When you first start raw feeding, nothing comes in more handy than having a guide to help you through the first stages and getting over any fears or worries you might have.
The amount of times I see people ask, “How do I get started?” and then get sent a link to read, which often leaves the person even more confused than they were before.
I feed my dogs a PMR (Prey Model Raw) based diet and used to do the same with the cat’s I’ve had in the past, therefore I’m only able to advice on this type of raw feeding
PMR raw feeding means that you try to get as close as possible to how your pet would eat in the wild, in this case I’ll be talking about cats.
Even though you will be feeding your cat on the same 80/10/5/5 principle as dogs and they eat the same protein sources (both meat and bone), there are some differences.
We all know cats are divas (it’s their way or the highway), switching them over to a new diet may cause a headache for some cat parents.
In an ideal world you would start your kitten on raw (kittens/ young cats often take to raw right away), but most pet owners haven’t heard of raw feeding and when they do find out about raw feeding their pet is an adult
If your cat is fed kibble, the chances are that it will not take to raw meat straight away, so switching your cat over to tins/ sachets of meat would be the first step.
When choosing a good tin/ sachet go for one that does not contain vegetables, rice, wheat or other carbs/ fillers (Look for a brand that contains 60% to 80% meat).
One brand that has got several choices without vegetables, rice or grains is thrive Complete Adult, but I’m sure there are more brands out there.
It is recommended you change your cat’s food over a week to 10 days.
You will want to start with roughly 25% of the new the first day, and then move to 50%. After a few days, 75% and then finally on the 7th to 10th day 100%.
When your cat is used to being fed tinned/sachets of meat, chances are that he/she will take to raw meat straight away, however there are always the extreme diva’s that don’t.
Whatever you do, do not starve your cat.
Unlike with dogs where you can show tough love, with cats if they do not eat for as little as 24 hours, they can get fatty liver disease which in turn can kill them.
If your cat does not take to raw meat straight away follow the same steps as mentioned above.
Some reasons why your cat might not take to raw meat might be due to:
Texture, size of the chunks, taste (flavour) and or temperature of the meat:
Tinned food is often kept at room temperature and is either sat in gravy or jelly and only has very small pieces Raw meat comes whole or in chunks, taken out of the fridge or freezer, and is like a salad compared to kibble or wet food which is more like fast food.
Have a play with the size of meat EG cut the chunks smaller.
Let the meat defrost in the fridge overnight and let it warm up (covered so keep germs and bugs out) on the work top for a bit before feeding.
Start with a protein source that your cat likes might be a good first step if your cat is picky with taste.
Some pets will for example eat chicken liver but hate for example rabbit liver.
Every animal is different so your cat might love one protein, whilst he/ she pulls its nose up for another.
Some pets do not like certain combinations of ingredients, E.G: a combination of raw eggs mixed with sardines but will eat them on their own.
It might take some time to work out what your cat does and doesn’t like.
Other animals in the room, bowl has been placed in a different place than normal:
It is easier for a cat to eat out of a shallow bowl/ plate, or off a feeding mat, especially when fed raw though make sure to feed your cat in the same spot as to what they are normally used to as cats tend not to like change.
Other pets can be distracting or competition and can cause for your cat to gulp (quickly eat their meal), hoard their food (hide it), or not eat at all.
At times you may just have to be creative when serving your food in the beginning whilst they get used to a raw diet.
How much to feed
Weigh your cat, as raw meals are based on the weight of your cat.
- 1.5% for weight loss
- 2% – 3% to maintain weight
- 3% or more for weight gain
I put estimate as every cat is an individual, with individual needs.
These weights can be adjusted if for example your cat is gaining weight on 2% lower the amount fed, if losing weight at 2% up the amount fed.
To make calculating the meals easier I have added a calculator, as maths isn’t everyone’s strong point and a worry for some
Kittens are allowed to eat as much as they want until they are about 1 year old.
It is recommended to give at least three meals a day to your kitten, the stomach of a kitten is small so keep that in mind when feeding.
If you would like to feed more often that is fine too.
There are people that balance their meals out over a week or even a month, but for me it is easier to balance a meal each day, as otherwise I will have to keep a note of what each cat has been eating to make sure they get the right balance at the end of it all.
There is no right or wrong in this, it all depends on what works best for you and your cat.
What to feed
Feed a minimum of 4 to 5 proteins, the more variety the better with red meats being dominant.
If you know your cat is allergic to a certain protein for example chicken, I would start with a different protein first and leave the chicken as the last protein to add.
