Tuesday, November 3, 2009 12:46 PM

Raw Food Diets: Pros and Cons

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.
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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