Homemade cat food—familiar yet uncharted territory.
As a caring pet parent, you’re always striving for the best for your feline friend, and diet is at the forefront of those concerns.
The myriad of commercial cat food options, each promising to be the ‘best,’ can be overwhelming, right? Homemade cat food offers a tempting alternative, allowing you to take control of your cat’s nutrition, one meal at a time.
In this guide, we’ll navigate the fascinating world of homemade cat food, offering valuable insights to guide your decisions. So, let’s turn on the proverbial kitchen lights and explore this together.
- Homemade cat food grants you control over nutrition.
- It can be healthier, but balance is crucial.
- Cats need high-quality protein, fats, vitamins/minerals, limited carbs, and water.
- Suggested homemade food: quail, liver, certain plant-based foods, and fish.
- Serve approximately 20 calories per pound of body weight.
- Ensure nutritional completeness and portion control.
Why Consider Homemade Cat Food for Your Cat?
Cats, as natural carnivores, have unique nutritional needs that some commercial foods may not fully satisfy.
Homemade cat food can bridge this gap, providing your cat with a tailored diet that meets their specific dietary needs. As you take charge of your cat’s meals, you can choose high-quality, fresh ingredients, avoiding the potential fillers, additives, and mystery meat often found in commercial cat food.
This puts you in the driver’s seat of your feline friend’s health and well-being, and honestly, who wouldn’t want that?
Is Homemade Cat Food a Healthier Choice?
It can be, but it’s not guaranteed.
Homemade cat food has the potential to be healthier than commercial options, but it depends on your commitment and knowledge. A balanced, homemade diet can offer more fresh, high-quality ingredients and fewer fillers or preservatives.
However, the key is “balanced.” Cats require specific nutrients that aren’t present in all foods – missing these can lead to health issues. So, while it can be a healthier choice, it requires careful research and planning.
Let’s dive into what those requirements could be.
Nutritional Requirements in Homemade Cat Food
Designing a balanced diet for your cat requires understanding their specific nutritional needs. When formulating a homemade diet, certain nutritional aspects are indispensable.
1. High-Quality Protein
Cats are obligate carnivores. They need a high-quality animal-based protein to thrive, as it provides essential amino acids that their bodies cannot make.
Chicken, turkey, and rabbit are great choices for protein and are generally well-tolerated by cats. Amino acids like taurine, which is critical for heart health, vision, and reproduction, are found in abundance in muscle meats and organ meats like hearts and livers. Make sure this forms a regular part of their diet as cats can’t produce their own taurine.
Remember, cats need more protein than dogs, so it should make up about 30-40% of their daily caloric intake.
Healthy fats are crucial for your cat’s diet. They supply the most concentrated source of energy and facilitate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Essential fatty acids, like arachidonic acid, play a key role in maintaining skin and coat health and supporting reproductive and kidney health.
Including the skin of poultry in your cat’s meals will provide them with the fat they need. Salmon or small, whole fish like sardines, are also great sources of both protein and essential omega-3 fatty acids which promote heart and kidney health.
Remember, fats should be about 20-25% of your cat’s diet.
3. Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin A, for instance, is necessary for vision, growth, and immune function. Likewise, minerals like calcium and phosphorus are crucial for strong bones and teeth.
Instead of relying on multivitamin supplements, try incorporating natural sources into their meals. For instance, cooked carrots and peas provide a good source of vitamin A. Similarly, ground eggshells can be an excellent source of calcium, a mineral crucial for their bone health.
Unlike humans, cats don’t require carbohydrates in their diet. However, certain carbohydrates can serve as a useful source of fiber, aiding digestion and helping to keep your cat feeling full.
Pumpkin or green beans can be good options, but make sure they constitute no more than 10% of the overall diet.
Unlike dogs, cats don’t have a high thirst drive and are adapted to get most of their water from food. So, always serve their homemade food with some broth or add water to it.
Crafting homemade cat food requires a deeper understanding of these nutritional needs. Keep these guidelines in mind as you explore making your own cat food and remember, it’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinary nutritionist when starting this journey.
What Homemade Foods Should You Give to Your Cat?
Here are some specific foods to consider that are both nutritious and cat-approved.
Quail: A Nutritional Powerhouse
Building a homemade menu for your cat doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it sounds, especially with high-quality proteins like quail.
This less common but excellent source of protein is an all-around nutritional powerhouse, providing lean protein, essential vitamins, and minerals. As a bonus, cats love the taste!
Whole, ground quail can be found in specialty pet food stores or online, making it a valuable addition to your cat’s homemade food. It’s an excellent way to add some variety to your feline’s diet, and it’s packed with taurine, an essential nutrient that your cat needs for good heart and eye health.
Liver: A Rich Source of Vitamins and Iron
The liver is often overlooked, yet it’s a natural source of vitamin A and iron, two nutrients essential for your cat’s health. Vitamin A supports vision, skin health, and immune function, while iron is vital for oxygen transportation in the blood.
Remember to use the liver sparingly. Because it’s so rich, overfeeding can lead to vitamin A toxicity in cats. Small amounts added to your homemade cat food can make a significant difference.
Plant-Based Foods: Beneficial Nutrients for Cats
When considering plant-based foods, it’s crucial to remember that cats are obligate carnivores.
This means their body doesn’t necessarily need fruits or vegetables to function, but the right ones can still provide beneficial nutrients.
Pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber and helps with digestion, and it can be especially helpful if your cat has any digestive issues. Other cat-safe vegetables to include in your cat’s diet are cooked carrots and peas. They’re both excellent sources of fiber and are packed with important vitamins and minerals.
