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Biscuits versus rawfood - the feline debate continues ...

Posted on January 15 2022

Granted, biscuits and other dry food are by far the easiest and most convenient way to feed your cat. But are they providing your pet with all the nutrition they need? Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. There are three main problems with a dry food diet, all of which can be solved by switching to a raw food diet. 

Firstly, the water content of biscuits is too low. Cats have a very low thirst compared to other animals. While dogs will actively drink water multiple times a day, cats rely on their food to get the majority of their water intake. Dry food (biscuits) usually contain 5%-10% water, whilst wet food contains 70%+. Cats that don’t get enough water can become dehydrated and experience a whole myriad of problems from this including kidney and bladder problems. Left untreated, these issues can cause major damage to your pet. 

Cats are naturally carnivores, in fact obligate carnivores, which means they should be eating a high-protein low-carb diet. In the wild they would not be finding corn to chow down on for dinner, they would forage for rodents and other small animals. They would be eating an incredibly high protein and high moisture diet, with a lot of organ meat. Only 5% of their diet would consist of carbohydrates. Keeping that in mind, it’s time to talk more about biscuits. For something to be a biscuit, it needs to have at least 10% carbohydrates; although such a low amount of carbohydrates is very rare, as they usually contain anywhere from 40%-80%. This level of carbs is WAY too high for a cat, and can cause a myriad of issues. Carbohydrates are necessary for the body, but cats only need a small amount. The extra carbs break down into sugars, which feed the yeast microbes and can cause itchy skin, a yeasty odour, malassezia, and dark spots, (among other issues). Cats also lack some of the enzymatic pathways that other mammals have, which means they actually find it harder to break down carbohydrates. All of this means that cats are more susceptible to carbohydrate overdose, and yet most of the biscuits on the market are predominantly carbohydrate-rich.. 

The final problem with dry food is that the protein ratio is unbalanced. Cats are meat-eaters, and are wired to get most of their nutrition from meat sources, and only supplement with plant protein when necessary. However, plant-based protein (corn, rice, wheat, soy, etc) is much cheaper and easier to source, so many petfood manufacturers will load up their food with these ingredients. Although it might not seem like a big deal (They’re both protein right?), plant and meat protein have different chemical components, and there are certain essential amino acids that can only be found in meat. So not only is the protein content in dry food incredibly low, but it also doesn’t provide your cat with the right nutrient ratios. 

Transitioning your cat from dry to raw food might not be straight-forward for some cats however. If they have been on biscuits for their whole life, they will be used to the dry food and it might take some time for them to adjust. You will need to swap over slowly, not just quit cold turkey. Sometimes a cat will switch over no problem. Sometimes a cat will refuse to eat raw food, and the owner will panic and fill up a bowl with biscuits. The best way to change your cat over is to do it gently. Start by mixing a small amount of raw food into their regular biscuits, at a ratio of 1⁄5 raw food and 4⁄5 dry food. Do this for two days, before changing to 2⁄5 raw food and 3⁄5 dry food for the next two days. Continue on this way, gradually increasing the amount of wet food and 

decreasing the amount of dry food until your cat is eating completely raw. If your cat doesn’t want to eat the raw food, try using a different type of meat or experimenting with adding different flavours or cat supplements. The worst thing you can do is give in and re-commence feeding biscuits, as that teaches them that they will be given dry food if they just wait for it. Some cats might experience loose stools during the change-over. This is normal and nothing to be alarmed at; it’s just your cat's digestive system adjusting to the new food. If your cat experiences diarrhoea for more than a day, you will need to take the transition even slower and change their food over the course of several weeks. When you switch to a raw food diet, your cat will probably start going to the bathroom a lot more as they will be getting a lot more water than they were previously. This is a good sign, but it means that you may need to change their litter more often or let them outside more regularly. For optimal health, you should be feeding your cat a mixture of minces, bones, tripe, and organ meat. These bones should always be raw; as cooked bones become too brittle and can cause internal damage. You can either make raw food yourself (which can be time consuming, but means you have total control over what your cat is eating). Otherwise, there are lots of shops and delivery services that will handle it all for you. 

Some of our favourites are Brodies Auckland, the Cats and Dogs Dinner Company Wellington, Best for Pets in Christchurch, Pet Naturals Orewa, Otago Petfoods, and Petsmart NZ Invercargill This website also has a list of all raw food suppliers in New Zealand, so it is a great tool if you’re wanting to buy pre-prepared raw food. 

Even when you think your cat might be healthy on dry food, many have internal issues that you don’t know about until it’s too late. Blocked urinary tracts, diabetes, an inflamed bladder, and skin issues are all common issues that are seen in cats that are on dry food. One of the leading causes of death in cats is kidney disease. Even if your cat doesn’t currently have any issues, practising preventative methods is so much better than waiting until your cat actually becomes sick.