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But Kitty, What Nice Teeth You Have...

Updated: Sunday, May 19, 2019 12:58 PM
Published: Saturday, September 30, 2017 03:44 PM
Written by Margaret Gates

One of the things critics of raw cat food diets point out is there isn't much scientific evidence to back it up. I agree. There isn't. Scientific studies cost money, and almost all nutrition research is funded by big pet food companies. You can see the problem. Why would they fund research that will show their product to be inferior to a diet appropriate for obligate carnivores? Well, they wouldn't. So, raw food for cats gets little scientific study. Science supports this model of feeding, but does so in an oblique way due to the lack of direct research.

What do we look to then? We look to anecdotal evidence. Saying that likely brought up negative connotations in your mind. People use that term disparagingly, to mock the evidence and to make it look less real. That's not how anecdotal evidence works. It's where science starts. People observe a phenomenon in the real world, usually over and over again, and then pursue a scientific inquiry into it. With raw food for cats, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. The science will eventually catch up.

I have my own anecdotal evidence. If you've been feeding raw cat food for any length of time, you probably do, too. One of the things we recommend, especially if you feed a ground diet, is to provide meat chunks and raw meaty bones as well. This is for your cat's dental health and for psychological stimulation. Getting your cat to use those side teeth for slicing through skin, sinew and bone keeps the teeth clean and the gums stimulated. It's nature's toothbrush for cats.

In our household, we have ten raw-fed cats. All of them happily eat meat chunks, but only four will tackle meaty bones. Only two of those really chow down on the bones. Thodin, a beautiful orange female, is our champion raw meaty bones enthusiast. Give her a chicken drumstick and she leaves only a small piece of bone behind. She crunches through it with gusto! Prince comes in second, going after large drumsticks without hesitation. The other two eat cuts with bone, but usually leave more of the larger bone untouched.

All four of them have been eating raw meaty bones for more than a decade. They have beautiful mouths, with clean teeth and healthy gums. They've never had dentals. In fact, none of our ten cats has ever needed one. I have never brushed their teeth. I often hear from people who have four or five year old cats that need to go under sedation to get a dental cleaning. I want to yell, "It doesn't have to be this way!" Besides the risks of sedation, there is also the expense – a cleaning for your cat can cost more than a human's. A cat fed the wrong foods may need multiple dentals during its lifetime. The risk of sedation increases with age.

Take a look at the picture of Thodin's teeth. This is my anecdotal evidence. Her teeth have no calculus buildup and her gums are not inflamed. This is pretty impressive for a cat over ten years old. If every kitty ate the way she does, having a cat that needs a dental cleaning would be rare.

I consider the more than a decade I've been feeding raw food for cats to be an informal study. I have no control group, as I would never feed any of my cats a bad diet just to compare. But, I do observe that those willing to eat bone-in meaty cuts have the best mouths. The others are good, just not quite as good as the bone-eaters. My study has had a good, long run. No one could say I was jumping to premature conclusions. I can add the results I see in our cats to the ever-growing body of anecdotal evidence for the benefits of feeding raw cat food diets. Having a healthy mouth contributes to a cat's overall health in major ways. Dental health is more important than just the mouth itself, as infections in the mouth can affect the entire body, including the kidneys and liver. Take your cat's dental health seriously!

For our clowder, I am working to get all of them to accept bone-in meats. For the health benefits, yes, but also for the other thing I see when Thodin eats a drumstick. That she is enjoying herself is obvious. She's having fun! My kitties deserve to have fun. Don't yours?

Margaret Gates is the founder of Feline Nutrition and the Feline Nutrition Foundation.