During the webinar about Sphynx cat HCM, Dr. Katie Meurs answered a question about whether a raw diet was of any help to HCM. Dr. Meurs pointed out that diet does not have any effect on HCM but did mention her concerns about how a raw diet can introduce bacteria and other nasties if not handled properly. I agree wholeheartedly and mention several times in my posts and my Sphynx cat book that you must be very mindful of food handling practices when creating raw food for your cat.
As a reminder, I include the following points:
Use meats fit for human consumption
Cats in the wild kill and eat their prey within minutes of each other. They do not store food, nor do they scavenge from carcasses. Unlike dogs, cats do not have the gut design and flora to break down spoiled foods; so eating anything that is not fresh will give your cat a nasty tummy or worse.
Buy your cats meat of the same quality and freshness that you would eat yourself.
Bacteria is your enemy
At all times when preparing food, you should be avoiding introducing bacteria, or creating an environment where bacteria can grow. This means ensuring that you wash your hands and wear gloves (use powderless food preparation type) so no bacteria you have picked up enter the food. The same for ensuring cutting boards, knives and storage containers are thoroughly cleaned after each use. Also, be aware that any used kitchen clothes or dishtowels contain bacteria and should not be used on clean utensils.
Keep your cool
As bacteria grow in warm conditions you should be looking at keeping everything as cool as possible during the preparation of a raw diet.
- Make sure where you are preparing is cool
- Bring food out of the fridge only when it is being cut or going into the grinder
- after cutting into suitable sized pieces put it into the fridge to cool before going into the grinder
- after grinding put the meat back into the fridge to cool before bagging up
- don’t handle the meat too much while bagging. Using a large spoon to ladle into bags will reduce the heat you transfer from your hands to the meat
Friction causes heat, and bacteria loves heat
In the last bullet point there was a lot of moving the meat back to the fridge, but why?
Your refrigerator should be set at a maximum of 3 degrees centigrade. Even at that temperature bacteria can still grow, but much more slowly that room temperature. Your freezer is cold enough to stop bacteria growing but it is impractical to put frozen food through your domestic grinder. If you did though you would notice that the meat would come out thawing quicker than if you left it on a kitchen bench. Why?
Grinding (or cutting) creates heat from the friction of the blade against the meat. I was watching world class chef Heston Blumenthal make sausages on a TV program and he showed that meat coming out of a grinder can increase in temperature to 10 degrees centigrade which is why there are food poisoning outbreaks affecting hamburger mince, sausages and pies made with minced meat. We need to make sure that if we are using a grinder we get the meat back down to under 3 degrees as soon as possible or we are growing a whole garden of bacteria that can cause serious illness for your cat..or indeed you!
Freeze once and only once
As mentioned above, your fridge does not halt the growth of bacteria, so if you are re-freezing and thawing your meat then you are growing large loads of bacteria with each thawing. You are creating a sickness time bomb that can go off at any time. Always buy fresh and only freeze once.
If you follow these simple steps then you will have very little chance of causing any bacterial issues and have a happy and healthy Sphynx cat!