Kitty Diet Overhaul: We’re BARF-ing Now

This article started me on a quest to see what I could do to improve the health of my kitties, especially the two eldest ones who’ve had the most health issues, Tigger and Alex.

Through my affiliation with, I met Dr. Becker (the one talking in the video), and I’ve been quite impressed with her over the past several months of collaborating with her on articles. She is not only a wealth of information–and energy–but a heck of a nice lady.

We’ve had our cats on the same commercial food for many years now, a brand that I think is among the best on the market. They’ve gotten Life’s Abundance dry food in the mornings and Instinctive Choice canned food in the evenings and done well on it. So I really wasn’t eager to make any change–I’m actually a distributer for the company. In fact, I kind of dreaded it since I expected the cats would revolt.

But after looking at the research on feline health and raw food diets for the past couple of years, I can no longer resist the urge to try it out–there are so many profound health benefits.

With Tigger being a cancer survivor, I am especially interested in seeing what I can do to improve his immune system, beyond what we are already doing with the Chinese herbs.

You’ll see raw diets for pets described as the “BARF Diet” (biologically-appropriate-raw-food diet, or sometimes bones-and-raw-food-diet), and there are as many recommendations about how to do this as there are websites. It is MUCH MORE INVOLVED than simply giving your pet a slab of meat twice a day.

I was at a loss for whose advice to follow until a couple weeks ago when Dr. Becker came out with her new book, Dr. Becker’s REAL FOOD for Healthy Dogs & Cats, which outlines exactly how to go about making raw homemade pet food. There are numerous supplements that must be added in precise amounts, as well as some vegetables, although not a large amount of veggies since cats are obligate carnivores.

So I decided to proceed by first finding out if the kids will even eat raw meat, before investing in a meat grinder and another freezer–both huge expenses!

So I ordered a couple small batches of commercially prepared raw cat foods as an experiment. It took hours upon hours of online reading and researching to find ones that met the criteria that Dr. Becker specifies in her book–but there are some. (I’ll include a list of links for the ones I was most impressed with, at the end of this post.)

And they ain’t cheap–especially for people like us who live in rural areas and rely on mail order for a lot of our supplies.

And even buying meats with which to make the food yourself is expensive, unless you go for the cheap grocery store stuff that is full of antibiotics and hormones and other crap and is made from terribly mistreated animals. And if you do that, what’s the point? If you select good meats such as free-ranging chickens and grass pastured beef, you’re going to pay a premium.

So, long story short, we started the transition about three days ago.

I began by switching them over to canned food twice daily, removing the dry altogether. And they LOVE the Life’s Abundance dry kibble, so that change didn’t earn me any warm fuzzies.

After a couple days, I began mixing in about 25 percent of the raw food into the canned.

To my surprise, after the first day of being looked at as if I had sprouted green hair, they began eating it with gusto. Even Tigger! All except one, my youngest cat and problem child, Shilo, who has always had a gagging problem. Any time he gets a whiff of any different smell, he gags and even vomits. He’s never been a fan of canned food, probably because it has a stronger aroma than kibble.

So the BARF diet for little Shilo really lived up to its name initially–he walked up to the bowl and barfed. Twice.

I thought, gee, this is going well.

But the next day, I made sure to decrease the amount of raw food and give him canned food–with just a tiny little bit of raw mixed in–and he ate a little bit. And the next day, I added a tiny bit more. For two days, he barely ate enough to even sustain himself, I thought. And just when I was about to give up on him, he ate. I guess he got hungry enough to get past it.

So I’m proceeding with the plan–and I’m not sure at this point if I’ll be willing to dive into the homemade recipes. But at least they’re eating some raw food now, and I’ll continue to increase the percentage of raw to canned gradually.

Eventually, I’d like to have them pretty much off canned and dry food. But I know that will take time–I can’t force them to go COLD turkey.

And there are times when the convenience of canned food will outweigh the benefits of the raw, such as when we go out of town and send the kids to the kitty hotel!

Here are the commercial foods I think look pretty good. The only ones we’ve tried are Wild Kitty and Grassfed Traditions, and they seem to like them both so far (except Mr. Gag.) Of course, they’re still being diluted with canned food.)

Here are some more links you might find helpful:

  • Tasin TS-108 Electric Meat Grinder – the grinder that seems to be the favorite among folks who make their own raw pet foods (it will grind up raw chicken bones/necks) and is reasonably priced, by comparison
  • Smiley Dog News Seattle, WA – nifty outfit that will deliver a variety of raw foods to your doorstep in the greater Seattle area, but they also have good shipping prices for us Washingtonians who are outside the delivery area–and VERY nice people!

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