Cats are obligate carnivores, which means their natural diet consists of raw meat. Our domesticated felines have transitioned to more of a full-spectrum buffet to meet nutritional needs. However, an emerging trend in pet food is a return to the “raw” part of a carnivorous diet, and many pet owners are making the switch.
If you’re hesitant to start your cat on a raw food diet, this review could help to answer some questions and hopefully dispel any concerns you might have. Bella & Duke is a UK-based and manufactured raw cat food subscription service, boasting almost 100% protein content and added nutrients for maximum dietary excellence.
Ultimately, your choice of cat food should be what’s best for your pet. Let’s have a look at how our first-hand experience with Bella & Duke went and see if their raw food could be appropriate for your cat.
At a Glance: What We Reviewed
|Bella & Duke Chicken & Salmon Raw Cat Food
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|Bella & Duke Lamb & Duck Raw Cat Food
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|Bella & Duke Turkey & Chicken Raw Cat Food
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A Quick Look at Bella & Duke Cat Food
Bella & Duke Cat Food Reviewed
Who Makes Bella & Duke and Where Is It Produced?
Bella & Duke is the leading raw pet food subscription service in the UK, and their food is produced in the UK with ingredients from UK suppliers. By subscribing to Bella & Duke, you’ll be supporting a smaller, consumer-focused business, which will give you and your pet cat the quality customer service you deserve.
Safety is the primary concern for any cat owner when it comes to raw food. We want to know that the meal in our kitty’s dish won’t cause an upset stomach, vomiting, or even serious illness. Rest assured, Bella & Duke is the only RawSAFE accredited cat food company—their cat food must adhere to strict quality criterion,¹ including:
All their food is packaged and shipped frozen to keep the ingredients fresh and hygienic. The ingredients are kept below zero degrees Celsius during the manufacturing process to lock in nutrients and vitamins.
All the contents of their raw food are approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), to ensure your cat is getting the healthiest meal possible.
Which Types of Cats Is Bella & Duke Best Suited For?
Bella & Duke is designed for cats of all ages, and it’s hypoallergenic, too. Whether you have a kitten or a cat, Bella & Duke have something for you. It’s probably easier to ask which types of cats Bella & Duke aren’t suited for!
If your cat has a sensitive stomach or digestive trouble, Bella & Duke would be the ideal meal plan: their recipes are strictly grain- and dairy-free and do not include artificial additives. As their motto says, “It’s important we ‘do right by’ our pets just as they ‘do right by us’ every day.”
Discussion of the Primary Ingredients
Let’s have a look at the main ingredients Bella & Duke put in their raw cat food: meat, bone broth, and added oils.
Bella & Duke pride themselves in cat food with at least 90% protein content, including meat, bone, and offal. The all-inclusive nature of their food is ideal for providing the same nutrition they would get when hunting prey in the wild. Offal like chicken or lamb heart is an ideal source of taurine, an essential amino acid for maintaining your cat’s eyesight, as well as heart and digestive health.
Bone broth with added apple cider vinegar can be found in all of Bella & Duke’s raw cat food range – beef bone broth for the chicken-based meals, lamb bone broth for the lamb and duck tub. The broth and vinegar combination protect your cat’s joint health. Studies estimate that over 40% of all cats have clinical signs of arthritis,2 while 80% of cats over the age of 12 have radiographically evidenced arthritic symptoms. Optimizing your kitty’s joint health is fundamental in making sure they have the best quality of life.
Herring oil and virgin olive oil provide omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which benefit your cat’s joint, brain, skin, and coat health. Cat’s bodies don’t produce these fatty acids naturally, and must therefore be obtained through diet. Omegas are crucial for prolonging your cat’s life and health: cats are often given Omega-3 supplements to slow the progression of kidney disease; omega nutrients reduce dry skin and dander. In fact, many commercial brands of cat food already include vegetable oil in their recipes, to promote cardiovascular, skin and coat health, but not high-quality oils such as herring oil and virgin olive oil.
Bella & Duke ship their raw cat food in 4kg, 8kg, 12kg, 16kg and 20kg boxes. A 4kg box (8 tubs) costs £45 per shipment – that’s £2.81 per day if your cat eats 250g of food a day. In comparison, Felix original wet cat food in jelly costs around 80p per day for the same amount of food. Clearly, this subscription isn’t for everyone, but for those who can afford it, the ingredient quality and tastiness are worth every penny.
Raw Versus Cooked Food
So, what are the benefits of raw food? Why choose raw over cooked meals for your cat?
Raw food preserves the vitamins and nutrients of the ingredients that would normally be degraded and cooked out of the food during the process. Moreover, raw food is naturally wet food. Cats evolved as desert-dwelling creatures, and therefore, have a naturally low thirst reflex.3 In the wild, cats get their moisture from the prey they consume. Wet cat food mimics this effect better, containing up to 80% moisture. It’s not surprising for cats on a wet food diet to not drink much water outside of their food.
Wet food means lower carbohydrates, which prevents gum and teeth disease from having fewer sugars. Raw food is less tender than most steamed meat, creating a “gnawing” effect that helps your cat to clean and strengthen the mouth and teeth.
It also means less whining for meals, since drier kibble type foods often leave your kitty unsatisfied. Wet and raw foods are tastier and more filling, attracting cats to them.
Every shipment of tubs come in a double-insulated cardboard box, packed with dry ice, so even if you’re out, the food will stay frozen in a safe place. The frozen tubs are stacked together, and all you have to do is transfer them to the freezer. Even if they are slightly defrosted, Bella & Duke tell us that as long as the tub is still cold to the touch, it’s fine to put them back in the freezer. The cat food defrosts overnight in the fridge, where it can last up to four days.
However, there are a couple of shortcomings with the tubs themselves.
