Healthy Pets As Part Of A Healthy Family


It’s engrained in our culture to disregard our pet’s nutrition and feed them something subpar to what we are feeding our families.

It’s far more engrained in our culture to just not think about our pet’s nutrition at all than it is to not think about our own nutrition.

But much like children, we choose to bring these animals into our homes as furry family members and commit to taking care of them, keeping them happy and nourished.

Afterall, they are completely dependent on us for everything while in our homes. They provide us with comfort, companionship, entertainment, protection, and love without questions or judgment, and deserve better from us in return.

For the last two years, I watched my elderly cat, Max, waste away. It took a long time to realize he wasn’t just losing some weight after being taken off table scraps. He was ill, despite no veterinarian being able to find anything worthwhile.

When I did finally see just how bad things were, I had that moment of clarity for him that I had come to a year earlier after the weight of new motherhood hit me; everything wrong with his health was related to his diet. Only proper nutrition could bring him back to health.

The implications of humans eating industrialized food, even if labeled organic, are no different than the implications of our beloved household pets eating industrialized food. The amount of processing kibble and wet food goes through before being consumed isn’t much different from the slop fed to cows in a CAFO.

Even the best varieties of wet food, closest to the natural diet of our carnivorous friends, has had the nutrition cooked out of the meats and replaced with synthetic vitamins.

Frequently convenience stops us from taking care of our pets in the way we take care of ourselves; it’s just one more item on the already long to-do list. Even the most militantly health conscious amongst us won’t think twice about pouring a bowl of meat flavored cardboard for Fido or Fifi.

Cats (and dogs) are natural carnivores and should not be eating grains, vegetables or even cooked meat, but all those things are present in the kibble my cat had consumed since he was a kitten, and it was killing him.

After a couple weeks of trying to transition Max to a natural diet of raw meat, bones and organs, noticing he wasn’t eating anything in general, I took him to a holistic vet who instantly knew something was very wrong.

A few x-rays later, he was officially diagnosed with cancer. About 6 weeks after that, he died in our home.

During that time I had given up altogether on the dietary changes for our cats. Only 1 of the 3 had shown any interest and I just couldn’t be hassled to deal with it all.

But seeing my childhood friend die from something totally preventable pushed me to vow to take better care of our other kitties, and come Hell or high water, they were going to be switched onto raw food. After a week-long adjustment period, they now gladly consume a variety of small game meats, just as nature intended.

Mmmm…parakeet!

Although I had known raw meat was best for a while before the situation with my cat, cost was the biggest factor behind my hesitation to take the plunge. They would inhale the kibble like no tomorrow and I wasn’t sure I could keep up with such appetites in the same quantities of raw meat.

Once completely transitioned onto the new diet, their appetites changed dramatically and our two husky felines only eat a couple pounds of meat and bone a week. Not only is it totally affordable, but I can even “splurge” on the good quality stuff.

A super blurry photo of their set up. Wheat grass/catnip planter available if they need it, mineral water and chicken breasts (with blood, not dirt).

My foray into raw feeding has been surprisingly pleasant. I don’t have to do any special preparations so I don’t handle the meat any more than I would for my own dinner. Clean up is pretty simple since the cats consume the entire meal, gnawing away at the bones with those sharp back teeth until everything is gone.

They do like to drag their separate pieces around the linoleum and then use the kitchen rug to bury their leftover treasures, but some natural cleaning spray and a towel is all I need to take care of that. And no, I’m not at all concerned about bacteria, even with my toddler playing in the kitchen. Through a healthy immune system, healthy exposure to bacteria, and simply having healthier meat, the risk of getting sick is extremely low.

Sunshine!

Some folks also seem to have the mistaken belief that somehow domesticated animals have lost the ability to properly digest raw meat or are more likely to get sick from the bacteria present.

This is absolutely not true, just talk to all the people feeding their pets this way! And again, we don’t think it’s too far-fetched that big industries are selling us lies about our own health, why would it be far-fetched for kibble companies and vets to be selling us similar lies about our pets?

It’s perfectly safe, amazingly healthy and doesn’t even cause any litter box problems.

This whole experience has really changed my perceptions about what makes a healthy family. It wasn’t enough to love my cats and do all the normal stuff pet owners are supposed to do as dictated by our culture. They’re family members and deserve the same critical thinking skills and sharp eye that has lead me to giving my daughter a healthier life and reversing my own health issues.

Exercise!

Our pets need real food, fresh air, sunshine, stress relief, a toxin-free environment, and holistic healthcare, too. Their happiness and wellbeing feeds into the family’s wellbeing. When they are sick, it puts a strain on all of us. When they are sad, we feel their moods in the same way they feel when we are sad.

Taking good care of our sweet furry children is just another part of taking care of our family’s health as a whole.

For everything you need to know about raw food for your pets – from transitioning to ensuring a balanced diet – check out rawfeddogs.org or rawfedcats.org. Make sure you hit up the link sections for even more information about natural pet care! A special thank you to Linda from rawfedcats.org for the personal help in switching my cats to raw food.

In honor of Maximus Siders-Roy. Sep 3, 1998 – Mar 28, 2012. You were the light in the darkest times of my life.

