Nutrition is key
to good health
We hear and read it time and again: that good nutrition is essential for
staying healthy and preventing disease. We are repeatedly told to eat plenty of fresh, wholesome food and to avoid highly refined, processed
foods. We are urged to eat healthy homemade meals instead of packaged or
takeout “fast foods.”
states: “Most people want to eat well and are looking
for answers to their healthy eating questions and challenges.” So we at
ORA ask: why should it be any different for our pets? We believe that
most people want to feed their pets healthy, nutritious food too.
Would you eat from a bag or box everyday?
What if your doctor gave you with a bag of “Chow” and told you to eat it
day after day stating that it was 100% nutritionally complete for humans
and that eating a variety of fresh food was not important. What if you
were told that if you become overweight on the “chow” you would have to
purchase a “light chow”, or when you get older you must purchase a
“senior” version. It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Yet that is precisely
what is being done to our pets.
Flashy advertising has convinced most people that packaged, processed and
highly refined pet foods are ideal for their pets. The truth is that most
of these “balanced” commercial pet foods are anything but ideal,
containing some very unhealthy and questionable ingredients. Some of
these ingredients can contribute to many chronic and degenerative diseases
such as: allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity,
skin and coat problems, thyroid disease and cardiovascular disease to name
little thought into your decision on what you feed your pets can pay very
big dividends over their lifetime in reduced vet bills and very possibly
help them avoid serious, painful, and costly diseases.
What is in
commercial pet foods?
“Food Pets Die For” has been investigating the multi-billion-dollar,
commercial pet food industry since 1990. Today, she is internationally
recognized as an authority on the dangers of commercial pet foods.
quickly learned that this is a multi-billion dollar industry that operates
with virtually no government regulations and in many ways is
self-regulated. I also learned that there are many deplorable ingredients
that legally can be used in pet foods as sources of protein—in particular,
euthanized cats and dogs, diseased cattle and horses, roadkill, dead zoo
animals, and meat not fit for human consumption. Although the pet
food industry is not regulated in the US and Canada, we as consumers have
been lulled into believing that government and voluntary organizations are
overseeing every ingredient stuffed into a container of pet food.
What is required is government-enforced regulation of the industry.
Only state legislatures can turn the tide, but it will be a long and
difficult battle to persuade our representatives to take up the fight.
In the meantime, let the buyer beware!”
To read another excerpt from Ann’s book please click
Book Excerpt – Food Pets Die For.
Many of these processed foods are saturated with chemicals, preservatives,
colorings, pesticides as well as excess amounts of artificial flavorings,
salt and rancid, overcooked oils leftover from restaurants. Most of the
“meats” contained in them are waste products that have been condemned for
human use and rendered into “meat by-products” and “meat meal.” Dried
kibble foods also contain an abundance of fillers such as ground corn,
corn gluten meal, rice hulls or peanut shells, all of which are nothing
more than food and agriculture industry waste.
Protection Institute agrees.
In an informative article titled
“What’s Really in Pet Food?”, the API states:
”Today, the diets of cats and dogs are a far cry from the primarily
protein diets with a lot of variety that their ancestors ate. The problems
associated with a commercial diet are seen every day at veterinary
establishments. Chronic digestive problems, such as chronic vomiting,
diarrhea, and inflammatory bowel disease are among the most frequent
illnesses treated. These are often the result of an allergy or intolerance
to pet food ingredients. Urinary tract disease is directly related to diet
in both cats and dogs. Plugs, crystals, and stones in cat bladders are
often triggered or aggravated by commercial pet food formulas.
Processing meat and by-products used in pet food can greatly diminish
their nutritional value. To make pet food nutritious, pet food
manufacturers must “fortify” it with vitamins and minerals. Why? Because
the ingredients they are using are not wholesome, their quality may be
extremely variable, and the harsh manufacturing practices destroy many of
the nutrients the food had to begin with. The bottom line is that diets
composed primarily of low quality cereals and rendered meat meals are not
as nutritious or safe as you should expect for your cat or dog.”
A word about dry food
important to understand that cats are obligate carnivores. This means
that cats need to eat meat to stay alive. Left to their own devices cats
would catch and eat mice, birds, toads and insects – a high protein diet.
