B.A.R.F. cat food—a dietary revolution or a dangerous fad?
It might not seem like it, but the coddled pawster sprawled on your couch is a natural-born predator! Even after millennia of evolution, cats remain obligate carnivores, meaning eating meat is their natural feeding pattern.
B.A.R.F. cat food is supposed to cater to the feline’s meat-loving ways and mimic their ancestral diet. But does it work for indoor cats whose feeding habits have changed after centuries of domestication? Can raw food even compare to fresh prey in terms of nutritional value?
Untamed examines the pros and cons of using raw ingredients in your cat’s diet and presents alternative ideas for delicious, tailor-made meals.
What is B.A.R.F. cat food?
The misleading, albeit memorable, acronym B.A.R.F. stands for “biologically appropriate raw foods,” although many refer to it as the “bones and raw foods” diet. The term signifies any form of uncooked or unprocessed cat food, be it commercially sold or homemade.
A raw diet is supposed to imitate the feeding habits of wild cats when it comes to bioavailable nutrients. The key B.A.R.F. ingredients are:
- Fresh muscle meat
- Raw bones
- Uncooked organs
Since cats are exclusively carnivorous, their metabolism requires high amounts of protein and moisture. In the wild, felines would get all the essential nutrients from their prey.
If we don’t count house mice, insects, and birds, domesticated cats don’t have access to fresh meat and mostly feed on different types of commercial cat food. B.A.R.F. cat food advocates claim that the initial nutritional value of certain ingredients is compromised during the production process. Feeding your cat a raw diet should provide optimal nourishment and prevent the development of common chronic illnesses, most notably diabetes.
Commercial B.A.R.F. products vs. homemade raw meals
B.A.R.F. cat food is produced according to the Animal Health and Protection Agency (APHA) guidelines, meaning it’s safe for consumption. Raw food is typically sold frozen or freeze-dried and made with:
Homemade B.A.R.F. diet for cats is a more demanding option. Firstly, not everyone has the time to prepare full-course meals from scratch, let alone do it twice per day. It’s also not the most budget-friendly diet. Ultimately, the biggest challenge of the B.A.R.F. cat diet is creating balanced meals.
You’ll have to ensure your cat gets an adequate ratio of amino acids, healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins in each serving. Finding vet-approved, homemade recipes is hard enough without going through the trouble of preparing them.
Making homemade B.A.R.F. cat food requires thorough research and frequent consultation with dietary experts. If you cannot commit to it, stick to ready-made products.
The risks of a B.A.R.F. cat diet
Catering to your cat’s predatory nature seems sensible, but the B.A.R.F. cat diet carries a few risks. The three most pressing concerns are:
- Nutritional imbalance
- Bacterial infections
- Internal injuries
The production of off-the-shelf B.A.R.F. cat food is regulated by law, so there’s no real risk in feeding it to your pet. The overall nutritional value of complete raw cat food is also adequate and pretty similar to high-quality wet food.
Unprocessed, pre-packaged B.A.R.F. cat food isn’t super affordable, which is why many owners opt for preparing raw meals at home.
Getting the ideal ratio of nutrients in homemade B.A.R.F. meals is challenging. If the food isn’t nourishing enough, your cat’s overall health will be affected. Pregnant felines are especially vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies, given they have to sustain the entire litter until they start weaning.
Besides protein and moisture, a well-balanced cat diet should also contain the following natural minerals and vitamins:
● Vitamin A
● Vitamin B12
● Vitamin D
● Vitamin E
● Vitamin K
If you’re determined to switch your cat to B.A.R.F. food, keep an eye on the following signs of nutritional imbalance:
- Dry and scaly skin
- Concave, hollow claws
- Less frequent grooming
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Swollen gums
The biggest issue with raw food is harmful bacteria and parasites. While feasting on raw meat, eggs, or milk, your cat is directly exposed to salmonella, listeria, E. coli, and other dangerous microbes.
The first symptoms of salmonellosis and listeriosis can appear as early as 12 hours after contamination. In case you notice the following signs, contact the vet immediately:
- High fever
- Diarrhoea or bloody stool
If left untreated, the infection can have a lethal outcome, so an early diagnosis is a life-saver.
