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Making the Switch: Brands, Schedules, Vacations?!

Astral

Savannah Teenager
So I've always been a bit concerned about my DSH's diet, not for any reasons prompted by health issues but just out of a desire to provide the best I can for her. We switched over from the junk kibble to Nature's Variety Instinct fairly early on, and went with the raw boost and eventually healthy weight varieties as they became available.

Now with our SV on the way, I'm re-evaluating the options and ultimately I haven't been able to settle on a dry kibble that doesn't contain at least some sort of junk (I've never been all that cool with NV's inclusion of tapioca), so I've decided to transition over to raw, at least partway.

Does anyone have experience with feeding raw while also leaving out kibble for free-feeding?

I'm hoping to curb at least some of the junk in the kibble by reducing the amount they eat, but I'm afraid to commit to a 100% raw diet since we moved across the city from our cat-sitting friends and don't really want to put the burden on them to deal with driving out, thawing, etc. as many times a day if we're on vacation. We also take trips out to family at least one weekend every couple of months, so ideally I'd like to do something that wouldn't leave them starved if they don't get their raw food for a few days. Is this even possible, or am I looking at serious consequences if they suddenly don't having access to half their usual diet for a period of 2-5 days?

I'm also not really sure what a semi-raw schedule would look like. I was thinking feedings when we get home after work and again before bed, and having the kibble out for grazing otherwise.

As far as brands, I definitely feel more comfortable going commercial as I don't trust myself not to screw up preparing a customized raw diet that covers everything a cat needs. Both Nature's Variety Raw Bites and Radcat are available in local stores, and I'm leaning towards the NV if only because it can be thawed in a matter of minutes as opposed to the 24 hours required by Radcat. I feel Radcat may ultimately be better as it doesn't mix proteins and doesn't contain veggies, but if anyone has more experience I'd love to hear.

Sorry for the wall of text, I'm just a bit overwhelmed by all of the research that goes into raw and want to make sure I do this right!
 

Rafiki

Site Supporter
My breeder had numerous concerns about the combination of raw and kibble. Both my cats were started on raw at the breeder and never had kibble. First of all, kibble (particularly the cheap brands that contain corn) tends to be like potato chips to cats - they tend to like it more than other foods. Cats on raw get most of their water from the meat and don't drink as much water as a cat that eats kibble. When they get both raw and kibble, they may not drink as much water as they should. Particularly with a kitten, this could result in blockage.

I share your concerns about what to do when away....we have only gone on two 3 night vacation since getting these two! A neighbor used to take care of my other cats but he is now in college, has a job and a girlfriend and such a busy life that he is no longer reliable. My other cats ate kibble so timing was not a great concern - I would leave out extra water and food dishes. With raw, they are fed twice and day and skipping a meal is not an option. Someone that invented an automatic raw feeder would make a fortune!

We are currently trying to find a professional pet sitter willing to come out twice a day at a reasonable rate.
 

Astral

Savannah Teenager
Thanks Rafiki, that's a really good point about their water intake. I was concerned that if we fed the combination and had to stop the raw during vacations that they wouldn't be used to drinking enough, but never considered that it might be an issue in practice as well!

I must have lucked out with my DSH, she likes to ignore the kibble part and go straight for the freeze dried raw pieces, and even if there's still kibble leftover she'll complain until we refill it.
 

WitchyWoman

Admin
Staff member
Here's a snippet from feline-nutrition.org that explains why free-feeding is bad for cats:

Cats are designed to gorge on a meal, then not eat again for many hours or even days. This allows for proper digestion and elimination of the toxins associated with a meat-based diet.

A cat is not finicky by nature. A finicky cat is created, not born. If you had a particular type of smelly food left in front of you most of the day, would you remain interested in that food? How many times have you had to change the brand of food you feed your cat because she or he would no longer eat it? Smelling food all day can actually decrease a cat's appetite. I don't think I could keep the solid muscle weight on my cats if I left food available all day.

Smelling food triggers a cat's digestive system to begin working. Constantly smelling food, even if it is only an empty bowl that the food was once in or a bag of dry food left on the counter will keep the digestive system primed and ready to go all day

Munching on dry food throughout the day does keep the digestive system working and the stomach never gets the chance to completely empty as it should. The digestive system requires quite a bit of energy to operate. Keeping it going throughout the day by allowing constant access or exposure to food is pulling valuable resources from other systems and possibly prematurely aging the cat. This can also result in improper hair coat and the tendency towards cystitis.

If you want to feed both Nature's Variety and RadKat, you can let the radkat thaw until you can cut it with a knife and then refreeze it in daily portions. Then when you're away, whomever is cat sitting can take out a baggie for the next day and let it thaw overnight. If the food is still partially frozen, placing the bag in a bowl of hot water will get it quickly to room temperature. It's a bit of a pain, but I think it's better to have a cat eating a couple different food options in case it decides to boycott a particular food.

 

Kristin

Animal Communicator
Due to Zeddie's recent drama with food, I have been through pretty much all the "holistic" brands of food. She is now happily back on raw (her favorite and mine) but a close second for both of us was Stella & Chewy's freeze dried. It is pricier and has some preservatives, but has the convenience of kibble. If I had to leave her with someone uncomfortable with feeding raw, I would buy a bag of S&C and send them with that. It is simple, safe, and easy. Just add water and serve. Usually I don't travel without Zeddie though ;)
 

Astral

Savannah Teenager
I recall reading that or something similar when first adopting our shorthair, WW. In fact before settling on the new kibble we originally tried to transition over to a 100% scheduled raw diet but our situation at the time just didn't allow for it. Aside from my concerns in the OP I was planning on making that transition now, but was actually stopped in my tracks from a conflicting piece (which I unfortunately don't recall where I saw it) that said scheduled feedings can cause things to spike up and down and put stress on the cat that way.

Of course, that's why I'm still doing research since I'll take everything I read with a grain of salt, and always love to get these second opinions. :D
 

WitchyWoman

Admin
Staff member
Of course, that's why I'm still doing research since I'll take everything I read with a grain of salt, and always love to get these second opinions. :D

I always tend to do things as close to the way mother nature intended when it comes to my cats. I don't feed them the same amount of food every meal or every day. I try to mimic what they would do if they were free roaming with the exception of fasting. If I were to try to skip one of their meals it would be total bedlam.

How often they eat is, IMHO, less important than what they eat. And as you already know, finding a commercial diet that doesn't have something in it that makes you scratch your head and go "huh" is difficult. When I see commercials for cat food touting "fresh" fruits and veggies, it make me insane. Obligate carnivores get a minimal amount of fruits and vegetables in the stomachs and crops of their prey. They don't need, and can't properly digest, those foods.

I feed a whole prey diet and various meats such as bison, duck, & rabbit. The biggest thing I have to be concerned about is what the commercial growers are feeding the prey and I've checked out those sources to be sure the feed is as pure as possible.
 
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