RadCat is having a voluntary recall and we inadvertently fed our cats the contaminated food!
Yes, before the recall was announced, WE bought one of the offending foods (the Turkey – but Chicken and Beef were affected too).
And. Fed. It. To. Our. Cats.
Twice (sort of).
But first, don’t panic. We haven’t heard any tragic reports as a result of these bad batches, and it’s unlikely there will be any (more on why in a minute).
What I learned + what happened
Even the most compulsive eater of a cat will notice something is “off” before your human nose can detect it.
I was amazed that our cat Joel, who will rapidly wolf down every food known to man, ate a few bites and then walked away from this RadCat. Our other cat who loves RadCat wasn’t very interested either. But, they were hungry so they ate a few hesitant bites. Also, I put enticing sprinkles on it to encourage them! (Oh the horror!) I regret that I wasn’t suspicious, but I didn’t know about the recall and I had sniffed it myself and didn’t smell anything weird. Regrettably, they had a few bites the next day too. We will never make this mistake again!
Within 2-3 days, the contaminated food develops a more gummy texture and starts smelling AWFUL.
At this point, it becomes obvious to the human! (I’m so thankful that the cats could smell it before it was detectable to us.)
You may not see an illness reaction right away.
We thought our cats came through with flying colors, but then one threw up a whole meal a few days later, and the other cat did the same the following day. Listeria tends to take at least three days and sometimes even a few weeks to kick in. Salmonella takes 12 to 72 hours to show up. (The symptoms to watch for are vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and/or fever. It is recommended that you contact a vet if your cat suffers from these symptoms.)
You may not see a reaction in your cat at all – you may have one though.
It’s uncommon for cats to become ill from Salmonella or Listeria because they have a very acidic digestive system that neutralizes a lot of bacteria and because they will avoid eating the bad food. They also can shed these bacteria in their feces without much fanfare. Our local holistic pet food store says it’s more common that the humans experience symptoms from handling bad cat food. Indeed, both my husband and I had an afternoon of mild nausea and abdominal cramping a few days after we handled the bad food. However, we may have been exposed through our cats more than through the food itself: infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect humans.
If you regularly add probiotics to your cat’s food, it’s probably going to help limit a reaction.
We frequently add probiotics to our cat’s food, and while they did each throw up once – it was only once, and…
…Recovery went well.
After we realized they had eaten the bad food, we observed them closely and gave them probiotics with every meal for a few weeks. We also had them skip a meal after they threw up and then gave them plain chicken bone broth for their next meal after that. (Important: make sure the broth contains NO garlic or onions, which can cause hemolytic anemia in cats. We chose bone broth because it has more digestive healing properties and protein than plain old meat broth.) By the next morning, they were hungry, ate heartily, and all has been well since.
Conclusions and observations
At the end of the day, I am relieved. The “worst” happened, we are all ok, and I learned that the risk is very limited, even if a healthy cat is exposed to the bacteria.
It does underscore the idea of avoiding raw food for cats with a compromised immune system though.
And, we are still fans of RadCat.
I am still convinced that raw food, done right, is one of the healthiest options for cats. Unlike cooked and processed food, it supplies active enzymes, making the nutrients highly available and the food more easily digestible.
And I still believe that RadCat is one of the best cat food options out there. I have no financial relationship with RadCat whatsoever, I just really think their simple, human-grade ingredients are superior and they do their best to do the right thing:
- They run their own manufacturing plant.
- They operate their plant under the same guidelines for human food facilities, which includes a quality assurance plan, and environmental and product testing programs.
- They use an HACCP safety system, which is recognized by the USDA and FDA as preventive approach to food safety.
- All of their meats are rinsed with ozonated water, which is an anti-microbial treatment and they use high pressure processing (HPP) to prevent bad bacteria.
So, how did this happen to RadCat then?
Here’s what they have to say about it: “Raw meat and poultry can contain pathogens, such as Salmonella and Listeria. This contamination can occur at the time of slaughter and be present on the meats and poultry when they enter our plant. There are tolerance levels for these pathogens in the human food chain, but no tolerance for raw pet food. That is why we have a comprehensive testing program and take intervention steps such as HPP and use ozone in our processing and sanitation.
As of this time, we have no definitive answer as to how these bacteria were found in our products. All of our testing with an independent third party lab has revealed clean results, which includes a comprehensive sampling of our food processing environment, which was sampled again, immediately after we were notified about the results from the FDA.”
If you’re concerned, go to RadCat’s FAQ to learn more and make sure you don’t have a tainted batch.
In the mean time, remember, if your cat suddenly seems repelled by a food he usually likes: the cat’s nose knows!