Raw Diet for Cats: What’s The Vet’s View?

Popularly know as the BARF diet for bones and raw food or biologically adequate raw food diet, the natural raw feeding diet has been drawing increasing interest in the cat lover community.

One of the many people that support a raw feeding diet is Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, author of “Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to the Natural Health for Dogs and Cats,” Rodale Press. He states that a cat’s health is improved by feeding a raw diet and that many of his clients have been feeding their cats raw meat successfully for many years.

When you are deciding what type of meat to feed your cat, Dr. Pitcairn suggests meats that can be easily found and prepare; many of his recipes use ground lean meat because it is high in protein but low in fat. In preparing the meat, Dr. Pitcairn says that 1 pound of ground meat equals roughly 2 cups. He warns that you should not feed raw rabbit, fish or pork as they can carry particular parasites.

Some of the meat type that he recommends as interchangeable are: turkey or giblets; chicken or giblets; beef, chicken or turkey liver; mackerel; tuna; beef, chick or turkey hearts; lean ground beef; duck, among others. Dr. Pitcairn recommends a varied diet and using more than one kind of meat in each meal.

On the other hand, a strong supporter for homemade food, Ann Martin, author of “Food Pets Die For,” New Sage Press, does not favor the raw food diet. The main concerns of a raw diet are bacterial and chemical contamination.

Citing the research of Jeff Bender and Ashley Robinson, veterinarians at the Department of Clinical and Population Sciences at the University of Minnesota, about an epidemic of food poisoning in a cattery. The food poisoning was caused by Salmonella that was thought to be traced to the 4-D meat (dead, diseased, dying or debilitated) in cat food. She is against feeding a raw food diet because of the potential for bacterial poisonings such as this and notes that these bacteria can also be found in meat intended for human consumption. Freezing the meat, she explains, destroys some but not all bacteria.

While Dr. Pitcairn disagrees and says that in over 17 years of practice, he has not seen any food poisoning in raw diets used by his clients. He comments that though it is not impossible that a pet may become ill, he believes they are less vulnerable. However, he leaves it up to the cat owner and suggests that if you do not feel comfortable feeding raw food, do cook it but realize that some of the nutrients will be lost.

Currently, there are still little substantiate results to support or go against raw feeding, and like what Dr. Pitcairn suggested, it’s totally up to the cat owner. As a cat owner who is truly concern about your cat’s health, you can try raw feeding and observe your cat’s response. You can then judge and decided for yourself if raw feeding is suitable for your cat.

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