How Effective Is a BARF Diet for Cats?

An appropriate diet for cats can reduce health problems and veterinary visits while adding years to your cat's life. Proponents contend that the best cat diet is the BARF diet, but there are critics who say cats benefit more from a commercially balanced diet.

About BARF

Depending on who you ask, BARF either stands for "Biologically Appropriate Raw Food" or "Bones and Raw Food." It was created by a veterinarian who contends that pet health is declining as more people move away from their pets would naturally eat in the wild.

The BARF diet consists of feeding your cat high quality raw meat, mostly muscle and organ meat. Some people add eggs, supplements, vegetables and ground bone to this meat, and others don't.

Effectiveness of a BARF Diet

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that in the wild, they receive all their nutrients from consuming other animals. They receive their protein from muscle meat and other nutrients from organ meat. They do not need vegetables and carbohydrates. In fact, carbohydrates can be harmful to cats, leading to an increase in diabetes and other health problems.

Unfortunately, commercial diets are usually packed with carbohydrates because they are a cheap filler. Your cats can't digest these carbs and, as a results, aren't getting all the nutrients they need or would get from a diet of birds and rodents in the wild.

Raw diets are all protein, unless you mix some addition vegetables or oats with it, giving your cat exactly what he needs without the extra fillers or preservatives. Cats on natural diets have shinier coats, fewer allergies and reduced instances of health problems. They often have more energy as well.

While dogs also benefit from a raw diet, BARF proponents contend that cats benefit even more since cat food strays so far from what cats' bodies have evolved to consume.

Cautions of BARF Diets

The biggest critique of BARF diets is that raw meat contains bacteria that is cooked out of commercial cat foods. However, cat's stomachs are much more acidic than ours since they often have to eat day-old carcases in the wild. Their stomachs are designed to kill natural bacteria.

However, bacteria from processed meat designed for humans may cause a problem. When obtaining meat for your cat's diet, get it from a trusted butcher, especially one with "free range" meat. Look for poultry and rabbit meats, not beef or another animal that cats are unlikely to eat.

Carefully clean all utensils that come in contact with the meat as well as bowls from which the cat eats. Don't leave raw meat sitting out for longer than 30 minutes.

Keep the raw meat in small servings and defrost only one day's worth of meals each day. Freezing the rest of the meat will kill a lot of the bacteria.

Many cats thrive on raw diets, but do your research to be sure all of your cat's nutritional needs are being met. Commercial raw diets that are prepackaged and made from high-quality, free range meat, are also available. Changing your cat to a raw diet can do wonders for his health and energy.