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Are There Legitimate Facts About Raw Food?

MonaLyssa33

TCS Member
Super Cat
Mar 10, 2018
958
2,010
Minneapolis
I'm a skeptical person when it comes to certain things and one of those things is "science" about food. I don't believe in GMOs or pesticides being bad, I believe "organic" food is a scam and fad diets are ridiculous. My question is about raw diets for cats though. My cats were eating raw when I adopted them but I switched to kibble and canned because I didn't have the freezer space. Now I'm considering going back to raw or at least cooked meat because my cats' poop smells so much worse and I'm actually spending more on canned food than I did when I bought raw food from the pet deli. Is there actual, scientifically proven evidence that raw (or cooked) is better? I'm having a hard time finding sources that aren't biased. I see a lot of stuff about "vets get paid to endorse kibble!" but again no facts to prove or disprove that.
 

Willowy

TCS Member
Top Cat
Mar 1, 2009
23,442
14,294
South Dakota
"Better" is extremely subjective. How would a study go about confirming what is better? I think there are some that looked at digestibility, but other than that there haven't been a lot of studies done on raw pet food.

If your cats do better on raw, then it is better for them. That's what counts.
 

mschauer

TCS Member
Top Cat
Jun 17, 2007
6,170
1,647
Houston, Tx
The short answer is no with regards to long term, well structured studies. But I agree with Willowy, there are a lot of ways to define "better". Plenty of cats with a specific problem actually do better on a raw or home-cooked diet than on a diet of commercial canned or dry but it isn't always clear why they did better. And it isn't always true that just switching to a raw diet resolves the problem despite many claiming it will. There are lots of exaggerated claims made about the merits of a raw diet and as many exaggerated claims made about the inappropriateness of a commercial processed diet.

When I was researching a raw diet for my cats I just ignored any obviously biased information and looked at what was left. I was still skeptical but I was motivated by wanting to find a non-prescription food solution to problems in my cats and raw did provide solutions for me.

There is a very good chance you will notice less litter box odor with a raw diet. But adding a probiotic to what are you currently feeding may also accomplish that.
 
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molly92

TCS Member
Top Cat
Jan 8, 2016
1,272
835
Michigan
It's very frustrating as a science person that good studies on cats are few and far in between. What is out there is so rarely completely independent. So the science on raw food is observational and *cringe* anecdotal.

But the basic concept that cats eat meat not plants makes sense, from what we know about biology and anatomy of carnivores vs omnivores and herbivores. So it's not a surprise that cats on raw diets, which are generally all meat, show benefits compared to dry and canned foods, which usually have added plant materials.

Beyond that-the benefits of raw muscle and bone for the teeth and jaw, the beneficial bacteria and enzymes, etc, make sense that they would help, but I don't think we can say there is proof they help. We can only try it for our individual cats and see if it works well for them.

I would love to see a huge observational study on cats fed different diets and look at their health records in conjunction over their whole life. But it'd be hard to find the funding for something like that, especially from an independent source. And there would be the issue of correlation not causation-raw feeders probably tend to be more proactive about their cat's health in general, and there are so many variables that wouldn't be controlled. But studies on cats that are designed and controlled have such tiny sample sizes and don't last very long so I would rather have a big one...but that's all wishful thinking anyway.
 

Cindus

TCS Member
Young Cat
Aug 18, 2018
25
19
New York State
Evolutionary biology is enough evidence for me. The cat is a highly-specialized top predator, a true carnivore. They evolved to eat whole prey. A raw diet is far closer to that ideal than the cooked meat found in commercial foods. Those products don't exist because they're what's best for cats. They exist because they're what's most convenient for people to feed to their cats. I don't have enough faith in human technology to think we can cook meat and then add a few supplements and perfectly mimic natural prey.
 

Azazel

Time spent with cats is never wasted.
Top Cat
Apr 14, 2018
1,619
1,860
We really don’t know much about cats in general to be honest. But, as others said, we do know some stuff about their physiology and the fact that they are obligate carnivores. We also know that they don’t cook their meat in the wild. Also, we know that eating fresh food is healthier for all creatures than eating processed foods (vets are the only medical profession that recommend processed foods over fresh foods).

I also know that I’ve been feeding raw for 10 years and it changed my cats’ lives for the better. I have 3 happy and healthy cats. Keep in mind too that feeding raw to cats is only “weird” in western countries. In many countries around the world people find it completely normal to feed scraps of raw meat and bones to cats. Pet food also isn’t a big industry in those countries. :hellocomputer:


The issue also isn’t really about raw vs. cooked. I think feeding cooked food to cats is perfectly fine as long as it has the right nutrients and enough moisture. The problem is that most kibbles are full of non-animal protein and inappropriate carbs for cats. The ingredients are horrific to be honest, and I don’t even want to think about where most companies source their ingredients from. For me the main issue is feeding fresh food from reputable sources. Whether I cook the meat or not is not my main concern. Investigating pet food brands trying to find one that doesn’t have a concerning ingredient is nearly impossible.

Interesting to note that kibble only exists because during WWII there was a shortage of tin and they needed a more affordable and convenient way to make pet food. No scientific backing there. The pet food industry has a complicated relationship with the FDA, AAFCO and many vet schools. It’s not as simple as “my vet is being paid by Hill’s,” but there is a power dynamic in play.

By the way, as far as I know, there is evidence to show that pesticides are bad and for some foods buying organic is healthier. The problem with the “organic” label is that it’s been taken over as a marketing tool so it’s essentially become a meaningless term.
 
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MargoLane

TCS Member
Adult Cat
Apr 10, 2018
192
258
For me, raw is the only diet my cat does well on because of her IBD, so I feed it. She had horrible gas, and unhealthy poops and even an all high-end canned diet didn't solve that. I'm not a raw evangelist though; I don't think we know yet if cats who are fed raw with have lower instances of diabetes, kidney disease, if they live longer, etc.

I do think looking at the natural diet of feline species makes sense, in terms of evaluating whether or not a diet is likely to cause harm. Of course, bacteria in raw could cause harm, but doesn't seem likely if safe food handling processes are followed. So for me, it doesn't matter much that there aren't studies around raw diets yet. We're all just doing our best, and feeding a high-protein and low carb is logical in terms of a species appropriate diet. My cat would probably do just as well on a home-cooked diet...but I'm pretty lazy. So I don't do that.

I'd say that if you feel comfortable feeding raw, it fits your budget better, and you and your cat like it better (even if it's just because of smell), do it! Even silly fad diets work well for certain people.
 

saleri

TCS Member
Super Cat
Dec 26, 2017
985
429
https://www2.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/CCAH/local-assets/pdfs/Role_of_diet_feline health_Glasgow.pdf

Was an interesting study. They nooted stool quality was a lot better and fur "to have better quality coats".

They did notice "the sudden and rapidly fatal illness of one of the cats that were fed the raw rabbit diet for 10 months was chilling and unexpected. The affected cat was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy due to a severe taurine deficiency."

Which wasn't suprising since they were literally just feeding with rabbit, and no liver or other supplements. That and Rabbit is naturally low in taurine.
 

Cindus

TCS Member
Young Cat
Aug 18, 2018
25
19
New York State
I don't think we know yet if cats who are fed raw with have lower instances of diabetes, kidney disease, if they live longer, etc.
I wish we did. My biggest motivator for finally going raw was the awful death of my eldest cat from kidney disease. She had been on kibble for about a decade, and then canned for the last two years (after already showing signs of the disease). I don't know if a raw diet will protect my two remaining cats, or even if it will give me one single extra day with them, but the biological evidence for raw is still enough for me.
 
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