You may have read many articles suggesting that cats should be fed raw cat food. After all, your cat’s wild relatives never eat cooked food, do they? These wild critters don’t have someone to open a can for them. They have to hunt for their food and then eat it raw. So, you might be wondering if it’s ok to feed your cat raw food.
What the Data Says About Raw Cat Food
The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) all conclude that feeding raw food to your cat is risky. A study that tested commercially available raw pet foods found that almost 25% of samples contained harmful bacteria, including salmonella and listeria. Cats can carry both of these pathogens without showing any signs of illness.
How Dangerous Is Salmonella?
The CDC estimates that each year in the US, there are 1.2 million-plus human cases of salmonella poisoning. And, approximately 400 people die annually from the disease. The most vulnerable are children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems. The symptoms of salmonellosis in humans and cats are quite similar, and include:
- Diarrhea (often bloody)
- Loss of appetite
What About Listeria?
Listeriosis, although rarer than salmonellosis, is a leading cause of hospitalization and death because of food contamination. The CDC estimates about 1,600 cases with about 260 deaths annually in the US. Affected pregnant women may only experience flu-like symptoms. However, their babies may be stillborn or born prematurely. Up to one-third of affected newborns die despite aggressive treatment.
Is Occasional Feeding of Raw Cat Food Okay?
The best protection is to avoid raw cat food altogether. However, there are ways to protect yourself as follows:
- After handling raw cat food, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
- Clean and disinfect all objects and surfaces that have had contact with raw food.
- Raw food should be separated from other food as much as possible.
- Store raw food in your freezer. Thaw it in your microwave or refrigerator; don’t use your kitchen counter or sink.
- Cover and refrigerate what isn’t eaten within a reasonable space of time, or discard safely.
- Don’t allow your cat to lick your face (no one likes that sandpaper tongue anyway!) or kiss your cat on the face, especially if he has just dined on raw food.
- If your cat licks your hands or you’ve been stroking him, wash your hands thoroughly.
Pregnant women should get their significant other or older child to be responsible for cleaning out the litter box. Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma. The infection is most commonly acquired through contact with cats and their feces or with raw or undercooked meat.
Although feeding a raw diet to your cat might seem like a good idea, it comes with risks. A good quality commercial cat food containing complete and life-stage balanced nutrition is a safer choice. Should your cat show symptoms of salmonellosis or listeriosis, get him to your vet immediately. And, if you live in the vicinity of Columbia SC, CVETs is the best place for any kind of pet emergency treatment.