December 3, 2022
by Robyn Paterson
In the summer of 2022, Viva Raw opened up a warehouse in the west, cementing our decision to recommend Viva Raw to our clients seeking convenience. We had previously admired Viva Raw’s product from afar, but with its headquarters in North Carolina, it was unrealistic to recommend it due to shipping. Making raw food by following a balanced recipe or buying locally, as we do for the bulk of our food, is cheaper. However, the convenience of buying food that comes directly to your doorstep is a priority for many with busy lives. For those wanting the convenience of raw food that comes to their doorstep, we switched our recommendation from Darwin’s to Viva Raw because of the variety of proteins they consistently offer, their chunked food selection, and their high-quality, limited ingredients.
To summarize, raw feeding is best for cats because “cats are strict, obligate carnivores with characteristic dentition and a short digestive tract. They rely on animal tissue for nutrients and require a high protein diet and a dietary source of taurine” (Craig). We have discussed how this affects the Bengal in our article “What is the best cat food to feed a Bengal?”
Why A Variety of Proteins are Important
Consider how a cat would eat in the wild. When the opportunity to catch a meal presents itself, the cat takes it. Cats do not limit themselves by hunting only mice, only birds, only lizards. They will catch what they can. Therefore, cats are biologically created for protein diversity. Diversity in protein sources allows the cat to get a variety of nutrients. Different proteins offer different nutrients. When you offer the cat protein variety, it gets a better balance of nutrients over a week’s feeding. If you only provide one protein, it will always be high in some nutrients and low in others.
In addition, cats who are fed a single protein over long periods can develop an allergy to that protein. When studying cats who developed food allergies later in life, it was discovered that “Before the onset of clinical signs, the animals have been fed the offending food components for at least two years” (Verlinden et al.). This has become quite common with chicken because it is the most commonly fed protein. It is important to offer a variety of proteins to reduce the likelihood of food allergies. Viva Raw consistently offers turkey, chicken, beef, duck, and rabbit. In the time we have been purchasing from them, they have never claimed to be out of stock of any protein source, so they have proven reliable. We purchase the Variety pack and encourage others to do so to reduce the risk of creating a food allergy and offer various nutrients.
In addition to its consistent selection of proteins, Viva Raw has offered novelty proteins when they are available. For example, in the fall, they offered venison and elk. Their seasonal offering of additional proteins allows a pet owner to increase the protein selection even more.
Why We Recommend Viva Raw Pure (even though it is labeled incomplete)
While Viva Raw offers a complete diet for cats, we also recommend that you buy their Chunked Pure Recipe even though it is not considered complete for two reasons. The diet is not certifiably complete because Viva Raw cannot control the variety of proteins you feed your cat, and it is not entirely clear how many nutrients are lost in the freezing and thawing process.
Viva Raw’s Pure recipe is balanced at an ideal ratio for most cats: 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, and 10% secreting organ. All recipes include liver; the beef includes liver and kidney; the rabbit includes liver, kidney, and lung. Hearts are in all recipes. All poultry recipes include hearts and gizzards; hearts and gizzards are appropriately considered muscle meat, not organs. The variety of all the recipes in combination provides a good balance. Viva Raw cannot control what recipes individuals feed. In addition, some pet owners are restricted in what proteins they can offer due to pre-existing food allergies; therefore, Viva Raw cannot legally call their food 100% balanced.
Furthermore, some nutrients, such as taurine, degrade in the freezing and thawing process and are inadvertently at risk of being thrown out when the owner feeds. Because taurine is water soluble, “most of the taurine contained in tissues will be dissolved into water if exposed” (Spitze et al.). Because Viva Raw cannot predict whether or not each pet parent will offer the pet the juices from the meat that appear once it is thawed, they cannot guarantee that the pet will be provided all of the available taurine. Not getting enough taurine is extremely dangerous for a cat’s health as they cannot make their own.
For these reasons, we recommend that people add a full teaspoon of the NuVet supplement to Viva Raw Pure Chunked Recipes. Thus, adding the NuVet supplement ensures that the cat gets the necessary amount of taurine and other trace elements that may be lost or damaged by the freezing process. Because taurine is water soluble, it will not hurt a cat to get too much taurine as the excess will be expelled through urine.
Why We Recommend NuVet Plus Feline Powder
There are many supplements on the market. Years ago, we happily used a different supplement, but it changed its base ingredient to rice flour. Rice binds to taurine and removes it from the body before absorption. Consequently, we discovered multiple cats with thinning hearts when doing our annual heart scans. The switch to a rice base within the supplement was the only change in our diet. Once we switched supplements, our cats’ hearts returned to normal. Our experience was a lesson on how ingredients affect nutrients and their absorption. We searched for a new supplement with this at the forefront of our minds.
