If you have an indoor cat, the short answer to this question is: Probably not. Cats, as we all know, have an innate self-cleaning system that is much more efficient than anything we mere humans could devise. Unless your indoor cat gets into something toxic, which most likely will not occur if you have "cat-proofed" your home, your feline will probably be able to live a long, happy life without ever being subjected to this indignity. This is a good thing for both of you, since cats really don't like being bathed. The only exception I can think of is show cats, who would be trained early on to at least tolerate a bath now and then, even if they don't actively enjoy it!
Outdoor cats, however, are another matter. The most common reason for bathing a cat is flea infestation. Another is cat fights. Males often come home covered in saliva, dirt, and blood. A gentle bathing will remove all these nasties, and clean any wounds as well. Wandering cats are also apt to get into all sorts of things that they shouldn't. Some of these are toxic, such as paint, motor oil, anti-freeze, fertilizers and pesticides. Cats can get these things on their paws just by checking out the neighborhood on their daily rounds. When they clean themselves, they can ingest these poisons and become ill. Always check your cat's paws when he comes in, and keep a moist washcloth to wipe his paws (this also will keep your floors cleaner!).
If the time comes when you need to give kitty a good scrubbing, here are a few tips. It will be easier on your back to use a double sink rather than the bathtub. Gently lift your pet into the sink, which you have already filled with a couple inches of warm water. Cooing constantly, use your hands to wet the cat's fur completely. If you know that your cat will tolerate the sprayer, you may use it; otherwise, it's probably best not to chance it! Use a gentle, low-fragrance shampoo. There is no need to use flea soap; fleas will drown in the soapy water anyway. Keep water and soap away from your cat's ears, mouth and eyes. I have read tips that suggest putting a bit of petroleum jelly in the corner of each eye to keep soap out, but cats really dislike this and will paw at their faces to try to remove it. Just be very careful to only bathe from the neck down, and you should be fine.
When it is time to rinse, use the standing water to remove as much soap as you can, squeegee the cat's fur with your hands, and lift kitty into the other sink. You should have a few inches of warm rinse water here already, to finish the job. I don't recommend draining the water until later, as this often frightens cats. Have a large, absorbent towel to wrap him in which will absorb most of the moisture. Take him into a warm room, perhaps pre-warmed with a space heater, and let him lick himself dry. This may take a while, so leave a litter box and drinking water in there with him. Most cats don't like hair dryers, but you can try using one on very low heat to speed the process a bit, if kitty doesn't mind.
Once you have experienced bathing a cat, chances are you won't want to repeat it. The best way to avoid going through this again? Keep your cat(s) indoors!
Monday, November 30, 2009 11:06 AM
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 3:31 PM
The choice of whether to get a male or female pet cat is a personal one. If you are considering getting a cat and are unsure which gender would suit you best, then here is my advice: Get one of each!
Seriously, I always advocate getting more than one cat, and keeping them indoors. If you truly love cats, you probably have already decided to get at least one of each gender. If you are still unsure, let me tell you that there are differences in personality between males and females. Is one better than the other? I don't think so; they each have their own special characteristics which make them the lovable creatures they are. I can tell you from experience that when you put these traits together by getting both genders in one household, it really does double the enjoyment for you!
Some people prefer male cats because they think they are cheaper to neuter than females and are more independent and able to take care of themselves. The costs of spaying and neutering are a bit different, but not enough to base a longtime relationship upon! Also, I would argue that females are perhaps more independent than males, since the responsibility of kitten-rearing falls on them almost exclusively. I believe this also makes females more cautious than males, and more adept at averting danger. If, say, a strange dog comes into your house, both the female and male cats will run and hide. I'll bet anything, though, that you'll find the hiding place of the males more quickly than that of the females!
