Raw Meat Diet Could Be Bad News For Cats
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Many pet owners feel as if their animals are just as much a part of their family as any flesh and blood human. As such, it’s not unusual for these household pets to eat in a way similar to their owners. So, as the raw food trend continues to heat up, some animal lovers have begun feeding their furry friends raw meat-based diets, claiming these kinds of food are more akin to their natural and primitive diet.
A newly published paper in the Journal of Animal Science, however, refutes some of these claims, saying there are some holes left in the raw meat diet. The study, led by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium looked specifically at the raw meat diet and it’s effects on cats. According to their research, diets based on meat from bison, cattle and horses don’t provide all the essential nutrients needed to sustain a healthy lifestyle. As for those who claim this kind of diet is closer to their natural state, these researchers also found this kind of diet leaves these wild animals wanting for specific nutrients as well.
To test the effects of this kind of diet on both domestic and wild jungle cats, the researchers collected blood and fecal samples from these animals. They also enlisted a few cecectomized roosters to help analyze amino acid digestibility. Cecectomized animals have had their cecum removed, which is a small pouch near the large intestine that helps break down the enzymes in food. With this pouch removed, the researchers had more amino acids in the fecal matter to analyze.
These researchers now believe these diets do meet many nutritional requirements for cats, but did miss in a few areas. Specifically, none of the meats used in the tests met the recommended amounts of linoleic acids, while the horsemeat used in the tests did not provide kittens and gestating and lactating females the proper amount of arachidonic acids.
What’s worse, there’s less available horsemeat for raw-meat dieters to get their paws on.
“With the closing of horse abattoirs in 2007, the availability of quality grade horsemeat in the United States has decreased, increasing the need for research on the digestibility and composition of possible alternatives,” explained the researchers in their study.
One of the major concerns these researchers and veterinarians have about a raw meat diet is the misconception well-meaning pet owners have about it. Rather than feed their animals whole cuts of meat, owners often choose to cut the fat off, as if they were preparing the meat for themselves. This fat is particularly important in feline diets.
Last May, the New York Times published a report about this growing trend, explaining the pros and cons of a raw meat diet. Dr. Tony Buffington of The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center also points out a “raw meat diet” doesn’t mean simply giving your pets an uncooked chicken breast you purchased at the local grocery store.
“What people confuse is that ‘carnivore’ really means animal eater, not muscle-meat eater,” said Dr. Buffington, speaking to the Times.
“In nature, they’re eating all the guts and the bones and the rest of the animal, all of which supplies their nutrient needs. That’s confused more commonly than one might imagine.”
Another side effect of a raw meat diet, say the researchers, is a change in the kinds of microbes in the animal’s gut.
This leads to increased protein fermentation, which later results in more “odiferous” feces emerging from these animals.
While further studies need to be done, the researchers urge those animal lovers looking to try a raw meat diet to use only fresh, uncut pieces of meat. Additionally, these pet owners should also look for ways to supplement their pet’s diet with the nutrients and amino acids they may be missing.