Some myths about cats seem to never die and are quite difficult to correct. One such myth is the belief that cats go wild, even feral, if fed raw meat.
This idea keeps showing up on lists, in forums, on question and answer sites, chat rooms, and yes, even in the supermarket line when someone buys a large package of chicken and mentions it’s for the cats.
“Aren’t you afraid your cats will go wild?”
“You shouldn’t be feeding that to your cats. They’ll go wild, you know.”
Well, no. Not really. What they do, however, is sometimes they growl. This is a natural response and has even been observed in some cats when they are eating a bowl of dry kibble. Perhaps it has more to do with “ownership” and serves as a warning to other cats nearby to wait their turn. It also can be a sign of pure enjoyment. After all, meat is their natural diet, the craving they were born with.
In our shelter, when cats arrive in poor health, or strays that are clearly underweight, they are fed raw meat, if they will accept it. In every case, without exception so far, they all have improved rather quickly. Some of them growl, some do not. So what?
Those that were conditioned to eat only dry food took much longer to get well and seemed to need more help, such as medications and veterinary visits. The raw-fed individuals blossomed and became friendly, adoptable cats in a short time.
The greatest opposition expressed by traditional vets is usually the fear of salmonella. Well, it’s not like we feed the cats some rotten old chicken that has been discarded or was on sale for being out of date. We use human grade, fresh chicken. And while salmonella is still a concern for humans, necessitating thoroughly cooking the meat, cats have a different physiology from ours.
In nature, predatory animals are uniquely suited to eating meat that might not be safe for us. Their digestive tracts are shorter, and their digestive juices are far more acidic, allowing the meat to be digested quickly and safely, unless someone has interfered and poisoned it. But that’s a different issue.
In any case, use precautions when preparing raw meats for your pets. Wear rubber gloves and keep all surfaces and utensils clean, such as cutting boards and knives, disinfecting them when done. This is more for your safety than the cat’s.
As for the growling? Don’t worry about it. Remember, the issue is with the owner, not the cat. However, it would be wise not to put your hands in the area. If a very hungry cat feels protective of its meal, you could be scratched, but we haven’t seen that behavior very often.