This way you know your cat is fine with at least 3 other protein sources before trying him/her on the protein your cat supposedly is allergic to.
You might find that your cat is fine with that protein when fed raw, this is due to the fact that raw meat contains more moisture compared to dry kibble and thus the protein level is less concentrated.
This is an amino acid and a must in a cat’s diet.
It’s needed to maintain eye and heart function, but it’s also important for many other vital functions like growth, sight and hearing.
So, it is important to a cat’s well-being and health.
Cats cannot create their own taurine, unlike many other carnivores, so it’s important that you ensure you are providing enough taurine in a raw diet.
How much of this taurine does my cat need?
I have not been able to find exact numbers nor how to work those numbers out, but what I could find is that a cat cannot overdose on taurine, as when your cat gets more than needed it will come out when urinating, so in short feed as much taurine rich raw meat as you can.
What are good taurine sources?
Good sources for taurine are not hard to find, so don’t panic.
Taurine is found in muscles, the harder the muscle has to work, the more concentrated the taurine is (leg, thigh, shoulder for example) so dark meat has more taurine compared to light meat because it comes from parts of the body that work harder Heart is the hardest working muscles in the body with high concentrations of taurine, is easy to get hold of and would definitely be a staple in my cat’s diet if I had one and make sure they’d eat heart every day.
If you are worried IF your cat is getting enough taurine, you can always add a supplement, though with a well-balanced raw diet that should not be needed.
Grinding, freezing, defrosting and its effect on taurine
Taurine is highly soluble which means that any frozen meat will lose its concentration of taurine content when defrosting. (Tip: defrost meat in a tub and add the liquid to the cat’s food.
Cats don’t drink much, so any liquids that you can is a bonus, and they’re still getting their taurine)
Grinding meat can lower taurine content, as well as decrease some other vital nutrients.
It can also create an environment for bacteria growth.
Ground raw can be a great starter to full raw feeding, but only a starter, it’s not ideal food for a carnivore like cats, their teeth are made to chomp and tear
To keep a good mouth hygiene whole prey would be best, Like: mice, rats, quail, rabbits, guinea-pigs, squirrel, day old chicks, cornish hens.
PMR (Prey Model Raw) can be broken down in to the following percentages.
- 80% Meat (protein): (of which 15%-25% heart)
White Meats: Chicken, Turkey, farmed duck and Farmed rabbits.
Red Meats: Beef, Lamb, Pork, Goat, Wild duck, Goose, Venison, Wild Rabbit, (Game) Birds.
- 10% Bone: All parts of chicken, duck, turkey, rabbits, game fowl, small prey. ribs of smaller animals like rabbit, chicken, other poultry (No cooked (or otherwise processed bones or weight bearing bones). Or if you or your cat feels adventurous, a day old chick, mouse, rat, quail etc See Bone % Chart
- 5% liver
- 5% other secreting organs: Kidney, Testicles, Spleen (milt), Brain, Eyes, Sweetbreads (thymus), Pancreas, Ovaries
Game/ wild animals and fish will have to be frozen for 3 – 4 weeks first before feeding to get rid of any parasites.
It is also advisable to freeze shop bought human grade fresh meat for about 1 – 2 weeks in case of Neospora and Toxoplasmosis contamination (mainly beef, lamb and goat)
Some people complain that when they defrost their meat they are left with a lot of moisture/ blood.
Do not throw this away
The over spill in our dogs raw food packaging is a liquid protein called myoglobin, usually mistaken as blood.
Myoglobin’s job is bring oxygen to muscles and oxygen is required to give muscles energy.
Collect it, Freeze it, Feed it!
Store in ice cubes holders or pour directly over their meal
The best way towards a fully balanced diet without (too many) complications is to take it slow, as the stomach PH will have to lower (from 3-5PH on kibble to 1-2PH on raw) increasing the acidity in the stomach, which is needed to digest bone.
It’s in this first stage (First 5 to 10 days) where it’s advised to feed just a single protein source, no bone and no offal
A protein that is mostly accepted really well is chicken (Boneless and skinless) or green tripe (Only feed green tripe, as white tripe meant for human consumption has not got the same nutritional value beneficial to your cat as green tripe has), read more about tripe here
Pet shops like Pets At Home sells green tripe in the freezer section.
If your cat is doing well in the first 5 to 10 days (No abnormal stools or stomach upsets) you can start adding a soft bone to the meal (this is the 2nd week), like chicken wings, wing tips, necks etc (no more than 10% of the full meal allowance, see the Meaty Bone % Chart
Or you can buy a mince which has ground bone in it, though most minces from raw food suppliers contain a high bone %. (15% – 30% depending on supplier)
Make sure you know what that bone % is so you can add boneless meat to the mixture to level it out.
