OUR JOURNEY TO RAW (B.A.R.F) & BACK AGAINThere is a great deal more knowledge available for cat owners who wish to consider raw feeding which is also known as BARF - which means either Bones And Raw Food or, alternatively, Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
So much is it gaining in popularity as a feeding regime that many companies are now producing commercially prepared frozen foods making choosing feeding raw incredible easy and doing away with the need to make your own. That said, many do make thier own foods preferring to know exactly what is in it & therefore being able to control their cats feeding/nutrition.
At Naked Sphnyx, the first kitten we reared was weaned onto Natural Instincts Puppy & Kitten raw food very successfully.
You must NEVER begin a transition of a pregnant or lactating cat to a raw diet. This puts enormous stress on their system at a time that they already have extra stress & can harm the Queen or her developing or feeding kittens.
A transition to feeding raw away from a processed commercial food must always be carried out slowly & carefully. This is because the enzymes in the gut that are needed to process kibble or processed wet pouch/canned foods are different to those required to process raw meat, sinew & bone. Plenty of time needs to be allowed for the gut to adjust otherwise serious, sometimes even fatal issues such as digestive blockages can occur.
At the bottom of this page are details of how to make a successful transition over an extended period. For the smoothest transition, we recommend that you patiently follow the slowest transition.
If your cat has difficulties at any stage, you must take a step backwards, allow the cat to re-settle then go forward again more slowly making smaller adjustments.
See further information down this page.Natural Instincts offer a Puppy & Kitten Weaning Paste. This paste is their most finely minced food containing only chicken as a protein souce of meat. It is a complete recipe & is the easiest for the cat/kittens digestion to cope with making it an ideal first raw food. When Noodle's kitten who was weaned onto raw went on to live with her new family we supplied her with 2kg of this paste in her kitten pack to make sure that she had food to get them started.
A week or so before Noodle's kitten left us, I had collected a new kitten for myself too who, as it happened, had also been weaned onto Natural Instincts raw food. When Noodle had no longer got a kitten to support I felt that I could start to slowly transition Noodle onto raw too if she was interested in eating this way.
Over a period of time as my two cats got used to the textures of less minces meat & sinew I began to introduce other food mixes from the Natural Instincts feline range such as Chicken with Lamb & Chicken with Beef, Turkey, Fish & even tried Wild Venison rapidly finding out which flavours were acceptable & which were very definitely not (spoilt girls). Offering variety is vital so that, while each product is a complete & balanced meal containing all the nutrients needed, they have access to lots of different recipes & meats.
Without a doubt, raw feeding is much more effort, especially if you DIY. There is a lot to think about too. For example, you must ensure that the foods, yours and the cats, that are in your fridge & freezer are stored correctly. When raw food is inside of the fridge it must be well covered so that it cannot contaminate your own food. You must also be on hand to put it down & take it up again, always practicing strict hygeine protocols to safeguard the health of both you & your cat.
With regards to your freezer space you must be able to give up what is probably premium valued space in your freezer; you must remember to thaw the food in good time too and, as the weather gets warmer and flies & insects make their return you need to be ever more vigilant with food picking up quickly any that is left uneaten. Those who choose a raw diet for their cats firmly believe that BARF is better for their animals & are willing to make the extra effort involved.
Since raw food is digested differently in the gut, & because much less food mass is eaten per day it stands to reason that with raw feeding there is less mass produced at the other end as waste. This brings two significant benefits to BARF feeding as not only is there less poo to deal with, it is also much less smelly. Both are definite plus points!
Commercial raw foods such as that which is made by Natural Instincts is superb, however all is minced, so if you want to offer your cat meat in more natural form (such as in chunks) making your own food is probably the best way to go. Those who want to feed as nature intended can by whole prey items too.
DIYWhen I started out looking into DIY feeding I found a very friendly & helpul social media group with very passionate and knowledgable raw feeders who were very happy to share their experience. If DIY raw feeding is for you, I would highly recommend that you also visit the Facebook group CAT CRAP . There are links there to video & photographic tutorials which show step by step how to manage batch production backed up with detailed meat preparation techniques. Best of all there is an awesome spreadsheet which will help to ensure that your batch has its meat/bone/offal ratios made up appropriately (more on that aspect in a moment).
In this group I learned that grinding meat & bone in DIY is not essential and therefore buying a grinder is not essential and if the expense of this is holding you back it need not.
There are pet food suppliers online where you can buy your raw meat. It is available already ground with or without bone, as well as in chuncks and also whole prey items. You do not need to buy from these retailers however as you could also buy all of your meats, offal and bone locally from a supermarket or butcher.
Cost wise, DIY batch making is cheaper, however, there is some initial financial outlay one would need to consider which even if you forgo having a grinder need to be considered.
Here's a list of ta few up front essentials. You'll need
- a strong stomach
- a heavy sharpy meat cleaver & a sharpener as it will blunt quickly.
