Few cat owners have never heard of "BARF", but many are not sure what to do with this new concept. What exactly is “BARF”? What makes "biologically appropriate raw food" so much healthier for cats? What are the advantages and disadvantages of cat raw diet?
What is Cat Raw Diet?
The term “BARF” refers to what is known as “biologically appropriate raw food”, from the original name “Bone and raw food” or “biologically appropriate raw foods”. This method of feeding is particularly well suited to cats for a reason: cats are naturally carnivorous. And with a cat raw diet, they get exactly the raw meat they need. Unlike cooked foods, BARF portions are served completely raw and without being cooked or roasted first. This raw diet, however, also makes skeptics. Raw meat is generally dangerous for humans, it can cause stomach aches, intolerances and infections. Isn't it the same for cats?
Why is raw food better for cats?
Even though domestic cats have lived with us for millennia, ready-made industrial cat foods are relatively new. Mars introduced the first canned cat food in 1958, and this product is still known today as "Whiskas". Twenty years later appeared the dry food of the same brand. Hills developed the "Prescription Diet Feline" in the 1970s, and since 1990 medical foods have also been available for the dietary treatment of disease. The cat has therefore not yet completely adapted physically to kibble and wet food in cans and sachets. Such physical development takes place over a very long period and many generations. Even today, many cats catch birds and small rodents, but it's more about keeping busy than feeding. The cat's digestive tract hasn't quite adapted to the quieter life they lead with humans, and the ready-made food that goes with it. Deep down, cats are all hunters, and it shows in their behaviors and organs, which resemble those of small wild cats!
That is why an ideal portion of food for a domestic cat even today resembles the composition of the average mouse. It has even been scientifically proven that cats prefer foods with 50-60% protein, 20-30% fat, and 3-8% carbohydrates.
But what about bacteria and parasites like worms that can be found in meat? As a hunter, the cat's digestive system is adapted to the consumption of prey. However, the meat of these prey items is less germ-laden than raw processed meat. Cats are less susceptible to these germs than humans, but they are also susceptible to parasites. But cats shed intestinal germs with their feces, and then they can come into contact with humans.
Although raw meat is less suitable for human consumption, it can be a very suitable diet for cats! Nevertheless, raw food is not without risks.
Best Products For Cats
For your cat to get everything it needs and stay healthy, raw food must be prepared with knowledge. Even in the wild, cats do not feed solely on the muscle flesh of their prey. They need guts like heart, liver, and lungs, as well as some of the bones and hair from their meal, which provides them with calcium and fiber. In summary, the cat raw diet shouldn't be all about feeding your cat animal muscle.
Cat owners who want to try BARF should do their homework first, then accurately calculate their cat's nutrient, vitamin, protein, and carbohydrate needs and tailor their recipes to suit their needs. Depending on age, breed, gender, and pre-existing conditions, what makes up a BARF portion may vary for each cat. But this type of food is extremely adaptable, and BARF enthusiasts know exactly what's in their cat's food and what's not! Typically, owners who feed their cat BARF use fresh meat and offal, artificial or natural vitamin and mineral supplements, and sometimes small amounts of fruits and vegetables. These portions of fiber help regulate the cat's digestion.
You can get help calculating ingredients and additives for your cat from professionals like animal nutrition institutes at veterinary universities or animal nutrition veterinarians. In the meantime, several manuals on the subject deal in detail with the subject of raw food and offer tips and tricks. Your veterinarian can also advise you on potential illnesses and your cat's nutritional needs.
BARF food for cats: natural supplements
One of the particularities of the cat raw diet is the “natural” type of supplementation. Instead of artificially adding additives like calcium or vitamin A to meat and organ meats, “natural” raw dieters use finely ground eggshell and cod liver instead. Brewer's yeast is used instead of vitamin B powder, and wheat germ oil provides vitamin E. Magnesium is added by dried algae called spirulina in place of magnesium gluconate. Seaweed meal provides iodine. When using these natural supplements, special attention should be paid to their quality, as the number of nutrients they contain can vary greatly.
To be able to naturally supplement your cat, it is important to know precisely its needs. For all cats, finding the right calcium to phosphorus ratio is especially important. Taurine, an amino acid, is also essential because the cat cannot produce itself from the nutritional components of its food. Water-soluble vitamins are naturally eliminated by the body, but excessive supplementation with fat-soluble vitamins can cause long-term poisoning.
As you can see, covering all of your cat's needs requires extensive research and thoughtful preparation. But it is not impossible! Researching recipes, buying fresh meat, preparing ingredients, weighing extras, mixing well, storing portions in the freezer...all of this is a lot of work and isn't for everyone. If you're not keen on doing accurate research on your cat's diet, if calculating proportions and exact nutrient weighing seems complicated, or if you just don't have the time to develop a raw diet that's right for your cat doesn't mean you have to give up BARF altogether.
There are also "ready-made" cat raw diet products that give cat owners with little free time and knowledge the option of feeding their cats raw meat. Until a few years ago, raw cat products were only available in local butcher shops or on the Internet. But major pet food producers are now following the trend and now offering ready-to-use frozen BARF products that are prepared according to the cat's needs from raw meat and the necessary nutrients. You can then thaw them and serve them to your cat. For cat owners who have a rather skeptical view of the BARF diet and who wish to offer their cats delicious menus, some recipes put water in the water.
Cat Raw Diet Advantages And Disadvantages
Just as ready-to-eat foods have to deal with rotting meat and impurities in the food, raw foods are not without risk. Even raw meat can be contaminated with pathogens, worm eggs, or other parasites. This is particularly a risk for young, sick, or old animals. The same is true for humans who come into contact with meat. Therefore, for hygienic reasons, careful consideration should be given before introducing BARF into a home with young children or immunocompromised or elderly people.
Like canned foods, supplements can be dosed incorrectly. If you only choose raw meat used for human consumption, it will have been checked for disease and parasites. But when you don't produce your meat or supplements, you are depending on someone else. To err is human, and even the local organic butcher can be wrong.
If you want to feed your cat BARF, you must be aware of the great responsibility that this represents. If you are not ready to learn, choose high-quality raw materials, and prepare meals with care, prepared meals remain the best and safest solution. But if you take responsibility and prepare your cat's BARF meals with care and love, raw feeding is a suitable nutritional method for almost any cat!