Greetings cat parents!
As promised, I am here to share with you our experience with making the pounce to DIY raw. Also a disclaimer, we are only doing half DIY since we are super busy, now with a puppy in the future (!!), and sometimes don’t have the time to prep. But I know it can be very scary and seems like a hassle and a half for pet parents so behold, my experience can be an example!
As a raw feeder, I am very used to planning ahead. Most of my planning comes the day before (unless i forget then it is hello freeze dried) and it mostly consists of already frozen nuggets and patties. I only have one 12 pound cat so I thought trying DIY would be a walk in the park! Eh, i was half right.
Getting a recipe
There are a lot of sketchy homemade raw recipes on the internet. I have been scoping out different sites and nutritionists and checking their backgrounds for years now and there are some that really scare me. One note about cats vs dogs is that since cats are obligate carnivores they do not require fruits, veggies, and carbohydrates which places them on a PMR (Prey Model Raw) diet. This means: 84% muscle meat, 6% bone, 5% liver, and 5% other organs.
After my searching, I found my recipe through Karmavore Nutrition (@petnutrition). Kelsey is a professional animal nutritionist and tests all of her recipes for micro and macro nutrients to confirm they are balanced. She even sends you the graphs and percentages of everything, I mean EVERYTHING, that could be measured in your animals recipe. Her recipes are NRC balanced (National Research Council) as opposed to AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) which most people associate with being balanced. 90-95% of dogs who get diseases like cancer, autoimmune diseases, allergies, renal failure or irritable bowel diseases developed their diseases after a lifetime of eating foods that passed AAFCO standards (1).
Contrary to popular belief, AAFCO is not a science-based regulatory agency, although they operate within guidelines of federal and state legislation. AAFCO takes in research and information, mostly by the NRC in recent times, and modifies the nutrient profiles for the practice of practicality - aka for industry. AAFCO permits a pet food manufacturer to claim that its product is 100% complete and balanced if it has complied with their feeding trials of 6 months with a minimum of 8 trials, 6 of whom must fully complete the trial. As many nutritionists, and anyone who has taken a statistics class, would point out, six months with that low a sample size does not translate to a lifetime of health and wellness. AAFCO has not continuously updated their nutritional requirements following the recurring studies by the NRC and their Canine and Feline Nutrition Expert Subcommittees are comprised of representatives from the pet food industry, CEO’s, and industry regulators… take that as you will… I trust the scientists.
PHEW - awesome. A recipe that is balanced, and completely laid out for me with evidence to show my vet. Literally could not have asked for anything better. Now comes the fun part…
Getting the ingredients
The recipe is not whole prey (meaning no feathers or fur) so supplementation is required to fill those nutritional gaps. No, its not just a piece of hamburger on a plate.
The recipe is formulated to be balanced for every meal. I know some people like to balance over time, which will save more time and money, but this is what I have for now. Below, I have listed the supplements I bought and their prices. Keep in mind that these jars are HUGE and will literally last us years since we use such small amounts per meal (Da bb is only 12 lbs!). If you have a larger animal, you will go through these faster
-NOW: Kelp - $30
-NOW Taurine - $8
-Solgar Vitamin E - $8
-Prep containers - $16
-Krill Oil $25
-MTHF (Vitamin B9) - $20
-Zinc - $18
-Manganese - $7
I have the Amazon credit card (don’t @ me) so I bought it all on Amazon. Just make sure the brands you get are legit and do not come from China as the quality is questionable.
Next, I got some prep materials!
Since I already feed raw I had things like sharp knives and cutting boards, etc, so I didn’t need much for this but here is a list of things you will need:
Meat specific cutting board
Mortar and Pestle
Apron if you want it
A chest freezer
Pretty simple kitchen stuff, but I cannot stress the importance of keeping everything clean and disinfected. I prefer a natural disinfectant or 409 with extensive wiping afterwards of a natural cleaner as you will get messy. Also, I don’t mind touching raw meat, but you will have your hands on it for an hour minimum so gloves are helpful.
Getting to the Meat of it
Alright, we are prepped, recipe in hand, weekly measurements are written down from the meal plan, now where do we go for food??
Here is our checklist (general, not the exact one):
-Muscle meat (2 kinds)
-Raw meaty bone
A few things to keep in mind when looking for meat for your animal:
ALWAYS get human-grade meat for your animal. I cannot stress this enough. Get what you would eat at the grocery store. It can be fancy if you’d like or not, but there is a clear distinction between human-grade meat and non-human-grade meat. If you want to cut corners like that, you are better off with a kibble. Off-cuts from a butcher are where you can get into some serious trouble with dangerous pathogens - do not risk it
As much as you would like to, you probably wont want to shop at a Whole Foods. Meat is expensive. Although the best quality would be the dream, its not always a reality and that is okay! What you’re doing in and of itself is already benefiting your animal. Do not stress about it.
Always freeze fresh meat from the store for 1-2 weeks minimum before feeding to kill any parasites and pathogens. This is precautionary as these things can still be on the food even though its human grade. We just cook ours off when we eat it.
Places to buy your meat:
Costco, Woodman’s, or Sam’s Club and the like: I do not have a membership here, but if you do, discounts on discounts, fam!
Asian grocery stores - Although the quality is not as great, this is perfect for almost anything you could need - for super cheap!
