario plays out like this; The cat or dog is healthy and fine for a while on processed kibble which is typically high in plants and/or grains. The pet starts to have skin issues, then teeth issues and usually for cats, some sort of urinary issue, then eventually they are diagnosed with either diabetes or cancer, then die. Your pet lives and survives, but my guess is that you are interested in a good quality of life for them. I know this is true as I have experienced it with my own pets for 38 years. Then you get a new pet and round and round it goes.
And how many vet's actually ask what your pet is eating in terms of their biological diet? Other than to perhaps recommend their “prescription” food which is just more processed foods high in carbohydrates. Or does your vet offer diet suggestions for homemade foods, raw food ideas or ideas on how to add real food or even the importance of cat hydration? If he/she does, then it sounds like that practitioner would be in alignment with your wellness goals.
Transitioning your cat from dry kibble to wet food
A couple important points.
- Do not attempt to make this transition during a time of stress; for you or your cat. Be sure the environment is calm at home. If your cat is sick or stressed, the transition may take longer. Do not attempt just before a vacation, etc…
- This is a transition, not merely setting wet food down, unless your cat takes to it immediately, then great.
- The key is to do this slowly and patiently. Some folks take 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months or longer.
- Dosage of wet food: (typically) 4-6 ounces of wet split into 2 meals per day
Some cats are eager and they will take to the wet right away or even with just a little dry mixed in and then weaned off the dry. Be sure you watch and pay attention to your cats body language. They speak to us you know, you just have to be the language interpreter.
For cats eager to eat wet, wonderful, you are all set!
For those finicky felines
- You will need to create a sense of hunger, they don't need to have access to food 24-7. No free feeding. Let them get a little hungry. Perhaps just feed twice a day and pick up the bowl after 1 hour.
- If your cat weighs 18 pounds but really should weigh 12 pounds, please make sure that he is consuming at least ~180 calories per day. (12 pounds lean body mass X 15 calories/pound/day = ~180 calories/day). If you have a small female cat that should only weigh 9 pounds, please make sure that she is consuming at least 135 calories per day. (Source)
- Some cats might lose a little weight during the transition phase, most cats are overweight anyhow, that may be favorable and some of the weight could be grain and starch weight loss too.
- Continue to mix the wet with the dry until you've transitioned to all wet. Again, be patient and take your time.
- There will be frustrating times, but the key is to not throw your hands up and give in and give your cat a bowl full of kibble. Stay strong, this will be worth it!
- Keep in mind, most cats only need to consume 150-250 calories per day
Some tricks and strategies for stubborn cats transitioning
- Play with your cat before feeding, this can stimulate the appetite
- Dip a few pieces of the dry food in with the wet
- Add broth, tuna juice or meat drippings to the wet food
- Add a small amount of meat to the dish; beef, chicken, turkey, etc.
- Add a few sprinkles of Parmesan cheese
Homemade is Best, Plan B for Best Options for Store Bought Wet Foods
The key is to not give in or give up, the transition will happen with love and patience.
The Bottom Line
A cat on a canned wet food diet consumes approximately double the amount of water consumed by a cat eating dry food. This is a critical point when one considers how common kidney and bladder problems are in the cat. Think of canned wet food as ‘cleansing' and ‘detoxing' your cat's bladder several times each day. A homemade diet of fresh raw and cooked proteins are best, but the next best option would be to ditch the dry kibble for wet food.
Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM has an awesome step by step “manual”, which is her blog, on how to optimize your cats health with many different aspects to the health and vitality of the cat. I highly recommend reading each and every page and taking notes, as I did.
This entire article is based on my knowledge I gained from Dr. Piersons work, trials and tribulations and passion. Kudos Dr. Pierson!