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Why and HOW to Feed CATS RAW BEEF shares why you, too, might want to make the switch to raw meat. No, you don’t need to do anything labor intensive, like buy a meat grinder. I share with you exactly what we do. It’s EASY and affordable (less than $2 a day!).
NO meat grinder needed. No mixing of messy, gross ingredients! This article helps you improve your cat’s food while also keeping it easy.
This article is about compromise AND improvement.
I’m so excited to write this article for you, because I LOVE my cats so much, and this change in all of our lives has been wonderful.
Sometimes the challenges in life bring about changes for the better, that wouldn’t have come about otherwise. That’s what happened to us …
Reason #1: Why We Started Feeding Our Cats Raw Beef
It was the summer and fall of 2021. Supply chain issues from Covid had noticeably begun to affect how often our favorite cat food was available at the grocery store. When I couldn’t find our favorite brand, I’d buy other grain-free options.
If you have pets, you’ve likely noticed, too?
Pet food shortages
I couldn’t help but wonder exactly what ingredients in the cat food were in short supply. In looking it up, I was disgusted: all the foods cats shouldn’t be eating anyway: vegetable oils, soy, corn and chicken by-products, to name a few.
I thought to myself, This shortage is actually good news for cats, if we have a better alternative!
Interestingly, it’s often the more expensive cat foods that are gone from the shelves.
Reason #1 we switched to raw meat? Supply chain issues. We could no longer buy our cat’s favorite food.
This leads me to Reason #2 —
Reason #2: Why We Started Feeding Our Cats Raw Beef
It was the fall and winter of 2021. Our cats had a few grain-free cat foods they’d been eating. Seemingly out of the blue, they started throwing up the food, right after eating it.
They also started turning up their noses at two of the natural brands, and would only eat one of them, a dry food I purchased at Natural Grocers.
One day, when they wouldn’t eat either of the natural brands they used to eat (perhaps the ingredients had changed due to supply issues?), and our favorite was off the shelves, my husband bought the grain-free cat food from Costco. That one was in stock. Our cats wouldn’t eat it, flat out refused to eat!
What is in this stuff, that cats would rather not eat?!
This 2002 study shows improved digestion and microbiome diversity among cats fed carnivorous diets. Their comment:
… most household cats no longer hunt, but rather are fed commercially prepared foods. These foods are often rich in plant-derived nutrients because to supply cats with all-animal diets is significantly more expensive. The trend, therefore, has been to make foods with greater proportions of vegetable based products and to supplement them with the necessary nutrients.
Yeah, that can’t taste good to carnivorous animals without flavors being added. And surely some formulations are more palatable than others.
Reason #2? Unhealthy ingredients in even grain-free cat foods started causing health problems.
Reason #3: Why and HOW to Feed CATS RAW BEEF
Having fed our cats very fresh raw beef and egg yolks in the past, intermittently, it wasn’t hard for me to think of this next step. I filled a plate with little piles of raw beef, and three of our four cats loved it. (Note: For long-term, raw beef alone must be supplemented. I discuss this more below.)
By the way, this approach to feeding is termed a raw meat-based diet (RMBD).
I assumed we’d alternate with dry cat food and raw beef as supply chains ebbed and flowed. But when the only dry food our cats tolerated disappeared entirely from grocery stores, we switched over entirely … for a week.
The trick was our fourth cat, Zeus. He’s our biggest eater, but does NOT like raw beef.
I know this is helpful to share because not all cats transition to raw food easily. Zeus is what pet food manufacturers call a “picky eater”. Perhaps you have one, too?!
The fact is: Some cats refuse all raw meat. Other cats just don’t like beef or other red meats.
In our family, we humans eat a lot of pasture-raised ground beef. It’s such high quality that we could eat it raw, or it could be served in a gourmet restaurant as steak tartare.
I don’t know if you can source this level of quality beef. We literally buy ours the day after it’s slaughtered, from the same local farmer we’ve been buying from for years. She butchers it herself. We know it’s safe.
If you can’t get that kind of freshness and quality where you live, I discuss options below for where to source a variety of raw meats for cats.
The fact is: Even too much raw beef isn’t the ideal diet for cats. A bit of variety is better. I talk more below about how to keep it easy …
Reason #3 we switched to raw meat? Raw beef is easy to feed to cats. It doesn’t need to be complicated. (But, I do talk more below about the importance of variety, quantity and/or supplementation.)