Less than 10% of this diet would consist of carbohydrates from vegetation
and the stomach contents of their prey. Dogs on the other hand are
omnivores and can eat more fruits and vegetables than cats. In both
cases, grain or “cereal” is not suitable food because carnivores are not
grain or starch eaters – they lack the necessary digestive enzymes to
digest it properly. Their digestive system burns protein and fat for
energy and does not burn carbohydrates as humans do. So why do most
commercial dry foods contain 35-50 percent carbohydrates from grains like
cornmeal or rice? The answer is that these high carbohydrate dry foods
provide a CHEAP source of calories that are routinely sprayed with
addictive flavorings so that pets will eat them.
The evidence is quickly mounting that pets who eat dry food become
chronically dehydrated compared to pets who eat wet food. Cats are at
greatest risk having evolved as desert animals that do not naturally drink
much water but rely almost entirely on their food to provide their
moisture requirements. The natural prey diet of a small cat is between 65
and 75 percent water. Dry food contains only 5-10% water and actually
draws moisture from the cat’s body creating a state of chronic dehydration
the combination high carbohydrate content, questionable protein sources
and severe lack of moisture make dry food a very poor choice for pet
nutrition. At a bare minimum, you should use as little dry food as
possible, perhaps only as treats or snacks, and try to feed a quality diet
that contains meat—preferably human-grade—as its first ingredient.
For more information on the risks of feeding dry food, please read the
We Are Feeding Cats Too Many Carbohydrates, Lisa A. Pierson, DVM
The Dry Cat Foods Crisis, Feline Future Company
The Truth About Dry Cat Food, Michelle Bernard
Learn to read pet food ingredient labels!
Not all pet foods are
created equal and not all proteins are high quality. Some of the
guidelines we suggest for reading canned food ingredient labels are:
The first ingredient is
the most important and should be real meat such as chicken, lamb, turkey,
etc. The first ingredient should NOT be water, broth, meat by-products or
organ meat such as liver.
The next two ingredients
should be other real meat ingredients such as liver, giblets, meat broth
Do not buy a food
containing “by-products” or “meat meals.” These are the most inexpensive
sources of protein, which can vary greatly in quality and are not a
reliable source of nutrition. They often contain questionable
ingredients such as feathers, feet or other ingredients that have been
condemned for human consumption
Grains should not be
listed in the first three ingredients, if at all. The main ingredient in a
carnivore’s diet should not be grain, so if grain is present it should be
minimal and well down the list of ingredients. Common grains in pet foods
are corn, corn meal, rice, flour, oats and wheat gluten.
The words “recommended by veterinarians” are not necessarily indicative of
high quality – read the ingredient label! Many of the prescription diets
sold by veterinarians do not provide optimal nutrition for a carnivore.
Many of these diets contain by-products, meal and grain. Unfortunately
many veterinarians are poorly educated in the area of pet nutrition
because all too often their education is provided directly from the pet
food industry itself.
at three canned ingredient labels, including a prescription diet, and see
if you can spot the by-products, meat-meal and grain and the order of the
Hills Prescription Diet® Feline C/D
Beef by-products, water,
pork liver, corn meal, pork by-products, corn gluten meal, powdered
cellulose, xanthan gum, locust bean gum, taurine, brewers dried yeast,
iron oxide, minerals (calcium sulfate, salt, potassium chloride, dicalcium
phosphate, zinc oxide, ferrous sulfate, copper sulfate, manganous oxide,
calcium iodate, sodium selenite),beta-carotene, vitamins (choline
chloride, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, thiamine
mononitrate, ascorbic acid(a source of vitamin C), niacin, pyridoxine
hydrochloride, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin, folic acid, biotin,
vitamin B12 supplement).
