There is a growing trend of pet-owners supplementing their pets’ food with their homemade creations. Some simply add a bit of grilled fish to the side of the plate, while others create full and complete diets consisting of a variety of foods they prepare. While dogs tend to have a stronger digestive tract and are not as prone to digestive and bacterial issues, cats can be fussy about what they eat and how it affects them. So I did a little digging to figure out what cats really need, and if preparing their food really is healthy for them, or if it’s just fun.
Cats need a few main nutrients to survive. As obligate carnivores, the main substance from the feline diet is protein, which comes from animal muscle like chicken or fish. They also need the amino acids from the meat, like taurine and arginine. Fatty acids, essential vitamins, minerals and water are also important. While a small amount of carbohydrates can boost your cat’s energy and help to cut on the cost of meat, a diet too heavy in carbohydrates (grains, starches, vegetables) can cause obesity and sluggishness in a cat.
The standards for creating pet foods are much lower than the “human” food we buy in the supermarket. It is not as strictly regulated, tested, or monitored. The guidelines for non-food fillers, misappropriate byproducts and other items in the food are lacking, and the ingredient labels are often confusing. This is why more and more pet owners are choosing to feed their animals from their own home. Many cat parents give their kitties grilled or raw chicken, turkey, or fish in addition to their foods. This provides an additional protein source, with a meat that is higher quality than a can of wet food. Cooking the meat does remove some of the nutrients, but eliminates most risk of salmonella to both pet and owner. Note: The American Animal Hospital Association does not recommend the newer “raw” diets at risk of salmonella, zoonotic disease transmission, and other illness to both animal and human.
For those of you thinking you might want to try your hand at making your own cat food, there are many, many recipes and LOTS of information out there. You cannot simply feed your kitty whatever it will eat. I would advise only those who are well-educated and very diligent to go completely into the homemade diet. For example, some vitamins are water-soluble and some are not, so too much can cause toxicity issues. Cats also need a certain calcium to phosphorous ratio, which is not found in an all-meat diet, but wild cats get from eating the bones of small animals. This can be difficult to replicate without feeding a cat an entire carcass. Homemade food can spoil faster, so if your cat is not a quick eater and the food gets left out, they may eat it later and become sick. I stronglyurge you to research feline nutrition before attempting to make your own cat’s diet. You can consult a veterinarian for help on what is best for your pet (some however, may not be educated on homemade diets). If you are looking on the internet, look for reputable websites that have research and veterinarian advice to back them up, not just one owner’s opinion.
If this seems too over-whelming to you, rest assured. There are still good pet foods out there. Look for a product that is high in protein and contains the other essential nutrients. Those that are all-natural or organic may be more expensive, but will lack any chemicals, antibiotics or other add-ins. You also want to make sure the food has a limited amount of carbohydrates, which dry foods tend to be high in. My vet was able to point me in the direction of some reputable pet food brands, without telling me exactly what to buy. There are also smaller companies that make natural homemade foods, some raw, and will sell them to you.
Overall, I think that a homemade diet for a cat is only for those people who have the time, energy and dedication to devote to it. If well-researched and done correctly, homemade food can prevent digestive issues, promote better kidney function, lower risk of diabetes and obesity, reduce medication use, and lead to a happy, beautiful cat. I personally don’t have the time or capacity for this kind of project, so I feed my cat both dry and wet food, and I supplement with bits of my own grilled chicken or tuna. You should do your own research before jumping into anything, and figure out what is best for you and your furry family’s lifestyle. Happy feeding!
Sources: pets.webmd.com, catnutrition.org, The Furry Foodie, Feline’s Pride Raw Cat Meals