There’s also a risk of cross-contamination. Pregnant women, newborns, seniors, and persons with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to it.
Uncooked bones are a typical B.A.R.F. treat because of their high calcium content. Chewing on bones also helps remove any plaque or tartar build-up on your feline’s teeth.
Despite the nutritional value and oral-hygiene benefits, bones are quite dangerous, even for adult cats. Brittle bones can shatter easily and cause choking. If your feline swallows it in one piece, the bone can break into splinters while going through the digestive tract. The tiny shards can cause severe internal damage.
Your cat shouldn’t be “all meat and bones,” and the same goes for their meals!
Source: Alexandr Gusev
Are there any benefits to a raw food cat diet?
Passionate advocates of the B.A.R.F. cat diet claim it’s the only natural regimen for the carnivorous animal. Since it’s not industrially processed, raw food retains the original bioavailability of nutrients, otherwise reduced or entirely lost during production.
B.A.R.F. cat food is rich in protein and moisture, which is a plus. In contrast to some low-grade feline diet products, it doesn’t contain animal derivatives or plant proteins.
Because of the high animal protein content, B.A.R.F. cat food usually contains enough taurine—an amino sulfonic acid that supports your cat’s heart, brain, and eye function.
Given the nutritional value, a diet based on raw meat can:
- Improve digestion
- Diminish hairballs and shedding
- Provide energy
- Help maintain a healthy weight
- Boost oral hygiene
- Prevent certain chronic illnesses (e.g., diabetes and obesity)
Keep in mind that most of the mentioned health benefits can be obtained with a mixed diet of high-quality wet food and cat kibble. Using adequately processed cat food also eliminates the risk of bacterial infection.
What is a safer alternative to the B.A.R.F. diet for cats?
Cats can get all the essential nutrients provided by B.A.R.F. cat food from commercial products without being exposed to deadly pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli. If you want to stick to their natural feeding habits, it’s best to feed your cat high-quality wet food.
- Rich in moisture—Quality wet food has up to 78% moisture content, which is more than enough to keep your cat properly hydrated. Felines are lazy drinkers and prone to developing several health conditions (e.g., bladder stones and cystitis) as a result
- High in animal protein—Wet cat food is usually made from meat and organs, such as the liver or kidneys. First-rate canned food can have up to 30% protein content in one serving, which is the optimal amount for cats
- Filled with natural minerals and vitamins—Unlike B.A.R.F. cat food, there’s no risk of nutritional imbalance with a wet food diet. The products are manufactured to match the feline biology, especially when it comes to substances like zinc and magnesium
Dry cat kibble is less nourishing because of the ingredients and production methods. The main ingredients (meat, vegetables, and grain) are mixed and exposed to extreme temperatures. As a result, dry biscuits have less moisture (around 10%) and more carbohydrates and carry the risk of allergic reactions (because of grain and other iffy ingredients). That’s why it’s best to soak them in soup or broth before serving and carefully monitor the portions.
Although processed, dry cat food has some advantages. Besides keeping your cat’s teeth healthy, kibble is:
- Excellent for malnutrition recovery
Untamed food is the ultimate feline diet
If you want to treat your feline companion to nourishing and delicious meals, try Untamed! Our recipes are carefully designed to resemble the feline ancestral diet, minus the nasty microbes that can compromise your cat’s health.
Each meal is:
- Full of protein—The protein content in a single serving of Untamed food is twice the industry standard. We don’t use plant protein, animal derivatives, or other useless or harmful substances
- Made with whole meat—We go above and beyond for our feline companions, using only human-grade meat cuts in our recipes and skipping all known allergens
- Vet-formulated—Our meals were designed by veterinarians to meet your cat’s biological needs
- Ethically made—We only use recyclable materials for the packaging and get our ingredients from sustainable sources
- Entirely irresistible—Picky eaters are our favourite customers, so we make sure all our meals are as tasty as they are nourishing
If you join our clowder, your feline companion will experience numerous health benefits while utterly enjoying each meal. We gently steam our food to maintain the original nutritional value of the ingredients without sacrificing the aroma and taste.
