A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Best Raw Food for Cats

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17 Minute Read
Updated June 1, 2023

As a cat lover, you want to ensure that your furry companion gets the best nutrition to keep them healthy and happy. Raw feeding is popular among pet owners who want to provide their feline friends with a natural and wholesome diet.

Choosing the right raw food can be overwhelming, especially if you're new to the concept. That's where this comprehensive guide comes in - we'll cover everything you need to know about raw feeding for cats, including the benefits, risks, and how to choose the best raw food for your cat's unique needs. 

From understanding the nutritional requirements of cats to the different types of raw food available, we've got you covered. By the end of this guide, you'll be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions about your cat's diet and help them thrive. 

So let's dive in and discover the world of raw feeding for cats together!

 

5 Benefits of Raw Feeding for Cats

One of the main reasons cat owners choose to feed their pets a raw diet is for the health benefits it provides. A raw food diet can give your cat a range of nutrients they may not get from processed foods. 

Here are some benefits of raw feeding for cats:

1. Improved Digestion

Raw food is easier for cats to digest as it contains natural enzymes that break down food. This means that cats are less likely to experience digestive problems such as constipation or diarrhea. This also means cleaner and less stinky litter boxes.

2. Better Oral Health

Raw food can help improve your cat's oral health. The chewing motion required to eat raw food can help clean your cat's teeth and gums, reducing the risk of dental problems.

3. Improved Coat and Skin Condition

Raw food is rich in essential fatty acids, which can help improve your cat's coat and skin condition. Cats on a raw diet often have shinier coats and less dry skin.

4. Increased Energy and Vitality

Cats on a raw diet may have more energy and vitality as they are getting all the necessary nutrients from their food. This can lead to a happier and more active cat.

5. Exceptional Flavour

Cats can be picky, especially when it comes to bland, dry cat kibble. The best raw cat diets are loaded with meaty flavours and offer a texture that appeals to cats.

 

What Do Cats Need in a Complete Diet?

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Before switching your cat to a raw food diet, it's important to understand your cat's nutritional needs. There are many types of cat diets to choose from, and while many meet basic AFFCO nutrient profile standards, some cat diets offer better nutrition than others. 

Feeding your cat is more than helping them survive. The best diets for cats should help them thrive by optimizing digestion and immune function, supporting appropriate muscle development and maintenance, and improving energy levels to encourage an active and healthy lifestyle.

Choosing a raw food diet for your feline friend is one of the most natural ways to feed because it mimics the ancestral diet of wild cats. 

As carnivores, cats thrive on a meat-rich and minimally processed diet that meets the unique dietary needs of cats.

Animal Protein

Cats require a diet that is high in animal protein because cats are obligate carnivores. This means that there are certain nutrients that can only be sourced in sufficient quantities from animal ingredients. Deficiencies of these nutrients can have a detrimental long-term effect on your cat's health. 

Raw diets are primarily meat-based, providing your cat with an easy-to-digest and absorb source of the key nutrients. Diets made from raw, unprocessed, and whole animal ingredients are the ideal protein source for cats. Feed proteins like chicken, lamb, fish, and rabbit to ensure a complete and balanced raw diet for your kitty.

Animal Fat & Oils

Cats also require a diet that contains healthy animal fats. Dietary fat is often vilified, but the truth is that it's an important nutrient for cats. Fats and oil can be either functional or facilitating, and your cat needs both. 

Facilitating Fats for Cats

Functional fats are an excellent source of energy to help your cat stay active and are also an excellent source of brain food. Cats that regularly eat diets rich in appropriate and healthy animal fats will have more energy and better cognitive function. 

Functional Fats for Cats

Some fats and oils help support organ and body function. Omega fatty acids, like those found in fish oils, play a role in your cat's cells' structural or functional process and will support cell function. Basically, these fats and oils help your cat's body work at a cellular level.

Raw diets offer an abundant and natural source of animal fats and oils, which is why cats that eat raw food tend to be more active, have better skin and coats, and are prone to fewer health issues as they age.

Taurine

Taurine is an essential amino acid that cats require in their diet. It is important for heart and eye health and plays a role in digestion and immune function. Taurine is almost exclusively sourced from meat, which is why cat raw diets offer optimal levels of taurine and other essential amino acids.

Certain types of seaweed and brewer's yeast also contain taurine but in lower quantities making it difficult to meet your cat's taurine needs without animal protein. These ingredients can be more difficult for cats to digest, which could result in deficiencies.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cats require a range of vitamins and minerals in their diet, like vitamins A, C and E, and calcium and phosphorus. All of these nutrients can be easily sourced from wholesome food ingredients. 

