You finally won the battle of wills with your cat, transitioned him to a raw diet, and all of the sudden you prepare his meal with a whole bunch of love and care only for him to sniff it and turn around – What a slap on your face you think! What happened? It’s the same food he was devouring yesterday!
Cats! You think… Raw food made my cat sick!... Hunger strike! You think... He’s Just super finicky, or he’s playing a game on me! Or he doesn’t like the food anymore… You are at a loss.
There are several possibilities to consider when a cat stops eating, especially when transitioning to a raw diet:
The first, and the most important thing to do is to rule out illness.
Prior to transitioning to a raw diet, most pet parents are accustomed to feeding their cats the same food meal after meal, sometimes for years, and their cats never get bored – so they naturally think it will be the same way with raw.
It is no coincidence that kitty never gets tired of kibbles. Kibbles, and many canned foods are meticulously “engineered” to keep your kitties eating them, by being coated with fat, having chemicals and flavors added to it that are both irresistible and downright addictive. If that was not the case, pets would not eat processed foods.
Transitioning your pet from kibbles or even canned to raw is the equivalent of transitioning an adult human, a lot of times even a senior citizen, who has only eaten highly processed foods from a can, package, or a bag his entire life to a healthy diet of salads, veggies, fruits and low fat meats. Not an easy task. It can take time, patience and perseverance…. But it’s absolutely the best thing you will ever do for your cat’s health, and a very rewarding experience for you too!
Keeping in mind that the beginning can be difficult, and sometimes it will seem you are taking two steps back and one forward, always remember two key things: This is not a race, it’s a journey, and to never, EVER starve a kitty into a new diet. If kitty is not eating and you must take a step back in the transition, take a deep breath, take a step back, and move forward. There is nothing wrong with it – as long as you keep moving in the right direction and don’t give up, you will get there!
With that said, now that you have taken that step, what can you do to keep your cats interested on raw?
VARIETY. Variety is key in keeping your cats eating a raw diet long term.
You should aim to have at least three proteins on your cats’ diet – that will provide them not only with a well-rounded nutritional profile, but will keep them from getting bored.
Once you transition your cat to raw, immediately start using that protein as a base using the slow transition technique to add a second protein to the kitty’s diet. You can then use both proteins as a base to slowly introduce a third protein to the diet.
When you have introduced all the proteins, you can switch them back and forth.
How often should you rotate proteins?
I personally rotate proteins at every meal – my cats never eat the same protein twice in a row. While EZComplete is considered almost a topper by most cats with the dried liver, GLM and yolk, variety is still essential in keeping my cats happy, and has yet to fail me in all these years.
You can also rotate daily, or every few days, but in my experience the more often you rotate, the more successful you will be in keeping your cats anxious for the next meal, and licking their plates clean.
Try a different texture - Many cats also get introduced to raw on ground meats, and stop eating... Then they are offed a chunk of meat and voila! That happened to our Food Fur Life Cats… Pretty much all of them! So if your cat is currently eating ground meat and no longer wants the food, try giving a little chunk of meat and see what happens. It might be time to take your kitchen scissors out of the drawer!
Offer a plain meal - Also part of our variety, is once a week they get one or two completely plain meals – yep – no supplements, nothing! Meat only. That makes them love both the meat and EZComplete even more!
Use healthy toppers - If you still have problems, and we all do from time to time, you can always rely on healthy toppers to entice your cat to eat. In my home, chicken is not a favorite for my cat Lucky, and I have to admit, she is a master manipulator (anyone here can relate to that?) – so from time to time I do rely on her favorite treat as a topper, which….. you guessed it – is Freeze Dried Chicken! I just lightly sprinkle it over her meal, and she licks her plate clean.
The Importance of a Routine
It’s also very important to note that cats are creatures of habit – that’s not a myth. Establishing a routine for them from the beginning is very important – from a feeding schedule, to their eating places, and even to their own plates. A set routine will impact your chances of success greatly.
Before feeding raw, I had the hardest time to feed even half an ounce of wet food to any of my cats – I would have to crawl under the bed for one, spoon feed another on the top of the cat tree… Let alone the food had to be made into a slurry on a blender and warmed up just so, otherwise they would not even consider it! Think I am lying? Watch the video below of me spoon-feeding Bugsy! This was mainly due to two things - feeding kibbles along with wet, and having no routine.
