This guide does not constitute medical advice. As with any changes in your pet’s diet, it’s best to consult your veterinarian first, especially if your pet is on medications.
You love your cat and want them to be as healthy as possible. Perhaps you’re thinking that their dry kibble or commercial wet food is not the most nutritious food for them. Or maybe you’re curious about how to supplement your cat’s nutrition naturally while they stay on their current food. You also may have heard that cats do well on a raw food diet.
According to PetMd, many veterinarians do not recommend a raw or homemade food diet for cats. They point to important issues like quality control, the risks of contamination from bacteria, and the potential for nutritional deficiencies. You have to find the right balance of nutrition and store the food properly to avoid potentially hurting your cat. In addition, the potential of bacterial contamination poses a health risk to any immune-compromised animals in the house, and also to any children or elderly persons in the household.
However, going raw isn’t the only way to give your cat better nutrition. There are many options for giving your cat a more natural diet. What do we mean by natural? A natural diet is one closer to what your cat’s ancestors would eat in the wild. Cats are carnivores, more so than dogs, and can benefit from diets with high-quality protein. Also, proper nutrition is key for keeping any pet healthy, including your cat. Remember, the right solution for your cat’s more natural diet is one that works for both of you. If you can’t, or don’t want to, go through the effort (and take on the risks) of a homemade raw food diet for your cat, that’s ok. There are still lots of options to make your cat’s diet more natural and healthful. Here are some ways you can give your cat a more natural diet.
1. Higher quality food
This is an easy option. While potentially more expensive, it is a safer choice. This is also an area where your vet can help. There are so many excellent brands of cat food with high-quality proteins that contain all the nutrients your cat needs. It may take some experimentation, but you’re sure to find a natural food that could improve your cat’s health. For more information about ingredients in cat food and how to read cat food labels, check out Pet Releaf’s helpful blog.
2. Bone broth
There is a wide range of supplementation possible for cats. You can soften dry food with a quality bone broth. Bone broth can be purchased in a variety of forms, including dehydrated. Or, you can make your own bone broth very easily. It should be especially easy for those who are cooks. But if you’re a novice in the kitchen, don’t let that dissuade you.
To make bone broth, a slow cooker is essential. While you can make it on the stove, it takes 20+ hours, and leaving a heating element on for that long, potentially unattended can be dangerous.
There are lots of recipes out there for both broths, but the basic idea is simple. Here is an easy recipe that can be modified based on what ingredients you have.
Use one: 1-2 chicken carcasses, 2 lb chicken wings, 2lb of beef bones, or 2 lb of chicken necks
1 onion, halved
1-2 roughly chopped carrots
1-2 roughly chopped celery ribs
Add a chicken carcass, chicken wings, beef bones, or chicken necks from the butcher to the crockpot. You can also add a halved onion, carrots, and celery. Fill crockpot with water until there is an inch of space below the lid. Simmer on low for 24 hours or longer. When the broth is done, let it cool, and then place a colander (pasta drainer) into a large bowl and pour your broth through the strainer, filtering out the meat bones and veggies. Throw away the scraps. Bone broth keeps in the fridge for 5-7 days, so portion out what you’ll need for a week and then freeze the rest of the broth in small bags or containers to make pulling out what you’ll need for a week easier. This rich, nutritional broth will nourish your beautiful cat.
3. Commercial Raw Food
If you don’t want to go through the effort of making your cat raw food, or you are concerned about nutritional deficiencies, there are plenty of brands on the market that offer frozen or freeze-dried raw food and treats. You can choose commercial raw food as your cat’s main food. Or there are also raw (usually frozen or freeze-dried) food toppers to add to your cat’s regular dry or wet food, and raw freeze-dried cat treats. By going commercial you can bypass most of the bacterial safety issues (make sure you’re washing your cat’s food bowl!) and the risks of nutritional deficiencies that homemade raw food poses.
4. Nutritional supplements and herbs
There is a world of nutritional supplements out there for your cat. Fish oil and hemp seed oil (this is made from hemp seeds, and is not CBD, or hemp oil) offer your cat valuable essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. Probiotics are also good supplements to consider since they aren’t found in most cat foods. However, when it comes to a multi-vitamin, if your cat is eating quality food, they are getting a balanced diet with all the vitamins and minerals they need. According to PetMD, supplements are used to correct nutritional deficiencies, and for sick cats.
Herbs may be beneficial to cats, but like with all nutritional supplements, it’s best to talk to your vet first. Here are a few herbs that are good for cats and might help with common ailments. For mood, consider catnip, cat thyme, valerian root, and chamomile. While valerian root calms and sedates humans, it has the opposite reaction in cats and acts as a stimulant. This can be helpful for a cat who needs more energy and exercise. Licorice root may act as natural cortisone, which means it might be helpful for conditions like itchy skin, or irritated sinus mucous membranes from a cold or allergies.
5. Homemade raw food
Be sure to consult with a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist for advice on how to do this safely for your kitty. There are some vets out there who believe in raw food diets for cats, and with their help, they can set you and your kitty up for success when it comes to a raw, homemade food diet. As with any change to your cat’s diet, it’s best to talk to your vet first. Come prepared with your research and questions. Your vet will likely be able to point you towards some good brands of more natural food or have advice about making your homemade food. Whatever path you take, your kitty is so lucky to have you!
Frequently Asked Questions About a Natural Diet for Cats
1. What raw foods do cats eat?
Cats can eat raw meat, as long as it is quality meat, and handled safely. (Fish, however, should be offered to cats cooked, as can other types of seafood like prawns.) Cats can also eat some fruits like apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and seedless watermelon. Cut fruit into small, bite-sized pieces for your cat. Not all fruits are cat safe, so be sure to do a quick internet search to be safe.
2. Can cats eat chicken bones?
Under supervision, cats can eat raw chicken bones. Cooked chicken bones can splinter and hurt your cat. 1-2 raw bones a week is usually recommended because too many bones can lead to constipation.
3. Can cats eat raw chicken?
Yes, cats can eat raw chicken. It makes a great treat. Use high-quality chicken and just be sure to wash your hands after handling and disinfecting any surfaces the chicken came in contact with.
4. Is Homemade food better for cats?
The cat and the veterinarian communities are divided on this issue. While it makes sense that the homemade, raw food diet offers high-quality food, there are significant hurdles as far as safety goes. Bacterial contamination is a serious risk to not only your pet but to your household. And, if the homemade food is missing a key nutrient or two, your pet could get very sick. However, there are a lot of people, vets included, who are advocates of this kind of diet, and say it can be done quickly, safely, and cheaply. As with any of the larger choices you make as a pet parent, do your research, and talk to a vet you trust.
Your Cat and CBD
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a popular holistic supplement for cats. Made from the hemp plant, CBD doesn’t contain any of the psychoactive substances that are found in hemp’s close cousin, the marijuana plant. CBD works with your cat’s nervous system to promote overall health, but it’s important to choose a high-quality CBD from a reputable company, like Pet Releaf.
CBD is a great choice for cat owners who are looking to support their cat’s optimal health. When it comes to the kitty crazies, CBD may have a calming effect on your cat’s nerves, and it may also enhance brain function. For tummy troubles, CBD may support healthy digestion and act as a digestive aid. It may also help maintain beneficial gut flora in your cat. Even kitties can get colds, so try CBD since it may have immune-enhancing effects. Whatever your reasons for choosing CBD, Pet Releaf has the right kind of CBD for your cat. Consider their award-winning Liposome Hemp Oil for cats, which is CBD mixed with healthful, sustainably-sourced Wild Alaskan Pollock Oill! Your cat is sure to lick it right up.