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Author Topic: The switch to freeze-dried raw - my experience, tips  (Read 255 times)
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August
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« on: August 10, 2017, 03:11:17 PM »

This is for anyone who might be on the fence about starting their cat (or dog) on freeze-dried raw.

This is not a post about the nutritional comparison of canned food vs freeze-dried raw food...

But I just felt so compelled to write about my experience these past two weeks with freeze-dried raw - I’m just so excited about it for so many reasons that I don't even need to go into the nutrients issue!

I’m pretty much flabbergasted how easily and naturally my cats transitioned into eating raw.  I’m in complete disbelief at Chami and Lulu who ate dry food most of their lives and were so incredibly picky about canned foods… to see them this excited to eat their meals makes mealtime so incredibly pleasurable for me.  The reaction to their rehydrated FD raw is pretty much like how they react to getting FD chicken treats.  That’s how excited they are to eat it.

How freeze-dried raw has changed ME  Cheesy

I live in Japan and there are not a lot of canned food options.  So I was in a situation where I was feeding these three this canned food, this one that canned food, those two this other canned food and the other ones something else.  It was pretty tedious to say the least  Tongue .  Just being able to feed everyone the same thing is HUGE for me.

Not having to open can after can on a daily basis has changed my life  Cheesy (in Japan most all canned foods are 3oz cans and what with 8 cats we were probably going through something around 50 oz daily).  No more lugging out two big stinky garbage bags of empty tins on nonburnable garbage day!  

Opening cans is one thing, but the other thing was stirring each one of them while adding enough water until they’d become the creamy consistency they like (eye roll).  That can be time consuming and kind of stressful when you’re prepping for 8 hungry cats.  And some of the canned foods I gave needed to go through the Cuisinart.  I was thrilled to be feeding them wet so I was happy to do all that.  But I’m happier not having to anymore.  Grin

The daily amount of raw food they eat is more than half the amount of canned they used to eat.  For breakfast, the boys used to eat about 4 ounces of canned food.  Now they eat about 1.5 ounces of raw.  Because the amount is so much smaller, Fhizzy, who was a horrible nibbler, is able to finish her meal off usually in one swoop.  This means I don’t have to monitor her nibbling so that none of the boys get to it, and I don’t have to keep going back to the kitchen to take out her wet food for her to nibble on when she asks.  I was taking it out, putting it in the cabinet with an ice pack, taking it out, putting it in the cabinet… probably half a dozen times every morning.  I realize that was my own problem but, eh.  Yeah, I was doing that.  Tongue

The kitties have a different level of satisfaction and satiety after they eat - Wednesday used to finish his food and then try to go to someone else’s bowl to steal more wet food, but after eating his portion of raw food, he leaves and goes to relax.  This satisfaction in all the kitties allows me to not worry about being around in order to feed them a midday meal.  I know, again, my own problem.  And yet that’s how I felt.

(Which is not to say they don’t ask for more raw.  They do.  But since I know they’ve had their required amounts, it’s easier for me to ignore them.  Wink )

I’d always read that there will be a lot less activity in the litter box area and I’m actually quite surprised how true that is - though it makes sense seeing that the actual amount of food they consume is so much less.  There have been a few times I’ve been surprised to find a poopy in the box - that rumor is true, too - the poopies don’t hardly smell and I hadn’t even noticed they’d gone.  Fhizzy used to always have very stinky poops that were a good consistency at the start and then become runny at the end and she’d always need to be wiped up… that has completely stopped.

How it’s changed THEM  Kiss

We’ve only been on this diet now for a couple weeks but they are so excited for meals and because they’re all so enthusiastic, I’m enthusiastic and it’s just a win-win situation.  We all love meal time now.

I may be reading into it but they just generally seem more satisfied.  They have a calmness yet they're also more playful and lovey-dovey, and generally more spritely.

I can definitely tell a difference in the quality of fur in all of the cats.  It’s kind of a surprising difference in softness.  I’m eager to see how things further change for everybody in the coming months.


