The whole prey diet method of feeding is related to BARF but follows a different principle.
Whole Prey Diet for Cats
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What is behind the whole prey diet?
Is your cat eating a mouse? Then it is already indulging in the most primitive whole prey meal. Whole prey is a feeding concept closely based on the natural diet of cats. Unlike BARF (biologically appropriate raw food), cats receive neither supplements not fruit or vegetables with a whole prey diet. Whole prey devotees instead feed entire animals. These include day-old chicks, mice, quails and also chicken thighs or fish.
The Frankenprey method
Frankenprey (also: Franken prey) is based on the whole prey diet for cats but with larger prey, which is cut up and reassembled. Frankenstein's monster is behind the name here!
What does Frankenprey specifically mean? Meat, organs and bones are combined in order to copy the cat's natural prey, for which cat owners work with a set formula. The following recipe has proved successful:
- 80% lean meat or heart, stomach, fat, skin, sinews
- 10% bones
- 5% liver
- 5% other organs like kidneys or spleen
A cat weighing 4kg needs around 100g lean meat, 12.5g bones, 6g liver and 6g kidneys or other organs each day. No precision scales are required, as Frankenprey devotees usually prepare large portions and split them over several days.
For instance, you can multiply the aforementioned components by ten and randomly feed them over ten days. However, bones should not be served alone and always need to be served with at least two-thirds meat.
What are the advantages of a whole prey diet for cats?
If you put together your cat's food yourself or feed it whole prey, you know exactly what your cat is eating. Artificial aromas or high grain content are ruled out. However, manufacturers of high-quality food varieties do also list the ingredients in a transparent way.
After all, our cats wouldn't capture a cow and fortify the meat with vitamins and minerals.
Whole prey is more primitive than BARF due to supplements not being necessary.
Includes dental care
Breaking up an entire prey animal cleans the teeth and can thereby contribute to preventing tartar. However, feeding beef goulash every few days is a good alternative for cat owners who don't want to switch to whole prey or BARF.
Disadvantages of the whole prey diet
Housing conditions of feed animals
Too cramped, too dark, no variety: food mice or rats live short lives, often in poor conditions. If you buy them, you are supporting mice being kept en masse. Animals fed solely with the whole prey method can have over 200 feed animals per month. With conventional cat food, consumers can choose an organic food, for instance. Manufacturers also handle components that aren't used when producing meat for human consumption.
A little differentiation can be made with day-old chicks, which at least aren't bred as feed animals. They are simply male chicks that aren't needed for the production of eggs. Chicks killed with gas can become frozen food, although a diet solely made up of feed chicks isn't species-appropriate.
Other nutrients in feed animals
Compared to their counterparts living freely, feed animals have a different nutritional composition, because they have to put on mass as quickly as possible in a short time. They are inactive and eat high-energy food, therefore consist of more fat and less lean meat than genuine prey animals.
In order to meet the required amount of calories, an average cat weighing 4kg only needs six to seven feed mice per day – so four to five mice less than those captured in the wild. This shifts the nutritional composition.
Although day-old chicks have less fat, the ratio of calcium to phosphorous is worse from the cat's perspective with both frozen mice and day-old chicks than with wild mice. If you wish to take the whole prey approach with your cat in the long term, you should take all this into consideration.
Lots of space needed with the whole prey diet
Be it Frankenprey or the traditional whole prey diet for cats, both options require ample quantities of meat. If you don't wish to buy frozen animals twice a week or shop at your local butcher's, you will need a large freezer.
Be it due to sickness or holidays, ready-made food enables straightforward cat care. Although meals for the whole prey diet can be pre-prepared too so that the cat-sitter only has to put portions in the cat's bowls, serving frozen mice doesn't appeal to all cat lovers. It's therefore an advantage if your cat is familiar with and tolerates wet or dry food.
Expert knowledge required
Reading the feeding recommendation, opening the packet – and in the bowl it goes! This isn't a problem with conventional cat food but is impossible with whole prey. If you feed your cat based on the whole prey method, you need to do thorough research. This is the case for both options, because even the set formula of the Frankenprey method requires some basic knowledge.
My cat goes hunting: what do I have to take into account?
So you haven't chosen a whole prey diet but your cat has? This means that you have an outdoor cat that captures its own daily meals. There's nothing against this, but eating mice or birds does bring health risks, so you should either regularly deworm your cat or have its faeces examined for parasites.
Offer your mouse hunter supplementary food. Only a few cats living with humans cover all their energy requirements with hunting. You have to ensure strict hygiene in your kitchen with Frankenprey and whole prey.
The differences between whole prey and BARF
Close to nature and primitive – the principle is similar to BARF, i.e. biologically appropriate raw food. The origin of the idea is the same but the implementation is different, because BARF is less focused on prey animals and instead on actual nutritional requirements. Hence, supplements are permitted with BARF, including important ingredients like herbs, supplement powders, algae, oils or vegetables.
In contrast, whole prey puts together meals in a wholly natural way, meaning supplements are not necessary. There is an exception with Frankenprey with meat from conventional livestock farming, in which case experts recommend adding fish oil.
Whole prey diet for cats – a good idea?
There's nothing against occasionally giving cats a day-old chick or raw meat. Up to 20% of the diet can be made up of raw meat without you adding supplements or worrying about the composition. However, a whole prey diet for cats is very demanding for owners if it is the only feeding method.
Whole prey and the Frankenprey option are mostly suitable for animal lovers who are very involved with matters of diet. Otherwise, there is the threat of malnutrition. A practical alternative to a whole prey diet is a high-quality grain-free wet or dry food, which provides the cat with everything it needs.
Virtually all cat owners have come into contact with the term 'BARF', but many animal lovers are not really sure what to make of this unknown quantity. What actually is 'BARF', why is 'biologically appropriate raw food' meant to be so healthy for cats and what are the advantages and disadvantages of this feeding method?