Here’s a chronological breakdown of the Untamed effect:
Within a week
● Regulated bowel movement
● Increased energy
After two months
● Decreased shedding
● Shinier and thicker fur
● Improved oral hygiene
Within four months
● Fewer hairballs
● Optimal muscle tone
● Solid digestive health
● Improved kidney function
● Fewer gastrointestinal issues
● Stronger immune response
● Natural weight management
● Overall stable health
Our most sought-out recipes
- Chocka Chicken in Jelly—Extra moist chicken breasts soaked in jelly and light on the tummy
- Tuck-in Tuna in Jelly—Cruelty-free tuna simmered in jelly and fish broth
- Chocka Chicken with Duck in Jelly—The ultimate poultry platter, high-quality chicken breast mixed with whole duck meat, served in jelly
- Tuck-in Tuna with Salmon in Jelly—Delicious whole meat tuna soaked in jelly and served with high-grade salmon fillet
- Chocka Chicken in Gravy—A delicious dish for the sensitive feline, made with shredded chicken breast and steamed in natural gravy
Take the Untamed online quiz to find out what’s best for your cat!
Our Chocka Chicken in Jelly will satisfy the inner hunter while pampering the indoor cat!
Image (c) Untamed
How do I become a member of the Untamed community?
Here’s how to sign up for a tester pack and treat your cat to some gourmet meals:
- Go to our Try Now page and tell us about your cat
- Check out the proposed meal plan
- Place the order
We'll deliver your custom-made box of cat food within a day, with no additional shipping fees! Once the trial period is over, you'll start receiving monthly deliveries of delicious Untamed food.
If you need to alter or cancel your order for any reason, you may tweak your cat food shipping or other details through your account.
Surprise! Now hand over the goods.
Image (c) Untamed
How to prepare raw cat food safely
Follow these guidelines when preparing raw food at home:
- Wash your hands—After serving B.A.R.F. cat food, make sure to clean your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Do the same if you come into contact with any contaminated surfaces (e.g., kitchen utensils or cutting board)
- Disinfect contaminated objects—Use hot water and soap to clean the contaminated area and apply an industrial disinfectant. You can also make a homemade solution with one tablespoon of bleach and four cups of water. If you have a dishwasher, use it to wash whatever you used for preparation thoroughly
- Keep the food in a freezer—The ingredients for B.A.R.F. cat food should be kept in a freezer until they’re ready for use. Before each meal, leave the frozen meat to thaw at room temperature or gently heat it in the microwave
- Separate the ingredients—Don’t mix raw food with other items. Always handle it with care to lower the risk of cross-contamination
- Get rid of the leftovers safely—If your cat doesn’t finish the meal, put the leftovers in a sealed bag before throwing them away
- Don’t let your cat lick you after a meal—Denying your cat kisses is a necessary precaution (albeit entirely heart-wrenching) because they may contaminate you by licking your face right after a meal. Those who can’t resist post-dinner cuddles should wash their face afterwards
Healthy and fresh snacks you can feed your cat
Fresh ingredients are an excellent way to incorporate nutrients often missing from your cat’s diet. For example, fibre is good for regulating your pet’s gastrointestinal health and boosting bowel mobility, but it’s mostly absent from commercial cat food. An occasional fruit and veggie snack might help with constipation.
Check out the table below for some delicious high-fibre and high-protein treats for your feline companion:
Fruits and veggies
When your cat has the munchies, give them healthy fish snacks!
Image (c) Untamed
What other foods should I remove from my cat’s diet?
Here’s a list of no-no foods for felines:
- Allium vegetables—Onions, garlic, shallots, and chives are poisonous in large quantities. The substance destroys red blood cells and can cause anaemia, mess your cat’s kidney function, and lead to various chronic conditions
- Chocolate—Caffeine products can lead to food poisoning and negatively affect your cat’s heart function, digestive tract, and central nervous system. If you feed them chocolate as a treat, felines can develop tremors, irregular heartbeat, stomach problems, and even seizures
- Milk and dairy—Cats are lactose intolerant, meaning they’re not meant to drink milk from other species. Not even kittens can digest the lactose in cow milk and other store-bought dairy products. If you decide to give them dairy, make sure to use a special type of cheese safe for cats
- Alcohol and raw dough—Alcoholic beverages cause severe indigestion and breathing difficulties. Raw dough is also dangerous because it can ferment in the cat’s stomach and produce alcohol