Okay, okay…. a feline version of Paleo.
After all, my cat is (much as we are) identical in most respects to his wild counterparts, none of whom would be caught dead eating Purina Cat Chow or some feline version of “Kibbles and Bits”. And no self-respecting cat born in the wild would be caught dead eating the grains, soy by-products (toxic to cats, by the way) or “colorful vegetables” so many cat foods include as silly ingredients so pet owners can feel ridiculously assured that their cat is getting their perceived “human” dietary requirements met.
First, a bit of background…
Opus is a gorgeous and congenial 13-year-old Somali cat that also happens to be my favorite and most beloved furry companion. From the time I brought him home at four months of age to this very day he has never required veterinary care (he never even goes to the vet); he looks like a show cat, plays like a kitten, is scary smart, endlessly curious and is otherwise delightful in every way. And Opus simply loves “mom’s home cooking”– except for the fact that he only eats raw food (save the occasional tidbit or savory morsel that he might on occasion con us into sharing with him from the dinner plate from time to time). Each and every month I make his food for him. It takes me all of about an hour or less to assemble all of the ingredients and apportion them into small containers that I then stack in the freezer until I need them. He eats essentially the same thing every single day and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Around the house we call his food “kitty crack”, because he seems to snort it up just about as fast as I am able to put it in his dish.
My plan is to see to it that Opus never requires veterinary care in this lifetime and that he maintains his excellent health and disposition into what I hope will be a very old age. I realize that I may be triggering some controversy in admitting that he doesn’t get regular medical checkups, but having done work in veterinary medicine in the past and recognizing the preventative value of quality diet and lifestyle, I prefer to err on the side of staying away from conventional veterinary care unless he absolutely needs it (I personally opt for the same with respect to conventional medical care, myself). Thankfully, he has never needed it. Nor I. Knock on wood.
When Opus first came home as a tiny kitten he was fairly skittish, a bit neurotic and drama-oriented. He needed regular, weekly baths in those days due to an unsightly, oily patch of fur he had on his chest that was regularly recurring–something not uncommon with his breed.
I once had another Somali, named Rusty, that had this very same issue and he required weekly baths for his whole life (I wish I had known then for his sake what I know now for Opus). But whenever I got little Opus into the sink and began using the hand-held sprayer on him, gently soaking him with pleasantly warm water to suds him up, anyone walking by the house on the sidewalk might have thought I was committing feline murder. His ear-splitting wails expressed pure, merciless torture… And I can’t say that I was having a particularly good time either. But once it was all over with, as soon as I got him toweled off, all was forgiven. Treats were offered in contrite compensation (and accepted) and it was all good… Until of course the next time.
I got Opus started on a raw food diet pretty much right away after bringing him home. Within no more than about two months, his oily coat condition went away and he no longer required any bathing–Thank God. Other than a bit of spot cleaning on rare occasions (for reasons best not discussed here), he has not required a bath in over 12 years.
Being the fastidious fellow that he is, he looks perpetually well-groomed… even upon awakening each morning. I’m tempted to resent him for that almost entirely maintenance-free, naturally coiffed beauty he seems to possess, but he is so otherwise adorably delightful that I am quickly able to set aside my jealousies. He is simply a spectacular, ridiculously healthy and loveable fellow. Each day he begs for me to play with him using his favorite feather wand, which he enjoys selecting from the assortment of toys in his cat toy drawer. He has a thing for feathers and I have learned to put those toys away in a drawer when he is done playing with them– lest I find the shredded, colorful remains of exotic-looking feather parts and downy fluff throughout the house later on. NOT fun to vacuum up. Even at age 13 his lightning reflexes are blindingly fast. For an animal that doesn’t belong to a gym or practice yoga poses his physical prowess is truly a marvel to behold.
Side story (TOTALLY off-topic, but fun to share): Up until about a month ago, Opus never had any interest whatsoever in catnip…i.e., Kitty ganja. Cat weed. The devil’s lettuce. Apparently, he seemed to be in that minority percentage of cats that have that sober gene that renders the offering of pure, fresh, intoxicating catnip a yawning bore. I tried and tried again over the years to entice him with the delightful debauchery of feline wacky weed–but alas. My cat was square. Given how much fun it is to watch a cat trip out on the stuff I was always pretty bummed out about that. Well, apparently Opus has all of a sudden, inexplicably decided to join the new psychedelic age and now—out of the blue—he absolutely loves it! A late bloomer, apparantly.
I had purchased a new scratching post for him from a company online that generously enclosed a small, “2-finger” bag of feline contraband in the packaging as a small “thank you” gift. It was a nice touch, I thought, but I lamented the wasted gesture and, sighing, just set it aside on the desktop. I then set about assembling his spankin’ new scratching post. Suddenly I heard a distinct crinkling sound and looked up to see him actually trying to get into that package. WTF?? Could this be my imagination? –Might he merely be interested in the crinkling sound of the packaging? Or…
I cautiously reached into the plastic packaging to his considerable alert anticipation and placed a pinch of that kitty ganja on the carpeting in front of him… And as if he had been waiting his whole life for that thrilling moment of psychonaut lift-off he immediately gobbled it up and, wild-eyed, begged for more. Wow. Really? Go figure. Opus had at last found “the right stuff”. Perhaps living in Oregon finally got to him… Or maybe he just didn’t want to feel left out of all the fun with the recent change in cannabis laws around here. Perhaps some mysterious epigenetic trigger got pulled and swept that now dormant catnip-indifferent gene under the rug. Maybe he listened to a Terrence McKenna podcast. Whatever his catnip avoidance trip was before, now he’s WAY into it.