Iams® Chicken & Salmon Formula Cat Food
Salmon Broth, Water,
Chicken, Salmon, Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Beef Liver, Ocean
Fish, Dried Egg Product, Fish Meal (source of fish oil), Corn Oil, Salmon
Meal, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Brewers Dried Yeast, Vitamin E
Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Moninitrate (source of vitamin B1), Vitamin A
Acetate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of
vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (source of
vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Menadione (vitamin K3), Folic Acid,
Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium
Iodide, Choline Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, DL-Methionine
Wellness Turkey & Salmon
Turkey, Chicken Liver,
Whitefish, Turkey Broth, Salmon, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Vegetable Gums,
Flax Seed, Potassium Chloride, Alfalfa, Cranberries, Blueberries, Yellow
Squash, Yellow Zucchini, Garlic, Dicalcium Phosphate, Spirulina, Taurine,
Choline Chloride, Vitamin E, A, D-3, And B-12 Supplements, Beta Carotene,
Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, Iron Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Calcium
Pantothenate, Iron Proteinate (Source Of Chelated Iron), Zinc Proteinate
(Source Of Chelated Zinc), Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Pyridoxine
Hydrochloride, Copper Proteinate(Source Of Chelated Copper), Biotin,
Manganese Proteinate (Source Of Chelated Manganese), Calcium Iodate,
Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Sodium Selenite.
To learn more about
interpreting pet food labels and specific regulations, click
Interpreting Pet Food Labels to visit the FDA website’s consumer
information page on pet food labeling.
So what should we feed our pets?
The best food you can
feed your pet is a properly prepared, well-balanced homemade diet that
includes raw meaty bones, plus vegetables, eggs and other ingredients that
imitate the nutrients they would obtain in the wild. While this may sound
a bit extreme at first, it deserves a very close look if you truly desire
the best nutrition for your pet. There are no barbeques or frying pans
in the wild and for good reason: carnivores derive optimal nutrition from
raw foods, which contain the vital nutrients and enzymes they need. As
with humans, fresh foods provide the healthiest source of nutrition. This
is partly because many nutrients, vitamins and enzymes are extremely
sensitive and easily destroyed by high heat processing.
A combination of fresh
food and high quality canned or frozen food is also an excellent choice.
We will explore the home-prepared diet in a moment and provide links for
further research for those who want to provide optimum nutrition for their
In the meantime, there
are an increasing number of pet food companies that make food of very high
quality. Some of these foods are made using human grade ingredients and do
not contain the questionable meat sources, dangerous additives and
preservatives that are found in “grocery store” pet foods. Some are even
offering commercially prepared raw food diets in frozen form.
Premium canned pet foods
premium quality foods are most certainly a better choice than pet foods
available at the grocery store, they are still processed using very high
heat, which greatly reduces the nutrients available. For those
who chose not to provide a fresh, home-prepared diet, or for those who
supplement a fresh diet with canned food, these foods are a
good choice. They are also an excellent transition food for those
attempting to switch pets that are addicted to dry food to a healthier
Excellent choices are
Nature’s Variety because they do not contain any grain.
Wellness canned food is a complete, balanced diet. No supplementation
is needed and can be fed, as is, on a daily basis as the sole diet.
Wellness is a very low carbohydrate (3-5%), high quality canned food.
Nature’s Variety canned food is also a complete, balance diet that is
great for daily use. No supplementation is needed. It is also a very low
carbohydrate food containing no grains.
Most other high quality
foods contain grain, usually rice or oats. They are all balanced for
daily use, so check the label and look for grain to be far down the
ingredient list. Some of these brands include:
Commercially prepared raw diets
Commercially prepared raw diets provide nutritionally complete, species
appropriate food for those want to feed an optimal diet but have little
time to research, prepare and plan meals for their pets. Biologically
appropriate foods, purchased frozen or made at home, set the foundation
for proper immune response and brilliant health including: reduced
allergies, reduced weight, decreased shedding, decreased stool volume,
healthier teeth, softer and shinier coat, fresher breath and increased
energy – all resulting in a happier, healthier animal. Excellent
choices in commercial raw food are:
The home prepared diet
Preparing food at home
for your pet can be an easy and inexpensive way to keep your dog or cat
healthy, strong and resistant to disease. Preparing your pet’s food is
not rocket science and you do not need a degree in nutrition to understand
it, but there are some extremely important principles to which you must
Before embarking on a
home-prepared diet, we strongly advise you to do some research and learn
as much as you can about the subject. Though it is very much common
sense, like feeding yourself, it would be foolish and dangerous to simply
give your pet table scraps or raw meat in addition to their commercial
food unless you have gained the required knowledge first.