Some nutrients are difficult to source from plants, and some are exclusively sourced from animal ingredients. Vitamin A, for example, helps to support your cat's immune system and is a source of antioxidants to protect your cat from cancer-causing cells and other diseases.

Many plants are rich in beta carotene, which is often confused with vitamin A because dogs and humans can convert beta carotene into vitamin A during digestion. Cats can't, so their diet must include vitamin A-rich foods like liver, fish, or eggs. 

 

How to Choose the Right Raw Cat Food

Choosing the right raw food for your cat is the next step. You'll find many options for raw feeding your cat, but to help you find the perfect raw food for your unique kitty, there are a few things to consider:

Protein Variety 

The variety of animal proteins used in cat food used to be limited to the most basic choices, like chicken and fish, but now you'll find a wider selection of unique and novel proteins. This allows you to rotate between more proteins and avoid proteins that your cat may be sensitive to. 

Protein rotation is highly recommended for cats, as it can provide a more diverse mix of nutrients and reduce picky eating habits in cats. 

Some proteins should only be fed in rotation with others. Very lean meats, like goat, rabbit, and kangaroo, may not provide enough fat to maintain your cat, but when fed in combination with meats like lamb, beef or chicken can create a very wholesome and well-balanced raw diet for cats. 

Fibre Supports Digestion

As carnivores, cats don't technically have a dietary requirement for fruits, vegetables, grains, or other carbs, so many cat formulas will only contain meat, organs, and bone. This might seem ideal for a meat eater, but the fact is a true carnivore diet will have small amounts of plant and animal fibre included. 

This is why some raw cat foods contain a very small percentage of cat-safe vegetables and fruits to provide dietary fibre that supports your cat's digestion. Not all cats need this style of diet, but they are recommended for cats just starting a raw diet or those with a history of digestive issues.

Easy Portions

Raw food isn't quite as simple as tossing some dry kibble in a bowl and walking away, but it doesn't have to be a horrible inconvenience. Different brands will offer different shapes and styles of raw cat food that make it easier to defrost, portion, and feed depending on your and your cat's needs.

Pre-cut and weighed portions of cat food, like nuggets, patties, or morsels, can make measuring your cat's meals a lot easier. If you choose a food designed for both dogs and cats, be aware that the food will be portioned into bigger pieces and may require a food scale to help perfectly portion the large patties for your cat.

Personal Preference

The raw food you choose for your pet should suit your cat's dietary needs and help them thrive, but you can still try to find a food that suits your personal preferences too. After all, you are the one paying for it, preparing it, and cleaning up after each meal.

Maybe you prefer choosing a brand that is made and sourced in Canada. Or perhaps you prefer to buy in bulk to save money. Whatever your preferences are, they should be taken into consideration when choosing your cat's new raw diet.

 

4 Best Raw Cat Foods Canada

You know the pros and cons of raw feeding and what your cat needs to thrive. Now it's time to choose the right raw diet for your kitty. 

What is the best raw food for cats?

Primal Cat Food

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Perfectly balanced raw cat diets from Primal Pet Foods offer the perfect blend of wholesome raw nutrition in an easy-to-feed format. Suitable for adult cats of all breeds, Primal Raw Frozen Cat Food is sold in small easy-to-portion nuggets or morsels. 

All Primal Cat Diets are enriched with probiotics, kelp, and taurine to provide a complete and balanced diet and promote total body health for your cat. 

Shop Primal Cat Food

Instinct Longevity

instinct_cat_longevity-raw

Instinct Raw Longevity Raw Cat Food is designed to supply all of the essential nutrients your cat needs from fresh and wholesome ingredients. Backed by 10 years of research, Instinct raw pet food is crafted with principles of both science and nature to create perfectly balanced formulas for cats. 

Portioned into small frozen bites, these diets defrost quickly and are easy to portion to make feeding raw simple and fast. Choose from two tantalizing flavours for adult cats, or grab the special Instinct Longevity Raw Diet for Kittens to cater to the extra needs of a growing kitten. 

Shop Instinct Cat Food

Big Country Raw

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Looking for good Canadian Raw Cat Food? Big Country Raw is a leading Canadian raw pet food brand offering various raw cat diets to suit cats of different life stages and dietary needs.

Big Country Raw offers three cat-friendly meal choices:

      • Fare Game - Complete and balanced multi-protein diets with fresh greens
      • Signature Blends - Blend of complementary proteins without fruits or vegetables
      • Pure Diets - Single protein meal bases suitable for allergies and customization

Shop Big Country Raw Pet Food

Iron Will Raw

iron-will-basic-chicken

Another of our top Canadian Raw friends, Iron Will Raw Pet Food, offers simple raw diets suitable for dogs and cats. Iron Will Raw Basics diets are single-protein, calorie-dense, and easy to feed. 

