The Truth About Feeding Your Cat Raw Meat

Myths about proper diets for our cats seem always to be with us. Some of these myths may have a grain of truth, but this truth is often greatly exaggerated or misapplied. Other myths are nurtured by misinformation and mistrust. A current myth that could be threatening to our cats' health involves raw meat diets for dogs and cats. The proponents of this belief question the wholesomeness and nutritional value of commercial cat foods. But, in fact, there is no scientific substantiation for raw meat diets.

The truth is that good quality cat foods are backed by years of feline and canine nutrition studies. They are the result of scientific studies by researchers in veterinary colleges and animal nutritionists at reputable cat food manufacturers. Ralston Purina Company, for example, began its cat nutrition studies over 70 years ago. This work continues as researchers launch new studies to learn even more about the relationship of diet to our cats' health. In our own diets, meat is combined with vegetables, fruits, breads and other foods to give us the balanced nutrition we need. If we were to eat one particular food consistently, chances are we would become malnourished or develop health problems.

No single food or food group can provide all the nutrients we need in proper proportions. Manufacturers of good quality cat foods have incorporated all the nutrients a dog or cat needs during a particular life stage into nutritionally complete and balanced diets. Although meat is a source of protein, it has very low levels of calcium, a mineral our cats require for proper bone and tooth development. Calcium also plays an important role in blood clotting, muscle contraction and transmission of nerve impulses. It's important to remember that nutrients do not work alone, and calcium is no exception.

Mineral nutrients are interrelated. Calcium and phosphorus have a scientifically established relationship in the formation of bones and teeth, provided a proper balance is maintained. This balance is usually not present in meat.

If large quantities of raw meat are fed over time, skeletal problems may develop. We tend to think of liver as being a "healthy" meat. Served with other foods, it is a beneficial part of many human diets.

Liver has a high level of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored by the body. When liver is fed to cats in large quantities over a period of time, vitamin A toxicity can result. This can lead to improper bone development, lameness and bone decalcification. Raw meat carries the threat of bacteria and parasites. Salmonella is a bacterial organism that can cause a variety of disease in humans and animals.

The risk of salmonellosis is always present when cats are fed raw meat diets. Certain species of tapeworm can be found in raw meat and passed on to a cat who ingests the meat. High quality commercial cat foods are carefully processed to protect against salmonella or internal parasite infection.

It's true that cats and dogs consume a certain amount of muscle meat when they eat wild animals for survival. However, they also consume the bones, intestinal contents and internal organs which come closer to providing a complete and balanced diet. Attempting to supplement a raw meat diet with vitamins and minerals is risky for your cat's health. Certain vitamins and minerals react with one another. Unless they are present in the proper amounts a cat may suffer malnutrition.

When a myth involving cat nutrition is suddenly exploited, we should ask ourselves: "What scientific research supports this statement?" "Have veterinary colleges done research to validate it?" "Do respected researchers in the fields of canine and feline nutrition support it?" "They said" or "I heard that" do not provide the substantiation we need when confronted with myths involving the nutrition and well-being of our special companions.

Tristan Andrews writes useful articles about cats and kittens. Discover and explore the feline world. Find out how to better care for, train and live with your cat at the cat forums at

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