Firstly, the tubs are rather bulky, and take up quite a lot of freezer space. Unless you have a lot of room, shipments may have to be smaller and frequent. There is no way to reseal the tub once opened, which leaves a rather pungent raw meat smell in your fridge.
These containers are recyclable but not sturdy – one was broken on arrival, while another had a film cover that came loose during the transfer between box and freezer.
Reviews of the Bella & Duke Cat Food We Tried
Let’s delve a bit deeper into the three flavors of Bella & Duke raw cat food on offer:
1. Bella & Duke Chicken & Salmon Raw Cat Food
This recipe consists of 35% chicken hearts, 30% chicken with bone, 20% salmon, 9% beef offal and 5% beef broth with added herring oil and virgin olive oil.
At 147.8 calories per 100g, the recipe contains 72% moisture, which keeps your cat hydrated, and 15% protein, which is the primary building block in cats’ body parts and organs, and necessary for generating energy and to repair tissues. The fat content is at 9%, nothing compared to the protein content, but contains much-needed healthy fats like Omega-3 and -6.
All the ingredients are UK-sourced, which makes for fresher and more sustainable food. Cat parents should bear in mind that this recipe does contain beef, which is one of the most common feline food allergies. The good news is that it’s dairy- and grain-free, which should significantly lower the chances of allergies.
2. Bella & Duke Lamb & Duck Raw Cat Food
The lamb & duck raw cat food tub is arguably the most deluxe option in the Bella & Duke raw cat food range. It’s made up of 35% lamb hearts, 30% duck with bone, 20% lamb tripe, 9% lamb offal, and lamb broth, as well as added herring oil and virgin olive oil.
At 162.5 calories per 100g, the fat content of this recipe is higher than the others (12%), almost equal to the 13% of protein content. This tub has 73% moisture, which means you don’t have to worry too much if your cat doesn’t drink a lot of water outside of his mealtimes. Lamb and duck are richer meats, which might take a while for your cat to get accustomed to, but neither are a major allergy risk. Duck also contains high zinc, vitamin B, and iron, which are important for keeping your cat healthy.
All of the ingredients in this recipe are UK-sourced, promoting sustainable, fresh cat food, so you don’t have to worry about the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process quite as much. Lamb is leaner than beef, and provides much needed Omega-3.
3. Bella & Duke Turkey & Chicken Raw Cat Food
The third Bella & Duke raw cat food option is turkey & chicken, which is the least strong smelling recipe. It has 35% turkey hearts, 30% chicken with bone, 20% beef tripe, 9% beef offal, 5% beef broth, herring oil, and virgin olive oil.
At 153.5 calories per 100g, the recipe breaks down into 72% moisture, 15% protein, 10% fat, and 5% ash (all of the Bella & Duke recipes contain 2–3% ash). The white lean meats in this recipe may result in a bit less flavor, but it also means less of the stark raw meat smell in your fridge.
In line with Bella & Duke’s philosophy, this recipe is only made with fresh and sustainable UK-sourced ingredients. Turkey, in particular, provides your cat with essential nutrients such as zinc, vitamin B6 and B12, niacin, taurine, and selenium. Moreover, turkey is a source of tryptophan, which enhances mood and can help your furry friend destress for a good night’s sleep.
Our Experience With Bella & Duke
Upon arrival of our shipment, Raphael, our six-month-old Russian Blue was enamored with the boxes. He was even more excited by the realization they were for him. Raphael eats about 250g a day, which means cutting up the cube of raw meat within the tubs once defrosted to make sure he’s eating the right amount.
If your furry friend doesn’t already eat raw meat, it’s important to introduce them to it slowly. Too much change in their diet too fast can cause stress and tummy upsets – ideally, you should change your cat from one food to another over the space of a week.4 Especially with a switch from cooked to raw food, the difference in taste and texture could really throw your cat off.
On the first couple of days, I gave Raphael a small chunk of the Bella & Duke raw cat food next to his normal cooked meat. As expected, the new food was subject to some suspicious sniffing and nose-prodding. Raphael opted for a few tentative licks, and then made a start on the section of his normal food before circling back to the raw meat. Despite the initial uncertainty, he cleaned it up in the end, and looked at his favorite Hepper NomNom Bowl longingly for more.
Over the next few days, I increased the ratio of old food and Bella & Duke to 50/50, which Raphael didn’t seem to overly mind. He began to opt for the raw food first by Day 4, and would give me wily looks if he couldn’t see it in the dish.
Raphael made the transition smoothly to Bella & Duke in five days – and is eagerly awaiting his next meal. Here’s a snapshot of him enjoying his food!
After a week eating Bella & Duke raw cat food, I have noticed that Raphael seems calmer between meals, happy to lounge around and relax in his Hepper Nest Bed. During playtime he’s definitely more energetic, and his poos don’t smell as bad! His healthier digestive system is evident in another way: his poos are more solid and consistently shaped, where he would occasionally have bouts of diarrhea before.
The raw food, nonetheless, is noticeably more malodorous than cooked food. After putting his food out, I have been grateful for Raphael’s eager appetite, so that the smell wouldn’t linger in my home. The other important habit to keep while feeding my cat Bella & Duke has been dental care: I have opted to brush Raphael’s teeth every night to ward off the bad breath which accompanies a diet of raw meat.
Overall, I’d say Bella & Duke has definitely been a successful change in cat food for Raphael – our shipment even contained a special festive Christmas tub for Raphael’s first Christmas day!
At the end of the day, only you can make the final decision on which cat food is best suited to you and your cat. If you have the budget and freezer space, Bella & Duke raw cat food should definitely be a top-runner: with all UK-sourced ingredients and RawSAFE-accredited health and safety standards, this brand will keep your cat happy, healthy, and satisfied.