To be a raw feeder, there are a few essentials to get things started---even before you start chopping up raw meat. This list does depend heavily on the type of diet you are feeding (whole prey, Frankenprey, ground up mixes), but all essentials listed are greatly useful for raw feeding.
1. RAW MEAT/BONE GRINDER: While some of us feed Frankenprey and whole prey (thereby not needing a commercial raw meat grinder), having a powerful grinder is important. If you feed a raw diet of ground up grinds and mixes, then a grinder is the most important tool you have. These commercial grinders vary in their grinding power, but most go through chicken bone and turkey wings without a hiccup. We have rescue tomcats that led rough outdoor lives and don't have the teeth to be going through whole prey or Frankenprey. Senior cats or those with metabolic or digestive conditions may also not be candidates for a full-blown Frankenprey or whole prey diet. Cats prone to pancreatitis flare-ups do better on a ground raw diet as the other raw diets may overload and overwhelm the pancreas during digestion. When cats aren't feeling well, they may not have the desire or the energy to chew large pieces of raw food, so having premade mixes is a safe and effective backup. In these instances, for us, we purchased a commercial grinder.
2. PLASTIC CUTTING BOARD: Of course, you need a cutting board! Make sure you purchase a board that will be used solely for raw feeding as you may need it to chop up raw green tripe, raw whole beef, lungs, and other prey animal organs. Plastic boards are a better fit for raw meat chopping because wooden boards will splinter with rough manhandling. They're fine for kneading dough, but not for cleaver action. Also, wooden boards that are used so extensively and roughly harbor more bacteria than plastic boards. This increases the risks of contamination and bacterial growth.
3. HEAVY-DUTY CUTTING SHEARS/CLEAVER/SHARP KNIVES: How are you going to cut up the meat and chop through bone? Shears are perfect for precise cutting of meat, especially to avoid splatter (Dexter Morgan would be proud). Cleavers are perfect for chopping through bone either to chop off a chicken wing to give for a feeding or to cleave off raw parts to fit into the grinder. When I say ‘heavy-duty', I mean that. Those cute scissors will not do the job---you need to go professional here.
4. NATURAL CLEANING SOLUTION: Obviously this job can prove to be messy. Make sure you have cleaning solutions on hand. Don't buy anything synthetic or with harsh chemical. Cats will lick that up, especially if you feed them on the floor. Whatever cats and dogs touch can be dangerous. We can't stand people spraying their entire home with Febreeze. That stuff is so toxic and synthetic and people are spraying that shit everywhere. You need natural cleaners that kill off bacteria, viruses, and the like. Here is one we make and it costs pennies!
5. FREEZER/THAWING CONTAINERS: Most raw feeders, us included, will make raw grinds or meals (whether Frankenprey or ground) for a month in advance. Some do it for a week at a time. Once you get all your gear out and started, you don't want to make raw meals for just a few days. Commercial grinders go through pounds of food in seconds-minutes. You will need freezer containers to store daily raw meals. This way, you just thaw out what meals you need for a couple of days in advance. Stackable Ziploc plastic containers (BPA-free) are a good choice.
6. PLATES/BOWLS/TILES: Cats love to eat off the floor. In fact, if a cat won't eat a meal out of a bowl and you place a piece of food on the ground, he may chomp it down. If you have plates or bowls for feeding, make sure there is enough bowl width for the cat to eat freely. Remember, they use their whiskers to test surroundings and if the whiskers hit the narrow bowl, this will bother them. The best option is probably large ceramic tiles. These are cheap and easy to clean. The cats will think they are eating off the ground, so it's very primal. You can also try feeding the cats on the kitchen tile, but make sure there is no synthetic/chemical residue left from floor cleaners and solutions.
7. PLASTIC BAGS: We use freezer containers to freeze and thaw our food, but plastic bags work too. Even the non-freezer bags with zippers will work. Double bag them to avoid leakage when thawing and freezer burn when freezing.
8. DISPOSABLE GLOVES: Gloves are important, especially in the cases of handling raw prey pancreases and raw butternut squash. These are full of potent enzymes that will cause skin to roughen up, peel, and flake for a few hours post-contact. You may not want to handle some raw foods (raw green tripe, for example) as the odor may linger on your fingers for a little while.
9. CHEAP, LIGHT, SOLID COLORED BED SHEETS: Unless you want to contaminate your entire kitchen with raw meat and blood, use light colored bed sheets to secure the cabinets, countertops, etc. (the way you would if you were painting the walls). I say cheap because you will be using these for a dirty job. I say light and solid colored because you want to see what goes flying onto the sheets and if a raw drumstick goes missing, it's not camouflaging itself against a busy background.
10. LARGE BUCKET OR PUNCH BOWL: To mix the raw food, you will need a large container to hold all the raw components as they are being mixed and prepped for the freezer. The more/larger animals you have, the more raw food you will be making, so a huge bucket works well. Raw feeders may grind 50-1000lbs+ of raw food for the month, so you can imagine how large of a container they need for the job and it will still be done in batches.
11. WEIGHT SCALE: Cats are fed based on body weight and depending on that, the size of a meal will vary. Whether you're feeding 1.5oz or more per meal, a small, digital kitchen scale is a perfect addition to any raw feeder's kit.
That's it! After all these, you and your kitchen are ready. Now, off to buy some raw meat.