Home Paleo diet Our cat Fluffy and her species appropriate diet

Our cat Fluffy and her species appropriate diet


Fluffy our 6 year old cat was looking a little under the weather. Her third eyelid  was visible indicating all was not well. I took her to our local vet, Dr Lyn Thomson, who believes that our pet dogs and cats should be eating a natural, raw, species appropriate diet. (Ever seen a cat or dog processing and eating grains in the wild?)

I have been feeding Fluff a partly raw diet, I’ve been supplementing her wheat free (but not grain free) biscuits with liver, chicken necks, fish and meat.

Lyn feels Fluffy’s tummy which she said is a bit grumbly and not happy, feels like a bit like irritable bowel. Or it could be worms of some type. So Fluffy was given a worm pill. Lyn also noted that her muscles were not as firm as they should be.

Lyn explained too that the diet we had her on was actually worse than an all biscuit diet, and may be contributing to her digestive issues:

Feed Raw and Dry at the Same Time?

Cats are adapted to preferentially use protein and fat as an energy source. In their natural habitat they consume prey that is high in protein, with moderate amounts of fat and minimal amounts of carbohydrate. Although cats can use carbohydrates as a source of metabolic energy, they have a limited capacity for carbohydrate digestion.

So what happens when we raise the level of carbohydrate we expect our cats to digest?

If a cat is fed high-carbohydrate food at the same time as raw food, the carbohydrates can interfere with the efficient absorption of the nutrients in the raw food, potentially cancelling out the benefits of the raw diet. Increased levels of crude fibre in feline rations increase fecal output, alter colonic microflora and fermentation patterns, alter glucose absorption and insulin secretion, and at high levels can depress diet digestibility.¹

What do we mean by depressing diet digestibility?

To understand how a food is digested, we need to take a journey through the intestinal tract of a cat. Imagine the digestive tract as a production line. If the first person in the line is inefficient, then the rest of the line can’t hope to do their job properly. In the cat, the mouth is for ripping and tearing. There is no salivary amylase to digest carbohydrates, so the first stage in the digestive production line is the stomach. The cat, being an obligate carnivore, has a very acidic stomach, with a pH of 2, ideal for digesting protein and neutralizing bacteria.

Many processed pet foods have significantly increased the carbohydrate content of their cat foods, and have substituted animal proteins with plant-based proteins. The problem with this substitution is that it does have an impact on the digestive environment. In a cat eating a high carbohydrate-high plant protein-lower meat protein diet, we find that the acidity in the stomach changes. Gastric acidity is dictated by the meat content of the diet. The stomach becomes progressively more alkaline, heading for a pH of 4 or above.

In this less acidic environment, several problems arise in the first part of the production line. Gastric emptying slows down, contaminating bacteria are not destroyed, and raw meat and bones are not softened or broken down effectively as the digestive enzymes in the stomach only work in a very acidic environment. Feeding processed foods at the same time as raw foods can lead to the entire meal not being completely digested in the digestive tract.

Stomach acidity is the major regulator of pancreatic and liver ability to respond to food arriving in the small intestine. Food arriving in the small intestine with a pH of 2 or less triggers the release of two very important hormones, secretin and cholecystokinin. These two hormones are so important that without them, normal digestion of food just can’t happen. The pancreas does not produce its juices and bile is not secreted to digest fats.

The result is maldigestion and as a consequence, malabsorption.² Maldigested carbohydrates get consumed by abnormal gut flora which flourish in the altered pH of e digestive tract. Fats are not digested, resulting in deficiency in the essential fat soluble vitamins, A,D,E and K.³ When incomplete digestion of starch and disaccharides occurs, it leads to an acidifying effect on the pH of the faeces, due to the fermentation of the undigested starches and disaccharides in the intestines. A change in pH at any point along the digestive tract will affect the efficiency of the digestive tract. Digestive enzymes function within a specific pH range, and gut flora is also affected by changes in pH. The link between an abnormal gut flora and compromised immunity has been established in man and animals.

To digest cooked foods, the cat’s digestive system has to work a bit harder than to digest raw foods. Raw foods come with live enzymes to help in the digestive process, while cooked foods are less alive. Often, a cat who has never had raw food can be tempted to eat a raw diet by using cooked foods that he is familiar with. Mixing the familiar cooked or tinned high-meat content food with a little raw food can be a good starting point when transitioning. My best advice is not to try to transition a cat with a mixture of dry processed food and raw food. The carbohydrate content of the dry food will reduce his ability to fully digest his raw food, and will make him vulnerable to bacterial infection. When you make a commitment to raw feed, get the biscuits out of the house!

So from now on – it is a species appropriate diet for our Fluffy. This should fix her digestion, increase her muscle strength and firmness, and make her cat look glossy.

I’m hoping she will quickly get used to eating an  all raw food fairly quickly as she already eats something raw most days. Apparently this is not the case with all cats – especially those fed an all biscuit diet. Cats like humans can become addicted to their non species appropriate foods. Cat can become addicted to carbohydrates! So for some cats the transition to raw food can be a slow process. More on transitioning your carb addicted cat here: How To Convert The Most Stubborn Biscuit-Addicted Cat to a Raw Food Diet

I bought a packet of rabbit and heart mix from the raw meat range that Raw Essentials carries.

I’m really interested to see what difference Fluffy will experience. Other pet owner have had dramatic health improvements in their cats and dogs feeding them species appropriate diets. Ezcema, psoriasis, auto-immune disorders and gut issues all improve. More stories here.


