Is there empirical evidence that raw feeding is good for cats?

gamoon07

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I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with those who recommend feeding your cat a raw diet. I believe that it is important to note that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American College of Veterinary Nutritionists (ACVN), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM), the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), and likely other such organizations recommend against feeding cats raw food. As I understand there is no scientific evidence (from peer-reviewed studies) that supports the purported benefits of a raw diet (at least none that I have found).

There is, of course, anecdotal evidence regarding the benefits of a raw diet, which I am in no place to speak to (I don't feed raw nor do I personally know any pet owners that do), nevertheless I generally rely much more on empirical evidence than on anecdotal evidence. I choose not to feed raw primarily because there is no solid evidence of the benefits (that I know of), while there is solid evidence of the detriments (salmonella, potential nutritional imbalance, etc.). It is of course up to you to make an informed decision regarding what you believe to be best for your cat's nutritional needs, however, as someone who loves animals I believe it is important to present this information. A couple of links that you could check out are:

https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Raw-or-Undercooked-Animal-Source-Protein-in-Cat-and-Dog-Diets.aspx

https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Raw-Pet-Foods-and-the-AVMA-Policy-FAQ.aspx

These links list some further relevant references. If I am wrong regarding the existence of empirical evidence in favor of a raw diet I would appreciate being informed of such evidence as I like to consider all facts when making decisions that impact the health of my two cats.

As a side note, someone made the point that salmonella and other bacteria have been found in commercial cat food, therefore the risk of illness exists either way so it's not as relevant. While the risk may exist with commercial cat food it is certainly lessened by cooking the meat. I could be hit by a car while crossing the street whether I look both ways or not, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't check for cars anyways. I hope your cat stays healthy for many years to come.

Gary
 
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franksmom

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Actually there are peered reviewed studies that demonstrate the benefits of raw not many because most studies are sponsered by pet food companies. There are also a growing number of vets who unlike their peers, who often never take animal nutrition classes in vet school, have supported a raw diet because it is species appropriate unlike dry food. Catinfo.org is written by one such vet and she does have peered reviewed studies to back up her advice. I would love to see evidence that dry food filled with grains is healthier for an obligate carnivor- it does not exist. All studies demonstrate that cats require a meat based diet and need moisture found in meat. I am not against a canned diet but raw is the closest to what their species evolved eating. Unlike dogs, cats up until very recently made up most of their diet from hunted prey-this is a historical fact that cannot be denied.

The numbers also do not lie far more dogs and cats have contracted salmonella and even worse from commercial pet food. I have actually never seen a case of it from raw and I have also never heard of a pet dying from toxic chemicals from raw which did happen from commercial food. Many commercial raw actually is put through a HPP process which kills salmonella and other pantheons other commercial pet foods do not employ this method.

The large vet associations do not support raw because they have a monetary relationship with pet food companies and vets make hundreds of millions selling this pet food. If vet associations severed their relationships with these companies, who by the way put millions of pets at risk during the pet food recall scandal a few years ago, I would be much more apt to take their advice.
 
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gamoon07

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I appreciate the website reference, www.catinfo.org, I'll check it out. I agree that cat's need to eat meat and I feed canned food to my two. I don't intend to provide any evidence regarding the benefits of dry food because I am not aware of such studies nor did I assert that a dry food diet was in any way preferable to meat. I am not surprised that there have been more cases of salmonella linked to commercially prepared pet food given that raw pet foods make up less than 1% of the pet food market. If just over 1% of commercially prepared food was contaminated with salmonella that would result in more cases of salmonella than if 100% of the raw food were contaminated. More people die in car accidents than motorcycle accidents each year, but that doesn't make motorcycles safer it just means that more people drive cars.

