More than a decade of running this crazy little website has brought in thousands of questions and comments from many smart, concerned, and discerning site visitors. Since I began using social media as another way of getting the word out, however, the volume of questions has skyrocketed. I can often refer folks to an exist FAQ or page on the website. But I'm seeing that even that sometimes doesn't get at the real heart of the matter or answer the more fundamental questions that underpin the messages filling up my inbox each day.
As the speed of information-sharing moves into overdrive, emails and social media messages are taking on a more desperate tone. Committed cat caregivers have a serious case of Conflicting Information Fatigue. And often I'm at a loss to give them satisfying answers - not only because of the limits of my knowledge, but because there are lots of voices out there that offer up advice that contradicts mine.
Commiserating the other day with my dear friend Terri Grow of PetSage, she said something that put all of this into a sharper focus. It goes like this: there are now scores of seemingly authoritative sources out there with wildly differing perspectives on the issue of feeding cats; even the most shrewd and critically-thinking of caregivers couldn't be anything but baffled.
First there's the confusion growing out of whether it's a good idea to feed raw food at all:
Further complicating all this? Another layer of confusion. Recipes for homemade food are all over the map in terms of ingredients. I had the opportunity this past week to look over about half a dozen recipes prepared by professional veterinary nutritionists for their cat clients and found myself puzzled (understatement) to see that they almost invariably included ingredients that cannot be reconciled with the science and accumulated wisdom and knowledge on feline nutrition that's been published by leading lights in that same field.
So. AVMA doesn't want you feeding raw. Your vet may not want you to either. But then the cooked recipe you get from a vet can't be reconciled with what you know about a cat's biology from the literature published by the veterinary scientist professionals. Whaaa?
Finally, none of all that even touches on the scores of recipes floating around on the Internet by lay people (and indeed, this website falls squarely into that category) that you don't know whether to trust. It's not like there's an Arbiter of Raw Truth Committee to turn to for a verified due diligence check on which are good and which are bad. Throw in the marketing machine of the pet food industry with its dire warnings about the dangers of home-prepared, and especially raw, diets and you're awash in both conspicuous and subliminal messaging that scares the crap out of you when you consider doing it yourself. It doesn't help that even among the raw feeding world, there's an unhealthy dose of unhelpful snarking, name-calling, and sometimes distasteful finger-pointing injected into what should be civilized debate. Who wants to join that club?
You don't know who to believe and your head spins faster than Linda's Blair's in The Excorcist.
Grains are healthy. Grains are deadly. Grinding is sensible. Grinders are bad. Vegetables are healthy. Vegetables kill your cat. You're gonna die of salmonella. Raw meat cures. Raw meat kills. Beware of raw. Embrace raw. Be afraid. Vets know best. Vets know nothing about nutrition. Do it my way and only my way.
Jumpin' Jehosophat - no wonder so many astute people are stumped. I thought it was a pain in the gluteus a dozen years ago when I first began the dizzying work sorting out fact from fiction and deciding whether and how to feed a raw diet to my critters. The information explosion - heightened by intra-raw-feeding-world sniping - since then made it worse.
If your head is spinning? Congratulations - you're human.
With all the usual caveats about how I know that there are many successful ways to feed raw food to cats and that I'm not a veterinarian, here are the five principles that this lay person uses to guide herself through this confounding thicket.
Wait. There's a sixth principle too. Keep your good humor. When you're elbow deep in mind-numbing nutrient tables and just spent the last six hours hunting down that one solitary reference to how much taurine is supposedly in a mouse but you can't find it and your life is passing you by and you're ready to abandon all hope and fill the stupid gravity feeder with neon-colored kibble because what the hell at least it's pretty? Go watch a Simon's Cat video or listen to a Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner audio about the 2000-year old man. Take a few breaths.
Then hug your cat.