Fish: Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Lastly, consider adding some fish into your cat’s diet. Fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for your cat’s skin, coat, and overall health.
Remember, though, that fish should be cooked and served in moderation due to concerns about mercury levels.
Smaller fish like sardines and anchovies can be safer options. They’re high in omega-3s and lower in mercury than larger fish. Plus, they can be a tasty treat your cat will love!
Product Recommendation: To ensure you’re getting the right amount of taurine in your cat’s diet, consider using a supplement like VetriScience Laboratories – Vetri Lysine Plus. This product contains taurine, a critical amino acid for cats, and is loved by cat owners for its effectiveness and ease of use. Get it here.
Potentially Harmful Ingredients
Keep in mind, the following ingredients can be harmful to your cat:
- Onions and garlic
- Chocolate (including chocolate milk)
- Grapes and raisins
- Artificial sweeteners (like xylitol)
Related: Cat Food Ingredients List Guide
How Much Homemade Food to Feed Your Cat?
One of the common pitfalls I see cat parents fall into when switching to homemade cat food is miscalculating the quantity to feed. It’s easy to overfeed or underfeed without proper guidelines.
Generally, an average adult cat should consume approximately 20 calories per pound of body weight to maintain their weight. For instance, if your cat weighs 10 pounds, they need about 200 calories per day. This, of course, can vary based on their age, activity level, and overall health.
Here’s a pro tip: Most of the meat you’ll use in your homemade cat food recipes will contain roughly 30-40 calories per ounce. This means, for a 10-pound cat, you’ll need to feed them about 5-7 ounces of meat-based food per day, split into two meals.
Remember, this is just a rough estimate. Always monitor your cat’s weight, adjust portions as necessary, and consult your vet if you have any concerns. By doing so, you can ensure your cat enjoys a balanced homemade diet without the risk of weight-related health issues.
Suggested read: Wet Cat Food Guide
Calculator for Cat Calorie Intake
Use this simple calculator to work out how much food your cat needs needs based on their weight:
Estimate your cat’s daily calorie needs based on their weight using our simple calculator. Just enter your cat’s weight in pounds and click “Calculate”.
Enter your cat’s weight (in pounds):
🔔 Note: This calculator estimates the calorie needs of cats at a healthy weight. If your cat is overweight, feeding them based on their current weight could lead to overfeeding. Instead, use their target weight, which is the weight they would be at a healthy size.
How to Make Your Own Cat Food: Steps and Precautions
Making your own cat food can be quite rewarding. To ensure your feline friend gets the balanced nutrition they need, follow these essential steps and precautions:
- Source High-Quality Ingredients. A variety of meats like chicken, turkey, and quail, as well as organ meats like liver, form the crux of your homemade cat food. Sourcing these from your local butcher could be a good start.
- Choose Cooking Methods Wisely. The way you cook these ingredients matters. Stick to poaching and steaming as they preserve nutrients and make the food easier to digest. Stay clear of seasonings such as garlic and onions, which are toxic to cats.
- Portion Control is Key. Here’s a unique tip – use ice cube trays to freeze your homemade cat food. Each cube is approximately an ounce, which makes portioning a breeze. Plus, it allows for bulk preparation and ready-to-serve portions.
- Ensure Nutritional Completeness. This is a critical step. Cats need certain nutrients they can’t produce themselves, like taurine and arachidonic acid. You’ll need to supplement these nutrients to ensure the food is nutritionally complete. Consider consulting with a pet nutrition expert or use a pre-formulated supplement mix designed for homemade cat food.
Suggested read: Dry Cat Food Guide
Easy Homemade Cat Food Recipe
Simple Chicken & Pea Cat Food
- 1 cup of boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1/4 cup of peas
- Taurine supplement (according to package instructions)
- Cook the chicken thoroughly until no pink is visible. Do not use any spices or oils.
- Steam the peas until they’re soft.
- Allow both the chicken and peas to cool.
- Blend them together in a food processor until it’s a consistency your cat will eat.
- Mix in the taurine supplement.
- Serve at room temperature.
This recipe provides a simple, nutritious meal that your cat will love.
Keep this in mind
Wrapping up, remember, you’re taking a big step for your cat’s health by considering homemade food. If you ever feel overwhelmed or unsure, reach out to a vet or pet nutrition expert. They can guide you through this process and ensure your homemade food meets your cat’s dietary needs.
Before we dive into the FAQ, remember, if you ever suspect your cat has ingested something toxic, call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately at (888) 426-4435 (US).
How much homemade cat food should I feed my cat?
For a 10-pound adult cat, aim to feed approximately 5-7 ounces of meat-based homemade food per day, split into two meals.
Do you have to add vitamins to homemade cat food?
Vitamins are crucial in homemade cat food, particularly ones that cats cannot produce themselves, such as vitamin A and D, along with essential nutrients like taurine and arachidonic acid.
The best way to supplement your cat’s homemade diet is by using a pre-formulated supplement mix designed for cats, such as Life Extension Cat Mix, which should be added following the product’s instructions, and in consultation with a vet or pet nutritionist.
Is cooking meat for cats better than serving it raw?
Cooked meat is generally safer for cats as it minimizes the risk of bacteria like Salmonella or E.Coli, but ensure the cooking process preserves essential nutrients by cooking the meat lightly, and avoid using seasonings. Raw cat diets have their benefits, but the risks may not be worth it.