A species appropriate raw diet and concerns about bacteria
One of the most common concerns I see regarding feeding a species appropriate raw diet is about bacterial contamination of raw meat!
There are two major things to consider when talking about the consumption of a species appropriate RAW diet by cats and bacteria: 1. the anatomy and physiology of the cat and how that differs from your own anatomy and physiology, 2. the source of meat being used.
Basic feline anatomy/physiology as it relates to raw
Cats are obligate carnivores. They are predators. They have evolved to hunt and kill their prey and eat it (gasp!) raw. Their digestive systems were made to eat raw flesh. This is why their stomach pH is typically much more acidic than ours and their intestines are shorter, allowing them to better neutralize pathogens and excrete their waste quickly.
Because raw meat is highly digestible, they are able to efficiently process a species appropriate raw diet in about 12 hours. This doesn’t give bad bacteria a lot of time to proliferate and cause food poisoning. So, sure, researchers may be able to culture harmful bacteria in their feces, but very few cats will show clinical signs of illness.
When fed a species appropriate raw diet, cats’ bodies are able to use most of their food, so their feces are smaller, dryer, and hardly smell! In the wild, this helps small predators (who can be prey to bigger predators) evade detection as they are not leaving behind smelly advertisements of their presence. Indoors, this help fur parents not lose their minds!
It’s also important to consider that there are both good and bad bacteria that live with us. What you eat directly cultivates either the good guys or the bad guys. For humans, highly processed foods, meat, and dairy make a happy environment for the bad guys and new research is finding that these “bad” bacteria are linked to many chronic diseases (because these foods are not species appropriate for us). Commercially available processed pet foods have a similar effect on the gi flora of cats and dogs! [No one should eat processed foods!] By contrast, a species appropriate raw diet, produces an environment that’s more hospitable for the good guys!
Raw meat sourcing and manufacturing
Did you know that you have over 100 trillion microbes living on and in you right now? Do you use a sponge? Even if you clean it, research has shown that it still contains over 300 different species of bacteria and up to 45 billion microbes per square centimeter. Arguably wayyy more than is in raw meat and you’re wiping that thing all over your house!
Additionally, manufacturers of raw pet food handle the meat much differently than human grade meat manufacturers. Raw pet food manufacturers freeze the meat immediately to help keep bacterial counts low and it remains frozen on its way to you. Human grade meat is intended to be cooked to kill the bacteria. It sits in a fridge (not frozen) for days, which allows bacteria to proliferate.
I encourage you to do a little experiment! Take advantage of Darwin’s intro offer (10 lbs for $15). The day it arrives, pick up some human grade ground food from your local grocery store. Keep both in your fridge. Use Darwin’s normally to feed (don’t feed the grocery store meat - it’s just for the experiment) and smell each everyday. Notice which smells sour and rancid first!
Please don’t feed your cats grocery store meat! It’s not a complete meal and is more prone to bacteria growth due to the way it was handled before it got to you. Find a trusted raw pet food manufacturer who takes precautions to minimize the bacterial load!! If you’re looking for a complete meal, I recommend Darwin’s! It’s fresh, healthy, and has all the nutrients your cat needs - just defrost and serve!
So, to summarize, am I worried about bacteria? No! I order a fresh product from reputable sources and I know cats’ bodies were made to handle the bacterial load. Of course, this is a risk of raw feeding, but in my opinion the greater risk of chronic disease and subsequent suffering on a commercial diet is much more likely and much more concerning.