When you make homemade cat food, you are in charge of what the cat eats. This is why it is important to research and understand what it takes to make homemade cat food. Now, preparing homemade cat food isn’t rocket science. You don’t have to learn a whole book worth and then some. Just read what you can and understand what makes sense in terms of cat nutrition. You want to ensure that your cat is getting the required amount of nutrients with fresh, high-quality sources. Cats are true carnivores. They eat meat. An ‘outdoor’ cat hunts small rodents and birds and they eat them. Using real meat sources in your homemade cat food ensures that your cat is getting the nutrients it normally would out in the wild. The only reason cats as we know them eat grains and dry food is because they have been domesticated. By nature, they don’t have a need for most grains. Keeping this in mind while looking at homemade cat food recipes will help you determine what recipes will be the best.
Why is homemade cat food better?
You never have to worry about mass-produced cat food having potential contaminants or missed rotten ingredients in it. You know exactly what is going into the food.
Preparing bulk cat food yourself, over the long haul, can actually save you money.
The fresh ingredients added to homemade cat food allows your cat to gain nutrients and essential fatty acids that they wouldn’t get in canned food that is artificially preserved.
The quality of your homemade cat food will be much better than store bought cat food at the same price.
Your cat doesn’t like a certain ingredient? Your cat is allergic to something? You have the control to cater the food to your cats’ needs and likes.
Meat should be the main focus when you are thinking about making cat food yourself. Approximately 60 to 75% of the homemade cat food will be made up of meat. It is here where quality matters the most. This is where a lot of commercial cat foods fail. They will have meat in the foods, that much is certain. But it is the quality of meat that is the issue. A lot of companies cut corners by providing meat that is not fit for human consumption in cat food. So yes, the claim that real meat is in the food is correct, but it is poor quality meat that you wouldn’t look at twice.
Some cats really like beef. Grass-fed beef is the best here, as the omega-3 fatty acids are naturally occurring in a balanced form. Good quality, human grade raw beef is your best bet. Beef that is cooked is harder for cats to digest.
Poultry really matches what a cat would eat in the wild. It is really important to find poultry that is antibiotic and hormone free. This is because there tends to be a higher ratio of these substances in poultry than in other animals. High quality human grade raw poultry is safe for cats to eat. Cooked poultry tends to be very digestible for most cats.
Ideally, this meat is the best because cats hunt rabbit in the wild. But how often do you see rabbit meat available for purchase? Even if it is, do you want to buy it all things considering. If you feel really ambitious and are serious about providing a diet that would exactly match a wild cats’, this is the source.
Lamb and Goat
These meats are a great way to provide variety. They are more expensive then beef and poultry, so they are normally used as either a special occasion meal or if a cat has allergies to beef and poultry.
Farm raised fish usually have high levels of hormones and antibiotics in them. They also are fed an unnatural diet, making their fat content naturally unbalanced. Smaller wild-caught fish are the best options. Raw fish should never be given in large amounts, canned is the best bet here. Canned wild Alaskan salmon is a great choice. It is cooked and includes edible bones that provide calcium. It is also high in animal-source omega-3 fatty acids. Canned Jack Mackerel and clams are really good sources of taurine in addition to other essential nutrients.
Pork can be hard for a cat to digest, so it really isn’t a popular choice when it comes to homemade cat food. Definitely no ham, bacon, or smoked pork products as they may contain nitrates. Cooked pork is the kind of pork you want to feed your cat if you are going in this direction. Raw pork may contain trichinosis.
The fat a cat consumes needs to be in balance with the amount of protein it eats. In addition to that, the types of fats have to be in balance with one another. Essential Fatty Acids are fats that cannot be created by a cat. Therefore, it is important that they get them in the diet. Omega-3 and Omega 6 fats are the two most important types.
Meat without bones is very high in phosphorus. The ratio of phosphorus to calcium should be 1:1. If you want to use pure meat in your homemade cat food, without the presence of bones, adding bone meal will balance out the ratio. Make sure the bone meal is human grade. If you are going to use meat with bones present, like a chicken thigh, it is very important to grind it with a grinder. Never feed a cat cooked bones, as they splinter easily. Raw bones also splinter as well. This is why a grinder is the best option when it comes to bones.
These are a great source of calcium. Don’t make the chicken neck the main source of meat, as it will actually be too high in calcium. This is because there is actually not enough meat for the phosphorus to create a 1:1 ratio. Grinding these up and adding them with a meat source such as organ meat is a great meal.
Canned wild pink Alaskan salmon is a great source of calcium.
A calcium supplement is also an option. A lot of homemade cat food makers prefer the naturalness of bones, however supplements work as well.
Organ meats are a quality source of protein for cats. About 1/6 of the total diet should be made of organ meat. Do not overdo organ meat in the diet even though it may seem like a good idea because it is nutrient rich. Chicken and beef liver and hearts are the most popular options. There are other options available to you, but they may be harder to find.