As of now, our menu is rotating various flavors of 4 brands of freeze-dried raw (Vital Essentials, Primal, Stella & Chewy’s, and Feline Natural - sometimes I’ll throw in an Instinct Raw Market) for the two main meals.  Then, because they just love it, they get about an ounce of some kind of shredded chicken (tuna once a week) for a bedtime snack.

This change has made my life so much easier and feeding the cats now is so awesome and fun!  And because I’m in Japan, the canned foods I’d been buying were imports so the prices were hiked up in part due to the weight it cost to import them.  Freeze-dried by the bag is expensive, but it’s very lightweight so the shipping is so much less!  I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m paying about the same, if not a bit less.

TIPS

WATER
I find the ratio of freeze-dried to water is vital.  It’s not necessarily true that your cat won’t eat it unless it’s dry - that’s what I thought until I found the ratio that works for us.  Everyone here is now eating their FD raw rehydrated.  This seriously blows my mind.  Our freshly rehydrated raw has no soup and raw from nuggets and mini-patties has the look and feel of raw ground hamburger meat, almost like taco meat - it's moist and flaky.  

Stella&Chewy's and Feline Natural (both cylindrical shapes) have a different, more of a "gloppy pate" consistency - because I had trouble rehydrating Stella's thick cylinders, I've been crushing them first and then adding water and it becomes more like a pate.  When not crushing Stella, the cylinders become a slightly chewy chunk of meat which is also kind of wonderful if you are able to get the cylinders hydrated through to the middle.  I found the cats found the cylinders difficult to chew if not totally hydrated, but they didn't like it if it was soupy.  I tried cutting the "almost" hydrated cylinders and it was very difficult for me to cut through them (when half wet).  There was a suggestion to add water to the cylinders the night before and leave it soaking overnight in the fridge.  That might be an option (though then there's the trouble of serving it cold or else gently warming it up in a bowl of warm water).

I find the best water ratio is what Primal suggests for their product:  

1 nugget (approx 7 gr / .25 oz) + 1 tbsp water (15 ml)

So, for example, Vital Essential mini-patties are about 12 grams each, so I add 22 ml of water.  I do that same ratio for Stella and also Feline Natural (though I'm still tweaking with these cylindrical ones as the girls have "issues" when the pate is too pate-y  Roll Eyes ).  ETA:  I am now using a bit less water for the cylinders.  For more info, see the bottom of this post.

Water should be lukewarm and not hot.  Even room temperature water will easily rehydrate the FD so if it's difficult to get 1 tbsp of water only warm, I'd just use room temp.


SERVING SIZE
I find the ideal amount to serve in one sitting is:

(Amounts are of rehydrated FD raw)
7.5 pd cat = 18~33 grams (.6 oz ~ 1.2 oz)
9 pd cat = 25~ 33 grams (.9 oz ~ 1.2 oz)
13 pd cat = 33~48 grams (1.2 oz ~ 1.4 oz)

These amounts have all the cats eating it in one swoop, or else just a little bit of leftover that is finished within the hour.  I serve two raw meals of this amount (this caloric amount for the boys is considered "low activity"), and then everybody gets that 1 oz of shredded chicken or tuna that I mentioned.


STORAGE
I wrote to the various brands to tell them that I live in a very humid area and wondered how to stock the open bags.  They all independently suggested keeping the sealed bags in the fridge so that’s what I’m doing.


HELPFUL ITEMS TO HAVE

KITCHEN GLOVE
I don’t mind crushing the freeze-dried with my hands, but it means I need to wash my hands before I touch everybody’s bowls and the kitchen counter and the water bottle etc.  And because the cats are freaking out from the aroma as I’m crushing the FD, you can imagine their anger and franticness when I then go away to wash my hands  Kiss .  So I like to have a rubber kitchen glove that I use to crush the FD, then I can take the glove off and finish the prep work asap and serve.

POTATO MASHER
Depending on the meat, sometimes FD is a bit difficult to crumble.  In this case, my gloved hand crumbles as much as it can and then I put the water in and let it soak 30 seconds or so before taking a potato masher to it (used only for the cat food).

