Our DIY Raw Experience

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!

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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:

  1. Sharp knife

  2. Meat specific cutting board

  3. Latex gloves

  4. Mortar and Pestle

  5. Animal-safe disinfectant

  6. Gram scale

  7. Apron if you want it

  8. A chest freezer

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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)

-Heart

-Liver

-Raw meaty bone

A few things to keep in mind when looking for meat for your animal:

  1. 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

  2.  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.

  3. 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:

  1. 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!

  2. Asian grocery stores - Although the quality is not as great, this is perfect for almost anything you could need - for super cheap!

  3. Butcher shops - You can get animals whole or special organs if you need them.

  4. 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:

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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. 

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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:

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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!

Smelt, a great source of Omega 3’s, are very cheap and easy to feed to cats

Smelt, a great source of Omega 3’s, are very cheap and easy to feed to cats

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.

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. Continue this process for your muscle meat, heart, liver, and other organs.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

    That’s 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.

A fully frozen meal, making its way to the fridge for tomorrow

A fully frozen meal, making its way to the fridge for tomorrow

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!

Holding the item allows your cat to inspect it without committing

Holding the item allows your cat to inspect it without committing

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:

    • Chicken necks

    • Chicken backs

    • Chicken feet

    • Chicken wings

    • Duck Feet

    • Duck Necks

    • Quail

  • 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…

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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!

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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.

The Dangers of a Dry Diet

Why is it that the top medical professionals in the world recommend a diet rich with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods while the veterinarian community is one of the last groups of health and wellness professionals suggesting just the opposite? Traditional vets are taught to only recommend highly processed foods for the animals entire life. To never promote fresh foods as a means of a healthy life. But cats and dogs have NEVER eaten this way. Until now.

The domestic cat, Felis catus, has been in existence for over 4,000 years and you’re trying to tell me that their biological requirements have changed so much within the past 100 years since kibble has been invented that they can ONLY eat the same flavor of starch balls for every meal for every day of their entire life?

I’m sure.


Cats have evolved eating a diet primarily of small rodents, birds, and some insects. Therefore, their diet is mostly meat, bone, organ, and whatever was in their prey stomach, mostly consisting of small amounts of pre-digested starches. Most importantly for today’s house cats, this prey had a natural moisture content of 60-70%. It is logical to assume then, to maintain proper organ function, and optimum health, that the food we feed our pets should be around 60-70% moisture.


Dry food has a maximum moisture content of 12%.



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Not only do dry cat foods have extremely low moisture content, but they are extremely high in carbohydrates. Compared to a raw diet, which is almost no carbohydrates, its no wonder why 1 in 2 cats in the U.S. suffer from obesity.

If there is one thing that could prevent a multitude of ailments for your cat in the long run, providing a moisture rich diet is one of them.

Here is just a short list of ailments that can be eased by pumping up the moisture:

  • Obesity

  • IBD

  • Periodontal Disease

  • Hairballs

  • Urinary Tract Infections

  • Kidney Stones

  • Crystals

  • Chronic Vomiting

  • Kidney Failure

Cats are desert animals. Thriving on a meat-based diet, they naturally have a low-thirst drive. As there was little evolutionary pressure to develop such a drive, cats that do not receive this moisture in their food are therefore chronically dehydrated. Cats on a dry diet will consume half the amount of water as those on a wet or raw diet. The amount of water that needs to be ingested to make up for that loss in hydration is 7-9 ounces per day.

It takes a cat 2,200 licks to drink just 2 ounces of water.



Urinary tract problems are some of the most prevalent issues facing chronically dehydrated cats. They are painful, sometimes hard to diagnose early on, and can be life threatening if left undiagnosed. Cats fed a low moisture diet forces the kidneys to concentrate urine to retain as much moisture as possible for proper hydration of the body. This concentrated urine contains minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and ammonium, the components in struvite crystals. Crystals can build up in the urinary tract causing pain, discomfort, and eventually, blockages.

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The urinary tract designed dry foods you see on the shelf are one of the most harmful marketing ploys conducted by a major institution facing cats today. These foods have added acidifiers to decrease the pH of the urine (DL-methionine or ammonium chloride). Also, the amount of magnesium is reduced in the hope that struvite crystals won’t be able to form without it. Besides the fact that this will increase the chances of calcium oxalate stones forming, magnesium is critical for forming bones, teeth, and other metabolic processes.

Having a male cat, I also feel obliged to point out that male cats are prone to urinary tract issues due to the small diameter of their urethras. Fortunately, balanced raw diets provide a natural pH of 6.5 without compromising on magnesium.

Not only are urinary tract problems something to splash about, but 70% of cats will develop periodontal disease by the age of 3. If kibble “cleans their teeth” then I am throwing away my toothbrush and my floss and binging this bag of cheetos. High levels of simple sugars provide easy dinner for biofilm-forming bacteria causing plaque and eventually, tartar. Dental cleaning under anesthesia or tooth pulling have become the norm. Am I to assume that cats went to the dentist once a year for a check up before kibible was invented?


Cats are obligate carnivores, and should be treated as such. A diet high in moisture is more than crucial for a healthy lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, a commercial raw diet is 150% cheaper than an all human-grade canned food diet (calculations made with specific natural brands for a 10 lb cat - message me for deets). The smallest amount counts. More info to come regarding the deets of an affordable raw diet!





