My cats, Miso and Tofu, are what I recently learned are called “free feeders.” I fill up a couple of bowls of dry kibble every morning and let them nibble away at will. I initially thought this was helping with my cats’ health, keeping them from snarfing down their meals all at once to the point of making them sick to their stomachs. Well, it seemed to work for a while, but eventually Tofu did end up getting sick to his stomach anyway—a lot. And when the vet came by to check him out, she shared with me that dry food is the absolute worst thing you can feed your feline friends.
Cats are predators, and in the wild they’re used to sinking their teeth into gamey meats. That same sensation and taste cannot be replicated in tiny pieces of dry kibble. My vet suggested switching over to raw or freeze-dried foods to appeal to my cats’ natural instincts. Not only will these scratch an animalistic itch in your pets, but they are jam-packed with nutrients that will require your cat to eat less to get the good stuff, thereby eliminating the need for free feeding.
Pet food brand Stella & Chewy’s ironically calls this type of diet BARF (biologically appropriate raw food). The food itself is unprocessed and uncooked, relying on just animal meat, organs, and bones as the base. If you opt for the freeze-dried stuff, crumble it up before serving and add some water to rehydrate the meal. The raw meals can be kept in your fridge and served without cooking—remember your cats don’t have ovens or microwaves in the wild.
There are side effects of these foods that will benefit you as a pet owner as well. For one, a fully nutritioned cat will be less hungry between meals and beg less, so you don’t have to put up with as many pathetic meows throughout the day. But the biggest change you’ll see is in the litter box—feeding your cat something like ground-up raw rabbit meat has been proven to improve cats’ stools, meaning smaller and less smelly poops.
Overall, raw and freeze-dried food is easier for cats to digest, which in my case will help my sick little one stop having stomach problems. If you’re feeling hesitant to fully commit to that diet, whether because of your own cat’s preference or the higher price point (the cost of your food will likely double depending on the brand), keep some on hand as treats and switch your cat’s regular diet over to wet food. My vet tells me that anything is better than straight dry food.
If your cats are anything like mine, you can expect some dramatics when you take away their 24/7 food access. But once they get used to it, you’ll end up with kitties who have more energy, a shinier coat, and fewer reasons for a visit to the vet.