WIDE-MOUTH CONTAINER
If you’re only feeding one or two cats, this probably isn’t needed, but it’s been really handy for serving 4 at a time.  My wide-mouth container holds a liter (a quart) and it’s very easy for me to put my gloved hand in to crumble all the FD, then I can put the water in and swish it and stir it around a bunch and it all stays in the container, nice and tidy!

STAINLESS STEEL SERVING BOWLS
They say it’s best to serve raw food in stainless steel bowls.  So to celebrate we got some and they’re really great!  They’re pricy but they really are good - just the right size and depth, food never spills over the side, and they don’t budge as the cats eat.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ERXXN6Y/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1


Anyway, I’m truly overjoyed at how things are going with the raw.  I really am still in disbelief that everyone is eating it, and really, really enjoying it.  That everyone absolutely loves it and eats it so well is just totally a dream come true!   Smiley


++++++++++++++++++++++
ETA: Adding in our current Magic Numbers for water ratios.


Please note that nugget and mini-patty sizes are approximate and can vary
Please also note that I am math-challenged so if you see a discrepancy, please tell me  Tongue Cheesy


PRIMAL               1 nugget = ~7 gr / .25 oz
   Them   1 nugget + 1 tbsp water      7 gr + 15 ml
   Me      I agree this is the Magic Ratio  Smiley

INSTINCT            1 nugget = ~7 gr
   Them   1 nugget + 1 tbsp water      7 gr + 15 ml
   Me      I agree this is the Magic Ratio  Smiley

VITAL ESSENTIALS      1 mini-patty = ~12 gr / .42 oz
   Them   You can add water or serve dry
   Them   No suggested water amount written
   Me      1 mini- patty + 22~25 ml      

STELLA & CHEWY’S      thick cylinders
   Them   You can add water or serve dry
   Them   1 cup (45 gr) + 1/2 cup (120 ml)
   Me      1 cup + 95 ml   75~82ml         12 gr + 22~25ml  12 gr + 20~22ml

For us, the amount of water Stella suggests makes for thick cylinders that are not hydrated through to the middle, and then there is a lot of soup.  My guys loved soupy canned food.  None of them like soupy raw.  I imagine if you let the thick cylinders soak in the water in the fridge overnight, the amount of water they suggest may work, but if you’re adding water minutes before you feed, at least in my case, it’s difficult to fully hydrate the cylinders (it might be different using a shallow mixing bowl but I need to hydrate for 4 cats at a time and no amount of stirring seems to help).  I have been crushing the thick cylinders and adding water and that's been working very well for us.   By the way, perhaps due to my crushing the cylinders, the amount of water I'm using is on the verge of being too wet.

FELINE NATURAL         thin cylinders
   Them   1 cup dry (45 gr) + 1/2+ cup (135 ml)
   Me      1 cup + 95 ml   75~82ml            12 gr + 22~25ml  12 gr + 20~22ml

Because these cylinders are much thinner, they hydrate quite quickly as you stir.  But again, the suggested amount of water is too much for us.


So currently, as you can see, the Magic Ratio of freeze-dried raw to water is:

For nuggets and mini-patties
7 gr (.25 oz) + 15 ml (1 tbsp)
12 gr (.42 oz) + 22~25 ml


For cylinders
12 gr (.42 oz) + 20~22 ml
« Last Edit: August 17, 2017, 10:10:36 PM by August » Logged

Larges born 5/07
Sunday born prob 5/09
Tinies born 3/10
Fizzy1
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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2017, 04:59:02 PM »

Wow!   What a great post!  I love reading about their reactions.  I'm thrilled with your experience.  Smiley  Thank you for such a detailed description.  Itchmo at its best! Grin
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ranger
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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2017, 05:30:53 AM »

I missed this post, great information. I am a vegetarian are the cubes gross to handle? I have been seeing so much on raw feeding and I could not handle having raw meat all over the floor (my boys are sloppy eaters) or tbh anywhere. 

