Have you considered feeding your cat raw food? Raw cat food seems to be quite a popular topic of discussion these days, but given what I know about cat health and nutrition, I decided it was something I wanted to investigate for my own kitties. Now, here’s my disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, nor do I have a medical background. However, I do think that it is the responsibility of every pet guardian out there to be aware of what they are feeding their animals and how it can affect their pet’s health and quality of life. Because let’s face it: some foods are better than others.
Basically (and this is a very brief summary of what I understand to be true), there are primarily three types of food you can feed your cats: dry kibble, canned wet food, and raw food. All three have pros and cons to either the cat or the guardian. Dry kibble is usually highly processed (which can affect the nutritional quality of the food), and has a very low moisture content; this can be problematic because cats have a low thirst drive, and naturally get most of their water from the food (prey) that they eat. Additionally, dry food tends to be higher in carbohydrates, which is not what cats evolved to eat – they are obligate carnivores, and need a diet that is mostly meat. Next is canned wet food. I’ve heard at least two veterinary nutritionists say that the “worst quality” canned food is still better than the “best quality” dry food simply because of the increased water content – the benefits of increased moisture is THAT important. However, canned food is still highly processed and can also contain a high amount of carbohydrates (yes, even peas and potatoes count as carbs, even if the food is grain-free!). Finally, depending on the raw cat food diet you select, raw food is just that: mostly meat, organs, and bone with added nutrients (like taurine, an essential amino acid that cats can’t synthesize themselves) and minerals. While this diet resembles more closely the form of food cats have evolved to eat and is minimally processed compared to other foods, most guardians are intimidated by handling raw meat (is it safe???) and think that it may be less convenient.
Which is where I was coming from before I embarked on my raw cat food adventure. I want to give my cats the best food possible, but there are many competing factors – we’re talking nutritional quality, whether or not my cats will eat it, convenience, and price. Enter Balanced Blends. It was perfect timing – feeding my kitties raw cat food had been on my mind when I was contacted by Yik Tan, who asked if I was interested in reviewing their raw diet for cats. Heck yeah, I’ll give it a try! I soon received a cooler delivered (overnight) to my front door containing ten packets of beef and chicken raw food.
I’ll let you watch the below videos to see what happened when I fed the raw cat food to my kitties. The first video is a super-quick, cut-to-the chase look at what my cats thought of their new diet after a week of feeding raw food (please excuse Oliver, who was mostly interested in sniffing the other cats’ butts…so rude!). The second video is a more complete look at what I liked about the Balanced Blends raw diet, the food itself, and how I started my cats on their raw diet (and of course, more butt-sniffing by Oliver):
I still have 6 packets of raw food left to feed my cats at this point; Yik recommended keeping the food for 2-3 days in the fridge after it had been thawed. Since I was incorporating small amounts into my cats’ canned food (starting with 25% raw and 75% canned), there has initially been some waste – even with five cats eating the food, I’ve had to throw away a couple of packets that were almost half full. However, this waste will decrease as the percentage of raw increases in their diet.
Here are the pros and cons of the Balanced Blends raw cat food diet that I’ve identified so far:
- My cats like it. My cats definitely preferred the beef, but after a couple of days, they also all ate the chicken I gave them when it was mixed into their canned food.
- The diet contains the essentials, no fancy stuff. There are no blueberries, flax-seed oil, green peas…not that these things are bad, but cats did not evolve to eat them. They are obligate carnivores. This diet contains meat, organs, bone, and added nutrients and minerals. You have to trust ANY company you buy your cat’s food from (no matter what type of food you decide on), and I appreciate the short ingredient list that contains only things that are necessary for cat health.
- The meat comes from two locations in the US. The chickens are raised free-range without antibiotics or added hormones from Boulder Natural Meats in Colorado. The beef is from Crystal River Meats, also in Colorado, and cattle are naturally raised without antibiotics or added hormones. Check out the websites for these two companies – I try not to eat much meat (and no beef) mostly due to not wanting to support the commercial meat industry, but these two companies appear to have very responsible and humane philosophies.
- It actually wasn’t as gross as I thought it would be. I’m kind of a squeamish person. I didn’t have to touch the meat at all (I just spooned it out of the packaging), and the food is blended to the point where you can’t recognize much of anything – it’s somewhat uniform in texture, but you can definitely see variability in the food. It’s got a firm texture and is not mushy like canned food.
- The risk of bacterial contamination is extremely low. I asked Yik about how the food was processed to minimize bacterial contamination, and he gave me this answer: “Our food is made in a refrigerated facility that also has many quality assurance standards and practices. After it is made, our food is high pressure processed (HPP). HPP uses water to create a very high pressure (like the deepest level in the ocean) that kills pathogenic bacteria. This allows us to eliminate the pathogenic bacteria without using heat/cooking. Our foods are HPP in their final packaging. We do not re-open our food after HPP to form them into patties, nuggets, or bites size because once the food is re-opened for processing, it risks being re-contaminated. That is also the reason why we ended up with the “pouch” packaging instead of the more convenient patties or bites.”
- The responsiveness of Balanced Blends folks was amazing! Yik was great in quickly answering all of my questions about the food, and in researching this company, it really does appear that they are a group of people who care a lot about their own pets (and by extension, animals in general). Perhaps it’s just clever marketing, but my communications were always met with a quick and friendly response.
- As mentioned above, there was some initial waste with the packaging. While it was easier to handle than I thought it would be, there may be a more convenient way to package “single-servings” so that there isn’t as much waste. However, as explained above in the point about HPP processing in the final packaging to minimize the risk of contamination, I’d rather have safe food than a package that is just a little more convenient to use. Yik also noted that the company “will also be continuing work on improving our packaging. We are researching packaging that will make serving more convenient for pet parents and may bundle each of the packages into a 5 LB bag or box to make them more uniform for storage and shipping.”
- The price is higher than canned food, but you get what you pay for in this case. This is high-quality meat that is safe and nutritionally balanced. And some people are more than happy to pay for it!
If you are interested in finding out more about Balanced Blends for either your cat or dog (they have raw dog food, too, with veggies), visit their Kickstarter campaign between April 26 and May 27 (2016). Balanced Blends is already a fully-funded, established company, so the campaign’s objective is to create awareness for Balanced Blends and also encourage trials of raw diets through a pre-order promotion. You’ll definitely want to stop by the Kickstarter campaign on April 26 to take advantage of the “Early Cat Special” pre-ordering opportunity before they run out – to learn more about this opportunity and purchase the Early Cat Special, visit the Balanced Blends Kickstarter Campaign here.
So far, my cats have enjoyed their change in diet. I’m still working on increasing raw food in their meals, but everything is going fine. I’ll be interested to see if there are any visible changes in their coats, activity level, weight, etc…and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!
Thanks for reading – do you feed your cats raw food, or are you thinking about starting? Let me know your thoughts in a comment below!
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