Raw feeding is healthful, frugal when done right, and fun– but it’s also time-consuming and difficult at times. Most raw feeders know the frustration of being ten minutes late in the morning, reaching into the meat drawer for their pet’s breakfast, and coming up empty-handed. Forgetting to thaw happens to everyone who feeds raw, and it’s among the most aggravating experiences one can have! Fortunately, there are several alternatives that can replace a single raw meal for dogs and cats.
Yes, dogs and cats are obligate carnivores. Cats should not have plant matter except in the form of wheat grass, tripe, or the occasional treat such as baby food, or canned pumpkin in case of diarrhea. Dogs, however, can stand an occasional veggie meal, and many will even benefit from it. Keep a can of pumpkin on hand in case of diarrhea, constipation, or forgetting to thaw. Replacing a single meal with pumpkin won’t hurt, and it can even help to regulate the digestive system. Other veggies that can replace a canine raw meal include cooked green beans, sweet potato chunks, and even carrots or purple cabbage.
Commercial, cooked diets are a poor substitute for prey model feeding. However, certain prepared foods available in stores are a sufficient meal substitute for occasional use or for traveling. Innova Evo kibble is designed for this specific purpose, with raw feeders in mind. I keep the Red Meat Evo on hand in case I need a quick meal for Augustin. Wysong makes a great dehydrated diet called Archetype, which is one of my favorite meal replacements. However, it’s very expensive. Similarly, Ziwi Peak and The Honest Kitchen also make foods processed without heat, preserving much of the nutrition from the raw ingredients. Evanger’s has a line of 100% meat canned foods that also are good choices for meal substitutes. I particularly like the one with whole Mackerel. Of course, a can of Jack Mack from the grocery is just as good, provided it doesn’t have salt or mustard added. Merrick’s also came out recently with a line of 100% meat canned foods, including buffalo and salmon. For cats, certain organic baby food products can make a good meal substitute. Just watch out for onion powder, which can cause anemia.
A final alternative is simply to skip the meal and treat it as part of a fast. Some pet owners feel that fasting occasionally preserves the natural diet, including the occasional unsuccessful hunt. Consult your vet before fasting, particularly if your pet is a cat. If you do choose to fast, make sure the next meal is bland and easy on the stomach. Beware of vomited bile if your pet has a sensitive stomach and may react poorly to fasting.