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Raw Cat Food Diet: Vet Reviewed Pros & Cons Explained

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Raw cat food is a diet for cats that consists only of raw and unprocessed animal sources such as meat, eggs, organs, and bones. The raw ingredients are usually obtained from humanely-raised or wild-caught animals. This type of diet attempts to mimic the natural predatory behavior of cats in the wild by providing them with high-quality proteins and fats from fresh sources. Let’s learn more about raw food diets for cats and the pros and cons of them.

How Does It Work?

Raw cat food diets are based on the premise that cats in the wild would naturally consume a wide variety of fresh prey, including small animals such as mice and birds. In contrast to kibble which is made from ultra-processed meat, grains, and other ingredients, raw cat food diets consist of unprocessed animal proteins like chicken, beef, fish, eggs, organs, and bone. These ingredients are usually ground up into a fine consistency before being served to cats.

cat with raw food
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

What Are the Different Types of Raw Cat Food Diets?

There are several types of raw cat food diets available, including:
  • Whole Prey – These diets mimic the natural diet of cats in the wild and consist of fresh, whole-prey animals such as mice, birds, and fish. Domestic cats usually wouldn’t get this type of diet.
  • Raw Meat Diet – This type of diet is made up of fresh muscle meats and organs from humanely-raised or wild-caught animals. It does not contain any grains or fillers.
  • Balanced Homemade Raw Diet– This type of diet utilizes a combination of fresh meat, eggs, organs,  bones, and supplements that are balanced for a cat’s nutritional needs.

Where Is It Used?

Raw cat food diets are most commonly used by pet owners who want to provide their cats with a more natural and nutrient-rich diet. It can also benefit cats with allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients found in processed kibble. Some veterinarians may also recommend raw cat food diets for cats with specific health issues such as diabetes or digestive problems.

However, it’s important to note that these diets should always be discussed with a vet beforehand since there can be risks associated with feeding cats something other than traditional commercial pet foods. Additionally, these diets require careful preparation and handling to avoid potential bacterial contamination from raw meats.

cat eating from feeding bowl
Image Credit: Abeer Zaki, Unsplash

Advantages of Raw Cat Food Diets

There are many advantages of raw cat food diets, including:

High-Quality Sources of Protein

Raw cat food contains more high-quality proteins than regular kibble since it utilizes fresh meats, which are much richer in nutrients. This can give cats more energy, help maintain a healthy weight and promote overall health.

Higher Fat Content

Raw cat food diets usually contain higher amounts of fat than kibble diets, which can benefit cats who need extra calories.

Nutrient-Rich Diet

Raw cat food is loaded with essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that are necessary for a healthy metabolism and overall wellness. They also include natural sources of taurine, an essential amino acid for cats that helps them to maintain their cardiac and visual health.

Easier Digestion

Because raw cat foods are unprocessed, they are much easier to digest than kibble, which can help cats with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues.

feeding cat with raw chicken
Image Credit: prachyaloyfar, Shutterstock

Disadvantages of Raw Cat Food Diets

The main disadvantages of raw cat food diets are:

Potential Bacterial Contamination

Raw cat foods can be polluted by bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which can harm both cats and humans. Therefore, taking extra precautions when sourcing, handling, preparing, and feeding raw cat food is important.


Raw cat foods are typically more expensive than processed kibble because they require higher-quality ingredients. Additionally, obtaining humanely-raised or wild-caught animal proteins will also elevate the costs. 


Preparing and serving raw cat foods takes time since it involves grinding the ingredients and ensuring that all the nutrients are balanced for a cat’s nutritional needs. This can make it difficult for busy pet owners to provide their cats with a nutritious diet on a consistent basis.

Overall, raw cat food diets can benefit cats looking to get more natural and nutrient-rich nutrition in their diet. However, it’s important to consult with a vet beforehand and take extra precautions when handling and preparing raw foods to avoid contamination. Additionally, these diets can be expensive and time-consuming, making them impractical for some pet owners.

raw meat on blender
Image Credit: Daria Miroshnikova, Shutterstock

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why should I consider a raw cat food diet?

