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Cats are designed to get their nutrition from eating small prey animals. They cannot utilise plant proteins to satisfy their nutrient requirements. In the wild, a cat would be eating a high protein, high moisture content, meat based diet, with moderate fat, and minimal carbohydrate (pre-digested by a herbivore).
Most cats are fed on commercial dry food, often high in plant proteins (corn, wheat and soy) because they are cheaper than animal proteins. Many pet food manufacturers try to add back the nutrients that are stripped from the manufactured diet (hence the long list of ingredients on your cat food bag).
The average dry food for cats is extremely high in carbohydrate (35-50%) because it contains grains or other vegetables. Grains are cheap and dry food is convenient, so most people continue to feed their cats an inappropriate diet.
Cats do not have a strong thirst drive. They are designed to obtain most of their water from their food. A cat on dry food alone will not consume adequate water, and will not drink enough to make up the shortfall. Raw food has a high water content (70-75%) and keeps the cat well hydrated.
High levels of carbohydrates in the diet of a cat will lead to chronic high blood sugar. The pancreas has to work hard to deal with this unnatural situation, leading to burn-out of the insulin-producing cells - diabetes.
The chronic dehydration caused by feeding dry food to a carnivore with a low thirst drive plays in role in the development of Feline Lower Urinary Tract disease. Every attempt should be made to get these cats eating food with a high moisture content. Crystals in the urine, bladder stones and cystitis are often diagnosed in cats.
Cats may be seen to have blood in their urine, or be squatting frequently and appear to be in pain when urinating. The condition occurs when there is inflammation in the urinary tract. The urinary tract becomes irritated and inflamed most commonly from crystals forming in the urine. The crystals form because the urine is too alkaline. Once the crystals are formed and irritate the bladder wall, a secondary bacterial infection can occur. The grain/starch content of commercially produced diets is too high for cats and, as a result, they produce urine with an alkaline pH. The diet may also contain too much magnesium (a component of ash in the diet) and this will also contribute to stone formation. The majority of bladder stones and crystals in cats are 'struvite'. Struvite crystals occur when the urine pH is above 6.6. A species-specific raw food diet can maintain the cat’s urine at the ideal pH (6 - 6.5), naturally preventing the formation of crystals and stones. Dry pet foods contain excessive amounts of fibre which increases water excretion in to the colon and decreases water excretion through the urinary tract. This makes the urine very concentrated. The combination of concentrated urine at a pH above 6.6 makes for the easy formation of crystal and stones and a very uncomfortable cat. The most important preventive step you can take to avoid these problems is to feed your cat a high-moisture diet. Your cat is not motivated to drink enough and will need to get water from food. A raw food diet contains 80% water and will keep the urinary tract healthy by ensuring the correct pH in the bladder and a good flow of urine.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) often goes unnoticed, at least initially. It is not normal for a cat to vomit regularly. Grumpy cats with swollen tummies and bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea and occasionally constipation, may be suffering from IBD.
We have an epidemic of overweight cats. Obesity can predispose to diabetes. Cats on grain-based diets will convert the carbohydrates to be stored as fat. The so called ‘light’ diets have reduced the fat content and increased the grain/fibre content of the diet, so an even higher level of carbohydrate is present. And as we now know, the cat remains overweight! Cats will lose weight easily on a species-appropriate raw meaty bones diet.
Dental disease is a huge part of daily veterinary practise. Cat biscuits are as useful for cleaning a cat's teeth as crackers are for cleaning a child's teeth. Shearing and tearing at their raw diet with those carnivorous jaws is the best way to keep the teeth clean and the gums healthy.
Cats may appear to do well on commercial pet foods, but just remember that all cats appear to be well until they are diagnosed with an illness. Diseases begin to develop long before they are recognised. Preventive nutrition is the key to keeping your cat healthy.
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