Liver is the cleansing organ, so it is very important to find a liver that is certified organic liver. Organic liver is a dark purple-brown color.
Hearts are the main source of amino acids needed by cats. If you are worried about your cat not getting enough taurine in your homemade cat food, a beef or chicken heart will do the trick.
Eggs are a great source of a bunch of vitamins and minerals. They also contain all the essential amino acids. Raw whole eggs can easily be added to ground meat, even making the consistency more appealing to cats. Cooked eggs are fine too, but it may be a little more difficult for a cat to digest. Be aware that truly naturally raised eggs are the most nutritionally complete. The nutritional levels do vary a lot between organic, pasture raised and conventional eggs.
These aren’t essential or needed per se, but they do have added benefits to them.
Even though sunflower seeds are already small, grinding them up before putting them into your cat food would be the best option. Sunflower seeds are full of vitamin B as well as other vital nutrients.
Pumpkin seeds have plenty of nutrients packed inside them. They are also highly effective at deworming. In addition, they also contain a protein called myosin, which is important for healthy muscle. These little seeds really do provide a number of benefits. Of course, they should also be grinded.
This is a good one because cats don’t really have a nutritional need for grains, yet it is still common in a lot of homemade cat food recipes. So the question is: why? Grains do have minerals and vitamins in them, if you are using useful sources like oats, barley, and brown rice. They also have to be cooked well. Many people use grains to bulk up on the food so they can stick to a budget, much like how commercial brands use grains to add cheap filler. The cat is going to benefit from your homemade cat food whether you use grains or not. Just don’t make it about using grains as cheap filler. The good quality grains mentioned previously, along with the proper ratio which is about 1 part grain to 4 parts meat will still make the food nutritious. It’s just a food that is completely absent of all grains is better.
How many meals per day?
This pretty much all depends on your cat and your schedule. Some cats do well when they are fed one decent meal per day. Some do great with one light meal and one heavy meal. Then others do well with three or four small meals. Again, your schedule will decide what works. A routine is nice, but it is not mandatory. Once you experiment with different amounts and times of the day, you will see what your cat responds the best to.
It is also important to note that when switching your cat to a homemade diet from a commercial diet, the cat’s energy level will increase. They are getting more nutrients thus feeling more active. If your cat doesn’t get regular exercise, you have to keep an eye on the amount of food it is eating in order to avoid weight gain. You will probably find that it takes less homemade cat food to make the cat full compared to commercial cat food.
Cooked vs. Raw
Raw meat is exactly what cats eat in the wild. When they catch a mouse, they don’t wait around for you to cook it. They kill it and eat it. The digestive system of cats is designed to eat raw meat and absorb the nutrients from it. A lot of people scare away from the raw food diet due to the possibility of bacteria present in the meat. It is just important to obtain the meat from a trusted source and stay away from pre-packaged
When preparing homemade cat food, cooking the meat makes it less nutritious. They will still be able to get nutrition out of the meat, just less so than raw meat. It is important to note that when you cook the meat, an essential amino acid called Taurine is pretty much destroyed. Taurine is vital to a cat’s diet; they NEED it. So it is important to provide a taurine supplement if you are a fan of the cooked diet. Normal food handling procedures should be followed as if you were cooking the meat for yourself. This means rinsing off the meat, keeping it cold, and not using it if it smells or looks bad.
So if you are looking for a definitive answer, raw food is more nutritionally beneficial than cooked. However, cooked is much more beneficial than store bought canned food. Raw or cooked, you can’t really go wrong with either. It’s just the matter of opinion and what you are comfortable with.
Combining Homemade and Commercial Cat Food
Sometimes people have a difficult time converting to 100% homemade cat food, and that’s totally understandable. But even combining some healthy ingredients with a store bought canned food will make it so much more nutritious. For example, I want to add a scoop canned salmon to some commercial cat food tonight for my cat. That commercial cat food has gotten better.
If you want to try and cook some complete meals, you don’t have to do it for every day. Adding in your homemade food into the canned food is another way of ensuring your cat is getting more nutrition than what is in the canned food alone.
Tips for a Raw Food Diet
Since you are dealing with raw meat, it is important to be aware of some special handling of raw foods such as:
- Keeping raw meat frozen until ready to use
- Keeping raw-food diets separate from other foods.
- Washing surfaces, utensils, hands and other items that come in contact with the raw meat.
- For added protection, using proper sanitizers on cutting boards and other surfaces that come in contact with raw meat.
- Cover and refrigerate leftovers immediately or discard safely
Note: Everything above is meant to provide information to help you decide what is best for your cat. This is no way the ‘be all and end all’ of homemade cat food. There are other sources that may agree with what is written here or disagree.