This is a great choice for multi-pet households. The food is packaged in pre-portioned 1 lb blocks to make feeding and measuring easy. Choose from six different proteins to keep your cat's diet fresh, fun, and exciting.

Shop Iron Will Raw Pet Food

 

How to Transition Your Cat to a Raw Food Diet

One of pet parents' most common concerns about switching their cats to a raw food diet is how to safely make the change. Raw foods and cooked processed diets are different and will digest differently. 

What's the Best Way to Switch a Cat to Raw Food?

The best method in most cases is to fast your cat for 10-12 hours and then do completely switch to the new raw diet. This "tearing off the band-aid" approach typically has the lowest instance of digestive upsets, and most cats take to the raw food's texture and flavour very well. 

Digestive aids, like pumpkin or probiotics, can help during the transition to further reduce digestive upsets. 

Can I Feed Raw and Cooked Cat Food Together?

It is possible to feed both cooked and raw foods, but they should always be fed in separate meals at least 8 hours apart. This reduces the chances of both types of foods working through the digestive system at the same time. 

Cats that are used to free feeding sometimes have the biggest trouble adjusting to this new diet, but in time they will adapt. Be consistent with your feeding portions and times to encourage a healthy feeding schedule for your cat.

 

Raw Feeding Tips for Cats

Feeding raw can be extremely beneficial to your cat's health, but knowing how to feed raw safely and appropriately is important. Learning the best practices regarding raw cat food can help you decide if raw is right for you and your cat.

Here are some tips for feeding your cat a raw food diet:

Practice Good Hygiene

It's important to practice good hygiene when handling raw food. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw food, and clean your cat's bowls and utensils regularly. 

The bacteria naturally present in raw meat won't harm your cat, but it can be dangerous for you. Treat all cat food the way you treat raw meat you prepare for yourself. 

Avoid Plastic Cat Bowls

Another simple hygiene trick for feeding raw cat food is to avoid cat bowls made from soft materials like plastic that easily scratch or crack.

Bacteria from the food, no matter how well you wash them, will settle in the cracks and crevices and fester. This could lead to you or your cat getting ill.

Stick to materials like metal, ceramic, or glass instead. Try the Messy Cats Double Silicone Feeder for Cats. The bowls are metal, and the silicone base prevents the feeder from sliding around while your cat eats. Plus, the dishes are shallow, like a saucer, to prevent whisker fatigue.

Feed a Balanced Diet

It's important to ensure that your cat is getting a balanced diet on a raw food diet. This means providing a variety of protein sources and supplementing the diet to meet your cat's individual needs. 

Homemade raw cat food diets might seem like a good idea, but they are often not properly balanced and can lead to health issues. Feed a complete and balanced commercial raw diet, or choose a well-balanced homemade raw cat food recipe. 

Monitor Your Cat's Health

Monitor your cat's health closely when feeding a raw food diet. Look out for any signs of digestive problems or nutrient deficiencies. If you notice any signs of poor health, contact your vet for next steps.

Talk to our vet if you have questions about meeting your cat's dietary needs. 

 

How Much Raw Food to Feed a Cat

Raw cat food is very calorie dense. This means smaller portions are needed to offer the same nutrients to your cat. Most cats over 1-year-old need approximately 2-2.5% of their body weight in raw food per day, but age, lifestyle, and environment can all affect how much raw food to feed your cat. 

Here is a simple breakdown to get you started:

    • Kittens - Growing kittens have a much higher need for calories, protein, fat, and many vitamins and minerals. They process calories quickly, even when they are inactive, so most kittens need 3-6% of their body weight in raw cat food daily, broken into 3-5 small meals. 
    • Adult Cats - Most adult cats eat 2-2.5% of their weight in raw cat food. This is enough to supply plenty of energy and maintain a healthy weight for an average activity-level cat. 
    • Some breeds are naturally more active, so higher portions may be needed to meet their daily energy needs. Bengals, Sphynx, and Maine Coons are a few active cat breeds that may have higher energy requirements and may need more food to maintain them. 
    • Weight Gain - If your cat is underweight, feeding slightly larger portions of raw cat food can help to build healthy muscle and provide the energy your cat will need to bulk up. 
    • It's important not to go overboard, though. Feeding 3% of their body weight is enough to help your cat slowly but steadily put on weight. 
    • Weight Loss - Chunky cats tend to be lazy, meaning many calories aren't used for activity or muscle development. Instead, they just keep packing on more weight. For safe and gradual weight loss, you should feed your fat cat 2% of their goal weight. 

