Why good nutrition is important

Good nutrition is as important to our pets as it is to us as humans . We are what we eat and if we don’t eat well it can lead to weight gain and long term health issues . 

But the pet food industry is dominated by pet food manufacturers who don’t create and sell pet food that is healthy or nutritionally dense . Instead they are often motivated by making profits and are mass producing dog and cat food that could in fact be doing harm to your furry friend.

In order for thriving health to occur, all living things must consume the foods they were designed to eat . This is known as species-appropriate nutrition. 

Dogs and cats, like humans, are more resilient and can eat a number of things their bodies were not designed to eat. However, their health and vitality suffers.

Why raw feeding?

If you’ve ever embarked on a plan to eat healthier and lose weight yourself, you’ve no doubt been told you should eat as much fresh, unprocessed food as possible, and avoid things like refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and heavily processed carbs .

You would think this approach would also apply to our animals, but a cursory glance at the weight loss section of your local pet food store reveals even more heavily processed foods that are carbohydrate based and bear no resemblance to anything that could be considered fresh or whole .

Typically, they achieve their lower calorie density with the addition of large amounts of indigestible fibre, which can actually interfere with nutrient absorption, rather than encourage it . Their refined flour foundation is likely to cause insulin to spike, which may ultimately lead to weight gain . These foods leave your cat feeling hungrier than ever and poorly nourished, while rarely actually leading to any major weight loss – and certainly not healthy weight loss .

A far superior way to support your cat to reach a healthier weight is to provide them with nutrient dense and highly digestible food that suits their digestive and metabolic needs . This will not just help them lose weight, but also improve their overall health and wellbeing.

Fresh foods contain highly bioavailable nutrients – as opposed to the synthetic nutrients in most pet foods – as well as digestive enzymes, pre and probiotics and antioxidants .

These compounds support the health of the gut, where around 70% of the immune cells live, they fight oxidative stress and inflammation, which can help to ward off disease, and they work with the body, not against it, making your pet more comfortable and energetic .

What's in commercial cat food?

Have you ever picked up a bag of dog or cat food and seen "Meat by-products and meat (poultry, beef &/or sheep)” or words to that effect? What does that even mean? 

Chances are it means the manufacturer doesn’t actually know which one is in their food. 

Heavily processed pet food like kibbles and tinned dog and cat products are almost always made from meat that has either been rendered to a shelf stable powder, or otherwise processed to a meat “slurry” that is then sterilised. Rendering is a process favoured by the fertiliser industry, whereby meat and bones that are not fit for human consumption are crushed and then heated to very high temperatures until the water and fat separate. The remaining “meat” is dried to a long life powder that contains mostly protein and bone, and then turned into garden fertiliser, dry dog food and livestock feed. 

Some tinned pet foods also use these meat meals, while others grind whole meat and meat by-products (which may include heads, hooves, offal and basically any part of the animal that is otherwise discarded), and then add cereals and other binding ingredients to form the chunks in a tin that we might mistake for actual pieces of meat. These ingredients are then cooked so the starches gelatinise and proteins begin to denature, before being tinned and sterilised using temperatures over 120 degrees Celsius for several minutes. These products are basically always synthesised with vitamin and mineral supplements, because very little nutrition survives these heat intensive processes. 

Because these meats are pretty much always not of a quality fit for human consumption, prior to being turned into pet food they are regulated by a different set of rules to food intended for the human supply chain. These rules don’t require that meat be properly labelled as “beef” or “sheep,” which is why pet food manufacturers don’t always seem to know which one is in their food. There are of course brands that do name their meats, and we can only give them the benefit of the doubt that this is because their sourcing ensures these claims are accurate, but the intensive processing methods remain the same, meaning that nutritionally there is very little difference between them by that point anyway. 

Another thing you will see in pretty much all processed pet foods is high levels of carbohydrate ingredients. These may be mysterious “cereals” in cheaper brands (usually wheat, corn, soy or some combination of all three), or things like brown rice, peas, lentils, chickpeas, tapioca, potato, sorghum and beet pulp in the higher end brands. These may sound ok, probably because we know these whole foods are nutritious additions to our own diet. But dogs and cats have no nutritional need for carbohydrates, and these are not actually present in their whole food form like the pretty pictures on the label might suggest; they are ground down to highly refined starchy powders that act as fillers and binders, without which these product would not hold together. They also often appear spread across multiple different ingredients (a practice known as ingredient splitting), which serves to conceal that many processed dog and cat foods are upwards of 50% carbohydrates. 

For animals that don’t need any carbs in their diet, that’s a whole lot of carbs! 

The best way to avoid these mystery meats and processed cereals is to feed your four-legged friend a whole food diet, either in the form of homemade food using the same nutritious ingredients you would eat yourself, or a reputable pre-made food that has been minimally processed and is clearly labelled with everything it contains.

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How much exercise should my Cat be getting?

Exercise for Cats

Exercise maybe isn’t something that is naturally associated with cats, but as hunters they would have used their natural agility to stay active and fed (and if your cat ventures outdoors, they probably still do) . And while you don’t have to leash train your cat and start taking them for walks, there are huge benefits to encouraging play and movement, especially when it comes to weight loss . 

Physical activity offers mental health benefits as well as physical health, and most cats will (literally) jump at the chance to chase something shiny . Cats that sleep all day are not necessarily tired; they may actually be bored . Feline play will often mimic predator behaviour, stalking, pouncing and attacking, so choosing toys that can be chased, like something fluffy on the end of a wand, or that make noise or roll – like a ball with a bell in
it – will often appeal . A laser pointer is a fun way to really get your cat moving, and some cats will enjoy learning how to play fetch . You can also liven up their environment with scratching posts, cat trees and different spots for them to perch and climb, like cat hammocks . 

Playing with your cat for an hour a day is ideal, especially if they need to shift some excess weight, but you can break this up into multiple short bursts or whatever works for you . Interestingly, if you do have an outdoor cat and you worry about their impact on wildlife, a 2021 study found that a combination of a high meat diet and regular play reduced the tendency of cats to hunt . This also tells us a lot about the natural inclinations of cats and by extension the food they should be eating .

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