It is also true that cats' ancestors ate raw meat as do feral cats, but there are a few caveats. Domestication has led to biological changes in cats, including dietary needs. The fact that their ancestors' ate raw meat does not necessarily mean that they should eat raw meat as well. Feral cats also eat raw meat (prey), but it should be noted that feral cats have a shorter lifespan (on average) than do non-feral cats.Feral cats do of course face dangers that other cats do not face (cars, predators, etc.), but I believe that it is possible (if not probable) that their diet also plays a part in their shortened lifespan. It's sad but almost half of kittens born outside die from disease, parasites, and exposure (one of my cats came very close to being part of this group).

I'm sure that many veterinary associations have relationships with pet food companies, but I don't believe that that completely discredits their position, though it should be taken into consideration when evaluating the information that they put forth. The AVMA stated that pet food companies had no influence over the policy statement they issued regarding raw feeding. It is possible that they could be lying, but they also provide a good deal of references to support their position so ultimately I don't believe that their position is based 100% on monetary considerations. I would very much enjoy the opportunity to read any peer-reviewed studies regarding the benefits of raw feeding versus commercial canned food. If you could provide some information regarding the studies you referenced I'd like to look them up.

Well, it would seem that there are two cats that are ready for lunch so I've got to run. Have a great day.

Gary
 

franksmom

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I appreciate the website reference, www.catinfo.org, I'll check it out. I agree that cat's need to eat meat and I feed canned food to my two. I don't intend to provide any evidence regarding the benefits of dry food because I am not aware of such studies nor did I assert that a dry food diet was in any way preferable to meat. I am not surprised that there have been more cases of salmonella linked to commercially prepared pet food given that raw pet foods make up less than 1% of the pet food market. If just over 1% of commercially prepared food was contaminated with salmonella that would result in more cases of salmonella than if 100% of the raw food were contaminated. More people die in car accidents than motorcycle accidents each year, but that doesn't make motorcycles safer it just means that more people drive cars.

It is also true that cats' ancestors ate raw meat as do feral cats, but there are a few caveats. Domestication has led to biological changes in cats, including dietary needs. The fact that their ancestors' ate raw meat does not necessarily mean that they should eat raw meat as well. Feral cats also eat raw meat (prey), but it should be noted that feral cats have a shorter lifespan (on average) than do non-feral cats.Feral cats do of course face dangers that other cats do not face (cars, predators, etc.), but I believe that it is possible (if not probable) that their diet also plays a part in their shortened lifespan. It's sad but almost half of kittens born outside die from disease, parasites, and exposure (one of my cats came very close to being part of this group).

I'm sure that many veterinary associations have relationships with pet food companies, but I don't believe that that completely discredits their position, though it should be taken into consideration when evaluating the information that they put forth. The AVMA stated that pet food companies had no influence over the policy statement they issued regarding raw feeding. It is possible that they could be lying, but they also provide a good deal of references to support their position so ultimately I don't believe that their position is based 100% on monetary considerations. I would very much enjoy the opportunity to read any peer-reviewed studies regarding the benefits of raw feeding versus commercial canned food. If you could provide some information regarding the studies you referenced I'd like to look them up.

Well, it would seem that there are two cats that are ready for lunch so I've got to run. Have a great day.

Gary
There have not been many studies either way other than all the studies show cats need a meat based dies (see the carnivore connection published in JAVMA). This study demonstrates the better intestinal health and coats for cats fed raw food (http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ccah/local-assets/pdfs/Role_of_diet_feline health_Glasgow.pdf). 

For parasites like I said many commercial raw foods now use HPP which will kill any parasites (). Even without HPP both commercial and homemade preparations do not contain "guts" which is what contains most parasites. Here is a vet addressing this issue (). The fact of the matter is that cats have evolved to be able to digest raw meat. 

Your domestication argument is flawed. Commercial cat food did not become popular until the 1950's and unlike dogs who have evolved eating human scraps cats have always at least supplemented their diets with prey as they were used for mouse control. Actually the healthiest diet for cats is to try to mimic the properties of mice. Feral cats do not live long due to other factors because they live outside and have to contest with predators and cars.