Our supplement search ended with NuVet as our choice for one significant reason: “NuVet Plus ingredients and nutrients are compounded to maintain their integrity and bio-digestibility for complete cellular infusion” (“NuVet Plus Feline Powder”). Comparing supplements can be challenging because they can appear equal when looking at the nutrients offered, yet not every ingredient is bioavailable to a cat because it is an obligate carnivore. Cats' bodies cannot utilize the nutrients the same way dogs or humans can because they cannot metabolize the ingredient that contains the nutrients. A simplistic example is that cats cannot live off plant-based proteins like peas or other legumes. It must be animal-based protein. The same is true for the ingredients used to offer nutrient supplementation. The ingredients must be bioavailable for the cat to utilize them.
Bioavailability depends not only on the ingredients themselves but how they are processed. For example, heat alters and often destroys the bioavailability of nutrients. The NuVet company ensures that all of the ingredients used in their feline powder come from ingredients that cats can metabolize.
Because NuVet considers the bioavailability of its ingredients, cats can benefit from the nutrients. In addition, the NuVet supplement contains ingredients meant to build their immune system and protect them from unnatural chemicals, toxins, and pollutants in the modern world. Cats’ bodies have evolved very little, if at all, from their natural, wild ancestors. The NuVet supplement helps them thrive in a world that has evolved much faster.
By adding the NuVet Supplement to the Variety pack of Viva Raw meats, your cat is getting the most bioavailable nutrients to fill in the gaps of any nutrients that may not be complete due to lack of variety in proteins and those that may have degraded in the freezing and thawing process. In addition, Nuvet offers additional nutrients that boost the immune system to help the cat’s body properly function in a modern world that has evolved faster than the cat’s body.
Why We Recommend the Chunked Meat
One of the primary reasons we recommend Viva Raw is that they offer their foods in a chunked variety. If your cat is new to raw, you may want to stick with the ground varieties, to begin with, but for those who are regular raw eaters, the chunked varieties offer an opportunity for teeth cleaning. Cats’ teeth are not designed for chewing. They rip and tear meat. As they pull the chunks of meat into sizable bites to swallow, the friction of the meat rubs against the teeth and gums like a toothbrush. The chunked variety does not replace feeding meaty bones once a week to keep your cat’s teeth and gums in prime condition.
Viva Raw’s Shipping
When raw food companies decide to ship their product, they are taking a risk. They must trust that their product will maintain quality in the shipping process. Viva Raw anticipates shipping complications in advance and makes modifications based on what is realistic. Their standard shipping procedure is only to ship out Monday through Wednesday. This is done to ensure that their product never gets delayed by a weekend. With their headquarters in North Carolina and their warehouse on the west coast, they can reach most parts of the United States within three days. Their product only takes one day to ship to Northern California locations, where most of our pet parents live.
Furthermore, Viva Raw knows how the holidays affect shipping and does not ship during the riskiest weeks of the year, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. They are very proactive about warning their customer in advance about when a break in shipping is coming, so people know to preorder their food. Viva Raw and Nuvet are relatively small businesses and therefore take considerable pride in their customer service.
Disclosure of Affiliate Programs
Because we never attempt to deceive people, we disclose that we do receive a benefit when you purchase Viva Raw and NuVet through our links. With Viva Raw, we get credit towards our purchase of their product. With NuVet, we receive an affiliate payment. However, we do not recommend products because of a kickback. We use both of these products and believe in them for the above reasons. The reason for writing this article is to explain WHY they are our recommendations.
If you purchase Viva Raw through our link, you will get 20% off of your purchase. You get free shipping if you order over $250 worth of food. This is the most cost-effective way to purchase Viva Raw if you have the freezer space to store the food.
Craig, J.M. “Raw feeding in dogs and cats.” MAG Online Library, Companion Animal, 18 December 2019, https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/full/10.12968/coan.2018.0068. Accessed 27 November 2022.
“NuVet Plus Feline Powder.” NuVet Labs, NuVet Labs, 2022, https://www.nuvetlabs.com/order_new2/nuvet-plus-feline.asp. Accessed 27 November 2022.
“Pure Recipes for Cats & Dogs.” Viva Raw, Viva Raw, 2022, https://vivarawpets.com/pages/pure. Accessed 27 November 2022.
Spitze, A.R., et al. “Taurine concentrations in animal feed ingredients; cooking influences taurine content.” UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA, 20 January 2003, https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk491/files/aal/pdfs/spitze.pdf. Accessed 27 November 2022.
Verlinden, A., et al. “Food Allergy in Dogs and Cats: A Review.” Taylor and Francis Online, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 18 Jan 2007, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408390591001117?scroll=top&needAccess=true. Accessed 27 November 2022.