Friday, 15 July 2011

Natural Cat Food - Mimic Mother Nature for Healthy Felines

Meow! Miss Monique here ready to enlighten you as to the best way to feed your feline friend a homemade, natural diet.  Dr Renee, your Holistic Vet, is passionate about the benefits of feeding pets real food - their natural diet as nature intended. 

You may have already read my post about the dangers of feeding commercial pet food ("The Perils of Pet Food - A Tribute to Venus").   Now let's discuss why feeding your cat as nature intended is so much easier and safer than the commercial alternatives.

Firstly, some background to help you demystify pet food labels and interpret exactly what you may be feeding your beloved friend.  I was browsing the supermarket aisles the other day aghast at what is on offer for my regal species.  I saw pouches labelled 'Meat with Chicken and Turkey' (I thought chicken and turkey were meat?) and a box of dry biscuits called 'Salmon and Tuna Flavour' ("Flavour"?? So how much is actually salmon and tuna then?  Give me real salmon anyday!) 

Monique with a freshly caught Australian Salmon feast- real Salmon flavour!

The legislation relating to pet food marketing and labelling is very loose, which means that claims made on a pet food label can be extremely misleading.  For example, if a food is labelled 'Chicken Dinner' or 'Chicken Formula', it only needs to contain 25% chicken.  If it is called 'Chicken and Rice Formula', 25% of the ingredients must be chicken and rice, with chicken making up a greater proportion and at least 3% rice.  A pet food that reads '.... with Chicken' only needs to contain 3% chicken to qualify for this label!  And finally, if it is called 'Chicken Flavour' it doesn't even need to contain chicken at all!

How disturbing is that!  Our feline anatomy is designed to thrive on a prey-based diet, made up of a large proportion of fresh muscle meat, bone, sinew, cartilage and organ meat, with a small proportion of plant-based material.  The animal component of the diet should make up 80-95% of what we eat, depending on the individual's needs.  Yet there are pet foods out there containing as little as 3% meat, or that don't even contain the meat they suggest on the label?

What's more, instead of just containing meat, bone, maybe some egg and a bit of grass like we would eat in the wild, pet foods contain all sorts of things we can't digest like grains, poor quality meat by-products such as hooves and horns, rancid fats, toxic levels of drugs, hormones and pesticides, and lots of chemical nasties like colouring agents and preservatives.

Here is the ingredients list from a 'premium' dry cat food 'designed' for indoor cats sold in many Vet clinics:
Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Corn, Animal Fat (preserved mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Powdered Cellulose, Chicken Liver Flavor, Lactic Acid, Soybean Oil, Soybean Mill Run, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Iodized Salt, Natural Flavor, DL-Methionine, Vitamin E Supplement, vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Potassium Citrate, Taurine, Fish Oil, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), preserved with mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid, L-Arginine, Phosphoric Acid, Beta-Carotene, Rosemary Extract.

Nearly fifty listed ingredients, and not one of them simply 'chicken' or something we cats would choose to eat in the wild!  So instead of reaching for the convenient bag/pouch/tin of nasty commercial stuff, how about offering your cat real food instead?

We felines are known in some circles as 'the perfect carnivore', meaning we are designed to eat a carnivorous diet.  Our teeth and jaws are designed to grab and hold prey, then scrape and tear it into bite-sized pieces to swallow.  Our stomachs are very acidic and do an excellent job of digesting animal flesh, fat and bone.  Our food does not spend long in our intestines, but is quickly absorbed for transport around the body.  Our ability to handle foods that require fermentation in the intestines, like vegetation, carbohydrates and fibre, is very limited.

Rather than sending us out to hunt our own mice, birds and lizards, however, in an urban situation it may be more appropriate to mimic Mother Nature and provide a raw diet consisting of easily-obtainable ingredients that enable us to thrive. 

A natural diet for an urban cat could consist of:
  • A variety of small raw meaty bones, such as chicken necks and wings, lamb cutlets, lamb necks, osso bucco and whole fish like sardines or whitebait
  • Raw organ meats like liver, heart and kidney from a variety of animals such as chicken, beef and lamb
  • A raw egg a couple of times a week
  • Small amounts of finely chopped, grated or blended raw vegetables and herbs like broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, corn, beetroot, alfalfa sprouts, and parsley
  • Pots of fresh herbs and grasses around the home and garden to graze on, such as couch grass, cat nip, mint and parsley

Monique enjoying lush fresh grass to graze on.

Some cats can tolerate small amounts of cultured dairy products in their diet, like plain yoghurt, butter and cottage cheese, but these are not a necessary component of the raw diet.  I personally love almost empty yoghurt containers (although I usually have to wrestle Miyuki for them), small amounts of cheddar cheese, and an egg scrambled with butter or mixed with cottage cheese once or twice a week.

Many cats also benefit from the addition of some extra supplements in their diet, like kelp powder, fish oil or a wholefood supplement such as 'Missing Link Well Blend', but I would suggest consulting with a Holistic Veterinarian who is savvy with pet food nutrition before embarking on supplementation for your pet.  It's also a very good idea to have a nutritional consultation with a Holistic Vet when transitioning your pet to a natural diet, to make sure you are feeding everything you should be in the correct balance for your pet.

If you would like to transition your cat to a natural diet, Roar Kingdom offers an online natural nutritional consultation service where Dr Renee, your Holistic Vet, customises a diet plan for your pet's unique needs, according to their age, weight, lifestyle and health status.  She has been feeding me a natural diet since she adopted me as a sickly abandoned kitten at 5 weeks of age, and I have been thriving since!  I have never had to eat 'sawdust in a box' as she calls commercial pet food, but I can guarantee the homemade alternative far surpasses it in every aspect!


  1. Excellent diet info for our kitteh furiends! Great demonstrations Monique :D

    Waggin at ya,

  2. Hi, Dr Renee. I'd like to ask your opinion about dogs eating asparagus. I've written a post about it, having found a couple of references that say it's fine, but I'd like to check with you, as I have confidence in your expertise.

  3. Dr Renee, I just realised I didn't come back and thank you for the response about asparagus. A belated thank-you!

  4. Haha. good for Kittens. My kitten will be extremely happy with this.

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  6. It is good to have natural cat food.