How Do I Feed My Kitten A Balanced Raw Diet?
COVID-19 has inspired many people to invite pets into their homes. Cats have a wonderful way of making us smile and they can be real comedians at times. But taking on a kitten is a real responsibility and there is an overwhelming amount of information out the about how to care for them
Can I Feed My Kitten A Raw Diet? - YES
At RDBK, we believe that feeding fresh food to kittens from an early age is imperative for health and longevity. Due to the adorable and fluffy nature of kittens, we sometimes forget that they are highly specialized carnivores that require their nutritional needs to be addressed in a very particular way. In order to prevent disease and give young cats the best chance at health and longevity, we need to honour their true carnivorous nature.
The Banfield Veterinary State of Pet Health report indicates that the most common diseases affecting modern felines are obesity, diabetes, osteoarthritis, kidney disease and dental disease. All of these problems are directly linked to diet. To avoid these illnesses, we need to feed cats in a way that allows them to keep themselves healthy. Processed foods tend to work against them in this regard.
What Is An Obligate Carnivore?
Felines belong to a group called the obligate carnivores. This means that they need a meat-based diet to survive. There is no such thing as a vegetarian diet for cats. While the pet food industry acknowledges that cats need meat, things have gotten pretty off-track when it comes to creating diets that resemble what they would eat in nature. Cats are also considered a partially domesticated species. This means they are able to leave our care and go off on their own to hunt for themselves to survive. But modern processed cat diets are filled with low quality meat, starchy carbohydrates and other highly inappropriate ingredients. And yes, even the “grain-free” processed foods can create problems.
In order to keep your kittens and cats in the best health, we can’t forget that these cute balls of fluff are a specialized species with the same needs as other obligate carnivores. I have spent many years working with wild cats but the secret is….. I actually use this experience and education to feed domestic cats as well. And the results are pretty incredible. Cats are a really self-sufficient species when they are given access to appropriate nutrition.
Studies Refelect These Findings As Well!
But there is a myth going around about fresh food diets…..
We’ve been hearing from a lot of new kitten parents that have been told not to feed fresh food because it will cause nutritional deficiencies. While it’s possible for nutrient deficiencies to occur….. it’s not very common. And it can be easily avoided! I have been feeding kittens and cats fresh food for over 20 years with no developmental issues. In fact, my own cats and my client’s cats thrive on species-appropriate raw foods. There are just a few simple guidelines you need to stick to if you want to do it right.
How To Balance Your Kittens Raw Diet
Here is a list of “easy-to-digest” rules to stick to for your kitten’s diet:
As some of you may have heard or experienced, cats can be very picky! And this starts in kittenhood. Starting your kitten off with a varied raw diet full of different meats, organs and other foods sets them up to be way less picky with food as adults. Switching young cats is much easier than switching older cats who are stuck on the processed food train. Just like people, it can be hard for them to change their habits. Starting young is the best time to get them interested in fresh food!
Additionally, by ensuring enough variety in your kittens diet, you also ensure your kitten gets enough other minerals like potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, etc, be sure to use a variety of other proteins, organs and bones. Eg. chicken necks, beef, lamb, venison, fish, wild boar, etc.
The number one source of calcium in the raw diet is raw bone. Feed poultry or rabbit with ground bone at least 4 days per week. It is easy to maintain the calcium levels in your kitten’s diet this way. Unlike people, cats have to ability to digest bone and utilize the minerals from it. So, if you’re providing enough ground bone, you’ll be doing great.
3. Mineral Supplements for Poultry
If your kitten has GI (gastrointestinal) issues or suspected allergies and cannot eat poultry or rabbit, you will need to use a mineral supplement. The best option is steamed food grade bone meal powder. Do not use calcium supplements or eggshell powder since they do not provide the right mineral balance to ensure healthy growth for kittens. Dosage for bone meal: 1.5% of the total meat portion of your kitten’s meal.
4. Sufficient Fat Content
Your kitten needs energy from fat so, whichever raw diet(s) you choose, the nutrition analysis should be, on average, between 8-11% fat.
5. Omega 3's
Cats have a specific need for the amino acid taurine since their bodies cannot make it from other nutrients like dogs can. This means that you need to pay special attention to your kitten’s daily taurine intake. Poultry is adequate in taurine eg. chicken and turkey. But…. If your cat can’t or won’t eat these, you’ll need to add a supplement. Hooved animals such as beef, venison, and lamb are all low in taurine. Rabbit and kangaroo are also low. Be sure to add 250 mg of free form taurine to your cat’s daily meal schedule with non-poultry meals.
Observing Stool Quality
Yes, that’s right, poop can be a great indicator of health! It’s also a useful way to tell whether or not you’re feeding too much or too little bone. Indoor felines tend to be more on the constipated side so it’s important to keep an eye on the litter box habits. Stool that is light in colour, dry or crumbly or hard to pass indicates you are feeding too much bone, especially if this is happening every day. Stools that are dark in colour and soft on a regular basis indicates that you may not be feeding enough bone. Poops should vary in colour, depending on what you are feeding that day. Don’t be surprised to see differences in stool colour and formation as they eat different foods. That is totally normal! Just be sure that stools are moist, firm but not hard and easy to pass.
Let Us Do All The Work!
If you’d like a more comprehensive guide to feeding your kitten a balanced raw diet, you can fill out our free feeding guide form to get the details. And, if you still need help, contact us with questions. We love helping new kitten parents set their cats up for life so please reach out to us any time.
We hope everyone is staying safe and enjoying a little more time with the animals.
- Apparent nutrient digestibility of two raw diets in domestic kittens, Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 2015
- Evaluation of four raw meat diets using domestic cats, captive exotic felids, and cecectomized roosters, University of Illinois Animal Science Department, 2014