Raw Cat Food: Basil's Culinary Adventure
Basil the Cat was diagnosed as diabetic in April 2006. At the time, he was 13 years old and weighed over 21 lbs. I had been feeding him dry cat food since he was adopted as a kitten, and had switched him to the low fat version when his weight become hard to deny. Everyone made fun of his belly, which would swing back and forth when he scurried. It was clear his weight was imparing his quality of life.
Our wonderful vet told me at the time of diagnosis that "diabetes in cats is nearly 100% curable." I thought she meant treatable (as in insulin shots) but was very surprised when she said that recent research indicated that a change of diet was usually significant to improve health enough to not require insulin treatment...
So Basil was put on a special canned food diet for diabetic cats which contained no carbohydrates (it was a prescription cat food!) and was put on insulin for 10 days. After 10 days, he no longer required the insulin, and was visibly improved.
But, having TWO cats, meant that realistically both cats ate the same food (I live in a tiny house, and separating them for feeding is not realistic. That prescription cat food was expenseive, so I turned to the web for help, and found Binky's web page: http://www.sugarcats.net/sites/jmpeerson/
This page was a great resource for trying to decide if I could switch the cats to a less expensive non-prescription cat food which would not impair their health. We eventually found that both cats loved many of the Fancy Feast flavors, and the small cans meant we never had to put cat food in the refrigerator (Dave put his foot down on that point, and given the horrid smell of most commercial cat foods, I could see his point.). So, the cats, pleased at how Basil was able to trick us into feeding him canned food for the rest of his life, were happy as clams. We were not so happy. Stinky food, demanding, begging cats, and even the best price was over 50 cents per can, usually closer to 80 cents, which was nearly $20 per week. Ouch! Still cheaper than insulin and needles, though
Then, in 2007 we were all treated to the melamine scare in cat food. Fancy Feast was not recalled, but as the scare spread the fact that I was spending good money for something that might not be as good as I wanted it to be forced me back to Binky's page to see what other options I might have. And there, at the bottom of the canned cat food page, was a link I had never bothered to check out, as it seemed way too weird "Anne's Raw Cat Food recipe".
Click on the "foodmaking: recipes" link.
Oh, what the heck, I clicked on it, and entered the strange underground world of raw pet food. But Anne's logic and good sense seemed reasonable. I read some of her sources, and decided to give it a try. I could always switch back, I figured. My greatest concern, as a food scientist, was the potential for Salmonella issues with all the raw chicken around, not just as a risk to the cats but also to me and Dave.
I bought the grinder Anne recommended, and the vitamins, taurine, and fish oil. I later found a nice step by step pictorial at
I started making this recipe in April 2007, and after some stern talks to the cats about not pouting (some cats take to this food right away, like Blue did, and others are more resistant....Basil was not happy, he loved his stinky Fancy Feast and was trying to pout his way out of this change). But, he saw that I was not going to give in, and finally quit complaining.
So, now how is Basil? He now weights under 16 lbs, can run and chase things, jump on the couch, catch moths, and nearly climb trees. I've put a slide show together of photos taken from July 2007 until now (June 2008) so you can get an idea of his size and energy. One of the photos is of his first time with a raw rabbit bone. After only just more than 2 months on this new food his fur was noticably improved, in fact, incredible...soft, clean, and no more dandruff. He no longer limps (whether that was weight or not I don't know). His teeth are clean, his breath good, and no more scary things in the cat box. And the change happend quickly and was so dramatic that Dave and I are wondering what the human-appropriate equivalent to this food might be...
Not bad for an old ex-diabetic cat. He's healthier, and we are actually spending less money on cat food now. It takes me about an hour to make nearly two weeks of food for two cats. And using the grinder is FUN. I do add the extra step of a 10 minute boiling water step for all contact surfaces of the grinder before and after use (after cleaning).