Reason #4: Dry cat foods lead to feline lower urinary tract disease
There were two reasons I pressed on with Zeus, to get him to like raw beef:
- He had just gotten through a feline lower urinary tract disease [FLUTD]), likely caused by his dry food diet. (Read sources 1, 2 for more details.)
- I knew dry food wasn’t best for his body.
Alas, on Day 4 or 5, Zeus was still only eating the smallest amount of raw meat to get by. I had ordered the dry food he liked online, and it arrived. My whole family felt badly for Zeus, so I “gave in” and fed him his favorite.
His UT infection had healed during the time when he ate raw beef lightly. (We also gave him colloidal silver with a medicine dropper for fast, safe healing.)
COMPROMISE: Why and HOW to Feed CATS RAW BEEF
I hope my compromise, returning Zeus to dry food, actually makes this article more helpful, not less.
We kind of forced our cats into the situation without any process, out of necessity. We’re now going back to do the process properly with Zeus. Follow this guide on how to transition pickier cats more gradually. (Apparently cats love rabbit, so if you’re trying to win them over, it might be a good choice to order meat online; see more on this below.)
The raw meat diet for pets is not one size fits all.
For some, raw safe meat will be too expensive, especially if you have to order it.
Here are some ways you can improve what you’re currently doing, but still keep a better diet doable:
- Feed both safe raw meat and a low carbohydrate dry grain-free cat food, but alternate between the two. Three of our cats do this diet right now, as we transition. It gives them more energy! And, it’s a gentle blessing for their digestive tracts.
- If you have picky eaters, like Zeus, that just won’t eat raw food, buy better quality dry food that’s not just grain-free, but also low carbohydrate. Because cats are obligate carnivores, they are not designed to digest even grain-free cat foods that contain a lot of fruits and vegetables. (Always provide plenty of clean, fresh water with dry food. Personally, I also add a small amount of colloidal silver to Zeus’ drinking water to prevent UT infections.)
Why raw meat is the healthiest cat food
Formulated cat foods add many ingredients that cats should not be eating: vegetables and fruits, vegetable oils, even vitamins that are dangerous.
These companies add taurine because it’s an essential nutrient for cats that’s lost when meat is cooked.
Taurine is only found in raw meats or in supplement form. Cats are meant to eat raw meat. Yes, we can supplement with this nutrient, but raw meat is better.
Nutrients when they’re found in their natural setting have all their co-factors present, and no added fillers.
Studies show that carnivorous diets help cats overcome food sensitivities and inflammatory bowel conditions.
Why beef over other meats? Most of us can access great quality freshly frozen beef more easily than any other meat. And, beef is a lot more affordable than other raw meats.
If you already have it in the house to feed yourself, it takes just a minute to give your cats a healthy gentle meal!
Why not raw beef alone
But, I am not suggesting we feed our cats exclusively on a raw beef diet.
Raw beef is recommended for cats 3x weekly, if it’s their exclusive diet on those days, or fed intermittently with other foods otherwise. Every meat has its own nutritional profile, and beef may cause a deficiency if it’s the exclusive meat in a cat’s diet.
And, as mentioned, some cats don’t like red meats, but may enjoy other raw meats. (See Sourcing section below for more on this.)
Note: For those who read this article but don’t intend to make any changes to their cat’s diet: If you feed your cat great quality raw beef only occasionally … let it be when they are sick or struggling. This is the easiest to digest diet that allows the body to heal itself.
But, what about supplements cats need? Raw cat food products always contain added supplements …
What’s missing from a straight raw beef diet
In the wild, cats don’t just eat the raw muscle meats of their prey. They also ingest bones, skin, hair and other parts. These parts may play a role in regularity, by providing fiber.
So, fiber, for one, might be missing from a cat’s diet, if all you feed them is raw ground beef. Some raw cat food recipes include a little psyllium husk powder or ground up bones for that purpose.
When feeding your cat good quality raw red meat, how else should you amend the diet to provide needed nutrients?
Most websites with raw cat food recipes have a long list of ingredients that’s very intimidating for most of us! We DON’T want to buy and use a big meat grinder every two weeks.
Very approximate: For every 6 pounds of raw chicken meat, it’s recommended to add:
- 1 pound of bones
- 1 cup water
- 4 egg yolks
- vitamin E
- B complex
- egg shell powder
- fish oil
- organ meat
While I greatly respect anyone who chooses to make their own cat food, I know I am not up for this — especially the grinding of meat, organs and bones part. (And, my recipe would be a little different [less vitamin A].)
