Input = Output II
A few years after adjusting Lewis’ diet to a more feline appropriate dry food, I became the lucky owner of an elderly diva, named Dana (called Daantje or Dana Banana), an IBD-kitty (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), a disease which rejects food she wasn’t meant eating (according to the body) by vomiting or diarrhoea. She was a rescue living in the clinic I worked in and in need of a home for her last week, month or what turned out to be almost a year; for some reason she took a liking to me. So I took her home – pissing off all the other males in the house now that they weren’t a majority anymore– and got myself further into the wonderful world of cat food.
For Daantje input really wás output. I tried out several kinds of “prescription” foods and the scoring was done quite easily:
It was a long year of taking care of this precious poop-producing princess. When you saw just how tiny she was, you couldn’t believe she could produce that much output, but she did. When she died, I couldn’t bear to paint over the corner wall where she left signs of her time in my home. She did inspire me to look more into feline appropriate food and it turned out that many cats suffered from a form of IBD or other auto-immune disease, such as skin allergies. Furthermore, the feline nót so appropriate food made our city-cats increasingly struggle with obesity and diabetes. Of course, I saw these diseases coming into my clinic, but I never really linked them to the food we fed the cats. And that was when the blinders were removed from my eyes.
A few days before Daantje’s body was too tired to continue living (mind you, the spirit was still very much alive at 18!) I tried a raw meat diet, bought at a vet clinic specialised in natural medicine and Chinese medicine which works according to Hippocrates’ very accurate quote:
“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”
Guess what happened… A few hours after eating the diet, consisting of raw meat, bones, organs and a few added vitamins, Daantje produced an output so beautiful of colour and consistency she and I were both flabbergasted at the sight of it. It was indeed like seeing a unicorn poop ice cream!
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Squatty Potty for pooping like a unicorn :-)
After reading more into this miracle, I found experiences of people whose cats were struggling with similar diseases and were almost instantly cured after switching to a feline appropriate food. This didn’t mean these people were standing in the kitchen daily to ground meat, bones and organs themselves, but they bought frozen pieces of packaged raw meat diets. Just like with eating healthy as a human, this diet needed a little bit more preparation (going to a special pet shop and letting the meat thaw, one piece at a time); more than just buying a simple bag of “kitty crack” at the supermarket. The latter looks cheaper and easier in the short term, but in the long term it will be more efficient as you save on expensive vet bills later in the cat’s life and right away as you have to buy way less litter box filling! I cannot say it has been proven scientifically that the food is better for your cat than dry-food yet but my gut feeling –pun intended- says it will be in about ten years.
I have seen it in both Daantje and Lewis. Not only going one way, from dry food to meat, but also the other way around. Now that I’m moving back and forth a lot, Lewis has been eating a lot more kibbles again, making him gain half a kilo (mind you, that’s approximately 20% of his old weight!!), drinking more water (not a good thing in this case) and producing more poo. And even though it felt like more work in the beginning to thaw the meat daily as opposed to opening up a large bag which you buy every five months, it feels very wrong to give him the dry food. I have become the mother who puts her kid in front of the TV with a bowl of crisps for the sake of ease!
Where the meat comes from is a subject worth writing a whole other article about, but I would recommend an organic meat of a specialist brand and meat of a small animal a cat would also hunt in the wild. Lewis for instance, loves rabbit meat because it’s nice and bloody. He dislikes chicken and almost doesn’t touch cow meat. Although I am (still) not ready to buy him a pretty, yellow feathery friend, many people also feed their cats whole, frozen (male) chicks, which normally would go into the shredder because they're redundant for the egg industry. What I’ve heard is that most cats love it!
When you start feeding your cat the raw meat diet, you’ll notice how your cat starts drinking less. In comparison, dry food consists about 5-10% of moisture, a natural prey about 70-80%. In general cats drink too little because they’re used to getting it from prey, so it’s just best to get her to take in more liquids with the food, such as with a meat diet (more on water intake in the next post).
As with all changes in paradigms, there are always counter arguments, both from the large manufacturers of dry food and vets*. With the raw meat diet the biggest concerns are hygiene and vitamin deficiencies. Unless you have the time to really look into the vitamins a cat needs daily/weekly/monthly, invest in a proper meat grinder and you’re able to find the complements, I would recommend sticking to the pre-composed meat diets from the specialist pet store or vet clinic. Choose a brand which sticks to the (inter-) national quality seal and switch between types of animals (like rabbit, chicken, fish) to get a versatile diet. I’m not a molecular dietician for cats, but I have seen the benefits in my own animals and several patients which have been cured from various allergies.
Hygiene wise you should treat the meat the same way as you treat your own meat; thaw the amount the cat is going to eat the next day, don’t keep it unfrozen too long and keep it separated from other foods in the fridge. There are of course still many other concerns, such as the question: what if we all feed our cats a raw meat diet, does that mean we have to kill more animals for the cats’ sake? In the Netherlands that’s not necessarily the case. I have found an organic butcher for instance who uses leftover products of their slaughter animals which normally wouldn’t be used for human use, but is still recognisable as a part of an animal (so not a smooth mixture of feathers and claws, but bones and organs), to produce a raw meat diet for both cats and dogs. I hope to find a similar producer in the UK as well.
Another thing you often hear is: “My former cat ate brand X and got to be 20 years old!”. I always think that cat got so old despíte the food, like couch potatoes on wonder bread can become 80 years old. He might be old, but the way towards that age wasn’t as vibrant as it could have been.
So, whether your cat is struggling with a disease or is (still) very healthy, start looking into ways food can cure or benefit to a life full of longevity and non-smelly litter boxes. I’m not telling you what brand to choose anymore, I’m just nudging you towards taking a critical perspective into the wonderful world of feline food and feeding Fluffy feline appropriate food. Because, what’s good for Kitty, is good for us, our wallets and our noses!
*You might think: Why don’t you listen to the vet, and why don’t you know this stuff yourself? You’re a vet nurse! Well the truth is, vets and vet nurses don’t get much training on diets during their 4-6 years of studying. They only learn how to treat symptoms, not how to prevent.