Sometimes people think that by getting only female cats, they will avoid the whole male-domination thing that happens in a "mixed" household. You'll avoid only the "male" part, though, since a hierarchy will still develop (as it must), only one of the females will be the Top Cat. Also, even though females can be laid-back, males have that down to a science. They are also more lovey-dovey with their owners. Females, in my experience, are just as loving as males. However, they often need to be "in the mood" (sound familiar, guys?) for affection, while males are always ready for a cuddle. You'll miss out on that if you opt for an all-female household.
So, as in most things, you'll never know how good something can be until you try it. So, get ye to the olde shelter and pick up a male and female pair of cats (litter mates would be even more fun). You'll never look back, believe me!
Happy Thanksgiving and don't forget to share the turkey with the cats!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009 1:38 PM
Just as someone has said that all they needed to know in life they learned in kindergarten, I believe that we can take what we learn from animals and apply it to human behavior. Thus, many years ago, I came up with what I call the theory of the "Only Kitty". This idea comes from observances of my cats' interaction with each other, as well as with J. and myself. It goes like this: When there is more than one cat in a household, everything has to be shared. These "things" that must be shared are food, sleeping quarters (even though this encompasses the entire house), treats, toys and, importantly, attention from the humans. Do cats like sharing these things? Of course not--and this is where the theory comes in.
Each cat will want to be the Only Kitty, maybe not all of the time, but at least some of the time. Do you have to feed your cats separately? I do. Otherwise thievery will occur--not because they are starving, but because each one wants it all, and each wants the others to know he/she could pull it off. Bear, being the alpha cat, can make either one of the others give up their napping spot, for instance, but it's a free-for-all when it comes to food!
You can really see this theory in action when it comes to cuddle-time. Bear, of course, demands the most attention and usually gets it. We try to be fair, but, well, you can't pet another cat and ignore Bear, because that other cat will pay the price later. So, Bear becomes the Only Kitty, temporarily, at least. Little Girl will wait until the boys are really snoozing, then she will loudly demand attention. She knows she can get away with being the Only Kitty at certain times, and she takes full advantage of it!
You can see this behavior in humans every day. How many kids from medium-to-large families envy "only children"? There is always a competition going on for the parents' approval, among other things. I would extrapolate further and say that corporations are the biggest practitioners of this theory: What company wouldn't want to be the only supplier of any given commodity or service? Monopoly, the true goal of capitalism, definitely makes your business the "Only Kitty"!
So, I guess if I had to come up with a definition of my theory, it would be, "The desire to have all the stuff"--where "stuff" could mean anything from love to money. What are the usual reasons for waging war, for instance? To get other countries' stuff, of course! See? This theory is utilitarian and universal!
The next time you read news articles about corporate greed, invasions by larger countries of smaller ones to "stabilize" them or even crimes caused by sexual jealousy, just see if you don't think: "S/he wanted to be the Only Kitty". I'll bet you do!
Monday, November 23, 2009 12:11 PM
Cold and flu season is upon us, and the additional threat of swine flu (H1N1) makes the issue of disease prevention especially pertinent. Colds and influenza can be quite easily passed on by you to your cat, however unwittingly. I just read an article in the newspaper which reported a case of H1N1 in a 13-year old cat in Iowa. Her owners has been infected with swine flu. Both people and cat recovered, but I thought this to be a timely discussion, so here we are!
Many people may not realize how easily pathogens can be transferred between themselves and their pets. Having a background in pre-veterinary studies, I may know a bit more about zoonoses (diseases transmissible between people and animals and vice versa) than the average person. I have always been very careful whenever I am ill to give the cats a wide berth. The lack of smooching and snuggling is made up by much lying about on the couch with soft blankets which the cats can lie on and burrow under.
Cats are particularly susceptible to upper respiratory diseases, for some reason. Also, the all-over licking method of bathing themselves gives germs a perfect point of entry from anywhere on the cat's body. Knowing this, be sure to practice your normal hygienic rituals with a bit of extra caution. Try not to touch your cats any more than necessary (I know, it's difficult), and be sure to wash your hands before doing so. Ditto for their meal preparation. Sneeze and cough into the crook of your arm to avoid releasing germs into the air. If you have young cats that tend to be waste-basket divers, be sure to dispose of used tissues where they cannot get to them.