One of the most valuable advice I have ever gotten, and I got MANY, was to establish a routine right off the bat when transitioning to raw – I believe that was essential for my cats being the happy carnivores they are today. I can easily see how important this is when anything breaks that routine – they go off food until their routine is back into place. If your cat suddenly quit eating, consider if anything has thrown his routine off.
Last, but not least, please consider your kitties’ situation when you transitioned them to raw. Lots of pet parents make that transition due to an illness, specially IBD…
There is a reason why we recommend a slow transition – always. Especially on adult or older kitties, after years of eating an unappropriated diet, it can take time for their bodies to start digesting raw properly. EZComplete has both Enzymes and pancreas, which helps with digestion, but there are some kitties that make the transition with a digestive system already very compromised. These cats should be given an extra slow transition, always be on probiotics (we firmly believe probiotics are an essential part of the diet for all cats), and depending of the age or condition of the cat, they might have to start with a homemade cooked diet balanced with EZComplete, and slowly transitioned to raw. If you just transitioned to raw and feel your cat might have a tummy upset, your transition might have been be too fast. Take a step back, always follow your kitties pace, keeping a close eye on them.
Summarizing, if your kitty suddenly stopped eating:
Last week PetFoodIndustry.com published a blog post, "Simple, clean pet food labels: altering the discussion." The very premise of the article is quite ironic: consumer perception is the problem, not the pet foods. It's not that consumers are becoming better educated as to what provides the best promise of long term health to their animal companions. No, on the contrary, the "problem" is the failure of the pet food industry to properly educate the consumer about the existing ingredients in pet foods. After all, pet food is all about the science of nutrition. And, you know, "science is hard."
The author asks "So, what is driving this clean label trend?" and answers: "Like many things, it is consumer demand, driven by perception. In this case, it is backed by nutritionists who agree that eating a diet made up of whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables is better for our health. So, consumers will be compelled to read the labels of processed foods, looking for something that is as close to the original state as possible, but with the convenience of a packaged food."
Consumer demand. Driven by perception. Backed by nutritionists who agree that eating a diet made up of whole, unprocessed foods is better for our health. Well, consider substituting "education" for "perception" and "Informed by" for "backed by" and see what happens. The concept then reads "Like many things, it is consumer demand, driven by education. In this case, it is informed by nutritionists who agree that eating a diet made of of whole, unprocessed foods ... is better for our health."
Is this a bad thing, pet parents wanting to provide their pets healthy, whole foods?
Well, if you are Mars, Nestlé, or Del Monte (with what has been renamed the Big Heart Pet Brands) - the largest pet food companies in the world - the knowledge that a solely processed food diet isn't healthy for us or our pets is a bad thing. As they are all also among the largest food and beverage companies in the world, of course they want to counter the notion that homemade and fresh foods are the best foods for us - and our pets.
But if it is science they want, there is a growing body of it. Just a few weeks ago, a team of Australians from the Charles Perkins Centre and School of Life and Environmental Sciences at The University of Sydney published a report, Nutrition Ecology and Human Health. The message of the report is straightforward: nutrition science is broken. In a nutshell, while focusing on micronutrients had its place in our understanding of the importance of diet in combating disease, that nutritional model that breaks down nutrition into its components is fundamentally incompatible with the "new suite of nutrition-related diseases."
"Food science" isn't failing just human health. There is - sadly - plenty of evidence the same holds true for our pets. As mentioned in our article, Cat Food vs. Cat Health, it is a relatively recent situation that approximately 60% of pet cats in the U.S. live indoor-only. This means that our little predators are not out hunting field mice, voles, rats, or rabbits. They have become completely dependent on us for their nutritional needs. What this also means is that health problems associated with the typical commercial diet are becoming ever more apparent, especially as access to veterinary care and safety from cars and predators contributes to their longer lives. Our cats are overweight, blocking from crystals in their urine, suffering dental disease, and GI disorders are rising at alarming rates, with the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease and pancreatitis now making the "Top Ten" lists of VPI Pet Insurance. Our cats are dying primarily of kidney disease and cancer.