There are many advantages to a raw cat food diet, including higher quality proteins, more natural nutrition, and easier digestion for cats with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues. Additionally, some veterinarians may suggest this type of diet for cats with specific health conditions such as diabetes, allergies, or digestive problems.

How do I transition my cat to a raw food diet?

It’s best to transition your cat slowly over several weeks to avoid potential gastric upset or behavioral issues that could arise from a sudden change. Start by gradually increasing the amount of raw food in your cat’s diet while decreasing the amount of processed kibble. Additionally, make sure to transition gently and consult with a veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about how to properly transition your cat to a raw food diet.

What are the benefits of a raw cat food diet?

There are many anecdotally reported benefits to feeding cats a raw food diet, including increased nutritional value, better digestion, and improved overall wellness. Raw foods provide cats with higher-quality proteins than those found in processed kibble, as well as essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids for optimal health. Additionally, these diets can be easier on cats with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues.

a tabby cat eating from a bowl
Image Credit: Astrid Gast, Shutterstock

Are there any additional costs associated with a raw cat food diet?

Yes, raw cat foods are typically more expensive than processed kibble because they require higher-quality ingredients. Additionally, obtaining humanely-raised or wild-caught animal proteins will also elevate the costs.  However, the improved nutrition that comes from feeding your cat a raw food diet can help reduce long-term veterinary costs.

How will I know if my cat gets all the nutrients he needs on a raw diet?

It’s important to make sure that you’re providing your cat with all of the nutrients it needs in order to stay healthy and active. A balanced raw diet should include muscle meats, organs, and bones from humanely-raised or wild-caught animals to provide essential proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. Additionally, it’s important to make sure the diet is balanced with the essential micronutrients that cats need in order to stay healthy. You should consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about a raw food diet for your cat.

Sample Recipe for Beginners


homemade cat food

Turkey Raw Cat Food

Course Main Course
Cuisine Cats


  • 2 lbs Turkey breast with skin
  • 88 gr Chicken livers
  • 178 gr Chicken hearts
  • 1.8 gr Salmon oil
  • 1 ¾ Egg yolks (pasteurized)
  • 3.76 oz Purified drinking water
  • 1 tsp Eggshell powder
  • 3.74 gr Morton® Lite Salt
  • 890 mg Taurine
  • 89 mg Vitamin B-complex
  • 67 mg Vitamin E d-alpha Tocopheryl Acetate (IU)


  • Combine all the ingredients in a strong blender and mix until having the desired texture. Feel free to add more water if your cat prefers a softer pate texture.
  • Spoon the mixture into individual meal-sized portions inside sealed containers. It is a good idea to have one container to store the meals your cat will eat in one day.
  • Refrigerate the food that you will use today and tomorrow. Keep it safely sealed and away from other food items.
  • Freeze the rest of the portions.
  • Allow the frozen food to thaw in the freezer for about 18-24 hours before feeding. Do not thaw this food outside the fridge.


This recipe is intended to provide only a basic outline for creating a raw cat food diet. Please consult your veterinarian to approve what is the best diet and recipes for your cat. 
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock
Keyword turkey and vegetable raw cat food

How to Avoid Nutritional Deficiencies While Feeding a Raw Diet

The best way to ensure your cat gets the nutrients they need from a raw diet is to start with a complete and balanced recipe that is catered to your cat’s weight, age, health status, and activity level.  It is always best to provide variety in their meals, which means rotating proteins, offering different cuts of meat, and including different vegetables or supplements as needed. Feeding an appropriate amount of food that provides the required maintenance calories for your cat is also important.

Finally, if you have any concerns about your cat’s diet or nutrition, it’s always best to talk to your veterinarian for advice and guidance. They can advise on the most appropriate diet for your pet and ensure they get all their essential nutrients.

