Raw Food Diets for Cats

My podgy puss (top) with his thinner friend.

What should you feed your cat?

I’m wandering a bit off topic this week, but having written a post on the raw food diet for dogs for a client of mine, I researched the same diet for cats.

Sometimes called the BARF diet (biologically appropriate raw feeding), raw food for dogs and cats is a growing movement. Just as humans don’t thrive on processed, preservative-laden foods, neither do our feline chums.

My cat has always been a puker. You can buy cat food that claims to be good for sensitive stomachs, but Freddie manages to vomit that up too. He’s also overweight by the human equivalent of about one and a half to two stones.

Cheaper vet bills

As I’m very fond of my cat, I’d like him to live a long, healthy life. A less noble motivation is cheaper vet bills. A slimmer, healthier cat won’t be as at risk of diabetes, lower urinary tract disease, joint stress, hepatic lipidosis (fat deposited in the liver), and decreased stamina – the same conditions that overweight humans face.

Cat food is a modern product. Dog food was invented in the 1860s, so presumably, cat food was created then or some time afterwards. Until that time, cats in a household made do with the food they could hunt and kill, anything they could scavenge and occasional scraps from the table.

There are various blogs and books you can buy that explain why a raw food diet is beneficial for cats. Primarily, it gives cats what they are meant to eat. If you’ve ever read the ingredients in cat food, you’ll have thought to yourself, I’ve never seen a cat eat rice, vegetables or whatever else they list as a benefit. And most cat food is likely to be loaded with preservatives. Have you ever noticed the use-by dates on those packets?

Dry food tends to be high in carbohydrates, and again cats aren’t designed to cope with that kind of food.

What’s in a raw food diet?

Raw meat – it’s what your cat is meant to eat.

What do you feed a cat on a raw food diet? And how much of it? The recommendations generally say you feed the cat about 5 percent weight of his optimal body weight – 250g for a 5kg cat – in raw food.

Food choices should be raw meat and fish, and meaty bones. Cat owners have been told to feed their pets bones, but this applies to cooked bones as heating changes their structure and makes them more likely to splinter. Organ meats are another good choice, and you can also try the frozen mice pet shops sell for reptiles*.

The cost is obviously a factor. Raw meat is going to be more expensive than cat food, and less convenient. You need to store it, and the best way to keep it fresh is to bag it up and put it in the freezer. You must also pay strict attention to hygiene.

Cats don’t like change. It takes patience too. My cat worked out how to manipulate me expertly years ago. I put down the raw food, and he jumps up onto the counter under the cupboard where I stored the cat food and looks at it and me pitifully. I’ve moved him from the human equivalent of eating McDonald’s every day, to a chicken and broccoli diet.

I’m hoping to report back great results soon, though. At the very least, getting my cat to his optimal weight would be a worthwhile achievement.


The usual disclaimer applies. I’m not a vet or cat expert, so if you want to feed your pet a raw food diet, please do your own research and speak to your vet.

*The frozen mouse option is a step too far for me…