Thank you, Cassandra!  What an awesome post!  I have been making Sky’s food for years and need to do a dog post version soon, thanks for the inspiration!


About the Author

Cassandra has been a fan of M+BL since 2010 and in 2012, she was hired on as Stephanie's assistant. Since then her role has grown into advertising management and Nutrition Editor for the blog. Living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter, Cassandra is currently pregnant with her second child and has started a blogging services business, specializing in virtual assistant placement.

Comments

  1. Wow! Awesome topic. I don’t have time to digest all of this today but plan to come back and read more. I thought I was doing good by my pets by feeding them the expensive “Soild Gold” brand pet food, but hadn’t really thought of cooking (or doing raw meat) for them….hmmmm.

    • Cassandra says:

      It’s definitely worthwhile to look into, trust me! Make sure if you do make the change that you make it raw meat, as cooked meat is bad for them. Definitely read up on the links provided at the bottom.

    • So happy to hear you are going to do some more research and are open to learning more, good for you!

    • Julie Morrison says:

      I have researched Solid Gold & fed it off & on for 20 years & although it may not be raw, I feel like its the best cooked kibble you can buy. You’ll probably save money by switching to the raw diet. :-)

  2. Hooray to you for writing this post and for doing something wonderful for your animals! My husband and I fed our Aussie Shepherd puppy, Charlie, a whole raw diet for about a year and he was healthy, energetic, shiny, and he had a pleasant body odor. Unfortunately, we lost him in an accident, but we plan to do the same for our subsequent animals. It’s worth it.

  3. I don’t do a raw diet with out dogs but we do the holistic pet food since one of our dogs is allergic to everything under the sun and requires something gentle on her stomach. I make sure our 3 dogs & cat eat as good as we do since they are family as well :] Great post as well.

  4. Mamacita says:

    I have been feeding our yellow lab raw ever since we got her (at 10 months old) and I love it. It’s really so easy once you get used to it, and the dog looks so good–shiny, energetic and sweet-smelling with bright white teeth. Plus, well let’s just say that she’s easy to clean up after in the yard. My only regret is that we can’t feed her exclusively pastured meats. At 2 pounds of meat per day, it would add up pretty fast. It’s great that you’re able to do that for your kitties, though!

    I can heartily second the two sites you recommended for learning more about raw feeding. I’m also a member of a Yahoo group for local raw feeders, and I’ve gotten great advice there about where to buy good meat at good prices. Thanks so much for bringing up this subject! I feel like people who pay attention to nutrition for themselves and their families would want to have this information to take care of their 4-legged families, too.

    • Do you mind going into why it’s easier to clean up in the yard? Does their poo change or do they poop less? I just gave my dog a raw bone to chew on, the other day when I was making some beef stock and he got a bit constipated. I also let him lick a bunch of the fat from the pan after I roasted the pan, so maybe that was it….

      • It’s easier to clean up because her poops are so small–more the size of cat poops than big dog poops–and the bone causes them to be fairly dry and firm, so they’re easier to pick up. [Eeek, sorry to be so graphic.] FWIW, I don’t give her bones for chewing; she just gets them in the poultry she eats. I’ve been cutting the beef off the bone because you’re not supposed to give cut bones, just whole ones (as in chicken leg quarters). [I do pop out any beef marrow and give it to her.]

        In my experience, too much rich food or fat makes my dog have looser stools rather than constipation. I have heard that pork can make them gassy, so I avoid that like the plague. It’s possible that too much bone would make it difficult for her to move her bowels. Maybe try a boneless meal to see if it helps?

        • It was a cut bone, so maybe that was the problem?

          • Cassandra says:

            Some animals have to go through a bowel adjustment period, sort of cleaning out the gunk before attuning to the raw food. It’s worse when they’re switching back and forth between cooked and raw. When I was feeding the cats partial wet food with some raw, they had awful diarrhea. Being fully on raw food, they have nice little poops just like Angela said.

          • Mamacita says:

            I think the cut bone is more of a potential problem for chewing and getting down the gullet. Like Cassandra said, it’s probably an adjustment period. How’s it going now, a few days later?

  5. I am so thankful you wrote about the benefits of making sure our four legged family is feed a species appropriate diet. Feeding a raw diet is the cornerstone to a high functioning immune system and longer,healthy life.

    I noticed you posted a couple questions above and the yard is easier to clean because their stools are less as they assimilate more of their diet. My two dogs have minimal poo that tends to disintegrate after a few days.

    Blessings!

  6. Julie Morrison says:

    This is an AWESOME post Stephanie! Im so sorry about your Maximus but don’t beat urself up too much. The most important thing is that he knew he was loved & I’m pretty sure u made sure of that every single day. This raw food diet is an excellent idea & I read a great book about it a few years ago by Dr. Billinghurst called Natural & Healthy Raw Food for Dogs & Cats. It was a great book & helped me see the light as far as kibble goes. I was so upset that I had been so misled by the dogfood companies that I went to the bookstore & bought Dr. Pitcairn’s The Naturally Healthy Dog. I highly recommend both books to anybody considering putting their pets on the raw food diet. They explain WHY it’s necessary, WHAT’s in the dog/cat food your dogs/cats are eating now & HOW to do it. GREAT resource!!

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