You don't feed anything else now? No kibble or wet? The boys are pretty picky too. Roll Eyes
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August
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« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2017, 03:35:09 PM »

Hi, Ranger,

I'm also vegetarian.  Do you have issues touching freeze-dried chicken treats?  It's the same sensation to me as that - powdery and slightly oily (not too gross to me - tons nicer than slicing up freeze-dried chicken hearts, that's for sure  Tongue ).  The dry nuggets/cylinders/patties don't smell bad to me, though once I get the water in and get to stirring/rehydrating, I must admit that I hold the open end of the stirring container away from my face.   Cheesy

That being said, I do use a rubber kitchen glove to break up all the freeze-dried and find it's a lot easier in a lot of ways:  I don't need to wash my hands after I do it, and sometimes the freeze-dried can be a little stiff/hard and having the rubber barrier makes it easier for me to really crush it all up.

Half of my guys are sloppy eaters, too, but switching to the new stainless steel bowls I got has totally fixed the problem of food on the outside of the dish or on the floor.  It's been awesome  Cheesy !  (Of course the bowls don't need to be stainless to solve that problem - but the ones I got - the depth of them - work really well for us.)  Chami, by the way, likes to get a mouthful and plop it on the floor to eat and no bowl is going to correct that  Tongue  so she eats on a placemat.   Smiley

I am completely rid of kibble - still totally in shock about this.*  Cheesy
I am not serving any more canned pate. (only because there's no need for it on our menu now)
I serve all freeze-dried raw hydrated.
Solely as a treat, I'm serving canned shredded chicken and also tuna.

*For those who don't know, I started my cats off free-feeding dry + canned food morning and night


Chami demands to have shredded chicken as her bedtime snack  Roll Eyes , and, well, everyone just really loves shredded chicken.  So I've been serving an ounce of canned shredded chicken (Weruva, Cats in the Kitchen, Applaws, Almo) as a bedtime treat (and one ounce of canned tuna once a week).  


I honestly didn't think I would be able to get Chami and Lulu off of kibble but after losing their brother to acute kidney failure I was he!l-bent on getting them off it.  At first I had no intention of switching to freeze-dried raw but knew I would shortly after a couple days of feeding it.  I had no idea that everyone would be THIS enthusiastic about eating raw.  It's absolutely amazing and at every meal I'm still completely in awe.

The water ratio truly is vital.  It's best to err on the side of dry - it will still be plenty moist.  I'm still tweaking but will update as I get the Magic Numbers.   Grin


As of today, our favorite freeze-dried raw flavors are (in no particular order, though Vital is the top - all 8 of my cats heartily eat these with no leftovers):

Vital Essentials Duck
Vital Essentials Chicken
Vital Essentials Turkey

Primal Chicken & Salmon

Feline Natural Lamb

Stella & Chewy's Chicken
« Last Edit: August 16, 2017, 05:33:58 PM by August » Logged

Larges born 5/07
Sunday born prob 5/09
Tinies born 3/10
NedF
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« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2017, 06:44:34 PM »

You've convinced me to give it a try!  Cheesy
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merrihart
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« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2017, 03:29:18 AM »

Tried VE Duck yesterday for dinner.  They ate about 2/3 of it, then didn't revisit it.  I'm going to try chicken.  Duck may not be their thing.
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August
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« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2017, 02:46:31 PM »

2/3 isn't bad, is it?  I'd say that's not bad!  I've put leftovers in the fridge and served it later that day (straight from the fridge like a snack - you can also try rolling the leftovers into little things that resembled "dry food" balls  Roll Eyes  ).  I don't know if you served this for breakfast or dinner, but you might next try it at the opposite time and see if that makes a difference.

Fingers crossed for chicken!


Fingers crossed for you, too, Ned!
« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 02:51:53 PM by August » Logged

Larges born 5/07
Sunday born prob 5/09
Tinies born 3/10
August
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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2017, 05:29:06 PM »

Just letting you know that I've updated my original post to include our current Magic Ratio of water to freeze-driedSmiley
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Larges born 5/07
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