It is fine you choose to feed canned (I hope it is grain free) and a good canned food is a healthy option for cats, but so it a properly balanced raw diet. I do feed some canned but I have concerns about BPA in the cans and some ingredients such a carrageenan, not to mention all the recalls. I will only feed tiki cat, hound and gato and weruva (flavours that do not contain carrageenan) for these reasons. For some cats who have IBS/IBD raw has been a godsend because it is the only diet that allows them to have normal stools. If you take a look at the raw feeding board you will see evidence that a lot of cats lead happy and healthy lives eating a properly balanced raw diet, but no one says it is the only way to go again canned wet food is also great for a lot of cats. 
 
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ldg

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Gary, for issues related to the AVMA position, here is some reading for you:

(And yes, it was a decision arguably made by following the money. :( ).

http://www.thecatsite.com/t/246595/avma-to-vote-to-take-a-stand-against-raw-feeding

In that thread, here is an analysis of the "research" citations used by the AVMA to justify the policy: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/246595/avma-to-vote-to-take-a-stand-against-raw-feeding/90#post_3229546

http://www.examiner.com/article/a-review-of-the-avma-s-proposed-policy-against-raw-food

http://www.littlebigcat.com/blog/avma-vs-raw-food/

http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/09/12/avma-against-raw-food-diet.aspx


For discussion of raw food vs. canned or kibble, including scientific studies, here are threads on TCS discussing the issues at length:

I wasn't feed raw when discussing it in this thread: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/235022/best-diet-for-cats

And completely changed my mind about feeding raw because of this thread: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/239691/nutritionally-complete-assurances-for-our-pet-food

Scientific studies:

http://www.thecatsite.com/t/239547/scientific-studies-supporting-raw-food-diet

http://www.thecatsite.com/t/247098/raw-food-diets-for-kittens-winn-feline-foundation
 
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peaches08

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It should also be mentioned that some vets are expanding their knowledge on nutrition. My vet praises me for feeding a raw diet. Yet the owner of the practice (a vet) still tells clients to feed dry food for dental benefits.
 

harleydiva

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Gary, for issues related to the AVMA position, here is some reading for you:

(And yes, it was a decision arguably made by following the money.
).

http://www.thecatsite.com/t/246595/avma-to-vote-to-take-a-stand-against-raw-feeding

In that thread, here is an analysis of the "research" citations used by the AVMA to justify the policy: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/246595/avma-to-vote-to-take-a-stand-against-raw-feeding/90#post_3229546

http://www.examiner.com/article/a-review-of-the-avma-s-proposed-policy-against-raw-food

http://www.littlebigcat.com/blog/avma-vs-raw-food/

http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/09/12/avma-against-raw-food-diet.aspx


For discussion of raw food vs. canned or kibble, including scientific studies, here are threads on TCS discussing the issues at length:

I wasn't feed raw when discussing it in this thread: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/235022/best-diet-for-cats

And completely changed my mind about feeding raw because of this thread: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/239691/nutritionally-complete-assurances-for-our-pet-food

Scientific studies:

http://www.thecatsite.com/t/239547/scientific-studies-supporting-raw-food-diet

http://www.thecatsite.com/t/247098/raw-food-diets-for-kittens-winn-feline-foundation
.
LDG ...  You Go Girl!!!!  I'm bookmarking this one.

 
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peaches08

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A properly balanced raw diet. ;) :)
Very good point. My vet did ask me if they got a calcium source and if I supplemented taurine which I explained Dr. Pierson's recipe and he was satisfied. He even went so far as to say that he wished every cat and dog owner fed raw as I did. He especially liked the flexibility I had with meats and fat content, as well as being able to add more of something like taurine.
 