- a dedicated use chopping board for preparing your raw meats and offal
- a very large steel mixing bowl for batch production
- a large capacity capable weighing scale to weigh out your portions for freezing into daily meal sized amounts.
- a vast collection of storage boxes with lids (for the above portions)
- lots & lots of freezer space!
You need to plan all your ingredients ahead of schedule. And you must dedicate the time & effort every few weeks to make the next batch. Once its done though, you'll have superb quality food to hand for several weeks.
INGREDIENT RATIOS & TIPS
Your DIY raw must contain
- 10-15% of bone
- 75-10% of muscle meat
- 5-10% offal
- 1 raw organic free range egg per kg of batch mixed
- a quantity of oily fish
The oily fish can be canned sardines in tomato sauce!
Vary the muscle meat source in each batch so that you are giving your cat a full & complete diet without the need to add any kind of supplements to it.
If bone isnt for you, you can add bonemeal to the batch instead. Check that you add the correct amount to the batch weight being created.
Meats/offal can be prepared by grinding for small kittens and cats who are not used to chewing meants. As your cat gets used to it meat can be chopped or you can make a mix of chopped and ground for interest and texture. Some meats, when they are properly prepared for the batch with your meat cleaver, can even have some of the bone left unprocessed. Chewing on raw chicken breast bone is the best bone to give a cat to get them started on eating bones. Chewing on the bones will clean the teeth & gums so if you do decide to grind bone or use bone meal it is still worthwhile giving some bone content for your cat to chew upon.
Once mixed together the batch can be portioned out using the scales so that each pot contains everything the cat(s) needs. Aim for a day or two days max. of food for your cat(s) per filled box.
A small variation on BARF is the WHOLE PREY diet. This is also based on the biologically appropriate ethos of feeding & includes whole, chopped or minced farmed rodents, day old chicks, quail, rabbit, pigeon, pheasant etc. These can all be fed whole making it as natural as possible. As an alternative any of those items can be added into a batch in a grind making it species appropriate (what your cat might catch in the wild). You can buy this kind of ingreident online. Just make sure that the ratio of meat/bone/offal are adjusted to make a balanced batch.
Farmed meat is free of pesticides or antibiotics. The animals are reared specifically for human &/or animal feed purposes. Whole prey species for example are widely used by keepers of reptiles, for working dogs, for zoo animals & now more & more for feeding domestic pets.
Road Kill is even used by some people, however, these truly wild animals, while being a free meal for your cat, before being killed it may have been eating from a farmers field where pesticides are commonly used or it may be on the side of the road dead having ingested poisons. I would certainly urge caution if you are considering roadkill as a form of meat for your pet.
MAKING THE TRANSITION
- Diarrhoea can dehydrate a small kitten in a matter of hours & may even cause death.
- A blockage causing constipation or incorrectly digested food can be fatal.
- If you are changing food; product brand or type of diet regimen, DO NOT make any abrupt changes.
- NEVER make large changes (such as changing to or from a BARF diet) without first taking appropriate advice from your vet or a specialist pet nutritionist (see *note below).
Manufacturers of high-quality pet foods such as Hill’s, Royal Canine etc have in-house pet nutritionists who are best qualified to provide you with the appropriate advice & guidance on making any dietary change from/to their food type & brand.
If in doubt always seek help from your vet particularly if you are seeking change due to a medical condition.
The tables provided below for 10 and 21 day change schedules provide examples of a change of diet regimen. For the most gentle change to or from BARF feeding, opt for the 21 day change over and:
- Always remember that you can take a few steps back if the cats’ digestion cannot handle the change at the speed you have set out at, in which case go back to where your pet was still doing well, keep on this for a day or two then try making smaller, slower changes - see the Going More Slowly below.
- Pay very close attention to your pet during & after any diet change. You may see a change in the amount, texture, colour & aroma of the stools produced.
- If there is diarrhoea or vomiting this would strongly suggest the change needs to be done more slowly.
Day 7: 3 0 - 70%
Day 8: 2 0 - 80%
Day 9: 10 - 90%
Day 10: 100% change
Day 8: 65 - 35%
Day 9: 60 - 40%
Day 10: 55 - 45%
Day 11: 50 - 50%
Day 12: 45 - 55%.
Day 13: 40 - 60%
Day 14: 35 - 65%
Day 15: 30 - 70%
Day 16: 25 - 75%
Day 17: 20 - 80%
Day 18: 15 - 85%
Day 19: 10 - 90%
Day 20: 5 - 95%
Day 21: 100% change
Be patient. Processed foods are filled with ingredients to make the foods more palatable for a cat and so the change you are making may not be appreciated by your cat. You may need to persevere.
LickyLiks are available from supermarkets like Asda, Tesco etc as well as Pet emporiums. A pack 6 tubes is £1.80