Surely food alone does not account for all of these problems. But at Food Fur Life we ask, how healthy would we be if all we ate was dry cereal and/or canned stew – all made with ingredients that weren’t fit for our consumption? No, Pet Food Industry, the problem is not lack of consumer education as to the "safety" of the ingredients in the diets you provide. Your problem is consumers are learning their carnivorous pets need whole, fresh, quality, species-appropriate foods for their best health, too.
This is why we created Food Fur Life - to make healthy homemade food accessible to everyone. To make it easy for the busiest of pet parents to provide their pets a fresh, truly human-grade meat-based diet based on the prey model. Blending the best of mother nature and science, whether pet parents are time constrained, and feel they don't have the time to make their own pet food all from scratch, or whether there is concern about "doing it right," we have the solution. And it really is EZ, with EZcomplete.
Why Feed Your Cat A Raw Diet?
I don’t know about you, but our very first cat adopted us. She let us think we chose to feed her, that skinny, matted stray raiding the garbage. And it was a triumph when after months Booger allowed us to groom her. Of course we let her in when she decided our home was hers! ...Of course, we also let her back out when the thunderstorm passed. She insisted. Loudly.
Given the first records of the domestication of cats dates back to when humans were first settling down to farm, it’s easy to imagine both human and cat enjoying the benefits of proximity, isn’t it? They’re magical, entertaining creatures, cats are. And they protected the farmers’ grain stores from rodents. It was a win-win! We’ve been companions ever since. Cats traveled the globe with us. Literally, as it turns out.
It came as quite the surprise when a research team led by geneticist Carlos Driscoll of the National Cancer Institute and scientists at the University of Oxford in England decided to trace the origin of domestic cats – and found that every single one of the 979 cats included in the project from around the world were “virtually indistinguishable” from the African Wildcat at the genetic level. That’s right, that purring, kneading bundle of soft, silky fur, born under different circumstances, could be just as at home stalking prey on the great plains of South Africa.
Many assume the influence of living among humans would have had an impact on what cats have the ability to eat and use for sources of energy and nutrition, as appears to the be case for dogs. Nope. Not so. Not at all. Despite their proximity to humans for at least 10,000 years, cats retain their unique anatomic, physiologic, metabolic, and behavioral adaptations consistent with eating a strictly carnivorous diet. That is to say that cats, to this very day, remain obligate carnivores. By their genetic makeup, cats must eat the tissue of other animals in order to thrive.
Our kitties delight us with their playful antics well into old age. And as we’ve brought our cats indoors full-time, we find that to keep them happy and fit, we have to engage them in interactive play. What we are witnessing is their prey drive. That seemingly kitten-like, playful behavior we enjoy from birth to death in our furry friends is unique to cats: their prey drive is not dependent on hunger. They are so hard-wired to hunt and engage prey, they don’t need to be hungry to “play.”
In fact, cats are such highly specialized hunters it is absolutely critical to their long term health that we understand cats are a metabolically inflexible carnivore. What does that mean? Well let’s find out.
Since moving indoors full-time and becoming completely dependent on us for food, what has happened?
We need convenient food with our busy lifestyles. And most of us do not intuitively understand what cats need – they seem like little aliens to us. They certainly did to me. We ask our vets. And many of our vets tell us that for dental health, cats need kibble, that to mimic their "natural" pattern of eating many small meals (being hunters of small mammals), we should leave the food out. We didn't know any better, and we trusted our vet to know what’s best for Booger. Or we free-feed kibble to our kitties, because that’s what and how our parents fed our cats when we were growing up. So 80% of us go to the store and buy a bag of kibble, come home, and pour it into a dish we keep full for Boots, and Socks, and Tigger.
…except cats evolved eating moisture-rich food in the desert. Kibble has virtually no moisture – and cats do not have a thirst-drive that keeps them properly hydrated. This is a clash of momentous impact: The number one reason for a vet visit by cats is bladder or urinary tract problems – usually crystals and life-taking or life-threatening urinary tract blockages –problems that need not exist if we feed a moisture-rich, fresh meat-based diet. Cats, not designed to use all those carbs, grains, or starches in their food, not designed to derive needed protein from non-meat-based sources, experience kidney disease at a rate of seven times more than dogs.
