Whenever we finally get our land, animals will be a huge part of our homestead. We'll be responsible for their care and keeping...so just as Andrew I are deeply concerned about keeping GMO corn and soy out of our diets, we endeavor to do the same for the animals we share our lives with. They can’t control what we choose to feed them, so it’s our responsibility to be aware of what’s on their dinner plates. (Especially if we plan on eventually putting them on our own dinner plates!)
Though our herds of goats and sheep are currently just a dream, we're still being mindful of what we give to the Cityhouse animals. One such creature is our rescued cat Chairman, a longhaired mixed-breed who is fond of sitting on whatever you’re currently giving more attention than him. We had been feeding him the best kitty kibble that we could find, but sense seemed to say that there was a better and cheaper option than the $15 a pound store-bought food. We saw that so many of the store brands, bedecked with images of pumas and bobcats hunched over a fresh kill, boasted higher ratios of meat than competitors.
This made us wonder; why aren’t we just feeding the cat meat?
Research indicates that as an obligate carnivore, the cat is a meat eater through and through. Even more carnivorous than dogs, their digestive systems were not designed to process plant material, and a glance at their molars shows a total lack of grinding surfaces. We started seeing that all the corn and soy and “healthy vegetables” in cat food was merely cheap filler, and not there for our little guy’s health. Soon our decision was set—after some very encouraging research, we would see if we could transition our cat to a diet that suited his design and get him eating raw meat.
In order to transition him to this diet, we first used a hand-cranked meat grinder (found cheap at a thrift store) to grind up a raw chicken leg into a fine mush (APPETIZING). We mixed a little with his kibble to get him used to the idea. He seemed to really enjoy the change (strange for a cat, we know), and so every week, we made the meat portion bigger and the kibble portion smaller until he was only eating raw ground chicken.
With all this success, after a few weeks, the day finally came to try to give him a whole chicken leg. We watched in fascination as he approached the food, and then started doing behaviors we’d never seen in him before. He used all of his teeth like a big cat, his canines being used to move the leg, his premolars shearing off chunks of meat like scissors, and his molars crushing the bone with gusto. The first leg took him about 45 minutes to eat—now that he is used to this system, he can polish one off in about 10 minutes.
Now, we feed him a chicken leg once a day, bone and all. One leg is usually about the perfect ration (1-2% of his ideal body weight in chicken). We currently buy his chicken in large packages from a nearby discount supermarket—they often have deals where we end up spending less than a dollar a pound. Though we know it’s not ideal to buy from a large, generic chicken company, we do hope to be able to feed him from our own animals once we have the land to do it.
Now, for those of you concerned about the handling of raw chicken, I will mention that the cat does not keep his meal in the bowl (not sure how I can train him to do that!) With seeming delight, he flings the leg out of his bowl and happily crunches away right on our kitchen floor. I make sure to watch where he is eating, and I always follow up by cleaning that part of the floor (and any remaining bone fragments) with a diluted bleach or alcohol solution. It takes one extra minute, and is really not a hassle.
Our cat benefits from the fatty chicken skin (his favorite part) and has an incredibly glossy, dander-free coat. My allergy-suffering sister has commented that of all the cats she’s met, he’s the only one that doesn’t give her an allergy attack. He gets his needed protein from the flesh of the chicken and his vitamins from the bone and marrow. His teeth are scraped clean while he gnaws, and though he’s rapidly approaching 6 years old, they are still tartar-free and accompanied by odorless breath. Furthermore, his waste shows that his digestive system has become much more efficient. Rather than the large, wet, greasy, stinky poo that he made on the kibble diet, he now produces small, dry, nearly scent-free poo. Far preferable!
It is probably also important to mention that we found our cat drinking much less water after switching his diet. The high water content of the fresh meat meets the majority of his daily water requirement. And, in fact, this is how many obligate carnivores get a good portion of their water. So don’t be surprised if you don’t have to fill your cat’s water bowl quite so full!
--NEVER give your dog or cat a cooked chicken bone—the cooking process makes the bone brittle and it will shatter into dangerous shards in your pet’s mouth and digestive system. Use only raw bone!
--Provide fresh meat for your cats. Unlike dogs, they don’t have the digestive capabilities to handle meat that has gone bad. If you buy a bargain package of chicken, freeze the bulk of it, and thaw individual portions for your cat every day.
--Be sure that thawed meat has been brought to room temperature before you give it to your cat.
--Watch where your cat eats and clean up the area afterward, especially if you have young children who like to play on the floor! Cats tend to leave bone fragments behind.
--When you finally transition to whole chicken thighs or legs, watch your cat eat the whole thing. If it is too much for one meal, she may try to hide the excess somewhere in the house for later. Adjust the portions accordingly (for example, try a leg instead of a thigh), unless you enjoy finding a gnawed chicken part hidden behind your easy chair. IT WAS GROSS.
If you are interested in transitioning your animals to a more natural diet, please first do your research and give them time to adjust.
We are a husband and wife who are trying to live simply. We are learning much as we transition from life in the city to life in the country. Come along with us, and maybe you can also learn a thing or two as well.
We love writing for these fine folks as well!
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Simple Life Homestead