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Home > Cats > Pros & Cons of a Raw Cat Food Diet (Vet Approved Facts & FAQ)

Pros & Cons of a Raw Cat Food Diet (Vet Approved Facts & FAQ)

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Dr. Karyn Kanowski

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Feeding cats a raw food diet has gained popularity among pet owners in recent years. Advocates of this diet argue that it more closely resembles the natural eating habits of cats in the wild. This article will discuss the pros and cons of such a diet, delving into various aspects that cat owners should consider when deciding whether to switch their feline friends to a raw food regimen.


The 5 Pros of a Raw Cat Food Diet

1. Improved Digestion

Raw food is more natural for cats to digest, as it closely mimics their ancestral diet. Cats have a shorter digestive tract compared to other animals,1 which is designed to process raw meat efficiently. As a result, cats on a raw food diet may experience fewer digestive issues.

Cats on a raw food diet may also experience fewer gastrointestinal issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. The higher moisture content in raw food can help prevent dehydration and promote healthy digestion. Additionally, raw diets often contain fewer artificial additives and fillers, which can contribute to gastrointestinal problems in some cats.

a calico cat eating from metal bowl at home
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2. Decreased Hairball Formation

Raw food diets often result in less shedding due to improved skin health, which can lead to fewer hairballs. Additionally, the increased moisture content in raw food can help hairballs pass through the digestive system more easily, reducing the chance of blockages or discomfort.

3. Healthier Coat and Skin

A raw food diet can provide essential nutrients for a healthy coat, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as vitamins and minerals. Cats on a raw diet often have shinier, softer fur, indicating improved overall coat health.

Cats on a raw food diet also tend to shed less due to improved skin health and proper nutrient absorption. Less shedding means a cleaner home and fewer hairballs for your feline friend.

Additionally, a raw diet can help reduce dander production in cats. Dander is composed of tiny particles of skin cells and is the major allergen for people with cat allergies. By improving skin health through a raw diet, cats may produce less dander, which is beneficial for allergy sufferers.

4. Increased Energy Levels

Raw food diets provide cats with more bioavailable nutrients, meaning that their bodies are better able to absorb essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. This improved nutrient absorption may lead to increased energy levels and overall better health.2

Cats on a raw diet may exhibit more playful behavior and increased activity levels due to improved overall health. This can lead to a more interactive and enjoyable relationship between you and your cat, as well as a happier, healthier pet.

Cats on a raw food diet often exhibit a general sense of well-being, which can be attributed to the natural, nutrient-dense diet that is more easily metabolized. They may be more alert, responsive, and engaged in their environment, indicating an overall improvement in quality of life.

cat playing fetch
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

5. Decreased Dental Issues

Chewing on raw meat, cartilage, and bones can help clean cats’ teeth by scraping away plaque and tartar buildup. This natural tooth-cleaning process can contribute to better dental hygiene and a reduced need for professional dental cleanings.


The 4 Cons of a Raw Cat Food Diet

1. Risk of Bacterial Contamination

Raw meat can be contaminated with harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella, L. monocytogenes, Listeria, and E. coli, which can cause illness in both cats and humans. It’s essential to handle and store raw cat food properly to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination.

If contaminated raw food is ingested, both cats and humans can become ill, potentially requiring medical treatment. Signs of bacterial infection can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and lethargy. It’s important to monitor your cat for any signs of illness and seek veterinary care if needed.

To minimize the risk of bacterial contamination, it’s essential to handle and store raw cat food properly. This includes washing your hands and all surfaces that come into contact with raw meat, using separate cutting boards and utensils, and storing raw food separately from other foods in the refrigerator.

Because these harmful bacteria are on the surface of the meat, the risk of bacterial contamination increases with the mincing process, as the surface becomes mixed together with the middle. For this reason, minced or ground meat should not be part of a raw diet.

raw chicken meat
Image Credit: manfredrichter, Pixabay

2. Nutritional Imbalance

All of the pros listed in the previous section rely on feeding a nutritionally balanced diet. Feeding your cat just raw meat will lead to serious imbalances and disease. Remember, cats in the wild do not just eat the muscle of animals; they eat the bones, cartilage, organs, skin, and shells of their various prey.

Creating a nutritionally balanced raw food diet for cats can be challenging, as it requires careful planning and ingredient selection. It’s important to research the specific nutritional needs of cats and ensure that their raw diet meets those needs.

