This article is part of a series sponsored by Balanced Blends, a raw pet food company, answering some of the most common questions around feeding a raw food diet to your cats.

Today we’re exploring the question of whether or not raw food is safe.

At a glance:

  • A nutritionally balanced raw diet that meets AAFCO’s requirements for pet food is healthy and safe for your pet.
  • Sourcing high quality, government inspected and approved ingredients, from known sources, is a key step in producing safe raw pet food.
  • Some raw food companies also use techniques like high pressure pasteurization (HPP) in the food’s final packaging to destroy pathogens and prevent recontamination, which also contributes to the safety of the food.
  • Following appropriate food-safety handling techniques will ensure your family, both human and furry, stay safe and healthy.

Is raw pet food safe?

As raw food has increased in popularity, so have the articles that talk about safety issues associated with it. The number one question is whether or not raw food is safe. The answer is it depends on a few different factors, some controllable and some not. By being informed about the factors that influence safety, you can choose the best raw diet for your furry friend.

In addition to quality ingredients, it’s important to ensure your pet’s raw diet is properly nutritionally balanced for their long term health. Health issues caused by an unbalanced diet may not manifest for years. Cats are obligate carnivores, so it’s important to look for foods that meet their nutritional requirements: ideally, the diet should contain no vegetables, fruits, or grains. It should be free from fillers, large bone pieces, artificial preservatives or food coloring. You also want to make sure there is a good balance of vitamins and minerals, and that the food has the right ratios of Omega 6:3 and calcium to phosphorus, as well as linoleic acid and taurine.

Second, as with any meal for humans or pets, quality ingredients play a huge part when it comes to safety. Ingredients sourced from trusted manufacturers that have passed U.S. safety standards are much less likely to cause issues for your pet’s health or your own. Become familiar with labels and the words that companies sometimes use to hide potentially dangerous ingredients. Look for companies that are transparent about their ingredients and where they are sourced. Ideally, look for ingredients that include USDA-inspected meats that are antibiotic free, cage free and grass fed, with no added hormones.

Balanced Blends co-founder Yik Tan

Third, for the health of your human and furry family, it is important to apply pathogen control processes to all ingredients, ideally in final packaging, to minimize the possibility of recontamination. HPP is one way that companies work to ensure their food is safe for both pets and their owners. The food is placed in a water bath and subjected to a very high amount of pressure, which then destroys the pathogens that might be present in the food.

A note from Ingrid: While some raw feeders feel that HPP processing alters the quality of the food to the point where it can no longer be considered raw, I think it’s an effective way to eliminate potential pathogens that only minimally affects the integrity of the final product. I feel that HPP provides added peace of mind, especially for those new to raw feeding.

An additional safety measure utilized after HPP is the test-and-hold protocol, where food samples are taken from the beginning, middle, and end of the production line and lab tested for pathogens. The food is held in cold storage and released only when the test results come back negative.

Balanced Blends Raw Chicken Dinner

Finally, it’s important to follow safe handling procedures when serving raw food to your pet, just as it’s important to follow those procedures when cooking dinner for your human family. The FDA suggests the following safety measures:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after coming into contact with raw food or items that have been in contact with raw food (countertops, food bowls, spoons, etc.)
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that have been in contact with raw food.
  • Keep raw food frozen until ready to use, and thaw in the refrigerator, not on the countertop.
  • Keep raw food separate from other food.

What questions do you still have about a raw diet for your cat? Ask us in the comments!

This series is sponsored by Balanced Blends. For more information on their Raw Dinners for Cats, please visit their website.

FTC Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, which means that I was compensated to feature this content. Regardless of payment received, you will only see products or services featured on this site that I believe are of interest to our readers.

10 Comments on Balanced Blends Guide to Raw Feeding: Is Raw Pet Food Safe?

  1. Is it okay to re-fridge and use later raw food that has only been left out for 20-30 minutes or does that need to be thrown out? Thanks!

  2. My cat once stole a not yet perfectly cooked fish from my stove, and that made me nuts. I took him to the vet to inspect for worms. Luckily he was okay at that time.

    The most important thing I concern about raw food is worms. I would try if there are proofs about the product.

  3. Okay- I’m stupid. What is so ‘whoop de do’ about feeding a raw diet? Or, so ‘unhealthy’ feeding e.g., a cooked, grain-free, preservative- free, adequately balanced, feline- specific diet? Also, my cat is ‘free- feed’, as have been all my own cats, over the years. I’m more concerned with food poisoning issues, than that I might be ‘cramping his natural hunter instinct’.
    Also, though unnecessary, there’s nothing wrong with a smattering of grains/ vegetables as some lesser components of their diet. (i.e., if they eat some ‘varmint’, they’ll automatically be ingesting whatever was on that animal’s menu.
    As I said- I’m stupid.

    • Cooking your cat’s food is better than any commercially available diet because you know what’s going into it. But cooking also takes away the vital nutrients that then have to be replaced with synthetic vitamins and minerals. Raw food is what they’re designed to eat and through feeding raw meat, organs and bones no synthetics are needed. Their digestive system is meant to handle the bacterial load.

      Sure some cats consume the whole prey, some pick and choose what they’ll eat but even if they do eat the stomach contents of mice or birds that only constitutes maybe 3-5% carbs, whereas most of the processed dry food contains 30-50% carbs. We all know how too many carbs are bad for even humans.

  4. Ingrid,

    I’ve tried the raw food diet with my kitty Jake several times, and he’s rejected it each time. As Jake doesn’t like cold food, if I were to try Balanced Blends, should I heat it up at least a bit? I know that would make it not really raw anymore, but I just wondered what the best approach would be.

    • I warm all of the raw food I feed – I never feed straight out of the fridge. I warm it in the microwave (in my model, it takes about 12 seconds for two dishes of food,) or you could add a couple of teaspoons of warm water. And yes, I realize that raw feeding purists will be appalled at using the microwave, but I don’t think it makes that much of a difference. It doesn’t cook the food, it just warms it up a bit.

      • Microwaving does not cook the food, but it does destroy the enzymes and, possibly, some of the nutrients. I feed Rad Cat and they recommend warming it up by putting a portion-sized container of it inside a bowl of warm water. They advise against microwaving.

      • I microwave 2 ounces at 5 seconds for three times and stir each time. I add enzymes too. (My cat who eats raw exclusively has had normal blood work with no deficiencies.)

        From Rad Cat’s web site:

        **Controversial**: Microwaving. We have to write about the best way to warm Rad Cat via microwave because we know there are many, many people that do this, so we have found a decent way to warm the food without compromising the quality. If you have a microwave where you can adjust the power settings, set the power to 20%. Microwave for 5 seconds. Thoroughly stir. Then another 5 seconds. Test the food with your finger and it should be ‘room temp’ at this point. As all microwaves are different, you might have to play with the time, but please, be very careful with this method.

        If you don’t have an adjustable power setting, you can try using the “defrost” mode with the instructions, above.

        Please, DO NOT thaw Rad Cat in the microwave!

        • I took the temperature today, and the raw was 80 degrees after a total of 15 seconds. I nuked it for 10 seconds total, and the temperature was 67.

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