You could try feeding only 1.5% of the desired body weight for more extreme weight loss. This will help your cat lose weight quickly but can lead to lower energy levels and behavioural issues. This should not be your first choice, and you should talk to your vet before starting your cat on an extremely calorie-restricted diet. 

Small adjustments can be made as needed. Your cat's weight can change in as little as a week, so it's a good idea to weigh your cat before you start their new raw diet and regularly check their weight to ensure they are getting fed appropriate quantities of raw food.

 

Common Misconceptions About Raw Feeding for Cats

There are several misconceptions about raw feeding for cats. Here are some of the most common:

Is raw food dangerous for cats?

Raw food is safe for cats as long as it is handled, stored, and prepared correctly. It's important to practice good hygiene when handling raw food to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Is raw food expensive?

Raw food can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. Several affordable options are available, especially if you have the freezer space to buy in bulk. 

Is raw food difficult to prepare?

Raw food can be time-consuming to prepare, but it doesn't have to be difficult. Many commercial raw cat foods are complete and balanced and don't need anything extra. Just defrost, measure and serve. 

If you plan to feed a customized raw diet, you can portion out meals ahead of time and freeze them for future use. This cuts down on daily prep time.

 

Can Cats Eat Raw Bones?

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Cats cat eat raw bones, but only certain types. Cats aren't exactly known for their love of chewing, like dogs often are, but feeding your cat raw bones is a fun and healthy way to supplement your cat's raw diet, help clean your cat's teeth, and give her a fun and exciting activity to occupy her during down time. 

What kind of raw bones can cats eat? Like dogs, some raw bones are safe to consume, while others are too hard and dense. Stick to edible raw bones that are appropriately sized for your cat, like chicken feet and necks

Tips for Feeding Cats Raw Bones

Not every cat will be interested in eating raw bones, but they make an excellent nutrition booster and a fun activity for cats with too much energy and time on their hands. Here are a few tips for feeding raw bones to cats:
    • Keep an eye on them - Always monitor your cat while eating, especially a hard or long-lasting chew like a raw bone. No matter how experienced your cat is, choking is always a risk. Be prepared to take the bone away if you notice unsafe chewing habits.
    • Consider the calories - Chicken necks and backs have more fat and meat, making it a calorie-heavy snack. Take this into consideration when during feeding time. You may need to adjust the size of your cat's meals following a raw bone to avoid overfeeding. 
    • Mind the Calcium - Too much calcium can lead to issues. Poultry bones contain a lot of calcium, and even though the bones are healthy, they must be fed in moderation. One appropriately sized raw bone per week is plenty for an average adult cat. 
    • Take 'em or leave 'em - Raw bones are optional for cats, so if you aren't comfortable feeding raw bones, if your cat doesn't have safe chewing habits, or if your cat simply isn't interested, that's ok. A complete and balanced raw diet for cats should contain ground bone or another source of calcium, like egg shells. 

 

Conclusion

Raw feeding can provide your cat with a natural and wholesome diet that can lead to improved health and vitality. However, it's important to be aware of the risks and nutritional requirements before making the switch.

By following the tips and advice in this guide, you can choose the best raw food for your cat and make the transition to a raw food diet as smooth as possible. Remember to consult your veterinarian and closely monitor your cat's health when making diet changes.

With the right information and support, you can provide your feline friend with the best possible nutrition and help them thrive.

Cat Graphic CTAs_Freeze-Dried & Dehydrated Cat Food - Desktop

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Raw Cat Food

What is raw cat food?

Raw cat food consists of uncooked ingredients like meat, organs, and sometimes vegetables. It aims to mimic a cat's natural diet in the wild and is considered a more natural feeding approach.

Is raw cat food safe for my cat?

Raw cat food is safe if handled and prepared correctly. However, there is a risk of bacterial contamination in humans. Proper hygiene and food safety practices are essential to minimize health risks.

What are the potential benefits of feeding raw cat food?

A high-quality and well-balanced raw cat diet has many benefits, such as improved coat condition, better dental health, increased energy levels, and a decrease in certain health issues. 

Are there risks associated with feeding raw cat food?

Raw cat food can host harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, which can pose health risks to humans. It's important to handle and store raw food properly to reduce these risks.

Can I prepare raw cat food at home?

Yes, you can prepare raw cat food at home, but it requires careful sourcing of high-quality ingredients, proper food handling, and knowledge of feline nutritional needs. Commercially available raw cat food options are also available.

Is a raw cat food diet complete and balanced?

Ensuring a raw diet is nutritionally complete and balanced for your cat's needs can be challenging. Many commercial options are formulated to meet feline nutritional requirements, but it's important to read labels and consult with a veterinarian to ensure adequacy.

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She is currently working for one very rebellious cat, Jack, and hanging out with a goofy but loveable doggo named Roxy.

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