Here’s a fact: cats are carnivores. Their bodies are built specifically for processing high amounts of animal-based protein. They are not very good at digesting vegetables or carbs like grains (that includes rice and wheat).
Now look at your cat’s food label. How high up are the grains? That’s what we call filler - stuff thrown into the food to build bulk and weight, that has little to no nutritional value.
Of course we’re not saying that all pet food brands are guilty of this. Commercially made cat foods are specially formulated to contain the right balance of nutrition for your cat. In other words, these guys know what they’re doing.
But if you’d rather feed your cat only the good stuff, and know what goes into the food, you can make your own cat food.
Homemade cat food is not for everyone
You might be surprised to discover that you can make your own cat food. Isn’t there some secret formula the pet food brands use?
Of course making your own cat food isn’t simple, but it isn’t rocket science either.
So should you make the switch? That depends:
- If your cat is packing on the pounds homemade cat food might help by cutting down on fattening fillers.
- If your cat has food allergies you can control every ingredient by making your own food.
- If you can’t afford a high quality brand of cat food you can save some money by making your own.
- If you have the time for acquiring the meat, grinding, and freezing it, go for it.
The cat food you make doesn’t have to completely replace your cat’s current diet. Instead, you can supplement dry food with your own wet food instead of buying wet canned food. (And you should offer your cat some wet food, regardless of whether you make it yourself! Cats are used to getting most of their water from their meals, and dry food is dangerously low on water content and can lead to health problems down the line.)
First though, we can’t stress this enough:
Before you make any changes, consult with your vet.
Communicate with the vet about everything, especially if you plan on completely replacing your cat’s commercial food with your own homemade concoction.
You’ll also have to decide whether you’ll be using raw or cooked meat. There are pros and cons, and advocates for and against both. To be completely safe, talk to your vet about it, do the research about the benefits and risks, and know your meat supplier. Ultimately it’s your decision!
Making your own homemade cat food
Things to avoid:
Some foods should never be given to cats. These include onions and garlic, milk and other dairy products, and chocolate. You can find a full list of foods to avoid here.
Other things you should avoid when making homemade cat food include:
- Gassy vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, or brussels sprouts.
- Vegetables in general - veggies are okay in small amounts, but they’re not essential to your cat’s diet. In the wild, your cat would get all his vegetables from the stomachs of his prey (mmm delicious!).
- Foods high in carbohydrates like potato, grains, or peas.
- Recipes intended for other pets like dogs - cats need much more protein than dogs!
Things to include:
Homemade cat food needs fairly simple and easy to acquire ingredients.
Meat! Cats can not be vegetarians! Nearly every kind of meat goes: chicken, pork (but not ham or bacon!), and small fish like cod, halibut, and flounder (tuna and salmon are okay in very small doses due to a high concentration of mercury). Your cat can even develop a taste for venison if you feel like splurging.
Supplements like taurine, fish oil, vitamins E and B, and lite salt containing iodine. Supplements are not optional, especially if you’re planning to feed your cat exclusively homemade food. Serious health problems can result from deficiencies, and your cat simply won’t get enough from the food you prepare otherwise. Consult your recipe and/or your vet for exact measurements!
Bone or bone meal. If you plan to regularly make your own cat food, you will need a grinder. That’s because your cat’s source of calcium will be the bones! If you don’t have a grinder yet, you can use bone meal, but real bone is preferable.
Organs like liver and heart. These contain many essential vitamins and minerals, and are excellent in moderation - using too much liver can lead to a Vitamin A overdose.
Cooked eggs. Eggs, especially the yolks, are a great source of protein and many vitamins.
You will find recipes with variations and additional ingredients, but these are the essential building blocks of a homemade cat food recipe.
Don’t dive in blind!
The above information can be a bit daunting, but don’t worry - there are a number of simple cat food recipes available online. Not all recipes are created equal! Look for recipes that use little to no grains or veggies, and that include the vitamin supplement amounts. When in doubt, ask your vet!
One basic and very easy to follow recipe can be found here. If you’re not using raw meat, this website has a useful guide on how to cook meat for cat food (as well as some good recipes elsewhere on the site).
Whew! It’s a lot to take in at first, but once you do some research and understand the nutritional needs of your cat, your cat and you wallet will both be happier and healthier.
- by Yuliya