Popular Additions and Supplements to Add and Why

  • Omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids are important for cats’ health and can help support healthy skin, coat, and joints. They can be found in small fish like sardines or anchovies and krill oil supplements.
  • Probiotics: These beneficial bacteria help promote digestion and nutrient absorption. Look for a probiotic supplement that contains many strains of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus.
  • Digestive Enzymes: Digestive enzymes aid in the breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to make them more easily digestible by your cat’s body.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: These essential nutrients should always be included in your cat’s diet. Many commercial raw cat food diets come with pre-mixed supplements, or you can add them separately as needed.
  • Water: Ensure your cat has access to fresh, clean water at all times to help keep them hydrated.
  • Herbs and Spices: Some herbs and spices may benefit cats, but always check with your vet before adding anything new to their diet. Popular cat-safe additions include parsley, dill, thyme, and rosemary.
cat owner feeding her pet cat
Image Credit: Milles Studio, Shutterstock

Foods to Avoid Feeding While on a Raw Diet

  • Dairy: Cats are lactose intolerant, so dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt should be avoided.
  • Processed Meats: Avoid processed meats such as hot dogs or deli meats as they can contain additives and preservatives that can be harmful to cats.
  • Garlic and Onions: These foods are toxic to cats, and their consumption may even lead to anemia due to their effect on red blood cells.
  • Bones: You might need to include bones as a source of calcium in your cat’s raw diet. However, keep in mind that they need to be finely ground to avoid causing any gastrointestinal issues for your cat. Some owners will prefer to feed supplemental calcium instead. Never feed your cat a cooked bone, as this can easily splinter and cause injuries or even perforations to your cat’s mouth or gastrointestinal tract.
  • Sugary Foods: Cats cannot process sugar the same way humans do, so sugary treats should be avoided. This includes sweets, fruits, and syrups.

Following these guidelines will help you create a safe, balanced raw diet for your cat that is nutritionally complete and tailored to their individual needs. Always remember to consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s food or nutrition plan.

Common Mistakes of Beginners Feeding a Raw-Diet

  • Not consulting with a veterinarian before beginning the diet.
  • Feeding too many high-fat items such as fatty cuts or fatty fish.
  • Not finding a complete and balanced raw cat food recipe to ensure proper nutrition.
  • Overfeeding, which can lead to obesity in cats.
  • Not providing enough variety of proteins and micronutrients.
  • Failing to handle raw food properly to avoid bacterial contamination.
  • Changing the diet too quickly without allowing time for gradual adjustment.
Image credit: mik ulyannikov, Shutterstock

How to Safely Handle Raw Foods

When handling raw foods for cats, it’s important to take certain precautions to avoid bacterial contamination.

Here are some tips for safely handling raw foods:
  • Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
  • Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces after coming into contact with raw foods.
  • Separate raw food from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Discard leftovers within 3 days of preparation.
  • Be sure to store all raw foods properly in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

A Quick Reference Guide to Raw Cat Food Diets

Here's how to get started with a raw cat food diet:
  • Consult with your vet to make sure it’s the right choice for your pet.
  • Start by gradually transitioning your cat over several weeks.
  • Make sure the diet is balanced with all the essential micronutrients that cats need in order to stay healthy.
  • Take extra precautions when handling and preparing raw foods to avoid bacterial contamination.
  • Monitor your cat’s health and well-being while they adjust to their new diet.
  • Reevaluate periodically to ensure you’re providing your pet with the best nutrition possible.


A raw cat food diet can be beneficial for cats as it contains higher-quality proteins, more natural nutrition, and easier digestion. However, it’s important to ensure that the diet is balanced with essential micronutrients and to transition your cat slowly to avoid potential gastric upset or behavioral issues. Taking extra precautions when handling and preparing these foods is also important due to potential bacterial contamination from the raw meats. Finally, additional costs may be associated with obtaining humanely raised or wild-caught animal proteins for a raw food diet, so pet owners should consider this before making the switch.

Featured Image Credit: stockcreations, Shutterstock

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