Cat owners must ensure their pets receive all necessary nutrients, such as taurine, calcium, and essential fatty acids, to maintain optimal health. Failure to provide adequate nutrients can result in deficiencies and health issues, making it crucial for owners to carefully monitor their cat’s diet.

If a raw cat food diet is not properly balanced, cats may suffer from nutritional deficiencies that can lead to health issues such as heart problems, poor bone development, and compromised immune function. Consult with a veterinarian or a pet nutrition expert to ensure your cat’s raw diet is nutritionally complete.

3. Time-Consuming Preparation

A raw cat food diet requires daily meal planning to ensure cats receive a balanced, nutritious diet. This can be time-consuming for busy cat owners and may prove challenging for those with limited experience in preparing raw food diets.

Preparing a raw cat food diet involves weighing and combining the right amounts of various ingredients, including muscle meat, organ meat, and bones. This process can be time-consuming.

Raw cat food must be stored in the freezer, with each portion thawed before feeding, adding to the time and effort required to maintain this diet. This process requires careful planning and organization to ensure that your cat always has a fresh supply of raw food available.

raw lamb meat
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4. Cost

A  healthy raw cat food diet requires high-quality ingredients, such as fresh meat and organ meats, which can be expensive. Sourcing these ingredients may also prove challenging, particularly for those living in areas with limited access to specialty grocery stores or butcher shops.

Cats on a raw diet may require supplements to ensure they receive all necessary nutrients. These supplements can add to the overall cost of the diet, making it more expensive than feeding commercial cat food.

Overall, a raw cat food diet can be more expensive than feeding commercial cat food due to the cost of ingredients, supplements, and the time and effort required for preparation. This increased expense may be prohibitive for some cat owners, making it essential to carefully consider the financial implications of a raw diet.

There are pre-prepared raw diets available for cats, but like any commercial pet food, the lower cost will likely mean lower quality, and you must be confident that the food has been created using the appropriate ingredients and stored correctly.


Other FAQ About Raw Food Diets for Cats

Q: Is a raw cat food diet safe for all cats?

A: A raw cat food diet can be safe for most cats, but it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian before making any significant changes to your cat’s diet, especially if they have any pre-existing health conditions.

Q: What types of meat can I feed my cat on a raw diet?

A: Cats can eat various meats, such as chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, and rabbit. It’s important to include a variety of proteins to ensure a balanced diet. But as we mentioned above, meat is only part of the diet.

Q: Can I mix raw food with commercial cat food?

A: It’s generally not recommended to mix raw food with commercial cat food, as the nutritional balance and digestion rates may differ between the two types of food.

variety of raw food on cat feeding bowl
Image Credit: Zontica, Shutterstock

Q: How should I handle raw meat to minimize the risk of contamination?

A: Practice safe food handling techniques, such as washing your hands and surfaces that come into contact with raw meat, using separate cutting boards and utensils, and storing raw food separately from other foods in the refrigerator. Gloves can also help minimize contamination risks.

Q: Are there any specific supplements required for a raw cat food diet?

A: Nutrients such as taurine, calcium, and essential fatty acids are necessary to ensure your cat stays healthy. Consult with a veterinarian or pet nutrition expert for guidance on making sure your cat’s raw diet will provide these, or if supplementation may be needed.

Q: Can I feed my cat cooked bones?

A: No, cooked bones can splinter and cause serious injury to your cat’s digestive system. Only feed raw, uncooked bones that are appropriate for your cat’s size and chewing ability. Ideally, try to provide cartilage rather than bones.

Q: How do I ensure my cat is getting enough taurine on a raw diet?

A: Taurine is found in animal-based proteins, particularly organ meats such as heart and liver. Including these ingredients in your cat’s raw diet can help ensure they receive adequate taurine.

Chicken hearts, raw
Image Credit: David Tadevosian, Shutterstock

Q: Can I prepare raw cat food in bulk and freeze it for later use?

A: Yes, you can prepare raw cat food in bulk and freeze it in portion-sized containers. Thaw the food in the refrigerator before feeding it to your cat. Provided your freezer maintains a stable temperature, the food should be safe for up to 6 months.



The raw cat food diet has its merits, such as improved digestion, healthier coat, increased energy levels, and decreased dental issues. However, all these benefits depend on the provision of high-quality, nutritionally balanced ingredients.  Raw feeding also comes with risks like bacterial contamination, nutritional deficiencies, time-consuming preparation, and cost. Cat owners must carefully weigh the pros and cons when deciding whether this diet suits their feline companions. Armed with the information provided in this article, pet owners can make informed decisions about choosing the best diet for their cats.

Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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