If your cats sleep with you, it might be a good idea to have them sleep elsewhere for a few nights, just in case. If it is too difficult for either of you to sleep apart, it will probably be fine if they sleep at the foot of the bed. If they hang out around your head, though, other arrangements will have to be made until you are non-contagious. Even if you get a flu shot, be aware that everyone may shed viruses for a few days after an inoculation, so use caution around kitty!
Hopefully, both you and your cat will enjoy a healthy winter season. If, despite your best efforts, you do become ill, a little extra effort on your part should prevent your sickness from spreading to your cat (as well as other members of your household). As we all know, it's bad enough to be sick ourselves, but we feel really terrible when our pets are sick! As they say, an ounce of prevention...
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 10:30 AM
Now that you've decided to share your life with cats, all you need to do is come up with a number. Do you want only one cat, or two? How about three? Before you go to the animal shelter, you should give this matter some consideration. While it's great to be flexible and just "wing it", be assured that you will love every cat you see when you go shopping, and you can't take them all!
For many years, I had only one cat at a time. Of course, I was living in apartments where no pets were allowed, so technically, that was one cat too many. When J. and I got married, I brought my illegal cat Sweet Pea to our new home. Shortly thereafter, Min, a stray living at the shop were J. worked, came to live with us, too. I can say that I have never gone back to having only one cat, once I discovered the joys of the multi-cat household. Even though they have occasional disagreements (just like people), I believe cats are happier living with other cats. For us, of course, watching them interact is a real riot at times, too!
So, my advice is: Take home at least two cats. They will keep each other company when you are not around, and watching them play is really entertaining. Plus, if you live with a partner, you can each say you have your own cat! Additionally, you will know that you have given an extra one or two deserving animals a home that they may not have gotten otherwise.
Before you go to the shelter, make your decision about how many cats you plan to bring home. Get the appropriate number of litter boxes, and set them up before you leave so that you can give them their first lesson in box etiquette as soon as you all get home. Have a good supply of food, and fill the water bowl. After a few days together, it will be like you've been pals all your lives! Enjoy!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 2:43 PM
If you already have cats, then you know the answer to this question. But what if you are just now considering getting a pet, and aren't sure whether a cat is the right choice? Here are some things to consider before making that very important decision to share your life with a cat.
You want a pet with an independent streak. Cats, though very lovable, are different from dogs in that they don't require constant attention. Although they love being with you, they don't feel the need to "check" on you constantly, and don't always need to be assured of your love. They know you love them--they're cats!
You are willing to spay/neuter your cat. Even indoor cats need to be spayed and neutered. If you don't, they will drive themselves and you crazy with their natural urge to procreate. Also, if there are a mix of males and females in the house, there will be kittens. Cats that have been "fixed" are also much less apt to try to get outdoors in order to answer the "call of the wild".
You have decided to make your cat an indoor pet. Indoor cats live longer, healthier lives. If you pay lots of attention to them and keep them active with playthings such as paper grocery sacks, wads of paper, etc. they will get plenty of exercise and won't even miss going out. Owning an indoor cat is much less stressful for you, as well. You won't have to worry about them getting in fights, being chased by dogs, getting hit by cars, getting fleas and other parasites or being carried off by wild animals. Plus, their fur stays clean and soft!
You don't mind putting up with cat hair everywhere. This is a fact of life when you have cats around. Feeding a premium or homemade diet and grooming your cat will keep shedding to a minimum. Get a good vacuum, and keep a supply of lint brushes around. This should keep things under control.