Nutritional observations: Both fish oil and organ meats are included in raw food recipes for the omega 3s in fish oil and the thiamine in organ meats. Companies tend to choose liver for their organ meats because they’re easier to source than other organ meats. This makes for a cat food that’s unintentionally very high in vitamin A. Vitamin A is processed by cats differently than how it’s processed by humans, but either way, it’s a known toxin in high amounts. For this reason, I believe it’s healthier to omit the fish oil, use only small amounts of organ meats and add actual fish to the cat’s diet occasionally. This idea can be implemented with the solutions below.
Why and HOW to Feed CATS RAW BEEF: 4 options + Sourcing
4 options for better cat food and sourcing are:
- Feed cats part great quality raw meat (for me, raw beef [and soon rabbit]) and part low carbohydrate grain-free cat food or freeze-dried (found here), wet or dry (with plenty of clean, fresh drinking water). This is the stage we are at currently. (Find great ground meat and freeze-dried options to order, including rabbit, here.)
- Switch to the best quality wet food you can afford, ideally one with well-sourced meat.
- I also recommend this Easy Raw Cat Food for the Busy Person recipe. The trick is to skip the meat grinder. Buy great quality ground beef (or other ground meat), and then all you have to do is mix a few ingredients with your meat. Most recipes have you buying raw meat for cats that includes bones and organs. To make up for the lack of bones, if you use plain raw meat, you will need to add eggshell powder. This is fast and easy to add, and cheap to buy. (The recipe can be quartered, if you prefer making smaller amounts at once, and the dry supplements can be mixed ahead of time, so the recipe is faster to mix together each time.)
- Alternate between great quality raw beef and raw rabbit (or other rodents). See more on this just below. This is what we’re in the process of doing.
So much more doable for most of us!
Why to add rabbit or rodents
The key to making raw beef work, if this is the easiest option for you as well, is to alternate it with one other food source, which could be another raw meat, like rabbit or small rodents sold for cat food.
Find raw ground rabbit meat here. Rabbit is recommended for cats, and moderately affordable.
This may sound very strange if you’ve never considered raw cat foods before. Actually, cats for centuries in Europe have been fed a combination of beef and the rodents they could find around a farm. This level of variety works well for cats’ nutrition.
So, you see, it can be kept very simple! Rodents contain different nutrients than beef, which keeps a cat’s diet balanced, while also providing bones and optional organs.
This company provides rodents, rabbit and a huge variety of options. You may wish to rotate these foods with your own raw beef, to keep life easy and affordable.
This is the plan I’m implementing with even our pickiest cat, Zeus, working toward a fully raw food diet.
It’s no harder to give our cats raw rabbit than it is to give them raw beef.
Review of options
- Feed part very fresh (or freshly frozen) raw ground meat, part low carbohydrate grain-free or freeze-dried cat food. This is a great plan for the short term and may be part of your process in switching to only raw meat long term. Some experts don’t think the combo of raw and dry is good for long term because of stomach acidity issues. I don’t think their logic holds up, but see what works best for you.
- Buy the best quality wet food you can afford, from well sourced meat.
- Make Easy Cat Food recipe, and use already ground meat + optional egg shell powder (if no bones are included).
- Alternate raw beef and raw rabbit: both easy to feed, affordable and good overall nutrition without human supplements added. (Choose option #3 above, if you feel safer adding supplements.)
What most people do instead
Instead, most consumers:
- Buy only dry food and end up going to the vet for medicine to treat their pet’s ailments
- Spend more money on fancy wet foods, still made from poorly sourced conventional meats and oftentimes other marginal ingredients
- Choose expensive raw meat mixes from pet stores or online, made from poorly sourced conventional meats and sometimes too many supplements
- Grind their own meat and bones to create custom cat food every 2 weeks
Improvements we saw in our cats after starting raw beef
After adding raw meat to our cats’ diets, the main improvements we saw in our cats were:
- a lot more energy and friskiness (especially in our skinniest cat who has a small appetite)
- zero digestive upsets (throwing up)
- helped to resolve feline lower urinary tract disease
Why it can be very inexpensive to feed cats raw meat
Helpful fact: cats eat less food when fed a raw food diet.
This means less money, too.
It’s less expensive to just feed your cats really fresh raw beef alternated with rabbit — or other raw meats with a supplement — than buying pricey wet food or prepared raw food.
Surprisingly, raw beef + the supplements that get mixed in are NOT a lot more expensive than grain-free dry food, for most people. For us, because our beef is local, it is actually very affordable, and the supplements are not expensive.
We are willing to add in rabbit because the cats don’t need that much of it. So it ends up being affordable, too.
