Recently a study was completed at a zoo in Illinois regarding the raw meat diet. It covered at least 225 large felids who were fed diets of raw beef, bison, elk, and horse. Care was taken to ensure the meat was as fresh as possible, though the meats were trimmed for the cats.
It can be inferred that our house cats have the same nutritional needs as the larger cats.
It was found that though the meats were digested readily, the nutritional needs of the cats were not completely met, and the cats were lacking in essential fatty acids. The elk diet was lacking in overall fats.
I'm not about to travel to harvest some bison for my cat, so I've sent an email to the person in charge of the study, which overall, I thought was done well. The sample size was adequate to draw the conclusions presented (unlike some medical studies!) This study would be much more useful/practical if it focused on readily-available local meat sources.
How well did the cats (large or small) do on a diet of rabbit, guinea pig, mice, and small game birds like quail and pigeon?
I only ask because that kind of dish is much more likely to be what most people are going to want to feed their pet cats were cat food prices to increase.
What kind of natural source would you recommend for the missing essential acids? Maybe grasshoppers, eggs, fish, or Black Soldier Fly Larvae?Kelly's response:
So... lesson learned, never trim the fat off of your lion's elk dinner!Chrissy – good questions. We have not tested any of those ingredients in cats because our main focus has been on large captive exotic cats. To apply more data to small captive exotics and domestic cats, we recently performed a study in which many smaller prey items, including rabbits, mice, rats, quail, and chicks, were analyzed for nutrient composition (protein, fat, etc.). These data have not been published yet. We have not tested the digestibility of those items in domestic or exotic cats though.As for fatty acid content, the main problem in our study was that trimmed meats had very little fat of any kind. As long as fat is not trimmed off, numerous sources could be used. This probably would not be an issue with whole prey items. Those items, however, often have other problems (e.g., mineral deficiencies). That data will be submitted for publication soon.