Raw Food Diets

It’s Complicated and Risky to try to Duplicate Mother Nature


I’ve heard good things about a raw food diet.  Are there any negatives to raw food for our cats?


Dr. Nichol:

In principle it’s fine; cats are true carnivores. They don’t need to build little fires to cook their meat because they eat their kill raw-on the spot, allowing no time for spoilage. For nutritional balance they consume the entire rodent: bones, intestines, you name it. Duplicating Mother Nature in your kitchen won’t be easy.

Consider that 20-35% of raw chicken intended for human consumption is contaminated with salmonella or campylobacter. For safety, ingredients must be refrigerated properly and heated enough to kill contaminants. Freezing doesn’t eliminate bacteria; it preserves them.


The whole idea of raw food was made popular by Dr. Ian Billinghurst’s book that gave us BARF diets (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food). Proponents believe they are effective treatments for a wide variety of physical ailments in addition to behavior disorders. There is no scientific evidence supporting any of these claims.


If you plan to try it anyway you are obliged to your family’s health as well as your cats’. Store raw meat so it won’t be in contact with other food and thoroughly wash your hands after handling it. Disinfect all food prep items and don’t thaw frozen meat at room temperature; do it in the fridge. Clean feeding bowls immediately after each use.


Call me crazy, but we feed Tony, the Nichol family cat, a highly bioavailable commercial diet- Science Diet canned kitten food. Tony’s lean and fit with all the attitude we could ever hope for.