And our kibble fed cats, chronically dehydrated, die most frequently from kidney disease, the number one cause of death in cats over the age of five.
Yet in the face of this, many of our vets STILL tell us our cats need to eat some kibble for dental health. But 85% of cats over the age of three years have dental disease. What the…. ????? How can they not notice this dichotomy?
So we put down that bowl of kibble for kitty to “graze.” Except cats aren’t herbivores. Cats shouldn’t graze. Allowing cats to graze has resulted in a problem of “epidemic proportions." 58% of our cats are either overweight or obese – an increase of 90% over the past five years.
So now we have fat cats. And that means that 67% of our cats have arthritis.
And being fat increases the risk of diabetes by 300% - 500% - so it’s shouldn’t be surprising that the incidence of diabetes in our cats has DOUBLED in the past five years.
In fact, THREE of the top 10 reasons for vet visits by cats in the past several years are related to digestion. Our cats suffer chronic vomiting, diarrhea, and now full-blown Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Are you crying yet? At Food Fur Life, we are. What are we doing to our cats? How has this happened?
Pet food marketing and lack of industry regulation or real oversight. As outlined above, the problems seem as if they are related to only kibble. But no, the problems are not limited to just kibble. Moisture-depleted, ultra-processed crunchy food made from rendered ingredients is certainly more problematic than canned or pouched cat food. Species-inappropriate ingredients are most certainly a culprit: forcing our cats to eat what nature didn't build them to use as a source of nutrition or energy clearly has a hand in our cats' health problems. But the issues extend far beyond processing and non-meat-based ingredients in our cats' food. That said, issues with ingredient quality (despite the marketing that would have us believe otherwise even in expensive foods) and the use of additives and diseased animals (even in canned food) with most canned and kibble commercial cat foods are beyond the scope of this post. The problems are staggering and seem almost unbelievable when we first start learning about them. Ann Martin describes them in her book, Foods Pets Die For: Shocking Facts about Pet Food. Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, former Director of Technical Affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, co-authored the book Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Pet Food. And Carolina and I got our first introduction to the problems in the pet food industry with a paper written by a Harvard Law student, “Deconstructing the Regulatory Façade: Why Confused Consumers Feed their Pets Ring Dings and Krispy Kremes.”
Bottom line? The health problems sooooo many of our pets are experiencing are DIRECTLY related to the diet we feed them. And we can change that.
Fresh Food for Our Cats: It’s Just Common Sense!
We have been told that feeding a fresh meat-based diet to our cats is dangerous. Of course, many veterinarians do support the idea of feeding our cats a species-appropriate, fresh meat-based diet – in theory. Seeing the impact of improperly made homemade diets, many vets are fearful of recommending it, and understandably so. But with the advent of commercially available balanced raw foods for cats, and with a supplement like EZcomplete fur Cats that makes it so easy to provide complete and balanced homemade food – what’s stopping us?
Think of a fresh food diet for our cats like this. As the title to this section says, it just takes a bit of common sense.
How old is your cat? Three years? Five? Seven? Nine? Eleven?
At three years old, your cat is the equivalent of 28 human years.
At five, your kitty is the equivalent of 36;
At seven, your cat is the equivalent of 44;
At nine, that is an equivalent of 52;
At 11, your kitty is the equivalent of 60 human years.
Even if you don’t eat the healthiest diet, can you imagine never – never, ever – having eaten an apple? An orange? A salad? for 28 years or 36 years or 44 years or 52 years - or for 60 years?
That's what we are doing to our cats by never, ever feeding them any fresh meat (which is not a balanced diet) EVER. And I'm not talking about the slice of deli ham that Bella stole, or the bit of barbequed steak that dad slipped to Muffin. I mean fresh, raw meat. A slice of chicken breast. A bite of chicken liver. Yeah - it takes more work than that to make a balanced diet. But don't you feed your kitty treats? We don't worry those are going to cause their diet to become unbalanced. There's no reason not to slice off a bite of chicken breast before you season it and bake it, the next time you're cooking chicken for dinner, and offer that to Smokey as a treat instead that stuff in a bag or bottle.
