Thursday, November 2, 2017

In defense of dry food from a raw food feeder



I hate that I feel the need to write this post. I hate dry cat food. I think it is harmful to cats and I really really wish that it would be taken off the market and go away.

But...

I know that it exists and exists for a reason. I know that a lot of cats eat it and eat it exclusively and a lot of cats refuse to be transitioned off of it. I know that dry food is cheap. I know that a lot of owners have a hard time buying their own food and still find it in their hearts to buy cat food instead of kicking the cat out of the house. I know that dry food is convenient. I know that it is easy to put down a big bowl of dry food that will feed a cat for a couple of days if they have to run out of town overnight or if they have erratic schedules or they just want the convenience of their cats having access to food.

I know there is a demand for dry food. I accept that. While there is a chance that a cat will live a shorter life because: dry food increases the risk of diabeteskidney disease, and cystitis; the cat will have a life because it is eating now and there is no knowing which cats will have problems. (Yes, I fully accept the fact that cats can live long lives on dry food, just as I accept the fact that George Burns lived to 100 drinking and smoking cigars regularly)

So..

I recently recommended to someone in a raw feeding group that they feed their new kitten a few meals of dry food so that their kitten would recognize that dry food is food.  In the group, I was slapped down for such a "reckless suggestion" because many people who are raw feeders think that dry food is the devil, that it is toxic, and that it is killing cats - and I don't necessarily disagree.

But...

We do not live in a vacuum. Even the most prepared among us can run into situations beyond our control. What if there is a situation where you have to evacuate your home like a hurricane or a fire. The argument was that you can always find 'something' to feed your cat that isn't dry but I think that is a very narrow view of what can happen in an emergency situation. Then there is the possibility that the cat escapes from the home and is picked up by ACO and is brought to a shelter. There are reasons a cat might be subject to eating dry food no matter how prepared you think you are. If the cat does not recognize the food as food, the cat could very well end up in a medical crisis.

I am not saying that I want everyone to feed their cats dry food, far from it. I am saying that I believe that every cat should be introduced to as many different types and flavors of food as possible when they are young. They are designed to be open to learning which foods are food as kittens and once that window closes convincing a cat something is food is very hard and you want your cat to be as open to new foods as possible so they don't end up with digestive upset or worse not eating at all if the worst were to happen. My own cats, who were fed a wide variety of foods as foster kittens, transitioned to raw food without a blink of an eye while my older cat who didn't was much harder to transition.

I also do not believe that a few random meals of dry food will harm your cat long term any more than I believe that bingeing on sweets occasionally or going to McDonald's is going to ruin my long term health.

And if you choose to feed your cat dry food, for whatever reason, I hope you don't think I am ever bashing you or looking down on you. You love your cat, you feed your cat. I'm good with that. If you ever want to talk about changing what you feed, I will talk to you about it all day long and help you in any way I can. If you don't, that's fine too. Just show me photos of your kitties (or if you are local, just show me your kitties) and tell me how wonderful they are.

23 comments:

  1. We are fortunate that the humans here can feed us canned and raw food... Binga, Boodie and my human's dad's cat Smokey have all had dry at one point or another in their lives. I've had treats that were kibble like. So if something happens and we're forced to eat dry, we will!

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  2. I feed dry + canned (which I make into cat food soup with some extra added water which my boys just love), but I make sure to buy the limited ingredient / grain free/high protein dry kind. I go with a brand made in Canada also (that's where I'm from) because I know it's made well. My boys coats are shiny, they are energetic, and seem to be in good health. Part of me thinks I should try switching them to raw, but it's a financial investment that's not in the cards right now, and also, I'm not sure my senior cat would accept it, he won't eat any wet food that is chunks instead of pate to begin with. I have switched from kibbley treats to freeze dried fish and liver and they both love those. I can relate with cats refusing to eat anything but what's familiar; my last cat, Miko, would only eat one specific low-cost grocery store dry brand. I tried transitioning him to all kinds of things because I didn't like the quality of that food but after the 3rd time he went literal days without eating (this was over a span of a couple years not all at once!) I gave up. Cats are like people - they have their own tastes and things! :)

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  3. Interesting, and good, post, Connie. The boys get a couple of TBSPs of good-quality dry a day, though their diet is mostly a variety of canned. Derry is a kibble-head, unfortunately, and it took a lot to get him to eat any canned at all. At least he'll eat a few different brands now, but he's very fussy. Nicki is easier, likes a wider variety of foods.

    One of my co-workers feeds her cats raw and that didn't stop her female from getting cancer and dying far too young.

    So while I agree that raw, or even decent canned (if there's such a thing) is better, I think a lot has to do with genetics. Nothing we do will stop our fur kids from eventually becoming ill and dying, and what's important, IMO, is quality of life overall. But then, I think the same way about myself too.

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  4. Good points! My cats have always eaten a combination of wet and dry food, and now that I want them to have more moisture, it's soaked dry food. The more high-quality cat foods appear out there, the more insanely expensive they become, so I'm sure there are many people who can't afford to give up the dry food. My current foster is about ten and is just learning that the stuff left in the permanent residents' bowls is food, even though it's not kibble. I have a hard time with aggressive purism in general...

