In the wild, cats eat whole animals raw -- and that's pretty much all they eat. More and more pet owners, and some veterinarians, say it's best to feed your cat raw food to mimic that wild diet.
Nature's Variety Instinct Raw Chicken Formula (*Est. $16 for a 3-lb. bag) uses only USDA-approved meats (the same kind people eat) plus organ meats, ground bone and a tiny percentage of fruits and veggies to provide natural vitamins and minerals. Plus, it's pressure-pasteurized (without heat) to kill harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.
The chicken flavor is the least expensive, but Nature's Variety also offers raw organic chicken, rabbit, lamb, venison, bison, beef and duck. Cat owners say the 1-ounce medallions make it easy to portion out a cat's meal (you can also get several flavors in patties or bulk), and they rave about how healthy and energetic this food makes their cats -- even older or formerly sickly ones.
A similar raw food, Feline's Pride Gourmet Chicken (*Est. $30 for 5 lb.) is just as high-quality, reviews say -- but it's not pasteurized to kill germs. The American Veterinary Medical Association discourages feeding pets raw animal protein that's not pasteurized or otherwise treated to kill bacteria, but some vets say this isn't a problem: veterinarian Lisa Pierson calls Feline's Pride "my favorite commercial diet."
You can buy Nature's Variety Instinct raw foods at big chains like Petco and Petland, as well as smaller pet stores. But only a few small retailers scattered around the country carry Feline's Pride, so you'll probably have to mail-order it and pay high frozen-shipping costs.