Got another one for you. Pretend you’re an astronaut, and have been on the space station for nine months. All you’ve eaten is food squished out of a packet. When you land, what are you craving? Dry cereal? Canned stew? Probably not.
Our doctors, our government tell us that we need to eat fresh food. We need 2-4 servings of fresh fruit per day. We are advised to eat 3-5 servings of fresh vegetables each day. And yet we expect our cats, designed to derive ALL of their needed nutrition from ONLY small animals, to thrive on the most highly processed food there is, full of carbohydrates. And even if “real meat” is advertised as the number one ingredient in that food, the moisture was sucked out of it before it gets to your cat. Even many canned foods highlight their inclusion of "healthy" peas and carrots, cranberries or blueberries, or that they include corn gluten meal to reduce their urine pH. Ummmm... did we forget? Cats aren’t out there eating the grain stores of farmers. They eat the mice that eat the grain. Cats aren’t out there raiding the vegetable garden. They eat the rabbits that raid our gardens. Cats aren't out there snacking on blueberries. They eat the birds that eat the berries.
Cats aren’t out there roasting their mice, either. In fact, a 2008 review of research on pancreatitis in cats by Texas A&M noted a study where post-mortem biopsy of 115 cats (both sick and healthy cats) discovered findings consistent with chronic pancreatitis in 67% of the cats – including 45% of “apparently healthy” cats. Please read that again. Is your mind blown? If not, read it one more time, please.
Dr. Jean Hofve, in her article on the importance of enzymes, published in IVC Journal, shares why that may be. Cooking food kills the naturally occurring enzymes that aid digestion. Many of our cats may literally be suffering from eating cooked, highly processed foods, as pancreatitis, in 2015, made the Top 10 list of health insurance claims.
What Happens When We Feed Our Cats A Balanced Raw Food Diet?
So what happens when we feed our cats a diet modeled on the food they are meant to eat? When we employ a little common sense, and realize that if we thrive on fresh, whole foods, our cats will also thrive on their equivalent – a fresh, properly balanced, animal tissue-based diet?
Raw feeders also report less shedding, behavior changes (aren’t you less grumpy when you eat fresh foods vs when you’ve been on a carb or sugar binge?), more energy (yes, you will have to play with your cats more!), a cessation of itching and overgrooming – and even improvements in asthma.
Mother Nature Knows What Cats Need
WHY do we think we need to “improve” upon the diet cats are born to eat? WHY do we need studies that show us cats *can* eat grains, starches, pulses, and legumes? That cats *can* eat plant-based proteins or derive some energy from carbs SHOULD be moot. If we put diesel oil into our gas-powered cars, should we expect them to run properly?
No, feeding a balanced raw diet doesn’t cure everything. But when we get over our fears and feed our cats a balanced diet featuring food their bodies NEED, we rapidly see the changes. Yes, rapidly. Often it seems like magic. Of course, the longer the problem has occurred, the more time it can take to resolve. Sometimes there is significant damage. Fortunately, for many cats like Carolina's Bugsy, all they need is raw food. Bugsy had 14 months of diarrhea (despite following veterinary advice and protocols), and it immediately cleared up after eating his first meal of 100% raw food. That journey is recorded here.
Problems we took for granted as being “that’s just my cat” go away. Yes, it is a lifestyle change. To continue to reap the benefits for the furry members of our family, we need to continue to feed them like the cats they are. And we SEE the difference between our cats just surviving – and our cats truly thriving.
Of course, at Food Fur Life, we help make feeding your cat a complete & balanced, healthy, fresh, raw meat-based diet quick, easy and convenient. Buy meat. Add supplement and water. Feed Cat. It really couldn't be easier than with EZcomplete fur Cats.
...and these are happy tears. No more pancreatitis!
“Is the pet food you are serving up killing your four-legged friend?” Asks the headline of an article published in the UK’s Daily Mail in 2010. As co-founders of the Raw Feeding for IBD Cats group on Facebook, we (Carolina Lima and Laurie Goldstein) ask that question a lot. Commercial processed food is failing our furry family members. The incidence of food related illness in our pets is rising, yet many of our vets continue to recommend food with grains and legumes to our carnivores, and "prescribe" science-based foods, believing that whole, fresh foods are harmful to our pets. How can this be?
