My cats have of course already mastered the barf.
This morning, again, thank you guys….
I have been worrying about what to feed the beasties, and I did go and hunt around about making your own pet food.
The biggest splash is this BARF thing.
After a fair amount of thought. I don't think it really sounds like a good idea.
Here's what I've come up with.
First, the basic research they are relying upon, some Dr. Pender-something, all dates from the 30's, and was poorly designed.
If you dig around a bit, it appears that the cooked and raw diets he tested were not the exact same foods served cooked or raw, which makes the experiment pointless.
That is, he changed more than one variable — added a lot of milk to the cooked diet that replaced meat in the raw one – so that he wasn't just testing cooked/uncooked.
And my own rule of thumb is that anything resting on research that old tends to be kooky.
Second, as I think someone over on CO pointed out, there are lots of animals who live to perfectly ripe old ages on commercial foods.
Current crisis aside, a high quality commercial food, one with no anything by-products, no anything meal, should be a viable option for most animals.
On the other hand, the anecdotal evidence from BARF feeders claims increased healthiness and vigor, and who's not for that?
And certainly there are common feline illnesses that might easily be caused by commercial diet — diabetes, FUS, heart problems?
My own suspicion is that the amount of grains and vegetables in these foods might be an issue.
Cats are true carnivores, and they just aren't built to live on this stuff: they have a short digestive system, and no flat molars for grinding vegetable foods.
The argument that people make for grains is that prey animals' stomachs contain their last meals of grains and that cats would routinely eat this too.
But how big a part of an entire mouse would this be, compared to how much grain product is in a given cat food?
Well, I don't know.
Andof course it's true that I've had cats who were just mad about corn chips, or toast, and the like.
(And Wolfie just stole and ate pistachio nuts this morning – unsalted!)
But I don't know whether something an animal has an occasional craving for ought to be in every bit of food that animal eats.
— I don't need chocolate at every meal. Or wait, maybe I do.
Anyway, this one I think is inconclusive.
Doesn't prove your animal needs this particular homemade diet, but points to some real concerns with commercial foods.
(There is also an issue with cranberries and cat metabolism, and cranberries are now being added to most high-end foods. Sigh.)
So certainly it's time to be reading labels carefully.
Third. The BARF folks do spend a lot of nuts and bolts time talking nutritional needs.
If you wanted to feed fresh foods to your cats, you might want to at least check out their recommendations for supplements to see about things to remember to add.
You need to be sure you aren't just giving cats muscle meat, since they do need a good calcium source, and trace minerals and such.
The BARF folks do go through what cats need and how to find sources for it.
Powered taurine, for example, isn't something I just keep around.
When they start listing the animals' needs, they base this on analyses of prey animals.
The BARF people discuss how cats eat in the wild in order to reproduce it.
It's true that the cats eating rodents that I have seen pretty much eaten the whole thing.
(Except for my BlackCat who carefully left the livers behind. On my mother's oriental carpets. She was so not amused.)
The BARF diet deals with this issue by including organ meats in the mix they grind up, and by grinding, or double-grinding, the bones as well, which might be a safety issue.
What they say is that raw bones don't splinter as dangerously as cooked ones.
The anti-Barf sites claim that there have been animal deaths from bone fragments.
I dunno — I haven't done it, and I don't know anyone who has with either good or bad results.
But I do know that mouse and rat bones are pretty tiny, even compared to a chicken or a rabbit.
I think I'd be nervous about this one.
Fourth. The BARF folks claim that there really aren't problems with salmonella or e coli, because cat and dog digestive systems are so powerful.
For those who are really uncertain, they suggest cleaning the surfaces of the meat before grinding it up.
For meat sources that might carry parasites, they recommend a long period of freezing to kill them off.
The anti-BARF sites claim there have been salmonella deaths, and say that vets complain about parasites.
Again, I don't know anything beyond the he-said/he-said here, but it would make me nervous.
Fifth. And it weirded me out, was a discussion of feeding live prey, either feeder mice for reptiles or day-old chicks.
I have had enough of a hard time over the years with hunting cats.
I know it's their nature.
I love almost everything about my beasties, but I just loathe it when one of them brings me anything much bigger than Motley's bug.
At the moment Henrietta who was a mighty hunter is retired; Motley is a bug hunter; Silmi can't be bothered; and Wolfie spent his impressionable months in a kennel waiting for a home.
(His idea of hunting a bird is to run at it really fast shouting Bird Bird at it. The birds mock him.)
The absolutely last thing I would do is set off the whole hunting thing on purpose myself. Ugh.
Anyway, what I have decided to do is:
I'm setting up a mixed system, based on the best commercial foods I can locate.
I will be doing a vast hunting among the cat foods available and reading of labels.
I'm looking for absolutely no by-products, no meat meal. Not at all, not ever.
I like the idea of human grade ingredients' I like organic, if possible, but these aren't deal breakers.
I want little or no grain, and I'd like a relatively low vegetable content too, but I can work around these.
I want to find at least two, maybe more, lines of products to use, and I want to switch among them often, so that the beasties aren't exposed to just one production line.
I will also be supplementing daily with a variety of real foods, which I will be cooking: chicken livers and hearts, tiny whole small fish, chopped up a bit, canned whole fish — salmon or mackerel which have bones, or chopped up whatever I'm having.
I might consider mixing up a supplement of taurine powder, ground up people calcium tablets, and a tiny bit of kelp, and using it sparingly once we work out how much people meat they are getting.
So now for the next round of research.