You don't have expensive furnishings or are willing to keep them covered if you do. Keeping your cat's claws trimmed will help with destructive clawing of furnishings, as will giving them alternatives such as scratching posts to use. Our cats use the berber carpeting as well as hardwood posts down cellar, but they still scratch inappropriately once in a while. There's no avoiding this altogether if you have cats. And, please, do not consider declawing; it is very cruel. Just remember that dogs (and children!) can also ruin things around the house. Houses are for living in, after all.
The sound of a cat purring is music to your ears. Believe me, there is nothing like a soft, purring cat keeping your lap warm. Nothing works better to make the cares and stresses of the day lift from your shoulders. Plus, research shows that petting a cat lowers your blood pressure and cortisol levels without side effects!
If you agree with the above statements, then you've probably decided that a cat is in your future. Now, the question is: One cat, or two? We'll explore that topic tomorrow, so tune in.
Monday, November 16, 2009 11:03 AM
When you've had cats around as long as I have, you tend to notice subtle differences between certain types. I don't say "breeds", because all of my cats have been the Heinz 57 variety. That said, I do feel very secure saying that gold tabbies have some characteristics that set them apart from all other cats.
One thing I noticed a long time ago is that the majority of gold cats tend to be male. Not to say that there are not females in this group. They're just less common. I think others know this, as well, hence the term, "marmalade tom". Despite the fact that the color scheme can run the gamut from an almost cinnamon hue to more of a buff color, they do seem to fall into two categories: Tough Guys and Big Babies (these are my terms). Whichever one you have in your life, though, be assured that underneath, they have a common trait of being very mellow cats.
The Tough Guys are often the alpha cat in a multi-cat household. If they are outdoor cats, they prevail in cat fights more often than not. With people, though, they are very loving and even-tempered. They love attention, and lean toward being lap cats. My first gold guy came to us from an abusive household. Despite this history, the only thing that made him nervous was seeing a pair of men's shoes. Luckily, he got over this quickly and became a very mellow fellow.
Currently, we have one of the Big Baby types, as does our pal, Miss P. Both our Goldie and her Punkin are indoor cats, so there are no worries about them getting into scrapes with other males. The first inkling I had that Goldie was not a Tough Guy was when the Bear became the top cat. Goldie is just fine with being number two! This type is also very mellow, but seem to retain their kittenish ways into old age. Goldie still gallops around, playing happily by himself if the others are napping. Their faces also seem to retain the big-eyed, kitten look all their lives, and they seem more capable than other cats of making funny faces. This probably accounts for the fact that you see photos of gold cats on cards and calendars more often than other color cats!
Gold guys also seem be better hunters than other male cats. Every now and then, a mouse finds its way into Miss P.'s old home, and Punkin is right on it (her other cat, Molly, is content to watch). In our house, we call Goldie the "spider hunter". They are his favorite snack, and he can spot one at 500 paces. Try as I might to rescue the poor creatures, Goldie usually has wolfed down his prey by the time I get there!
But don't take my word for it. Visit your neighborhood shelter and pick one out for yourself. Believe me, you'll never regret it!
Movie of the Week: The Taking of Pelham, 123 starring John Travolta and Denzel Washington. As good as the original, and much better than the remake of the 1970s. Really edge-of-your-seat stuff. Enjoy!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 9:01 PM
If you are still seriously considering feeding a homemade raw or cooked diet for your cat, I strongly suggest that you do your own research on the subject. It is all well and good for one person to give advice on a subject, but I believe it is only possible to make a well-informed decision on anything by reading all you can about it, both pro and con, and then figuring out how you feel about it. I do believe that either homemade diet is superior to anything commercial, even prescription diets. You need to discover for yourself how and why this is so, and understand biologically why cats, just like humans, "are what (they) eat".