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ldg

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Your domestication argument is flawed. Commercial cat food did not become popular until the 1950's and unlike dogs who have evolved eating human scraps cats have always at least supplemented their diets with prey as they were used for mouse control. Actually the healthiest diet for cats is to try to mimic the properties of mice. Feral cats do not live long due to other factors because they live outside and have to contest with predators and cars.
This is a really good point. Our domestic cats are almost genetically identical to the African Wildcat (from which they descended: http://www.catoddities.com/The Evolution of House Cats.pdf and http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/repr/add/domesticcat_driscoll2007.pdf). F. s. lybica (the African Wildcat) has a natural lifespan (in the wild) of 15 years.
 

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It’s about liability.

Imagine if one day I decided I was going to offer to do other people’s taxes because I read something online about how to do it.  I may be very well qualified, but I may also be completely wrong.  The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants cannot in good faith support my efforts, because I have no real credential aside from personal interest knowledge and research – even though the sources may be good.

It’s kind of the same thing.

These veterinary scientists and professionals (who are the journal’s contributors) went to school for years to learn about such things, and because the general public did not, it can only be safest for them to recommend that the general public NOT feed raw.

Even though I feed raw, I certainly agree with the recommendations of the professionals. Why? Because many people cannot or will not take the time, money, and effort to research and do it right.  And if you aren’t going to do it right, you can really do a lot of harm.  So it’s always going to be best to err on the side of caution, as an ethical medical professional.
 
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franksmom

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[SIZE=10pt]It’s about liability.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10pt]Imagine if I one day I decided I was going to offer to do other people’s taxes because I read something online about how to do it.  I may be very well qualified, but I may also be completely wrong.  The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants cannot in good faith support my efforts, because I have no real credential aside from personal interest knowledge and research – even though the sources may be good.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10pt]It’s kind of the same thing.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10pt]These veterinary scientists and professionals (who are the journal’s contributors) went to school for years to learn about such things, and because the general public did not, it can only be safest for them to recommend that the general public NOT feed raw.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10pt]Even though I feed raw, I certainly agree with the recommendations of the professionals. Why? Because many people cannot or will not take the time, money, and effort to research and do it right.  And if you aren’t going to do it right, you can really do a lot of harm.  So it’s always going to be best to err on the side of caution, as an ethical medical professional.[/SIZE]
I understand what you are saying but what irritates me is the food they do recommend caused so many pets to die or get very sick after the pet food scandle a few years ago. Some vets woke up and started looking into these companies but the majority don't because they make so much money selling food.
 

ldg

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Here's an interesting piece, written by two vets in New Zealand:

"Evidence-Based Medicine: The True Science Behind Raw Feeding:" http://www.rawessentials.co.nz/media/documents/Evidence-Based Medicine.pdf

And some of the relevant references from the piece:

Dierenfeld et al. (2002). "Nutrient composition of whole vertebrate prey (excluding fish) fed in zoos," USDA: http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/zoo/WholePreyFinal02May29.pdf

Bond & Lindberg (1990). "Carcass feeding of captive cheetahs..." (Abstract only, unless you purchase the article): http://www.journals.elsevierhealth.com/periodicals/applan/article/0168-1591(90)90036-D/abstract

Fagan, D.A. (1980). "Diet consistency and periodontal disease in exotic carnivores," Proceedings of the Conference of the American Assoc of Zoo Veterinarians: http://www.colyerinstitute.org/pdf/diet.pdf

Plantinga et al. (2011). "Estimation of the dietary nutrient profile of free-roaming feral cats: possible implications for nutrition of domestic cats:" (full report is available for free): http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8404219
 

