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October 31, 2008 6:03 AM   Subscribe

I need practical advice on switching my cats to a partially raw diet.

So, we have two cats. Yes, I know - useless with out pictures. Daeva and Daksha turned five this year. Because she's a bit fat, and because the whole melamine thing scared us out of our wits, we've been talking about switching away from the food we are currently feeding to a grain-free (or mostly grain-free) food option, and we are thinking of doing 1/2 raw and half high-quality kibble (Wellness, CA Natual, EVO). The problem is that they do not even think that the raw food we've offered them (Primal samples) is actually food. I think it's because it's cold, and because they love their kibble. So, the questions:

1) If we back off the raw and go to a canned food, mashing in the kibble they love so dearly, and slowly dial the kibble back, and then somehow transition from canned to raw, is that a good strategy?

2) Is there any safe way for the raw food to be room temperature when they are offered it?

3) Is there something else we can do? Any other tips/anec-data about making this switch?

Also: I know going raw is not necessary per se, but I'd love to get them off food with a bunch of chemicals in it. Daksha's had a hard enough time in his life with health issues that I'd like to mitigate his further exposure to chemicals through food. I'm hesitant about canned because of the sodium content, and don't really want them tied to that for the rest of their long, spoiled feline lives. If I'm somehow misled about the sodium in canned food, I'd love to have some reference on that, too. Thanks!
posted by Medieval Maven to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Whole Cat can help you with this throughout the entire process.
posted by watercarrier at 6:37 AM on October 31, 2008

I'm hesitant about canned because of the sodium content, and don't really want them tied to that for the rest of their long, spoiled feline lives.

I don't know about the sodium content, but wet food has a higher moisture content. The wikipedia article on cat food has links to some of the benefits.

I feed my cat high quality wet and dry (Wellness dry, Merrick wet), and my vet is nevertheless trying to get me to switch completely over to wet food. I think the commonly accepted school of thought right now is that dry food, even good dry food, is really just unnecessary junk food. It's also associated with bladder stones in male cats, a serious health problem
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:47 AM on October 31, 2008

Also, I'd highly recommend Merrick. Sammy Katz loves it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:48 AM on October 31, 2008

One thing you can do, if you think that they are rejecting the raw because it's cold, is very briefly sear it in a pan before you give it to them. By briefly, I mean just that: a few seconds on high heat. I would also recommend leaving it out much longer and avoid hovering over them to see if they are eating it yet. Don't worry about it going bad. And, also, if they don't take to it for the first week or so it's offered don't declare it a failure yet. I think cats are just really really slow to adjust to change.

That said, though, I have failed miserably at wholly switching my cats over to raw. One of the three loves the raw offerings, the second one will eat anything mushy (hamburger, ground turkey) but no bones, and the third clings to his dry food with the kitty death grip from hayle. Switching my three dogs to raw was so, so much easier. I just handed them a chicken quarter each, they ate it and fast forward a couple years they are absolutely loving raw food.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:08 AM on October 31, 2008

It definitely could be that they aren't showing interest because the food is too cold...when it's cold it has no smell. It would be fine at room temperature for a few hours. In the winter your house will be a bit colder and it could safely stay in the bowl a little longer. I usually don't mix raw or wet with dry because if they don't eat it then you have to throw away the dry too.

It also could be they aren't eating it because they're cats and for the most part cats do whatever the fuck they want to do - if that happens to not jibe with what you want them to do then so much the better as far as they're concerned.

I think going to canned first might be a more successful strategy.

There's real good tips here, scroll down to "Special Tips for Cats".

I see that you are in Georgia - I'm not sure how many of the good raw cat foods are even available to you...but the easiest recommendation would be to try the different varieties Primal has to offer and to try the different brands as well. Rad Cat is very good, as is Wild Kitty. There's always Nature's Variety (by far our biggest selling raw and relatively easy to find) as well. Raw Advantage is another good one. The Wild Kitty in particular sells a kit you can use to make your own food, it's a powder so it would ship well.

One final tip - after feeding raw make sure you thoroughly wash out the bowl.
posted by vito90 at 7:22 AM on October 31, 2008

Your cats are gorgeous! IANACBIAARF (I am not a cat but I am a raw foodist). I know most dogs will eat anything and cats can be finicky, but we transitioned our dog to raw and he went from being a blob who napped all the time to a fireball of energy with a super shiny coat, and both of his health problems (arthritis and some kind of dermatitis) disappeared.

We're lucky enough to have two fantastic pet food stores in our area that carry great free-range raw meat for pets (cheaper than meat graded for human consumption), so we shopped there and filled in with veggies and greens at home. Maybe you have one in your area too? Our dog was a nut for greens and went berserk over romaine, so we always gave him a nice side salad ;) Basically, we started with 90% kibble, 10% raw, and increased the raw by 10% every week until he was 100%. No problems. As far as the room temp thing goes, we took the meat out of the fridge about an hour before we gave it to him. Never saw a problem with that either. It's such a great idea to get them off of grain; you're doing a good thing. You can mefimail me if you want to know anything else about our dog's diet.
posted by iconomy at 7:37 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I partially raw feed my two dogs. I make up their food in a big batch, then freeze it in portion-size blobs. Then every night, if I remember, I defrost the next day's portion in the fridge, and in the morning I warm it up to room temp by stirring in a little hot water (I just do their food as I'm making my tea and use the boiling water from that). If I forget to defrost it, I use the defrost setting on the microwave, which makes it end up at room temp or slightly warmer.

One of the reasons that dogs (and presumably cats) don't have the same problems with pathogens in raw meat that we do is that their digestive tract is so much shorter--the pathogens aren't in there long enough to cause trouble. Kibble, however, slows the digestive process down. Kibble takes about 12 hours to digest, while raw food takes about 5 (in dogs at least). So, many people recommend that you not feed raw and kibble in the same meal, and not feed raw directly after kibble, because you want it to get through the system on a normal schedule to avoid trouble. Rather than mixing the two, I would try to get your cats used to the texture of raw food by starting with something they find irresistible. What about canned sardines? Once they are used to eating those, you could mix them together with "regular" raw food until you gradually got them used to eating just the raw food.
posted by HotToddy at 9:34 AM on October 31, 2008

I make this recipe without the bones, but only one of my cats will eat it. He goes absolutely crazy for it, even if it is slightly cold. However, I do warm it by first defrosting it in the fridge (or leaving it on top of my gas stove for a bit) and then running it under hot water. He doesn't have that many teeth left either, but still, he gobbles it up.
posted by dodici at 10:58 AM on October 31, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks guys, for the answers! We are going to regroup on trying to transition them. We do have a great pet supplies store near us, Pawsibilities, and the guy there is really, really nice (that's where I got my samples!).
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:03 PM on October 31, 2008

10 or 15 seconds in the microwave will make it warm enough that they can smell it. (Searing it in a pan is right over the top, and I say that as a crazy cat lady in training.)

Another cool thing we figured out the other day: cats groom after they eat, right? Well, it works in reverse too. A minute or two of vigorous petting or brushing will make my old and sometimes finicky cat go over and start grazing.

Don't worry about food poisoning -- apparently cats have a short intestinal tract and so can safely eat stuff that would make us sick.

Also, the kibble titration system should work fine and is what my vet recommended. Don't give up! Raw is good for cats.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:56 PM on October 31, 2008

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