That said, I do have a few tips that I will pass on in regards to homemade cat food, some of which I read about and others I discovered on my own. I've already mentioned the protein factor in homemade cat food, and I would like to extrapolate on that. First, don't substitute tofu for part of the protein. This is OK for dogs, whose protein requirements are not as stringent as those for cats, who of course would never eat such a thing in the wild. Also, tofu is bean curd, which could possibly cause intestinal upset. Also, never give cats raw egg whites (yolks are OK). I cook the whole thing in with the food, which works great. Raw albumen contains a substance called avidin, which prevents the absorption of B vitamins.
As I've mentioned previously, I don't add bone meal to the cat's food for the calcium component, due to the lead contamination issue. I use ground eggshell powder, which I make myself. I rinse the eggshells really well, then freeze them until I have a baggie full. I cook them at 300 degrees F for 10 minutes to dry them and kill any bacteria. Then, I grind them in a coffee grinder. A large ground eggshell contains about 2,000 mg. of calcium and 75 mg. of phosphorus, which is a good ratio for cats. I don't add this to the pot of food, but use it as the base for a daily supplement I make for my cats.
Whenever you cook meat for your cat, it is very important not to throw out any broth or drippings, as this is where the amino acid taurine will escape to. Cats with a taurine deficiency will develop serious eye and heart problems. I add taurine to the supplement that I give to my cats, as well.
If you decide to change your cat to a homemade diet, you will never regret it. I have a friend who has many cats, and she uses the food I make to treat elderly cats for a variety of problems such as hyperthyroid and chronic diarrhea. She claims it works better than prescription cat food and drugs, combined!
Just So You Know: For healthy cats, the stool becomes small and odor-free, since there is so little in the diet that the cat's body cannot use. What a bonus!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 1:00 PM
Now that you have decided to start feeding your cats a homemade, cooked food diet, let's talk about exactly what this entails.
First of all, many people make the mistake of assuming that since cats are obligate carnivores, all they need to eat is meat, and nothing else. This is a mistake that can cause multiple health problems for your cat. Whether you decide upon a raw food or cooked diet, cats need more than meat in their diets. Of course, the cat food manufacturers tell us that cats love meat (true, of course) and then go on to create dry cat food which is anything but meat. When you open a can of cat food, it looks like meat and nothing else, right? But we all know all of the nasty additives that are found in these products, many of which are not even related to food (like melamine!). Therefore, we need to take our cue from nature, as well as those who understand cats and their nutritional needs, rather than corporations.
That said, let's talk specifics. How much of this diet should be made up of meat? Most texts will tell you to use 60% protein (meat), 20% vegetables and 20% grains. The protein portion can be made up of mostly meat (recommended) as well as eggs and organs. You can be a little bit loose with these percentages, but they are all necessary. I'm not sure that my recipe follows them all that closely, but it works very well, so I keep on keepin' on.
By taking one bit of advice here and another there, I figured out the recipe I now use. I buy whole chickens, since this is the best and most bio-available protein for cats (turkey runs a close second). I put approximately one pound of another type of meat in each batch just for a bit of variety: Beef, pork, gizzards, heart, liver, etc. Of course, all the "guts" that come with the bird go in the pot, as well. I usually toss in a few eggs, as they are a good, cheap protein that really helps thicken the broth, too. Brown rice, barley, oatmeal--these are good, easily digested carbohydrates that need to be added into the mix. Cover with water, simmer on low heat for about 50 minutes--hey, it's chicken stew! Last thing, I throw in a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, just so they are lightly cooked.
Once I remove the bones, the whole pot of goodies goes into the food processor, then freezer-safe containers. I take them out to thaw as I need them, so they're always fresh. Easy as pie!
Tomorrow, I'll discuss more cat nutrition tips to go along with your new homemade cat diet!
Monday, November 9, 2009 1:49 PM
What do you do if you're dissatisfied with commercial canned cat food but not wild about trying a raw food diet? Well, you cook for your cat, of course!
