Emily- I started my raw journey in May of this year. I've been minimally a vegetarian for the past 8 years, since I was 16. I haven't had red meat in 12, since I was 12. It wasn't supposed to take 4 years to make the full change, but at least it happened, I suppose.
When I first started feeding my cats raw, I bought (expensive, jeez!) chicken breasts to get them started. Then when I was starting to introduce them to bone, I bought some leg/thigh pieces, and my first half-chicken. That was tough. I got through doing the leg/thigh pieces, but that half-chicken... I just couldn't do. I put it into the freezer and was going to take it to my mom's so she'd do it for me. It was *SO* hard. She had a little leg and an arm with a wing that moved. It was just really tough. A day or two later I ran out of the meat I'd portioned for them, and hadn't gone to my mom's yet. I attempted to do the half-chicken and it was REALLY hard the first time. I just kind of mentally disconnected myself, gritted my teeth, and did it. That was back in June. The first meat I was buying was from the health food store. I found out that company was local (40 mins) so I contacted them about buying in bulk. So that's what I've done. I've bought cases of half-chickens from them, I get hearts, livers, wings, necks, backs, and the half-chickens. (www.naturespremier.com) I was wasting some meat before when the cats were being picky about what they'd eat and what they wouldn't, and leaving the bigger bones; so I bought a meat grinder recently. I do most of theirs ground, that way I get enough bone/liver/organs in it, then I'll give them chunks of bone-in meat to make sure they get the gnawing action. I HOPE, eventually to get them to big chunks of bone-in with their teeth strong enough to crunch through them. I just know they weren't eating enough back then. Now that it's ground, they eat enough. It's a process.
All I can say is that it gets a lot easier with time. I just keep telling myself that's what I get for having omnivorous animals; I'm doing the best for them. The proof is right in looking at them (and cleaning the litter box!) In a perfect world, i wouldn't be contributing to the slaughtering industry. However, I don't think of pets as disposable, and I'm not going to pass my cats along to someone else, now that I found the "real" way (i feel) to feed them. I've had internal debates on if I'm not going to have any more carnivorous pets after these cats are gone (by the way, they're only 3 1/2, 2, and 2. Plenty of years left, hopefully!) And I do think that as long as there are animals in need of homes, I'm sure I'll have them. And I do think that any animals I have in the future will be raw fed. I feel good enough in my choices to pay a little more for humanely raised and handled animals. I really can't complain when I pay less than $10 for a life.
If you're vegetarian for religious or health reasons, my entire post is kind of moot; but if you're veg for the animals, then this is my experience.
Regarding the mad cow disease, I found a couple links, one page said:
"What if my dog or cat eats pet food made with mad-cow-infected beef?
Several species can get diseases related to BSE and vCJD, including goats, sheep, mink, deer, elk and cats. Dogs don't appear to get this type of disease. Still, because cats and dogs often eat food that contains ground-up scraps of animals, including cows, your anxiety over your pet's health is reasonable.
Current restrictions on beef for human consumption don't apply to beef for cats' consumption. Even so, the FDA says your cat's risk of getting mad cat disease (feline spongiform encephalopathy) is very low. To be safe, however, avoid pet foods that contain beef. And look for pet foods made from "human-grade ingredients" or brands that don't contain animal byproducts. They may be slightly more expensive than other brands are, but they're also likely to be safer."
another link is:
Maybe i'm being too lackadaisical in how I feed my cats, but so far so good. I really believe this is how they're meant to eat. Their bodies digest it perfectly. I think they produce enough..whatever.. to kill off the bacteria and other things that make us ill from eating it or ingesting it.