Hungry cat awaits her meal. Image courtesy of schmollmolch.

Cats…cats…cats! What do you feed them when there are no rats?!

Dogs aren’t the only pets to benefit from home-prepared meals. Here’s a little bit of info on the truth behind your bag of commercial cat food.

Poor Diet = Costly Health Problems

Many of the major diseases that are common to cats are related to problematic diets, many of which are recommended by most veterinarians. In my years of practice, these are the problems I’ve seen related to years on an inadequate diet:

  • Diabetes
  • Urinary crystals and blockages
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cancer
  • Fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis)

The most common problems with cats on commercial diets are reoccurring bladder and kidney problems, especially if they are fed dry food. Because cats normally do not drink a lot of water, they need moist food to digest meals properly, and to eliminate digested byproducts via the kidney and bladder.

Current Attitudes

Many veterinarians use “fear tactics” and half-truths to persuade their clients to buy their commercial food. It is easier to sell cat food, than explain why better options would be healthier. Besides, selling food brings in more money to the veterinary clinic and the pet food companies that provide sponsorships and incentives to top-selling clinics. If you want to know more about how your veterinarian views nutrition, ask them when they took their last nutrition class not sponsored by a dog or cat food company. Then ask them what they ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Was it the same commercially prepared meal all day?

Many vets will say, “Raw food is dangerous,” and, “Home prepared meals will lack vitamins and minerals.”  Have you read a cat food label lately? Most if not all of the minerals and vitamins are synthetic (made of chemicals instead) and have to be added to the food because of over cooking and processing (which destroys all natural vitamins and minerals). Also most vets have no problem selling you dry food kibble for the duration of your cat’s entire life (and as I mentioned above, this leads to reoccurring bladder and kidney problems).

Main Problems of Commercially Prepared Diets

There are many problems with commercial food preparation, the biggest being a lack of quality,  love, and the power of positive intention put into the food. People in these food factories who work minimum wage jobs cooking, processing, and packing pet food are not thinking about your cat, nor praying over the food they make. Is love important? I think YES! Wouldn’t you rather eat a home prepared meal made by your mother, over a bland, mass-produced “frozen TV-dinner” kind of meal?

Other problems with commercial cat food are:

  1. They do not represent what a cat would eat in the wild.
  2. They contain too many carbohydrates.
  3. Chemical flavorings and other substances are added to the food to make it “addicting.”
  4. They contain lower quality ingredients, including meats that may have been condemned for human use due to high amounts of heavy metals, contaminants, antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones.
  5. Fish-flavored cat food contains lots of poor quality fish parts that may precipitate crystals in the urine, and cause heart and kidney damage due to the presence of heavy metals (arsenic, mercury, cadmium).
  6. People who sell these commercial food products don’t know where the ingredients come from – China, Vietnam, South America, Mexico, rendering plants?
  7. Commercial cat food is not tested for contamination until a number of problems (i.e. pet deaths) occur. There are no set standards for quality control.

Commercially prepared dry food is fast and easy but certain foods will make cat urine more alkaline causing the precipitation of crystals, and increase their susceptibility to infections. Dry food containing soy, corn, or wheat flour will increase alkalinity of the urine (feline urine should be acid). Also, dry foods are very high in carbohydrates, and can be very addicting to cats, thus it may be difficult initially to change them to eat healthier varieties of food. Just be persistent!So who are you going to trust? Common sense or marketing hype? And what is your alternative to commercial food?

Better Diets for Cats

These comprise a more “natural” diet for companion kitties:

  • Mice, rats, and other rodents
  • Birds, eggs
  • Insects
  • Plants, dirt, bark

But unless you plan on hunting rats in urban society, you probably want an easier option for feeding your cats healthy and balanced meals. Through self education, feeding trials at home, and reading the labels on all food products, you can help create more natural meals for your cats. Keep these following points in mind:

  1. What‘s in this food product? Minerals, vitamins, diversity of protein matter, fiber, amino acids?
  2. Cats need protein and fats, and fewer carbohydrates.
  3. Cats need raw food as much as possible.
  4. How did cats evolve, how were they domesticated, what did they eat before commercial companies made their food?
  5. Each cat is an individual with specific needs and must not be “lumped” with general feeding recommendations.
  6. Employ a veterinarian that understands cats and how to feed them. (The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association is a great resource to find a just such a veterinarian).

My Personal Experiences

When I was just beginning to work as a veterinarian, I visited many farms that had “farm cats”. They seemed to live long into their 20’s! We never saw them come into the veterinary office for treatment. They were never vaccinated, except for a single rabies shot. They would only come into the office once or twice in their lives for cat fight wounds and abscesses, but none seemed to develop any serious diseases. What did the farmers feed them? Fresh leftover milk from the cows, and all the rats, mice, gophers, and birds they could catch.

Milk is on many veterinarians’ list as a “bad food item.” But my experience has been different. Some cats will develop diarrhea initially, but that is most likely due to the fact that they have been eating dry cat food or have intestinal parasites. Eventually, their bodies adjust and soft stools should stop in a few days. Milk is also a medicinal food! It helps support the formation of blood, and supplies many easily absorbed minerals (calcium) and protein. It’s also an easy way to hydrate cats when they have kidney failure, which allows you to rely less on having to give “fluids under the skin” at home. Buy organic or raw unpasteurized milk if possible.

My parents grew up on a farm, and they weren’t even aware of the existence of a “veterinarian” or an animal doctor because they never needed medical attention for their cats. Their cats lived to be well over 18 years old. What did my parents feed them? Milk, and meat scraps, and all the rats and birds they could catch.

Here is a sample week (for meals) out of the life of my cat Garbanzo:

Breakfast – Usually consists of one of the following…

  • Local beef liver cooked medium rare in butter
  • Chicken, slightly steamed and medium rare
  • Chicken or beef (leftovers from my dinner the night before)

Dinner – Usually consists of one of the following…

  • Cooked steak or pork chops mixed with my dog’s meals (ground meat and vegetables)
  • Baked sweet potato or squash mixed with butter and ground turkey (cooked)
  • Clams or shrimp cooked in butter
  • Scrambled eggs and ground beef
  • Canned wild salmon in water (fed not more than twice a week)
  • Canned light tuna in water (fed not more than one can a week)
  • Fish scraps from our dinner (wild salmon, red snapper, or mahimahi)

Midnight Snack – A small amount consisting of one of the following…

  • Milk
  • Scrambled raw egg with Milk
  • My dinner scraps of meat or fish

Sound complicated? Maybe, but one visit with a urinary tract problem will wipe out all the money and time you saved feeding dry food. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, and try it! Then share your experiences in the comments section below!

If your kitty has serious ongoing health issues, I can provide a diet regimen tailor-made for your cat’s particular ailments. Just fill out our online consultation form on the “Services” page, and call us to arrange a phone consultation.


Photo credit: schmollmolch