Disclaimer: This post is meant to educate on the topic of cat nutritional requirements. This is not intended to offend or belittle pet owners that feed a dry or lower quality food. Whatever is within your means is good enough! There are many ways to make small improvements in your cats nutrition! If your limits are extreme but you would still like to make a difference, feel free to contact me or your local integrative veterinarian.

What Are Enzymes and Why Should You Care?

*Flashback to 8th grade science class*

One of the biggest components in digestion are enzymes.

Enzymes are large chains of amino acids that speed up the rate of chemical reactions within the body. They are especially important in metabolism and digestion as they are the only substance that can digest food small enough to pass through the gastrointestinal wall so the body can use it.

You are probably familiar with a lot of them already! Lipases break down fats, proteases breakdown protein, and carbohydrases break down starches and sugars. No matter what we eat, enzymes are there to help us through (sorry about that WHOLE PIZZA last night, gut).

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There are three kinds of enzymes

  1. Food enzymes: occur naturally in foods. They basically give you a head start

  2. Digestive enzymes: produced by the body to break food particles apart small enough to be usable

  3. Metabolic enzymes: produced by the body for biochemical reactions (go cells, go!)

Now.. here’s the thing:

Enzymes are deactivated or destroyed at temperatures above 118 to 170 degrees F.

(In reality, it is actually the physical shape of the enzyme that changes with the change of bonds promoted by the increase in energy (heat). This changes that puzzle piece rendering it non-functional.)

All kibble and canned food is cooked at or above this temperature range. Extruded kibble is a whopping 500 degrees!

There are no enzymes in processed cat and dog foods.

This is what made me set on raw feeding.

This processing creates a deficiency for some amino acids AND forces the digestive enzymes to do all the work, putting strain on the pancreas to make essential amino acids and other enzymes. This can lead to inflammation of the pancreas, pancreatitis. Improper diet such as a kibble high in starch already creates a low-grade chronic inflammatory response and poor gut health.

With inhibited ability to properly absorb nutrients through the gut wall, how can one attempt to thrive? To heal?

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pH Matters

A meat based diet stimulates chemoreceptors in the stomach to release the gastric juices keeping the stomach environment around 1-2 pH. Digestive enzymes function better within this range meaning you get more nutrients from the food! When a high carbohydrate meal is introduced, these receptors aren’t stimulated and do not produce that acidic environment. The food/acid mix that leaves the stomach is known as chyme, and triggers another response in the small intestine for the flow of pancreatic enzymes continuing the digestive process. This snowball effect is essential in your cats efficient digestion process. Improper pH from the start can impair absorption throughout the whole process!

 

It is also important to note that not all processing is created equal.

In an effort to combat bacterial contamination, many raw companies have initiated the use of High Pressure Pasteurization (HPP). During this process, high hydrostatic pressure (think, surrounded by a ton of water) is uniformily applied to all sides of the product. The process successfully eliminates pathogenic microbes including Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli. Depending on the amount of pressure, research has demonstrated that enzymes denature and good bacteria can be destroyed during this process. HPP-adulterated food is essentially sterile; void of natural bacteria essential for a healthy gut microbiome. Your cat has the ability to consume “bad bacteria” without any issues for the most part (count how many times your kitty licks his butt every day). Bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli already exist within their digestive tracts aiding in digestion. High Pressure Pasteurized food is an adulteration to the naturally occuring enzymes and bacteria present in the food. Contrary to popular belief, unadulterated raw pet food is safer than canned food and kibble when it comes to contamination. More to come on this topic!

It is important to note that HPP is not always the enemy. HPP raw food is a great place to start if you are hesitant about the safety of raw food or your household contains immunocompromised individuals (very young, very old, and the sick). Although, I would not worry about any contamination through feeding a raw diet as long as you are exhibiting safe food handling and sourcing your food from organic, human grade ingredients.


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Evidence of an enzyme deficiency include chronic inflammation, indigestion, leaky gut, and inflammatory bowel disease. On a more day to day basis, common signs include digestive upset, gas, diarrhea, bloating, and excess fat or grease in stool. If you have a young animal, you may not notice any change in vitality immediately upon switching to raw. Conversely, elderly animals’ ability to secrete enzymes gradually reduces. Therefore, adding fresh, whole foods into the diet will be extremely beneficial, to the point of immediate improvement.

What are some ways to get me more enzymes?

I’m so glad you asked!

  1. Eat a fresh, raw, whole foods diet!

  2. Add a digestive enzyme supplement, I like this one!

  3. Use non-HPP foods (or rotate between HPP and not HPP!)

  4. Raw Goat’s Milk like this and this

  5. Supplement with raw treats - I have found that these and these work for picky cats!


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Gut Queen

There are many ways to increase your babies ability to reap the benefits of their food! Enzymes are sometimes a long forgotton friend. Everyone has the ability to make a difference whether its adding goats milk to kibble, sprinkling on some enzymes, or rotating your brand! Healthy gut, here we come!

https://www.foodenzymeinstitute.com/content/Why-Food-Enzymes-are-Important.aspx