[dropcap]D[/dropcap]id you know that your beautiful Bengals are obligate carnivores?!
What is an obligate carnivore? It’s an animal that is designed anatomically and physiologically to consume meat, organs and bone exclusively.
Do Bengal Cats Eat Raw Meat?
With Bengals being carnivores they have a much different anatomical lay out than herbivores. Orally cats have lots of teeth which are pointy and serrated, designed specifically for holding on to and ripping flesh and meat from bones. The mouth opens wide and moves in a vertical manner.
If we compare the oral cavity with an herbivore, their teeth are flatter than carnivore teeth and the jaw moves horizontally to break down the plant matter they are consuming.
While humans, other omnivores and herbivores have a very long digestive tract, felines have a very short one. Food items must be in an easily available form, requiring little time for processing.
Plant matter, unlike fats and protein contain a cell wall that is hard to break down which means plant matter often just passes through the system untouched. We know this true when we see bits of fruits, veggies and grains in the feces that is often bulky, quite smelly and produced often.
Why Feed Your Cat a Raw Diet?
The panaceas is responsible for producing amylase, an enzyme required to breakdown starch and other carbohydrates. While cats do produce a very limited amount of amylase, it is only there to finish the digestion of the stomach contents in prey animals. Cats overall do not produce the enzymes to breakdown fruits, veggies or grains, but do for fats and proteins.
Another issue with plant material is a feline’s inability to draw nutrients from this food source. Most importantly Taurine an essential amino acid that is required for heart health, eye health and other important functions is not found in plant matter.
Furthermore, very few plant products contain a complete amino acid profile. All meat and organs contain both Taurine and a complete amino acid profile. While the components of meat and plants are the same, the levels of these nutrients and the ability for your feline friend to process them are completely different.
No way you say, cats have been living off of dry pet food for years!
But did you know the pet food industry has only been in operation for 80-100 years?! This actually isn’t long enough to develop a totally new digestive system.
The Bengal breed was developed in the 1980’s. This makes the breed only 30 years old. Unless you are a virus or bacteria, it is nearly impossible to develop a completely different anatomical and physiological system, adapted to a diet that is plant based, not fresh and devoid of most moisture.
Commercial pet food especially dry food is actually one of the worst food types to provide a cat for several reasons:
- Commercial food is cooked at such high temperatures nutrients, fat and enzymes are destroyed and protein structure is altered. This not only results in pet food companies having to add artificial vitamins and minerals to their food but also why many animals suffer from digestive issues.
- It lacks moisture. While the Asian Leopard Cat or Prionailurus bengalensis are seen in tropical evergreen rainforests and plantations, Bengals like many other cats tend to only drink 50% of their daily requirement of water despite constant access or how much you see them drink. Dry food only has about 7-10% moisture in it which means if your cat isn’t drinking it and they aren’t consuming it where are they getting hydration from? This is why many cats suffer from UTIs, crystals and stones as well as kidney failure.
- Finally, as mentioned above carbohydrates are an inappropriate food source for cats, however almost all commercial pet foods contain carbohydrates, which include fruits and veggies in addition to grains making up often 30-50% of the food. Many of these are low quality ingredients like corn, soy, rice, wheat, potatoes and peas. They act as fillers and more times than not just tax the body as it cannot produce enough enzymes to break the carbohydrates down.
Benefits of a Raw Food Diet For Cats
- Is appropriate for your specific species
- Teeth are clean and white and breath is fresh
- Improves the immune system and keeps it high
- Helps prevent and even reverse illness such as kidney failure, urinary tract infections, allergies, cancer, obesity, diabetes, digestive problems and much more.
- Saves you money on potential prescription diets, medications and other vet related bills
- Feces is less frequent, smaller, firmer and has virtually no smell
- Contains more moisture (kibble is only 7-10% moisture)
- Companion animals are less likely to steal or beg for food
- Raw feeding is ECO friendly and green
- Often less expensive
- Softer and shiny coat
- Cats don’t need to eat as much because food is nutrient dense
- Higher ability to avoid dyes, preservatives, artificial ingredients etc.
- Cats have more quality energy without a crash
Some Basic Questions Answered:
What do I feed?
Meals and batches are based off of the prey animals that felines would eat in the wild. This includes 80% muscle meat, 10% secreting organ meat (5% of which must be liver, 5% other secreting organ) and 10% appropriate raw meaty bones.
Are there any proteins my Bengal can’t have?
Our feline friends should not consume other carnivores due to biomagnification where toxins can build up as animals eat smaller animals via the food chain. They should also avoid wild boar, fox or bear which a parasite that cannot be killed during the freezing process. They can otherwise have:
[one_fourth]Beef[/one_fourth][one_fourth]Chicken[/one_fourth][one_fourth]Cornish Game Hen[/one_fourth][one_fourth_last]Salmon[/one_fourth_last]
What kind of Bone can I Feed?
You do not want anything too small they can simply swallow nor nothing too big that they can break a tooth or jaw on. This means no weight bearing bones like femur bones.
Also, do not feed any cooked bone. This degrades the bone and can cause it to splinter. Great bones for cats include chicken necks, rabbit ribs, day old chickens and quail as well as sardines.
How much to Feed?
Adults Bengals should be fed about 3% of their ideal body weight however if your Bengal is extra active, pregnant or nursing you may need to feed more.
Kittens, should be allowed to eat as much as they would like until adulthood or free fed from a balanced batch.
Do I need to rotate proteins?
Variety is the spice of life. It can prevent food imprinting, boredom and food intolerances. All meats organs and bones of varying nutrient profiles so feeding at least 3-4 proteins on rotation is ideal to prove a balanced diet.
Don’t Bengals Require Taurine?
Taurine is required in the diet of all cats. Taurine is an essential amino acid that cats are not able to produce sufficient amounts of thus it must provided in the diet.
It is essential for numerous functions in the body including the health of the eyes and heart as well as for reproduction, growth and development.
Providing Taurine in the diet is simple. All hardworking muscle meats such as the heart, thigh and shoulder meat, tongue and small prey like mice are fantastic sources.
What About Bacteria and Salmonella?
Your companion is more susceptible to bacteria in commercial pet food (this is evident by all the pet food recalls of salmonella and listeria)
Cats when on a species appropriate raw diet have the digestive enzymes, high stomach acidity (a pH of 1-2 on raw, 4-5 pH on carbohydrate based diets like commercial food) and short digestive tract to neutralize and destroy bacteria. Humans are the only species that cooks their food.
Every other species including felines eat a raw diet in the wild.
As long as you practice normal hygiene you and your family will be perfectly fine:
- washing hands
- washing utensils and preparation surfaces
- refrigerating and freezing meals/ingredients
- providing clean bowls at each meal
- clean up around eating locations
- cleaning up waste in the litter box and outside immediately
Regardless of food type you should be perform these normal cleaning practices.
If we just look at nature we can see that wild animals of all kinds are thriving on a raw diet, even tens of thousands of pet owners are raw feeding with amazing results.
While this information may seem overwhelming, and contradicting to the veterinary community, there is clear proof that a species appropriate diet free of processing, dyes, chemicals and inappropriate ingredients provides our companion animals with a life they can truly thrive in.
All we want is for our Bengals to be happy, healthy and live a long life, so why not give them a foundation in exceptional nutrition!?
Meghan Leah Waals is the owner of The Nutrition Code, a comprehensive resource for all companion pet owners to learn about species appropriate raw diets. She has a degree in Psycho Biology, Pre-Veterinary with a minor in Evolution Studies as well as years of hands on and research experience devoted strictly to feline, canine and ferret nutrition.