Many cat owners are likely to have heard about a cat diet called BARF. This acronym stands for “biologically appropriate raw foods” or “bones and raw foods.”
In simple words, the whole idea of BARF is – you feed your cat a diet that is the closest to its natural, real diet. As we all know cats are hunters, they hunt mice but also many other kinds of small prey like for example birds or lizards and in the wild, they eat their meal raw.
Raw mouse, for us humans, doesn’t sound too appealing but for a cat, it’s a 100% healthy meal, full of nutrition. Fresh prey is packed with protein and moisture, contains all necessary substances like taurine, fatty acids, vitamins or minerals and is surrounded by fibre in the form of skin and fur or feathers.
In the home environment, you are unlikely to feed your cat with a fresh mouse, but you can buy or prepare a healthy meal with raw meat and bones at home.
A BARF diet aims to be as similar as possible to a wild diet to provide cats with all these essential nutrients.
But… as always there are positive but also negative factors of a BARF diet.
Cats are obligate carnivores so they can and should eat only meat. That means the answer to the question: can cats be vegan, is absolutely no. In the wild, they feed on whole fresh prey, and they take all required nutrients from flesh and bones. So to be as close as possible to nature we can feed cats with BARF and here are the most common benefits of such a diet:
- better digestion
- healthy coat
- more energy
- good urinary health
- good weight control
- good dental health
Is it really good for your cat?
But despite the many benefits of the BARF diet, there are many questions and concerns about whether it is safe to feed your cat raw meat that they haven’t caught themselves. Especially when most meat we can buy comes from huge scale production methods, not always with the best sanitary environment.
Another question is whether it really is as good as we think? Is the nutrition balanced correctly and are all possible bacterial contaminations detected?
There are not many scientific studies that definitively conclude that BARF is better than a cooked meal. Some studies show that BARF can have some improvement on digestion but others show that there is really no difference between BARF and cooked meal. There is, however, more and more evidence that preparing BARF meals can result in a risk to humans and their pets due to contamination with harmful bacteria and pathogens.
If you buy prepacked, ready BARF in a pet store then in most cases it is complete and balanced. You should carefully read the label but in most cases, this food is safe and supplies your cat with all necessary nutrients.
If you plan to start a BARF diet for cats yourself at home, then there might be a problem. In the wild, a cat consumes every part of their prey so this way they get everything they need. Bones provide calcium, organs and meat provide taurine and protein and they get sufficient moisture. Cat owners who decide to make BARF at home often don’t have enough knowledge and the food that they provide to their cat is not properly balanced and complete which can lead to many health problems.
In many countries, veterinarians do not recommend home BARF. This is mostly because BARF is predominantly meat and bone preparations and the diet potentially could be nutritionally unbalanced when produced at home. So if you do BARF at home, do it correctly or don’t do it at all.
There are plenty of websites full of BARF diet recipes to teach people how to BARF. Some are dreaded by veterinarians and not all recipes are safe for your cat.
The second biggest problem with BARF is potential bacterial contamination. A raw homemade cat food diet can lead to bacterial health risks if not prepared correctly. If you buy ready BARF, then in most cases it should be safe but if you plan to do it at home then the risk of certain bacteria and pathogens being active in the food remains. Bacterial contamination can easily spread to other members of your family. Cats and humans have different capabilities to deal with different bacteria. Salmonella, for example, is far less dangerous to cats than to humans.
Other sources of illness
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. That it can affect cats is a well-known fact. Only half of those humans who find they eat poorly cooked meat that contains cysts of the parasite will be affected. In adult humans it causes flu-like symptoms, diarrhoea, muscle stiffness and tender lymph nodes. For children or pregnant women, toxoplasmosis is a serious problem. This parasite spreads easily between cats with weak immune systems and can affect their appetite, cause fever and lethargy. But can also affect different internal organs and diagnosis, treatment and prognosis depend on which organ is affected.
The risk of toxoplasmosis from food that has been cooked is significantly lower than from BARF. Any toxoplasmosis cysts are killed in temperatures above 67 degrees Celsius. They can also be killed by freezing, but the temperature required to reliably kill the cyst is lower than most home use freezers reach, so freezing at home is rarely adequate.
Meat available in stores for human consumption is not tested for toxoplasmosis gondii, because its raw consumption is not expected. So if you do BARF, make sure that the meat you buy has been treated sufficiently.
There are other parasitic infections, such as certain types of worms which can be passed from cat to cat. Some from mother to baby kitten, others through shared litter trays, and others yet which cats consume with their food. Any cat supplementing its meals with self-caught meat should be regularly de-wormed.
Alternative to BARF for cats
At 3coty® we believe that we can supply our pets with premium quality food by using the best animal ingredients, slowly cooking them to preserve their natural nutrients and then sterilizing it to kill all bacteria and pathogens. By doing this we are 100% sure that our food is safe and has all the necessary components that make our food complete and fully balanced.
3coty® by its composition is a healthy alternative to BARF for cats – you do not need to worry about pathogens, bacteria or other contamination. Your cat gets the right amount of nutrients, and the diet is fully balanced. If your cat does not need it, it’s not in our food.