For instance, to
continually add (i.e. on a daily basis) liver, or raw meat without bone,
to your pets commercially prepared canned or frozen food will not provide
sufficient calcium because the commercial food is optimally balanced to
provide the correct proportion of calcium to meat. Your pet’s diet would
therefore become dangerously unbalanced over the long term. After a
little research you would learn that a quarter teaspoon of ground eggshell
(save your eggshells!) to each cup of fresh meat would provide the
required calcium. There are other ingredients in the home-prepared recipes
that are not “supplements” at all, but are essential components that must
be included in certain amounts or you risk throwing your pet’s diet off
There are plenty of books
and web sites available that provide a wealth of information on home
prepared diets and we have listed a few at the end of this section that we
suggest you investigate.
A Recipe for Optimum Cat Health
The percentages quoted
below are guidelines only and need not be exact every day. The objective
is balance over time, not balance for each and every meal. You do not
prepare your own dinner thinking – I’ll have 50% protein, 10% fat, 10%
potato, 20% vegetables and 10% apple pie and cola, so there is no need to
do it for your pet either! And as you do with your own food, always use
safe handling practices when using raw meat products.
Approximately 50% of your
cat’s food should consist of RAW MEATY BONES. Chicken necks and backs are
IDEAL. If your cat will not eat bones or has few teeth due to age (very
young or old), you may need to grind or crush the raw meaty bones. Meat
grinders are ideal for creating minced meaty bones.
Approximately 30% of the
diet should consist of other meat such as store ground meats, beef heart,
chicken hearts (heart is very high in taurine), liver, chicken giblets and
gizzards, kidney, and small whole fish such as lake smelt or raw
About 10-15% of the diet
should consist of pulverized vegetables – half of which should be winter
squash such as butternut, acorn, pumpkin, etc. Winter squash is a
fermentable fiber that is very beneficial for digestion. The other half
of vegetable content should be a rotating variety of leafy greens (kale,
parsley, chard, dandelion greens, spring salad mix, green leafy lettuce,
etc.), broccoli, carrots, celery, zucchini, sea vegetables, frozen mixed
vegetables, the list is exhaustive.
The remaining 5-10% of
the diet consists of raw eggs, plain yogurt for gut health and powdered
supplements of flax seed, kelp and dulse (equivalent to a half teaspoon a
day of each, or mix equivalent into a batch and freeze.) Twice a week add
a 500mg capsule of salmon oil, a 400 IU capsule of natural source vitamin
Note: For a cat that
cannot or will not eat raw meaty bones and a grinder is not available,
calcium must be substituted at the rate of ¼ teaspoon per cup of meat, or
½ teaspoon per pound. Some raw diets recommend the use of bone meal,
however bone meal is cooked, processed bone and is less desirable than
ground eggshell, which is about 95% pure calcium carbonate. Simply rinse
shells under running water, allow to dry for a few days then grind in a
coffee grinder and store – no need to cook or refrigerate once dried.
DANGEROUS FOODS - DO NOT EVER FEED
NEVER feed cooked bones in any form –whole or ground! Cooked whole bones
will splinter dangerously and cooked ground bone causes constipation. Raw
poultry necks and backs are soft and do not splinter.
ONIONS AND GARLIC -
Onions and garlic contain a compound that destroys red blood cells in
pets, resulting in a type of anemia called ‘Heinz body anemia.’ Do not
use any products containing onion or garlic powder. Garlic is less toxic
to dogs than cats and can be used in moderation in canine diets.
To check the list of
plants, vegetables and other substances that are toxic to pets, please
click here ->
Potatoes, corn, pasta and
other starches as well as legumes such as soybeans, kidney beans, lentils
and nightshade vegetables like mushrooms are not recommended for cats.
Transitioning your cat to raw food
Some cats take to raw
food like fish to water and eat it right away. Many cats however are
finicky about new food and the transition should be done slowly with a
great deal of patience. Most cats will transition successfully if
you add a little of the new food to their usual diet. Gradually
increase the new food and decrease the old food until the cat is eating
the new food. Cats that are accustomed to an all-dry diet can be
especially stubborn and may have to be transitioned to canned, wet food
Cats prefer frequent,
small meals so adult cats should eat at least twice per day, kittens more
often. Have “meal” times and allow them to eat as much as they will in
30 minutes. Do not leave food out for free feeding.
