Years ago, I worked as a sales rep for a well known raw pet food company. In that capacity, I paid a sales call on a Veterinarian who was struggled to control diabetes in the three clinic cats she had in residence. She was administering injected insulin, and had been feeding them a prescription dry cat food intended to control diabetes in cats. In spite of this, the insulin requirements in all three cats as rising, and their overall body condition was worsening. She had recently started eating a healthier diet herself, based on whole food ingredients, and was beginning to wonder if a similar diet might possibly be of benefit to her cats. At the very least, she felt it certainly couldn’t be any worse for them than the daily injections they received, and the dry, tasteless food they were currently eating.
All three cats were started on fresh, frozen raw food, and within days, the vet was startled to discover that their blood sugar levels had stabilized, and their need for insulin lessened. Within two weeks, all three of the cats showed normal blood sugar levels, and none of them required any further insulin. She was reluctant to say that a raw food diet had ‘cured’ their diabetes, but she was happy to say that it had, at the very least, controlled it and made is asymptomatic.
How Cats Evolved to Eat Meat
Pet food companies have spent the last fifty or so years gradually adding increasing amounts of plant matter to cat food. Taglines like “healthy grains and vegetables” abound in ads for grain added pet foods, all intended to convince us that grain in cat food isn’t just a cost saving measure – it’s beneficial to your cat’s health.
An overview of the digestive system of the housecat shows that not only are grains in cat food not beneficial, they are in fact deeply, deeply harmful to overall health.
Dogs and human beings are both omnivores – we have evolved to be able to obtain our caloric needs from essentially whatever foods were on hand, usually a diet composed of mixed plant and animal sources.
Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores – uniquely formulated to digest a diet consisting of pure animal protein, and with a digestive system not adapted to digest plant proteins. Cats have no salivary amylase, the enzyme used to initiate digestion of dietary starches. They have smaller stomachs with lesser storage capacity, meaning food spends less time stewing in digestive enzymes to begin the breakdown process. The shorter short colon of cats limits their ability to digest plant based starches and fiber for energy through bacterial fermentation in the large bowel.
Taurine is an amino acid found primarily in muscle meat, and it is essential to heart and eye function in cats and dogs. Dogs evolved as omnivorous scavengers, and as such can synthesize their own taurine from other, more readily available amino acids, including those found in meat by products. Cats, with their ancestral diet based on whole prey animals, never developed this ability, and require significant quantities of muscle meat in their diets to receive the necessary amount of taurine for health.
Cats have developed a complicated relationship with water. With a diet based on blood rich small prey, and an ancestral desert environment, cats evolved the ability to obtain most of their requirements for water from the food they ate. As such, cats fed a dry diet do not adequately adjust their water intake to ensure they take in the amount of moisture their bodies require. This is what has created the crisis like numbers of urinary tract infections, kidney stones and crystals we see in domestic cats fed a dry diet.
Even the scissor-like teeth of your feline have evolved to deliver the killing blow necessary for them to successfully hunt and kill small prey.
Simply put, your cat is a machine that runs on meat, bones and organs – not corn, barley and wheat.
Why Raw for Cats?
A well made raw diet for cats should consist of at least 90% muscle meat, organs, and bones. Small amounts of fresh fruits, vegetables and especially greens can be beneficial, but only if present in limited portions.
Most cats find raw diets palatable. This alone has convinced legions of owners of fussy felines that a raw diet is the best diet for their pets.
A muscle meat based raw diet gives cats the necessary taurine and digestible protein they need to thrive and stay healthy. Fresh meat is rich in blood and moisture, keeping your cat’s water intake to a level that can prevent urinary and bladder issues.
The plant based carbohydrates in grain added cat food cause your cat’s blood sugar to rise, just as high carbohydrate intake does in people. As I recounted above, numerous owners and veterinarians are discovering that they can not only control feline diabetes on a raw diet, but they can eliminate any signs of it altogether.
The overall health benefits for cats of a raw diet include cleaner teeth that require almost no veterinary cleaning, less litter box odors, less or no hairballs, shinier and silkier coats, brighter eyes, and overall longer, healthier lives.
When we consider how much companionship our cats give us, it can be hard to understand how any other diet can even compare.