One of the most common questions we get is about what to feed Bengals. On it's surface, it seems like there are tons of options. If you go to the pet store, there are thirty or more types of dry food, and hundreds of choices of canned. Given all the options, it's a totally expected question. That being said, the best food you can feed your Bengal, or other dog or cat, isn't found in a pet store.
In 2012, when we started with Bengals, we fed Taste of the Wild kibble. Our cats did fine on it. We didn't have health problems, and our kittens were healthy and happy. Then, in February 2014, we met Mark Pennington, from Mystre Bengals. Mark introduced us to the concept of a raw diet. I had concerns that a raw diet wouldn't meet all the nutritional needs of my animals, but I spent that entire show talking to him about it and I left the show hall determined to give it a try. So, Matt and I gathered our ingredients, borrowed my grandmother's old-fashioned hand grinder (in case we decided not to continue, we opted not to buy a grinder at first), and went to town!
Well, let me tell you, grinding twenty pounds of chicken thighs with the bones in with a hand grinder was almost enough to make me swear off raw food forever! But the cats LOVED it. They had gone from lackadaisically munching on their kibble to voraciously eating. It was enough of an immediate reaction to make me think we were on to something. So I ordered a cheap grinder (more on that later), and we went about sourcing meat.
Initially, I was feeding about five cats and had no kittens. With the small grinder, it would take me about three hours to chop, grind, mix and store enough food for a month. Not bad. However, when we added a few cats and had two litters of kittens, it would take us seven or eight hours to make the food for a month and I was ending up with blisters on my hands and cramping in my back and wrists. I'll be honest with you and tell you we switched back and forth two or three times, torn between the convenience of opening a bag of kibble versus the cost savings and nutritional superiority of the raw. In early 2015, I stumbled onto a cooperative in Columbus, OH, called Farm Dog Raw. They had pre-ground raw for $1.40 a pound and delivered once a month. Matt and I decided to try it out, and it was so easy and convenient that we decided to stick with it.
In early 2017, I switched my dogs to a raw diet as well. Because we have large dogs, they don't need a ground diet and can handle whole chicken parts, so I sourced some organic and antibiotic free chicken quarters and organs. At that point, I was paying $.47 per pound for chicken and $1.25 per pound for organs. Because it was so much less per pound, I started thinking about making my own raw again, but didn't want to go back to hours and hours of chopping and grinding. Also, by this point, we almost always had at least one litter of kittens and were up to 11 cats, so I knew I would be looking at grinding every couple weeks due to the time commitment.
In summer 2017, I decided to buy the Weston #22 grinder. It's used by many breeders, and I felt confident with my choice. I purchased it, ordered 5 cases of chicken (250 pounds), and was set to start. Then, Matt and I went to Cabela's. We happened to be there on a day they were rolling out their newest grinder, and were doing some in-store demonstrations. We were both impressed, and ended up buying the Cabela's Carnivore #42 1.75 HP grinder and returning the Weston without ever even opening the box.
Let me tell you, the right grinder makes all the difference. The kitchener I started with was great for 5 cats. The Weston #22 works well for a lot of breeders who feed smaller pieces of meat or who only need to grind occasionally. The Carnivore grinder we have is a work horse. I can grind, mix and store 250 pounds of chicken in less than an hour, including clean up! It grinds 18 pounds per minute without exaggeration, and breaks down poultry bones extremely well. With the purchase of this grinder, I feel confident in saying we will continue to make a homemade raw diet forever, and all our cats have been eating raw consistently for more than 3 years.
Now, for a kitten buyer, buying a grinder might seem like a lot of expense and work for one cat. That's okay! There are several fantastic places you can order a pre-made raw. Also, you can do a Franken-prey or whole prey model where no grinding is required. Or, if none of those options are appealing, there are several frozen raw foods available at most pet stores.
So, without further ado, the research. Here are some links explaining why raw is the best choice you can make. Briefly, it cuts down on dehydration, increases kidney function, decreases allergies and skin issues, improves coat and skin, cleans their teeth, and ensures they are getting all of their necessary nutritional needs. Cats are obligate carnivores. They NEED MEAT. And they do not need carbs (which is what kibble is made up of).
Now, as to where to get raw, here are some resources:
Farm Dog Raw - Delivers to OH/PA/NY area. farmdograw.com
Happy Critter Pet Food - Delivers to PA/MD/NY/NJ area
Blue Ridge Beef (not all diets are complete) - NC/SC delivery area
Carnivore Carryout - MI/OH/WI area
Simply Rawsome US - delivery to your door, contiguous US.
Hare Today - delivery to your door, contiguous US.
thenutritioncode.info - Franken-prey model. Recipes, articles, resources
To make your own, follow an 80-10-10 rule. 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 10% organ (organ must secrete. Kidney, liver, spleen, brain, gizzard. Heart and lung are fed as muscle meat). Of the 10% organ, half MUST be liver. We feed a chicken based diet using primarily chicken quarters with the skin left on and a combination of liver and gizzards. You should only use dark meat for the taurine. If you use breast meat, you will not have enough taurine content for the cats. We also rotate other proteins as we can find them and have used duck, turkey, goose, beef, pork, etc. Generally speaking, we recommend at least 2 proteins, but the key to raw is balance over time. Whole eggs are also appropriate in a raw diet, as is bone-broth. Cats do not need any fruit or vegetable content at all.
If you want to feed a raw diet, but don't want to grind, you can use boneless, skinless thighs for the muscle, wings or necks for bone, and livers and gizzard for organ with whatever protein you want to add.