Cute hunter lurking behind unknowing prey (Image by Susanne Jutzeler from Pixabay)

Just as feeding human children a ton of candy does not cause them to be sweeter in nature, feeding raw meat to your furry companion does not cause them to be more or less aggressive. 

Feeding your cat or dog their natural diet does not alter their primal instincts. Cats were originally domesticated due to their prolific hunting abilities to control the rodent population, while dogs were bred for their skills as hunters, herders or gundogs. Even after generations of breeding to cultivate traits deemed preferable to man, cats and dogs remain carnivorous predators by nature and require fresh, raw meat in their diet to thrive. 

The desire to hunt is ingrained in their feline or canine nature, which explains why some of our feline friends often leave souvenirs such as dead critters and rodents for us as a sign of affection, while some of our canine comrades are especially inclined towards chasing birds or fetching objects. That said, every cat and dog is different. Some of them have high prey drive, while others are content to be couch potatoes or gentle giants. 

Cats were welcomed into human communities as rodent patrol (Image by MissesHippie from Pixabay)

Feeding your companion animal meat is not going to transform them into a vicious monster that attacks every moving, breathing object. Just think, choosing to have my steak well done does not cause me to be less aggressive than my neighbour who decides to have their steak rare. Neither does eating sashimi today compel me to go on a spearfishing frenzy tomorrow (may also due to my lackluster spearfishing skills). Aggression is not caused by diet, but is affected by genetics, breed, temperament and socialisation. Animals can be trained to recognise family from food, and distinguish between what they fend for and what they feed on. A good relationship between human and animal is far more effective in reducing aggression than feeding highly processed food to a carnivorous animal.

Furthermore, feeding your companion animal a species-appropriate diet allows them to thrive, and enjoy a higher quality of life. By fulfilling their nutritional needs, our cats and dogs find less of a need to hunt for food, which is already provided on the table. On the other hand, the high amount of carbohydrates and other additives in processed foods is more likely to result in an insulin spike, or sugar high, in cats and dogs, increasing the probability of erratic behaviour. In the Pottenger Cat Study, raw fed cats were found to be generally gregarious, friendly and predictable in their behaviour patterns, while cats fed an unbalanced cooked meat diet show much more irritability, some of whom were even dangerous to handle.

Raw fed dogs can coexist harmoniously with little children, but please exercise caution and supervise their interactions at all times (Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash)
BUT… my furry friend started growling at me when I came close to their food bowl after switching to raw food. They have never done that previously. What is happening to my best friend?! Raw meat must be turning my angel into a bloodlust monster who wants to kill me and exterminate my entire family. HLEP!”

Um, nope. Now, imagine both of us sharing a common space, whether as friends or strangers, and I suddenly reach over for your wallet, or whatever prized possession that you carry with you. Would you not have the slightest reaction? Would you choose to smile (affection) or shout (aggression) at me, the potential robber, or seemingly crazy person who does not understand the concept of personal space and belongings?

Raw meat is often regarded as a high value object to many cats and dogs, which may result in guarding behavior when they feel threatened or are afraid of losing their prized possession. Any change in behaviour after a change in diet probably highlights an existing resource guarding issue, and not because raw meat has awakened some sort of dormant primal instinct in them.

Should your furry companion exhibit any resource guarding issues, we recommend that you address these issues promptly and seek professional help if necessary. As pet guardians, it is unfair to penalise our furry companions for acting in accordance with their instincts by feeding them a suboptimal diet, without addressing the existing issues or conditioning them to exhibit what we deem as desirable behaviour.

This floofball is not a soft toy – do not be fooled (Image by Pezibear from Pixabay)

We are often distracted by the cute and furry appearance of our furry best friends, and may even change their appearances to resemble bamboo-chomping pandas, that we forget that cats and dogs are (1) capable of experiencing a range of emotions which may at times lead to destructive behaviour; and (2) also carnivorous creatures. Their 100% cute and furry appearances do not guarantee 100% cute behaviour or 0% inability to lash out on people and things. A dog is a dog and not a soft toy or a human in fur coat. They are capable of hurting and maiming people, and the best way to ensure safety in the household and community is through socialisation, and not through feeding them vegan diets or highly processed dog food (though Game of Thrones teaches us to never starve them).  

We quote an excerpt from Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs by Jean Donaldson (2002), which resonates strongly with us: 

Our expectations of dogs are very high, actually. The standard we have set for them is one we would consider absurd for any other species of animal, including ourselves. We want no aggressive behaviour directed at humans, of even the most ritualised sort, at any time, over the entire course of the dog’s life. This is exactly like you going a lifetime without ever once losing your temper, swearing at another driver in traffic, being rude to someone in a line-up, writing a hot letter to the editor, defending yourself from what you perceive to be a threat, calling a lawyer or saying something mean to your spouse that you later regret. All species-normal, even highly ritualised aggression forbidden. 

As if this weren’t enough, we also want dogs to suddenly be very aggressive if a crime is being perpetrated against us. We want the dog to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys and guard our own coveted resources! We even breed dogs with this in mind, flirting with the deliberate selection of traits such as “wary of strangers,” “one man” or “one family dog” or other euphemisms that suggest we don’t want dogs to be entirely gregarious and easy to socialise. It doesn’t occur to us the extreme unlikelihood of achieving through selective breeding a dog who is more likely to guard a stereo than a meaty bone.

I am not suggesting we don’t take dog aggression seriously and do everything we can to eliminate it. What I am suggesting is that a good start for this effort would be acknowledging the bar we are setting. It is extremely predictable that dogs, like all animals, will behave aggressively when they are afraid or feel threatened and in order to defend resources. If we would like to have this never, or almost never, happen, we will have to insert multiple lines of defense, starting with facing up to the biological legacy we are up against.

Every living creature is capable of aggressive behaviour when they feel threatened or afraid, or wish to guard their resources, even herbivores:

There are many raw fed cats and dogs who live harmoniously within and beyond their human families. These companion animals coexist peacefully with children and small animals without exhibiting any form of bloodthirsty behaviour. For example, our resident Babycakes remains terrified of live chickens, even after consuming kilograms of raw chicken meat, and is completely respectful towards the senior chinchilla in the house. In fact, many cats and dogs have become more enjoyable to be around after switching to a raw diet, as they exhibit happier and calmer behaviour, as well and better breath and gorgeous coats.

Are you concerned about raw feeding leading to aggressive behaviour in animals? If you are, share with us why you have such concerns and ask yourself if such concerns are rooted in logic. If people tell you that a raw fed cat or dog is going to become bloodthirsty or aggressive, ask them to explain why, and see if you agree!

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