The fact of the matter is we fed our cats commercial kibble and canned foods. My husband and I (this is Laurie writing) were rescued by our first cat in 2001. We free-fed kibble on the advice of one of our vets. It was explained to us that cats hunt small prey, so their natural style of eating is many small meals a day, and kibble enabled that. It never occurred to us to ask if the type of food they’re fed should also mimic the small prey they naturally eat. This was a veterinarian, surely this person understood what cats need to thrive and promote optimum health.
It wasn’t until we rescued a cat, Chumley, or until Carolina’s Bugsy developed inflammatory bowel disease, that the nutritional knowledge of our veterinarians was called into question. Both cats had intractable diarrhea that led to this medicine and that medicine, and numerous “prescription” diets. Yes, I use quotes around the word prescription, because it is simply – for Hills – part of a trademarked name. Royal Canin and Purina call their “prescription” foods “Veterinary Diets.” None of these foods are actually prescription items that carry a Federal Legend on the bag that requires a veterinary prescription to fill. Make no mistake: "Prescription" foods and "Veterinary Diets" are a form of marketing, and an insidious one that consumers need to question.
Imagine walking into your pediatrician’s office, and the walls are lined with baby formula, cereal, and cans of food marketed to your children. You shop for food for your children at the doctor's office, not the supermarket. You do this because your doctor suggested you feed your child that brand of cereal, that brand of stew. And when your child gets sick, the doctor has a “prescription” food for that ailment. Now imagine this doctor’s nutrition training included just two or three courses in his eight years of university; those courses were taught by the same company whose food he sells in his office; the textbook used to teach those courses was written by that same food company. Imagine that doctor tells you that there is every reason to trust the science, because the food companies spend millions on research - and the nutrition children need is different than that of adults, it's too complicated to get it right if you do it yourself at home, and fresh food is dangerous as it can carry bacteria and infectious agents. Should you believe him? Do you think it is best to feed your child only processed food (made by the company that taught him what the best food to feed is) – forever?
In this scenario, would you believe that this for-profit food company is spending their research dollars with the sole goal of improving the health and well-being of your child? They have no interest in you feeding your child on your own – where’s the money in that? Why would they research what is best for your child? Isn’t it possible that actually conflicts with their goal of corporate profits? Isn’t it likely much of that research goes into how to improve their profit margins?
That scenario is the pet food reality.
Pet food companies team up with university veterinarian programs (“Hill’s Gives $5 Million to Ontario Vet College For Educational Center” April 2009). Pet food companies
In fact, the textbook used in nearly every pet nutrition course in every veterinary school, Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, is written by the Mark Morris Institute. What is the Mark Morris Institute? Mark Morris founded Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and his son endowed the Institute in his father’s honor, in keeping with the company’s marketing strategy of using the vets to market their food. The Mark Morris Institute also pays a dozen veterinarians, whom they send, free of charge, to veterinary schools to teach pet nutrition.
As discussed by Vince Field, Esq. in The Pet Food Recall and Food Safety (2008), "the commercial pet food industry’s connection to the veterinary profession has resulted in the creation of a system in which veterinarians are not only ill suited to counsel their clients on pet nutrition, but have a financial stake in their clients’ market decisions as well. One of the key questions to be examined here is the ethical implications of a system in which pet food companies are used to educate veterinarians about pet nutrition while at the same time providing veterinarians with exclusive rights to the sale of their pet food products (which may account for up to 40% of the profit of veterinary clinics)."
So as the article in the UK Daily Mail states, “While cat and dog food sales have soared by 85 per cent over the past decade, research by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association shows that one in three household pets is now overweight - and chronic conditions in our pets, such as diabetes, kidney and liver disease, heart disease and dental problems (all related to diet) are on the increase.” VPI Pet Insurance indicates that food-related allergies, ear (yeast) infections, and diarrhea or vomiting consistently top the list of reasons for a vet visit.
The pet food manufacturers might tout their science and their research. They may proclaim the "proven" benefits of their products. But it becomes increasingly difficult to deny the relationship between pet food company “nutritional training,” veterinary organization and conference funding, veterinarians profiting from the sale of that very same pet food, and deteriorating pet health with food-related chronic diseases.