IMPORTANT!!!!! NEVER FAST A CAT TO
ENCOURAGE THEM TO SWITCH. Cats must not go without
eating for an entire day. Make certain that your cat eats something
every day, even if you must feed the old food. To do otherwise
will endanger the life of your cat. Cats are very prone to Feline
Hepatic Lipidosis, also called “fatty liver disease.” To read more
about fatty liver disease, please visit this website:
Educate your veterinarian
holistic veterinarians appreciate and endorse a home-prepared, species
appropriate diet for those who have acquired the appropriate knowledge.
Many veterinarians, however, do not endorse raw feeding under any
circumstances and endorse kibble diets, as discussed above, that are sold
from their practice. If, after learning and researching, you choose to
feed a home-prepared diet and your veterinarian disagrees with you, please
print the following documents and present them to him/her.
The Carnivore Connection to Nutrition in Cats Debra L. Zoran, DVM, PhD,
Published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association,
2002:221: pages 1559-1567 which details the unique requirements of
Pottenger’s Cats, a Study in Nutrition by Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., MD
Dr. Francis Marion
Pottenger, Jr. conducted a feeding experiment to determine the effects of
heat-processed food on cats. The contrast in the apparent health of the
cats fed raw meat and those fed cooked meat was so startling, it prompted
Francis to undertake a controlled experiment.
What he had observed by
chance, he wanted to repeat by design. He wanted to find answers to such
questions as: Why did the cats eating raw meat survive their operations
more readily than those eating cooked meat? Why did the kittens of the raw
meat fed cats appear more vigorous? Why did a diet based on cooked meat
scraps apparently fail to provide the necessary nutritional elements for
good health? He felt the findings of a controlled feeding experiment might
illumine new facts about optimal human nutrition.
An Open Letter to Veterinary Professionals, A Lay Perspective on Feline
A “must read” from Catnutrition.org including an excellent presentation
and list of questions for veterinarians regarding the problems associated
with the ongoing feeding of herbivore food to carnivores.
Cats are Different! by T.J. Dunn Jr., DVM
An excellent presentation
on how cats are different! The cat is considered by scientists to be a
strict carnivore and the dog is considered to be an omnivore. Both species
are in the Class Mammalia and the Order Carnivora, but here’s the
difference: The cat cannot sustain its life unless it consumes meat in
Finding a holistic veterinarian – directories
Paws & Claws Pet Pantry’s Holistic Vets in Ontario
Pets4Life's Canadian Holistic Veterinary Directory
Holistic Veterinary Medical Association - Referral List
The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy Referral List
Pets4Life's Canadian Holistic Veterinary Directory
are some books, websites and other resources for to assist in learning
about pet nutrition.
Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats, The Ultimate Diet, Kymythy Schultz
Guide to Natural Health Care for Dogs & Cats, Dr. Richard Pitcairn
Raising Cats Naturally, Michelle Bernard
Give Your Dog a Bone, Dr. Ian Billinghurst
Pat McKay's Healthy Food! Happy Dogs!
Pat McKay's Healthy Food! Happy Cats!
Keep Your Cat Healthy the Natural Way, Pat Lazarus
The New Natural Cat, Anitra Frazier
The Nature of Animal Healing, Martin Goldstein, DVM
Food Pets Die For, Ann Martin
If Cats Could Talk, Lorena Elke
Raw Feeding email support groups:
Updated April 27, 2007
information was compiled by Bonnie Gardhouse, an ORA Foster/Volunteer and
advocate for the natural and holistic rearing of companion cats. Her
multi-cat household has been dominated for over 30 years by rescued cats
who have taught her that a natural, holistic approach is best for the
long-term health of her feline friends.
Information presented here is for general informational purposes only and
is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. Information on
this site is not intended to replace professional advice from a
veterinarian and nothing on this site is intended as a medical treatment.
Any questions about your animal's health should be directed to a
professional animal health care provider. Please consult a holistic
veterinarian regarding optimal nutrition for companion pets.