ldg

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[SIZE=10pt]It’s about liability.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10pt]Imagine if one day I decided I was going to offer to do other people’s taxes because I read something online about how to do it.  I may be very well qualified, but I may also be completely wrong.  The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants cannot in good faith support my efforts, because I have no real credential aside from personal interest knowledge and research – even though the sources may be good.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10pt]It’s kind of the same thing.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10pt]These veterinary scientists and professionals (who are the journal’s contributors) went to school for years to learn about such things, and because the general public did not, it can only be safest for them to recommend that the general public NOT feed raw.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=10pt]Even though I feed raw, I certainly agree with the recommendations of the professionals. Why? Because many people cannot or will not take the time, money, and effort to research and do it right.  And if you aren’t going to do it right, you can really do a lot of harm.  So it’s always going to be best to err on the side of caution, as an ethical medical professional.[/SIZE]
I disagree. There are many commercial raw foods available that meet AAFCO guidelines, yet the AVMA chose to support only those that are pasteurized with High Pressure Processing. They claim the policy was meant to protect public health; that their concern was primarily for those feeding the raw diet. This has nothing at all to do with the AVMA being concerned with people making homemade food and balancing it properly. Given their STATED reason for the policy, it could easily have been addressed with the same type of "food handling" guidelines that they have for kibble - but they did not choose to take that route.
 

tobykitten

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I disagree. There are many commercial raw foods available that meet AAFCO guidelines, yet the AVMA chose to support only those that are pasteurized with High Pressure Processing. They claim the policy was meant to protect public health; that their concern was primarily for those feeding the raw diet. This has nothing at all to do with the AVMA being concerned with people making homemade food and balancing it properly. Given their STATED reason for the policy, it could easily have been addressed with the same type of "food handling" guidelines that they have for kibble - but they did not choose to take that route.
I'm sure there are several reasons.  Again, circling around liability concerns - for the pets, for the public, etc.

My concerns above, however, echo those of my vet (who is right, IMO, to be primarily concerned with the health of animals) -- she has seen far too many horror stories of those who "hear" raw is good and don't do it properly, resulting in all kinds of problems.
 

ldg

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TobyKitten, here is a link to the AVMA website, the page where they wanted to clear up misunderstandings about the proposed policy: http://atwork.avma.org/2012/07/18/the-facts-on-avmas-proposed-policy-on-raw-pet-food-diets/

In their own words:

The Facts on AVMA’s Proposed Policy on Raw Pet Food Diets

July 18, 2012

We’ve been seeing a lot of misinformation about the proposed AVMA policy on raw or undercooked animal-source protein diets for pets that will be discussed and voted on at the AVMA House of Delegates (HOD) meeting in San Diego in August, so we feel the need to clear things up.

First of all, this proposed policy would be an AVMA policy if approved, not state or federal law. The AVMA cannot, and will not, regulate what pet owners choose to feed their pets. If you already feed raw food to your pet, that’s your choice. This proposed policy is about mitigating public health risks, not about restricting or banning any products.
And these links have already been provided in this thread, but here are researched, referenced responses to that claim (one of them is mine), and reviews of their "science" (they referenced only six studies for the policy. Originally it was just four, but they added two):

http://www.examiner.com/article/a-review-of-the-avma-s-proposed-policy-against-raw-food

http://www.thecatsite.com/t/246595/avma-to-vote-to-take-a-stand-against-raw-feeding/90#post_3229546


And of course every vet should be concerned that homemade raw would be fed correctly. However, this AVMA policy discourages that discussion - stops it dead in its tracks. Not HPP? Tell your client not to feed it. How is that possibly helpful?

Further, there are many commercial raw food options that meet AAFCO. Very few are treated with HPP. Homemade is not the only raw food option these days.

And I echo concerns that homemade food - cooked or raw - be done properly. That's why I participate actively in the raw feeding forum here on TCS, because so many people can't turn to their vets for assistance. As most of us here say, if you can't take the time to learn how to do it right, you're better off with a commercially prepared diet. But the AVMA position completely disallows the possibility of anything other than commercially prepared foods being fed to animals. It doesn't voice concern, it doesn't suggest people desiring to feed a homemade diet work with properly trained nutritionists, it doesn't recommend that safe handling procedures be followed - it negates everything other than a commercially prepared diet treated with high pressure processing, period.
 
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tobykitten

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LDG,

I work in the corporate world and I'm very used to company's giving very nice sounding rather vanilla "stated reasons" -- that is very different from the company's TRUE concerns, which are kept hidden.  I suspect it's very similar. Why do you believe the AVMA stops discussion?  