Butcher shops - You can get animals whole or special organs if you need them.
Farmers! In Colorado, we can go straight to the farmer for our meat. If this is available to you, I would recommend talking to them and I bet they would be more than willing to cut you a deal!
We went to the Asian market, as it is very close to our house and had everything we needed in one stop! Sue me for not being in an Asian market until 25 but WOW this place was amazing.
They had everything from black chickens, to squid, to whole rabbits!
Here is my price breakdown for this trip:
In total, I spent $42 that day including the two packs of Quail eggs i picked up. The chart below shows the amount per month and per meal that would be spent following my recipe and based on these pretty standard prices.
About $2 a day and $60 a month. Honestly, not that bad for feeding one cat. Think about how much you spend on yourself, this is nothing compared to the sushi dinner you splurged on last weekend (guilty).
To put this into perspective, here is a figure to show how DIY raw compares to other foods on the market. I based the types of food from standard brands on the market, if you want to know which ones specifically, send me a message! From working in the pet food industry, I have a pretty good interpretation of the different levels of quality:
As you can see, wet food is the most expensive way to feed with not even half the benefits of a raw diet. It is literally twice as expensive. Convenient yes, but more convenient than even freeze-dried at ⅔ the cost? And those complaining about vet-prescribed food costs? Yes, it is more expensive than a commercial frozen raw. Kick the bag out, it’s not worth it!
Two weeks ahead of prep day
It is important to make sure you freeze fresh raw meat from the store for at least 1 week before you feed it to your pet. As humans, we cook this food and subsequently kill harmful bacteria that can be on the meat (and yes, its on there). Even though your animal is equipped to handle bacteria like Salmonella, you do want to control this as much as possible as several other pathogens can still be on the meat.
This is why having a chest freezer is a nice thing to have as buying in bulk can clog up your personal freezer! We got this one
Two days ahead of prep day
One note I found to be helpful is to thaw any raw meaty bones or fish individually ahead of time. This will make it a whole lot easier for you to separate what you need while prepping and make it go a lot faster. I recommend placing them side by side on a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper to prevent sticking and letting them refreeze overnight. Once frozen, place in a bag and label with the date!
Putting it all together
This is the easy part. Line all of your prep containers in a row and get out your first package of meat.
Cut up the meat into small, even minced pieces of meat. Every cat is different. If your cat does not automatically go for chunks of meat (which they probably won’t), cut it up into very small pieces, or consider just getting a grinder and eliminate this step completely!
Place the meat on your scale in a tared bowl and measure enough for one days worth. I do this as I get the bigger containers and then you can thaw them a little easier and keep things more organized.
Continue this process for your muscle meat, heart, liver, and other organs.
Make sure to label each container with the amount of food (1 day, 1 meal, etc) as well as the date you prepped it so you can use them accordingly.
Do not add the supplements. Supplements can be heavily affected by temperature and moisture so it is imperative that these are fed fresh immediately before serving. I used the mortar and pestle to grind up mine into a fine powder and mix in with some muscle meat to make sure he eats it
Take the next day’s meal out from the freezer and place in the fridge ahead of time to give your meals enough time to thaw. Do not thaw out on the counter top as that may cause dangerous bacteria to grow.
My cat won’t eat it!
Keep in mind that this will not happen overnight. It is important to be patient with your cat and try a bunch of different things.
If you are already transitioned to raw: Try adding small chunks into their meals gradually increasing that amount.
You can also try grinding, mincing, and adding water to create different textures. Your cat might like something you least expect!
If you are feeding canned: Follow the instructions above for a raw diet, but do this over a slower period of time as you will need to adjust for the diet and gut change.
If you are feeding kibble: I think it is a lot easier to transition to a high quality wet or freeze-dried raw diet first, and then transition into a frozen raw diet. The reason for this is that if your cat is not over the moon excited for a wet meal, it might take even longer to get them to eat raw. I will create transition guides for all of these in the future so stay tuned!
What the heck do I do about this bone?
Raw meaty bones are essential for key nutrients and should not be excluded if possible. They can include:
If your cat looks at a raw meaty bone with a look of confusion, consider breaking it up a bit as much as you can (especially feet as the skin can be underwhelming)
Holding the bone in your hand and offering it to your cat will let them investigate it more without getting themselves dirty and start them licking it and hopefully chewing.
Always supervise raw meaty bone consumption if your cat is not very familiar
This will allow you to make sure they do not choke on pieces that are too big or too small
Your cat might get tired from chewing if they are not completely used to chewing that much for their food. That’s okay! Throw out the rest of the bone and do more the next day!
Now let’s get that bread…
From our experience with DIY, it was definitely manageable. We live very busy lives and we still took out two hours on a Sunday to prep everything. It is a great way to really take charge of your pets health and customized meal plans like what I got through Karmavore Nutrition really make it easy to feel comfortable that your meals are balanced. We will definitely be doing more DIY with Loki and Lambeau (puppy incoming!) but we also like the convenience of pre-made when we are feeling lazy!
Have questions? Leave a comment or send an e-mail!
This was not a sponsored post by any companies or affiliations. All opinions are my own. I am not a veterinarian and cannot provide medical advice. Please contact your holistic or integrative veterinarian if you have any immediate concerns.
1) Billinghurst, Ian. The Barf Diet. Warrigal Publishing, 2016.