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  5. Thank you for posting about this. We mostly eat canned food, Ernie even gets some freeze dried raw, but we do get some dry food, especially Zoey. Why? Because it's calorie dense. Zoey has lost weight and just doesn't eat enough of the canned food for her to gain it back. So she gets a little bit of dry to help.

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  6. Food for thought. While I hope I never have to feed our cats dry food, I appreciate what you say about how they should be able to recognize it as food in an emergency. I think my cats get enough freeze-dried, kibble-shaped all-meat treats that they might consider a bowl of dry food to be a bowl of treats. Problem solved, I hope.

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  7. nicely said - it really is about being open. we have thought about transitioning, but the expense has to be considered. several people suggest the freeze dried but we have tried it before and NO ONE would touch it. mom is slowly moving several meals to at least canned. but to just slap people around for a differing opinion is mean. you have a VERY good point that what if weather or other circumstances means you can't do what you normally do??

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  8. As you may know, one of Naked and Hungry’s principal focus is raw feeding. As a group, owners who embrace this lifestyle for their pets are a radical bunch. We have to be to buck conventional thinking and chose to feed our pets differently and accept the expense. That being said, passion is not always kind, and we can lose sight of the ultimate goal; to educate pet owners to make better, more informed food choices. The reality is that not all people can afford raw feeding. Some people will dismiss raw feeding as a fad. All we can do as writers/ bloggers is to present the information as we know it and accept both the praise and the backlash, but always respect the opinions of others even as they don’t recognize ours. Despite my zeal about raw feeding, I have always prefaced that owners should “feed the best you can afford” because everyone is not going to raw feed and we can’t require or force it.

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  9. ITA with you. Kittens need to be exposed to everything that could be food so they are better eaters as adults.

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  10. What a beautifully written and thoughtful post, Connie. I'm always so impressed and touched by your insights and the way you see things from all sides with the most sincere empathy.

    I never really thought about this before, but exposing kittens to a variety of foods is a brilliant idea. Stuff happens in life, and it's often stuff we don't plan for.

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  11. My cats have dry food out to eat, especially if I am not around to cater to them at meal times. That is not their only diet. It is important they know to eat it. Dry food is primarily what they get in shelters due to cost per meal. In case there is a disaster or you get snowed in which is more likely for me, a big emergency bag of dry food can go a long way, until you get out again.

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  12. Great post! Chuck was always constipated, so we transitioned him and Angel to wet bood only, but always had some around in the winter to feed The 'O' Cats, because wet food freezes. Nowadays, if I can get Chuck to eat anything...wet or dry...I'm over the moon. One has to adapt. I too wish kibble went away forever, in theory.

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  13. Great post ! We eat mainly raw, but Claire keeps giving us one meal of canned food every day. She says that if something happens, we are used to this and anyone can come and feed us easily. And if Claire gets samples of good quality dry food, she uses it as treats for us. Purrs

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  14. Thank you for writing this. Mudpie's diet is 90% dry food, and while I don't like it, I just cannot get her to eat anything else. I have a feeling she wasn't exposed to anything else in her early days because just about every wet food (with few exceptions) gets a look like I'm trying to poison her. I keep trying, with the hopes I'll hit on something she loves so much she'll be willing to cut back on the dry...that just hasn't happened yet.

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  15. I really appreciate your understanding knowing that you are passionate about feeding raw food. I think of people who may not adopt a kitty if they thought they had to feed raw food. As you mentioned, dry food may be all they can afford, or the time or effort may not appeal. I know people feed their cats raw food because they love them, but some do come across as judging. However, who am I to talk? I can be judging when I come across people that let their cats roam outside knowing how dangerous it is for the cats. I think you did an excellent job with this post expressing your feelings yet showing kindness and understanding. I love your last paragraph.

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  16. Very good point that if a cat is never exposed to dry food, they won't realize it is food. I agree that cats should be exposed to a wide assortment of foods.

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  17. A thoughtful, intelligent, non-critical post. Thank you for your support of all animal lovers. I have a neighbor whose kids love their kitty. The family is barely able to support themselves but make sure their kitty gets fed and vet care. Sometimes that's the best possibility.

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  18. Bravo! We agree with every thing you beautifully wrote here and what a great idea to assure cats are exposed to assorted foods. Very well said. Thank you!

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  19. I've said this before ... but I admire you. I admire your willingness to say what must be said - without judgment. I admire your advocacy and love of cats. I wish species appropriate food for cats was as readily available and economical as dry food. Last time I considered changing foods, I quickly got overwhelmed as there's little consensus as to ingredients/method/etc.

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  20. Terrific post, Connie. It really is important that cats be exposed to different kinds of food, so they know it's food.

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  21. Thank you for addressing so many important points in this post. I hope the people who criticized your suggestion, will realize that dry cat food can be an important source of food in different situations. We can't predict the future, but knowing that a cat will eat a variety of foods can give you peace of mind. (Previously deleted for a typo.)

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  22. This is a very sensible post. It is always best to look at the big picture since feeding conditions will not always be "ideal."

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