I am used to people in authority assuming the general public is stupid, and I see something similar happening here with the AVMA -- assuming the general public is stupid, to the point of fearing that people may not be smart enough to properly care for themselves and handle raw products (or even products that don't undergo HPP) so that they become a potential public health crisis -- but I don't believe it's the full and entire reason.

I have handled raw meat my entire life and eat quite a bit of it and have never been sick from it.  I have become terribly sick consuming pasturized tomato soup.
 
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ldg

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I have handled raw meat my entire life and eat quite a bit of it and have never been sick from it.  I have become terribly sick consuming pasturized tomato soup.
Exactly. This is part of the reason I believe the AVMA decision was political, not actually based on real health concerns. The issue as I see it is that it is NOT overly complicated to feed our pets homemade raw food. It can go terribly wrong, but it's not rocket science, which is what they would have us believe.

The "nutritional training" that most vets have is from either Royal Canin or Hill's Pet, and these are major sources of income for many vets. It's FAR easier to recommend that an IBD kitty use the RC whatever whatever formula or the Hill's sensitive stomach formula, or that a kitty with allergies eat XYZ prescription food - and then make a nice margin on selling those products - than it is for a vet to get REAL nutritional training for our carnivores (dogs, cats, and ferrets; cats and ferrets being obligate carnivores) - and then make little money on using that nutritional knowledge to help us feed our pets ourselves.

Working in the corporate world, I'm sure you're also familiar with ... agendas.
 

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I appreciate the effort that many go through feeding their cats a well balanced raw diet.   Being a full time working cat mom, I certainly don't have time for the raw diet prep.   As well as I like to travel and have friend cat sitters take care of kitties and not have to stress about food details.   I respect the efforts everyone makes in taking the very best care of our cats that we can including nutrition. We all love our cats very much, that is why we are here!

Regarding bacteria, I feel that it is actually less risky to feed canned than raw or dry.    It seems that cleanliness for a raw diet requires meticulous prep.  And dry food keeps getting recalled for Salmonella etc.   Perhaps it is a false sense of security, but I feel "safe" feeding wet food.

I would like to see peer reviewed research in support of a raw diet if it is available.  Is there a pubMed type site for animal research?  I suppose studies will be biased also, as they would be primarily sponsered by corporate giants and big pet food companies.
 

ldg

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For discussion of raw food vs. canned or kibble, including scientific studies, here are threads on TCS discussing the issues at length:

I wasn't feed raw when discussing it in this thread: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/235022/best-diet-for-cats

And completely changed my mind about feeding raw because of this thread: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/239691/nutritionally-complete-assurances-for-our-pet-food

Scientific studies:

http://www.thecatsite.com/t/239547/scientific-studies-supporting-raw-food-diet

http://www.thecatsite.com/t/247098/raw-food-diets-for-kittens-winn-feline-foundation

Here's an interesting piece, written by two vets in New Zealand:

"Evidence-Based Medicine: The True Science Behind Raw Feeding:" http://www.rawessentials.co.nz/media/documents/Evidence-Based Medicine.pdf

And some of the relevant references from the piece:

Dierenfeld et al. (2002). "Nutrient composition of whole vertebrate prey (excluding fish) fed in zoos," USDA: http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/zoo/WholePreyFinal02May29.pdf

Bond & Lindberg (1990). "Carcass feeding of captive cheetahs..." (Abstract only, unless you purchase the article): http://www.journals.elsevierhealth.com/periodicals/applan/article/0168-1591(90)90036-D/abstract

Fagan, D.A. (1980). "Diet consistency and periodontal disease in exotic carnivores," Proceedings of the Conference of the American Assoc of Zoo Veterinarians: http://www.colyerinstitute.org/pdf/diet.pdf

Plantinga et al. (2011). "Estimation of the dietary nutrient profile of free-roaming feral cats: possible implications for nutrition of domestic cats:" (full report is available for free): http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8404219
 
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