1. Ellen Kienzle, “Effect of Carbohydrates on Digestion in the Cat,” The Journal of Nutrition, no. 124, 1994, 2568S-2571S.
  2. ME Matz and WG Guilford, “Laboratory Procedures for the Diagnosis of Gastrointestinal Tract Diseases of Dogs and Cats,” New Zealand Veterinary Journal 51, no. 6, December 2003, 292-301.
  3. ME Matz and WG Guilford, “Nutritional Management of Gastrointestinal Tract Diseases of Dogs and Cats,” New Zealand Veterinary Journal 51, no. 6, December 2003, 284-291.
  4. R Fuller, “Probiotics in Man and Animals,” The Journal of Applied Bacteriology 66, no. 5, May 1989, 365-378.
  5. CAT Buffington, “Idiopathic Cystitis in Domestic Cats–Beyond the Lower Urinary Tract,” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 25, no. 4, July/August 2011, 784-796.


  1. Fluffy is gorgeous!

    Nelly (my cat), has been grain fed most of her life (now 16). She has had at times, small attempts at eating raw meat – the occasional bit of liver, kidney, beef, veal, rabbit. But never with any consistency. She used to drive me mental as I would buy her some nice meat, only for her to eat a couple of mouthfuls and not touch the rest. But she would eat biscuits until she was sick. She has always been a very temperamental cat, and only ever became affectionate on her terms. You could never pick her up for a cuddle (they do say that animals take on the personality of their owners…). In recent years, her thirst levels were really increasing. She always had water, but then would try to get in the shower with you to drink. After I went paleo, it became an untenable position for me to shun grains but to still be feeding the obligate carnivore them. I decided to just pull the biscuits and suck it up re: finding meat she would eat. I was expecting a long, laborious process. I started her on veal – it took a weekend. And she hasn’t looked back.

    She had about 6 months of almost exclusively veal, with occasional liver and kidneys. All of her skin irritations disappeared and she became a lot more affectionate (though still not a cuddly cat). More recently, she has switched over to a steak and kidney mix which is higher in fat. She now eats a kilogram per week of this and she has definitely solidified – she has a lot more muscle and plays like a kitten more often!!

    • That’s interesting! I’m keen to see how Fluffy improves on her all raw diet. The vet’s diet mix has organ meat, flesh, fat and ground bony bits in it, so the animals get all the animal. She also has green tripe – stomach with stomach contents. She said cats and dogs love it.

  2. I hadn’t really considered the consequences of feeding both raw and dry foods. Our dog has had a few owners (passed along by death or international relocation- he is a fabulous dog), and the original had him on all raw diet. When he first came to stay with us the owner at the time had him on a raw in the am, dry and night regime, but when he moved in with us full time he was on all dry. I like the idea of raw, so as much as possible/whenever possible I still get him raw meat, but he still gets kibble. Anytime I see meat on sale I stock up for him, and the asian supermarket I frequent has super cheap salmon belly that I buy him whenever I stop, but I haven’t committed to keeping enough in stock to switch him back to all raw. The butcher that the original owner used to use ground up whole chickens for the canine mix- alas, he is no longer in business (and was rather far away).

    My cats always turn their noses up at raw meat, though they enjoy certain parts of the voles and other wildlife they catch outside… weird little buggers. Interesting you say that stomach contents are included in your cat’s mix- no matter how hungry the cats appear, they ALWAYS leave the bowels of whatever varmint they catch (and the tail, and usually the feet…)

    • I hadn’t thought about raw plus dry food either. The stomach acid change in interesting – bit like GERD for cats? Our cat often threw up her dry food, never throws up raw.
      So far so good on the raw. I mixed some of her favourite raw beef with her new raw food mix and she’s got used to it already. She is looking heaps better today, her eye’s are looking sparkly and normal again. Interesting about leaving voles bowels. The vet said that cats often eat the contents of birds stomachs.

  3. I have four cats (*crazy cat lady alert*) – only because our fifth passed away last year :D.

    We get IAMS (exxxxpensive….), which is 30% protein and three of them thrive on it. They are really healthy, even the old boy. Our one cat that is not doing well has an obesity issue. He has stabilised at around 7kg, about 1.5kg too heavy. I can confirm that he really doesn’t eat more than the others (unless he has an old lady friend somewhere, or is stealing food from the neighbours cat and I wouldn’t put it past him). I’m thinking of trying chubby mcchubb on a raw food diet. Otherwise, apart from building him a fenced cat yard, I have no ideas about how to slim him. ..

    We had one cat that preferred raw meat and that is what we gave him. He passed away last year at the relatively early age of 14. He was a mess – arthritis, crumbling spine. I can’t explain it, except that maybe cats are not designed to eat entirely muscle meat. Think about their natural diet – mice, bugs – mostly guts. The cat food has added vitamins that perhaps are not in the muscle meat.

    Fluffy is cute. Mog and Monty have both had third eye retraction issues. My vet said it is usually due to a digestive upset, which could be a ‘tummy bug’ (vomiting dehydrates their eyeballs and takes about three weeks to come right) or from worms and fleas. Both cases came right. Monty had a serious case of worms and that took about two months for full recovery.

  4. our 9month old Maine Coon cat has eaten only meat/offal/bones since we found her in our back yard. She somehow knew there was 70 lbs of grass fed beef /lamb in the freezer. Smart/intuitive kitten. She has none of typical feline neuroses which even the most avid cat people must admit exist. She just doesn’t sweat the little things. Its’ got to be the diet. I’ve lived with about twenty cats over the years and this is the only truly “mellow” cat and the only “meat only” one. “Food” for thought.

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