I know this sounds like a lot of work and maybe just a little bit crazy, but bear with me. I have been doing this for nearly three years now and, even though it is tons of work, I feel that it is well worth it. Of course, I work from home and don't have kids around, so I have a bit more time than many of you. I also have a background in veterinary science and animal care, so I had some of the research material I needed right on my bookshelf. I can tell you, though, that anyone determined enough can do this. As for the time involved, well, I've learned that time is an elastic thing: When you need to get something done, you manage to do just that. People who work outside of the home full-time often seem to get more done in a day than people like myself, simply because they have to be more organized. As a wise woman I worked with for many years used to say, "If you want something done, ask a busy person."
What do I mean when I say that cooking food for cats is "well worth it"? As I have mentioned before, the three cats that live here are litter mates and are 12.5 years old. If you saw them, you wouldn't believe it! At this moment, they are downstairs raising a ruckus because they think I am overdue feeding them (they're not used to the time change yet!). They keep running up here to yell at me, then fly down the stairs when I act as if I'm getting up. Every night between 8 and 9 p.m., they all wake up from their naps and go berserk, just like youngsters. They still jump and land easily and run and play like kittens. They have no skin problems and their fur is soft as silk. To what do I attribute all this? Diet, of course!
Was it hard to change them over to the homemade food? No, not at all. They were all indoor cats all their lives and I always fed them a premium diet, so their health was excellent to start with. I would add a little more into the bowl at each meal. Do they like it? Absolutely. They are fed at proscribed times, but they start nagging about an hour early, since they love it so much. There's an added benefit: They get lots of exercise while they're bugging me for meals!
Over the next few posts, I'll talk about what you need to know to get started cooking for your cat.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009 4:05 PM
As the melamine-tainted pet food scandal was unfolding, I decided to forgo commercial cat food entirely and start preparing my cats' food at home. I read many, many books on the subject of feline nutrition, some of them veterinary texts. Basically, my choices boiled down to two: Raw food or cooked. After much research, I finally came up with the cooked diet my cats have been eating for the past 3 years. Before that, however, I tried raw food.
The biggest problem with the raw food is that my cats didn't like it. One problem is that there really isn't any "aroma" to it. Think about a cat eating its prey. There's the excitement and physical activity associated with the hunt. The prey definitely has its own smell, exciting the senses further. The flesh is warm and fresh. A much different scenario than a bowl of raw stuff being plopped down in front of you in the kitchen! Personally, I think a cat raised on raw food will accept it better than one who has not, but that's my opinion.
Another problem I had was the actual ingredients. In order to mimic the prey scenario, most texts proposed buying a whole bird and grinding it all up (bones and all) and then adding something like 20% vegetables and 10-20% carbohydrates (rice and/or grains). The grains have to be cooked, and the veggies are better off being blanched. You need a pretty brawny meat grinder to grind up a whole chicken! In lieu of that technique, you could buy already-ground poultry and add bone meal. Most bone meal is made from beef bones, though, and is contaminated with lead since bones tend to be the repository of ingested heavy metals. Alternately, you can use ground up eggshells (which I do).
The problem with buying ground poultry is that contamination can occur through this process. Almost all the meat that is recalled for this reason is ground up, and the machinery spreads the pathogens to each successive batch. Cats are more resistant to E. Coli and Salmonellae than we are, but you are still putting them and yourself at risk. Since you won't be cooking it, problem batches can become deadly very quickly. Even under normal circumstances, you must always freeze what you are not using, only leaving enough in the fridge for a day or two of feeding. If you forget to thaw it, well, you wind up cooking it, or the cats go hungry!
As you can see, a raw diet is about as much work as a cooked diet. If you are considering this change for your cats, I suggest doing lots and lots of research first. One book I found very helpful (and full of the cutest cat photos) is Whole Health for Happy Cats by Sandy Arora. You will need to consult more books than this, but this one is a good start.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009 12:46 PM
Let's take a look at some of the facts and opinions regarding BARF, or raw food, diets and try to figure out whether or not this type of feeding is really a good alternative to commercial cat foods, shall we?