As most of you know, one of the best ways to save money on beef is to buy it in bulk. Many people are able to buy a quarter, half or whole cow and have it processed into ground meat by a local butcher.
As long as the handling of the beef is done well, don’t let scaremongers tell you that dry cat food has less chance of bacterial contamination. That’s just not true.
Companies that sell better cat food
This article encourages cat owners to feed their cats a variety of different meats. If you end up ordering ground meat for your cat, you may find it just as easy to order a variety.
I recommend Hare Today, if you need to order raw meat. This company started as a small rabbit farm but now works with a variety of small farms. Hare Today provides many kinds of ground meat, ground meat already mixed with bones and organs — and many other whole meats. The price per pound may seem high, but consider that your cat may eat as little as half a cup per day. Prices vary considerably, depending on the kind of meat.
If you know you’re not up for raw meat at all OR if you’d like a commercial cat food to alternate or supplement the raw meat, consider freeze-dried raw meat from Hare Today.
Or, for more “normal” cat food, consider Open Farm Cat Food. Open Farm sources their meat better than most other cat food companies.
You still have some unnecessary fortifications in this cat food, in my opinion, but it’s hard to find pre-made affordable cat food without these amendments. That’s why, if your cat isn’t overly picky, it’s helpful to consider alternating commercial products with raw beef or other meat.
Raw meat + the optional added supplements means no fruits and veggies for your cat, and that’s great news.
Caution: Most pre-made supplements for cats have flaws. For example, vitamin D3 can be routinely added. But cats who have time to roam outdoors especially should not be fed this hormone. Vitamin D has been shown in multiple studies (discussed here) to be toxic to animals. Like humans, cats should get their vitamin D from the sun. Humans who have exclusively indoor cats should consider a vitamin D lamp. Snuggle with your kitty in front of your lamp for 5 minutes every other day.
Why I don’t choose raw chicken for my cats
- Chicken is not as nutrient-dense as beef, rabbit, rodents or wild game.
- I don’t like handling raw poultry more than I need to. I don’t want raw poultry sitting around on the floor, on my cat’s plate. Maybe it’s just me! But I always like to be extra careful with raw chicken.
- It’s also harder to afford well-sourced chicken. I will not buy conventionally raised chicken.
- Already ground chicken from the store is likely to have contaminants, so it’s one more step to grind my own. I don’t want to grind my own chicken meat. I would be happy to occasionally cut our high-quality chicken into little pieces for my cats, but I have 4 cats. It’s easier and less expensive to just order ground beef and rabbit for them.
Concerns about giving cats raw meat
If humans buy poor quality meat for themselves, they may not know the difference between well-sourced, well-handled beef and conventional feedlot meat that’s unsafe to eat raw.
Concerns surrounding raw meat diets for cats and responses to these concerns are:
- Raw meat from the average grocery may be contaminated with salmonella, E. coli or other bacteria; choose GREAT quality, well-sourced raw beef to avoid this risk, or buy from a reputable company. It needs to be handled well and frozen when very fresh.
- Carnivore diets don’t provide all the nutrients cats need; of course, nature tells us otherwise, and supplements can easily be purchased to add to raw ground meat. Also, most manufactured cat foods add way too many “nutrients” that are plant-based and in no way native to what cats should eat.
- Imported raw pet foods may contain antimicrobial drug‐resistant bacteria; DO avoid imported raw pet foods.
- Too expensive; this part’s up to you! I do not find it very much more expensive. But sourcing of beef can be more challenging for some. Be creative if you can. Some people find that it’s worth it; they may even budget differently to afford better real cat food. Others find it’s just not possible. And, I’m not here to judge that. For us, it’s worth it to spend more. And honestly, my conscience can’t handle feeding my cats exclusively the vegetables and fortifications in commercially made cat foods.
- Commercially processed RMBDs may not have the ratio of nutrients and lack the right overall nutrition; but great quality raw meat + a few supplements added does (see this recipe), or choose your company carefully.
- It takes more time to prepare a raw food diet; I find that prepping raw beef (or rabbit) for 4 cats takes 5 minutes, including washing my hands. Most pet owners will not mind this amount of time for the pet(s) they love. Choose one supplement that has all of the supplements included, to save extra time. Just add one measured scoop to your small bowl of beef, mix quickly with a fork, and serve.
What one vet observed in all of his dog and cat patients on RMBDs
One vet’s observations of his patients is very helpful, as a final analysis. What did he see in his practice after years of pet owners switching to raw meat diets? If you enjoy reading studies, this one’s easy to read and so good!