Cats are obligate carnivores. When they are fed a processed diet, they cannot thrive. A cat might be able to able to survive on diet based on cereal (aka dry food), but such a cat will be chronically dehydrated, protein-deficient, will experience uneven energy spikes throughout the day, and is more likely to develop Diabetes, cancer, urinary issues and kidney disease, to name just a few major issues. Cats do best on a diet that most closely resembles what nature has designed the cat to eat. The cat’s natural diet typically consists of small prey such as mice, rabbits, birds, voles, squirrels, and insects. Cats generally eat all parts of these animals, excepting the intestines. Insects and mice, being small, may well be consumed in their entirety.
When we feed our cats the way nature had intended for them, we want to use a “whole prey” approach to feeding. This type of food includes meat, organs, bones, and some added fiber. Many people opt to add a small amount of vegetables to the food, since cat do consume a very small amount of greens when they consume the stomach contents of their prey. You may choose to prepare the diet yourself, but it must be balanced with the proper quantities of vitamins, minerals, fats, and oils. A cat eating an unbalanced diet will suffer from various nutritional deficiencies. A better option for starting out would be to feed a balanced commercial raw diet.
Some of the companies that are available nation-wide and have high quality foods include Small Batch, Stella & Chewys, Primal, Natures Variety, and Vital Essentials. Each of these companies have frozen recipes that are formulated for cats. A cat who is used to eating a dry or canned diet will typically need to be transitioned onto the new food, but once your cat is eating this high-quality new food, it’s very easy to prepare. It’s simply a matter of thawing out the food, warming it up by mixing in a bit of hot water, and then serving. Just as with an open can of cat food, this thawed raw food will be good for 3 days in the refrigerator.
Cats are built to spend up to half of their day hunting. They are very active when they live outdoors and must survive on the small prey that they capture. They are used to eating many small meals throughout the day. According to Dr. Liz Bales, a veterinary behaviorist, the average cat requires approx. 250kcal/day. The average mouse is about 35kcal, so that means the average cat needs to consume 7-8 mice daily to maintain its bodyweight (docandphoebe.com). Feeding smaller portions of food, more often, more closely resembles a cat’s natural habits. Giving 3-4 daily feedings is ideal, or even two daily meals, with healthy cat snacks given inside of puzzle feeders, is great.
HERE is my shopping list of puzzle feeders from Amazon. The key to using them successfully is to start them out next to where your cat is used to eating. This way your cat will begin to associate the new feeder with something tasty. You may need to show your cat how to use it by moving it with your own hand (never do this by grabbing your cat’s paw – your cat won’t appreciate that!). The idea is to train your cat to use it. Make it as EASY as possible for your cat to get food or treats out of it. For example, if you are using the Catit Senses 2.0 Digger Interactive Cat Toy, you can remove the green tubes and place pieces of food both inside of the holes, but also on top of the white surface. This will help your cat to understand how to get to the food. When your cat “wins” in the beginning, by getting the food easily and for free, then s/he will be more likely to work harder to get to the food when it becomes more of a challenge later on. Be patient with your cat. If s/he isn’t getting it right away, just keep trying. Cats sometimes take a few weeks before learning to use, or like, something new. Put on your thinking cap and try different ways of introducing the feeder to them, and you are sure to achieve success.