Proponents who swear by this diet use history to make their case, as well as observable physical improvements in the subject animals. First, their argument that wild cats eat raw food (prey), therefore domesticated cats should also eat raw food, does have some truth to it. What an animal naturally gravitates toward is often the best thing for it. The problem is that wild cats are not always in peak condition. This could be due to many factors, of course, but the point is that there really is no control group to compare them with. So, one can never be sure exactly what is being measured.
Those who feed their cats a raw food diet often boast of healthy teeth and gums, a fine, soft coat of fur, fewer skin problems, small, scent-free stool, no urinary tract diseases, etc. These are observable improvements that would be more like what cat lovers would be looking for when trying to decide if this diet is worth the trouble. J. knows a woman who has fed all of her cats this type of diet since kittenhood, and they live into old age with few health problems. This type of testimonial makes me believe that there are definite positive aspects to this diet.
Then there are those who feel that this diet is unhealthful, even dangerous. Many feel that feeding any kind of bones to cats is not smart. There is also the question of contamination of raw meat with E. Coli and Salmonellae. Cats have a much higher resistance to these organisms than humans, for obvious reasons. Therefore, the risk is more to you than your cat. If you prepare and serve the food carefully, however, you can effectively nullify those risks.
Other groups that voice opposition are the commercial food manufacturers and veterinarians. They claim that these diets are not nutritionally complete, as they do not conform to AAFCO standards. If you have read other posts here, however, you know that these industry standards really mean nothing and that commercial food is much more wanting in the nutritional profile department than homemade food could ever be. As for veterinarians, some may just be erring on the side of caution, while others, who sell prescription pet food for profit through their practices, cannot be expected to bite the hand that feeds them.
Still thinking of going "raw"? Tune in tomorrow, when I'll weigh the pros and cons and tell you why I decided to go the "cooked" route. I'll also give you some facts to consider before you start feeding your cat the BARF diet.
Monday, November 2, 2009 1:36 PM
If you have done any research into alternatives to commercially prepared cat food, then you have probably heard of the BARF diet. Alternately described as "biologically appropriate raw food" or "bones and raw food", this diet has been touted as the most natural diet for cats. The idea is based upon the notion that in the wild, cats (and dogs) tend to eat live prey, i.e., mostly meat. Any grains or vegetables they consume are incidental, for the most part comprising the contents of the prey's digestive tract. Since much of this type of diet consists of eating small bones or actively gnawing meat off of larger ones, bones are prominently featured, unlike in other diets.
Dr. Ian Billinghurst, an Australian, is credited with first promoting this type of diet. He claimed that the wild ancestors of domesticated dogs ate raw prey and therefore this was the most natural and healthful diet for dogs. According to Wikipedia, the BARF acronym was not coined by Billinghurst, but by Debra Tripp. It originally meant,"born again raw feeders". After meeting Billinghurst at a seminar, she supposedly gave him permission to use the acronym as he saw fit. He thanked her, and the rest is history, as they say.
Naturally, this regimen has proponents and detractors. Those who favor its positive effect on animals point to the well-known Pottenger studies on cats. Between 1932 and 1942, Dr. Francis Pottenger fed one group of cats cooked food, and another raw food. Those in the first group showed signs of decreased immune function and various diseases that the raw food group did not. It took three generations of raw-food dining to bring that group's immune systems back up to snuff.
Pottenger's study was a long one, and involved nearly one thousand cats. Lest you think him an admirer of felines, know that these were lab cats that he was using for other, unrelated research. He wanted them to live longer and healthier in order to validate his results. Also, despite the claim often made that the cooked diet was well-balanced, this time frame was long before commercial cat diets and therefore any real research on feline nutrition, particularly the roles of proteins and the amino acid taurine. Despite these caveats, it does seem to show that raw food is beneficial to cats.
Tomorrow we'll take a look at the pros and cons of the bones and raw food diet.