If by the end of the 2nd week your cat is doing well on a single meat and bone source, it’s time to start introducing a new protein.
Do this in small increments. EG 10-20% of the meal per day until the end of the week you have replaced the whole meal with the new protein.
Continue adding a new protein source the same way as above until your cat is eating 4 or 5 different types. (The more variety the better, as each protein source has different beneficial nutrients)
Once you’re feeding about 4 different proteins you can start adding offal (Offal will always be a secreting organ, and Liver has got to make up 5% of the 10% allowance as explained at the beginning of this page)
As Liver is the one organ meat that has to be part of the diet I suggest you start adding this first, however even though it is the most important organ to feed, feeding more than the recommended 5% can cause a vitamin A overdose, so liver will only ever be a total of 5% of their meal.
Don’t start by giving the full amount, as going to fast will result in runny stools.
As with adding a new protein you will want to introduce liver slowly to their diet.
Once your cat has been eating the full 5% of liver without any problems, you can start adding another organ (kidney is the easiest to get hold of as you can use supermarket bought, but if you can get hold of other secreting organs that would be great).
Again, building it up slowly (slow is key)
Once you’ve got your meals balanced out on 4 different proteins, with meat, bone and organs, you can start adding Fish.
Fish should be introduce slowly to begin with
You can feed a whole days’ worth of fish, spread over a few days as otherwise you risk it coming back up or your cat getting diarrhoea.
Whole fish are classed as whole prey so have a balance of 80/10/5/5.
Fish is a great protein source rich in omega 3 fatty acids and has fairly low saturated fat levels, making it a brilliant protein source alongside other meat proteins.
They are full of the best omega 3 fatty acids for dogs and cats, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) , which are found in fatty fish, all of which have health benefits like antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, aiding joints and all round mobility.
For more detailed information about fish and what type of fish is safe to feed please read here
If your cat doesn’t like Fish whether fresh or frozen, be it the texture or other you can always supplement by giving a good Krill/ Salmon oil.
The last thing to be added, but not least important is eggs.
Eggs are a great addition to your cat’s diet as they are full of Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Folate, Vitamin B12, Iron, Selenium, Fatty Acids and when feeding the shell you’ll be adding Calcium on top of Eggs will need to be counted towards the meat allowance and should be fed two or three a week, however if you’ve got an overweight cat you might want to give eggs in more moderation, as eggs are a quite fatty protein source.
It can be fed with or without shell. (Think of chicken, duck, goose and quail eggs)
For more detailed information about eggs see this page
Balance is important in every diet and unless we completely analyse every bone, meat and organ we feed, we will not know if we are feeding the correct balance, don’t panic though and don’t let this deter you, as once you get more comfortable with raw feeding, you’ll start adding more variation and it’ll all work out in the end without making things complicated.
To be really honest with you, there are not many people that I know of that fully analyse every meat bone and organ they feed to their pet (I sure don’t)
This however is why it is important to feed as much variation as possible (not just protein sources but also different types of organ meats), the more variety you feed, the more balance you create as every protein has its own nutritional value.
This takes me to the next subject.
Both meat and bones contain phosphorous and we know we need to feed bone to provide our pets with calcium.
For a perfectly balanced diet the phosphorous to calcium ratio needs to be 1-1
Because meat protein contains phosphorous adding bone can easily take you over the 1-1 ratio, but as said above without analysing everything we feed we will not know.
If you want, you can replace 1 or 2 bone meals a week with powdered egg shell to compensate.
The guide is 1/2tsp of egg shell powder per 1lb meat/organ to reach the 10% bone for PMR.
Last but not least
There often is some confusion around organ meats, in the sense of whether they should be fed as offal or as meat.
The easiest way to explain it is to determine whether the offal is more of a secreting organ or a muscle.
Red meats should be fed more in the diet compared to white meats. Green tripe should only be 10 – 15% of the heart between 15% – 25% (it is very rich and can cause diarrhoea when fed more) The more variety of proteins you can provide for your cat the better.
Vegetables/Fruits/grains or other carbs are not needed as cats are obligate carnivores and cannot digest them, it stresses the pancreas which can cause pancreatitis and yeast which will cause skin problems.
For more information read Fruit and Vegetables are they safe?
Cats do better on chunks of meat compared to minced meat, so if you can feed chunks of meat please do