My otherwise well behaved, straight-lace cat is officially a stoner.
Perhaps next month we’ll try microdosing his catnip for that extra performance edge (likely enjoyed by many-a Silicon Valley feline)…though it’s hard to imagine him becoming any smarter, more unique or well-adjusted than he already is.
OK… So getting back to the actual point of this article:
For quite a long time now I have thought that I ought to share the secret of Opus’s excellent health with all of you. I don’t buy his food prepackaged in any way and I really do go through the painstaking process of making his food fresh for him each and every month. Am I somehow spoiling him? No way. I am merely 100% committed to his health and wellbeing. I love my cat almost as much as some people love their own children. He gets his share of tough love and he knows his boundaries. I also know that I am not alone in my wholesale love for my furry companion and that too often people’s pets nowadays are falling prey to the same junk food and medical malfeasance we humans are routinely subjected to. –Often with devastating, heart-shattering consequences. I have friends and close family members that have virtually gone broke paying for what might have otherwise been avoidable medical care for their pets, and all too often they are subject to many of the same wholly preventable modern day metabolic ailments and immune vulnerabilities that plague our human healthcare (read: disease management) system.
Figuring out why so many dogs and cats are as unhealthy as they are nowadays isn’t too hard. Apart from the horror stories of what many pet foods coming out of China are tainted with (remember the tragic and lethal melamine debacle?), we are also left to wonder what is meant by “animal byproducts” (ummm, lips and assholes?). Reading labels on pet food cans and bags of dry kibble is not for the faint of heart, and I cannot think of one single brand name that I would recommend as a sole dietary staple for anyone’s beloved pet. So in the spirit of prevention I take just a little bit of extra time every month to safeguard Opus’s health and well-being by feeding him in a manner most in alignment with his evolutionary and genetic heritage. He and I share that aspect of our respective health approaches in common. And we both reap the considerable rewards for it. The alternative nowadays is, well, unthinkable.
Many of my friends have asked for the recipe I put together for him and I am always happy to share it. I know many of you have dogs and cats at home you also cherish, and it occurs to me you might value having this recipe too.
So what is the recipe?
I make my regular monthly call to the butcher and ask them to (pretty please) grind together a few ingredients for me, after which I pick it all up, take it home, and then apportion it into four or five large mixing bowls; at which point I set about adding the rest of the ingredients.
Opus’s diet is based on raw meats/organs from organically pastured animals, and some fats, with a few other assorted things added. The type of meat and organs may change from time to time, depending on what might be available, but here goes:
• 5 lbs raw dark meat chicken
• 2 lbs raw lamb
• 1lb raw kidneys (lamb or chicken)
• 1 lb raw hearts (usually chicken) and
• 1lb raw chicken livers (occasionally raw lamb liver)
• …all ground together.
I then divide all this up into the several large mixing bowls on the countertop and add varying amounts of the following to each bowl:
• 1-2 scoops Beef gelatin (or collagen peptides) by Vital Proteins
• Occasionally I will open and empty in a few capsules of Dr. Ron’s Organ Delight (containing multiple organs and glands from pastured sources)
• 1 small scoop of Green Mush greens powder (mainly for the odor control)
• Taurine (I empty one 1000 mg capsule into each big bowl). Cats are frequently prone to taurine deficiency.
• 1-2 TB Nutritional yeast (Raw Food World brand) –NOT “Brewer’s yeast”, which contains gluten.
• 1-2 TB Biotics brand fish oil or a few squirts of Mercola krill oil liquid
• 2 Capsules ‘Bone-Up’ Microcrystalline hydroxyappetite (MCHA) formula (a special type of bone meal with extra nutrient co-factors from clean, New Zealand bovine sources)
Then I add a little bit of purified water to it all, and take a large spoon and blend it all into a slurry in each big mixing bowl that I then (once well blended) portion into a bunch of small deli containers that I quickly transfer to the freezer. When I start running low on his food, then I take one of these out and put it in the fridge for 1 to 2 days two thaw out.
When it comes to actually feeding him I often add just a little extra fat (usually pastured pork fat or Cultured ghee, which I add warmed/melted and mixed into what I’ve dished out, or a little emu oil). I find this keeps him more satisfied for a longer period of time and gives his coat an amazing glow. I stir it all this up in his dish. By this point he’s usually almost fainting with anticipation as he warms both my ankles in a frantic figure-8 fashion.
I feed him a little over a sizeable tablespoon of this mixture per meal, 2 times a day. He would absolutely love to have more than I give him, but I am mindful of the health and longevity benefits of caloric restriction (even if he’s not) and I plan to have him around for a long, long time.
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