Buying cat food can be exhausting and overwhelming. With so many brands and recipes out there, it can be difficult to examine them all. If your cat has allergies, sensitivities or particular preferences, the task becomes even more difficult.
Cat owners everywhere are making the switch to homemade cat food and it’s certainly an option to consider if you can make it work. We’ve done hours of research and consulted with veterinarians and pet nutrition experts to learn what homemade cat food is all about.
Before we dive into the details, we want to make one thing clear: homemade cat food is not the right choice for every cat or cat parent.
Making your own cat food at home is an option if you want to have full control over what goes into your cat’s diet. It’s also helpful if your cat has severe allergies or specific nutritional needs that she has a hard time adjusting to commercial diets.
All that said, homemade cat food is a bit more complicated than simply filling your cat’s bowl with ground beef.
It takes time and research (not to mention a significant financial investment) to create a complete and balanced diet for your cat.
With the help of prescriptions formulated by veterinarians, it is definitely possible, but it is not something you should do on a whim.
Unless you are a veterinary nutritionist yourself, we do not recommend creating homemade cat food without a prescription. Nutritional balance is extremely important, and it can be difficult to achieve the necessary amounts of trace nutrients unless you choose your ingredients intentionally.
Try these 6 homemade cat food recipes
We have put together a small sample of homemade
cat food recipes that have been created by veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists according to AAFCO recommendations. When it comes to homemade cat food recipes
, the ones you’ll find online are very similar. Why?
Because they are formulated according to the nutritional needs of cats. Most recipes can be adjusted for different types of protein, although you’ll need to check the recipe notes to see if you need to add or subtract things like skin, liver, heart, or other supplements based on your choice of protein.
Note: The following three recipes have been compiled from other online resources. We recommend reviewing the recipe with your veterinarian or working with a veterinary nutritionist to make sure it meets your cat’s nutritional needs.
Why go home?
The quality of your cat’s diet is incredibly important. More than just keeping your belly rumble, your food is your main source of nutrition. Like humans and all other animals, cats require a specific balance of nutrients to keep their bodies functioning optimally.
So why not feed your cat premium cat food? What makes homemade cat food a better choice?
The truth is that all commercial cat foods are not created equal. Pet food manufacturers exist to make money, just like any other business, and they use various marketing tactics to do so. Cailin R. Heinze, VMD and writer at Tufts University’s Cummings Veterinary Medical Center, discusses the “premiumization” of pet food.
Premium is a marketing term that was first used in the alcohol industry, but has spread to everything from human health and beauty products to pet food. Heinze says, “These products may actually be of higher quality than average, or they may simply be perceived as higher quality.”
This is a bigger problem in commercial pet food than many pet owners realize. The FDA regulates certain aspects of pet food manufacturing and labeling, but brands have a lot of freedom when it comes to the claims they make on their packaging.
It is about encouraging the consumer to choose brand A over brand B.
Because the world of commercial pet food is so complex, many cat owners are making the switch, or at least considering making the switch, to homemade. Commercial pet food manufacturers must list the ingredients and nutritional analysis of their products on the label, but there are many things that go unsaid. In the end, you can’t be completely sure what you’re buying when you grab a bag of pet food off the shelf.
The benefits of homemade cat food
You’ve heard the saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” For many cat owners, that’s the main motivation behind switching to homemade cat food. If you really want to know what you’re putting on your cat’s body, the best option might be to make the food yourself.
Homemade cat food could be a good option for cats that:
Suffer from food sensitivities or
- allergies to specific ingredients
- specific food preferences and flavors, also known as picky eaters Have
- , such as inflammatory bowel disease
- You could benefit from an increased level of moisture in your
- Experience diet-related skin problems or digestive issues
- They are sensitive to artificial additives and chemical ingredients
The truth is that homemade cat food is not perfect, but neither is commercial food. As a cat owner, it is your duty to make a responsible decision regarding your cat’s diet. Whether you choose homemade cat food, a fresh cat food delivery service, or high-quality commercial food is up to you.
We simply want to help you understand the options so you can make an informed decision.
Avoid nutritional deficiencies
If you were to make a side-by-side comparison of your cat versus a feral cat (e.g., a lion), you would notice the differences immediately. Not only is your cat much smaller, but it doesn’t look the same “wild” on it. You may think that it is a ferocious beast when you are chasing the laser pointer, but the differences between the two are quite stark.
Except when it comes to your evolutionary dietary needs.
Domestic dogs and cats have changed a lot over time. But, unlike canine dietary requirements, feline dietary requirements have not evolved since their ancient origins. In fact, domestic cats are almost genetically identical to African wildcats and their bodies are still designed to follow a similar diet.
In other words, cats are carnivores and always have been.
More than that, however, they are obligate carnivores
: they are carnivores out of necessity, not just preference. Their bodies are biologically adapted to a diet of raw prey.
Here are some clues that cats are carnivores (specifically, obligate carnivores):
- teeth and claws designed to tear flesh
- short digestive tracts Have digestive
- enzymes designed to break down proteins
- bodies are able to use animal fat Your
- Blood are satisfied through gluconeogenesis (the production of glucose in the body)
- Lack the enzyme needed to convert plant carotene into vitamin A
glucose requirements in
What we’re trying to say is that your cat’s body
requires a very specific type of diet: a meat-based diet
The only way to keep your cat healthy and avoid nutritional deficiencies is to feed him the kind of diet his body can process and use properly.
Commercial diets are formulated to meet your cat’s minimum needs in terms of essential nutrients, but not all of them are biologically appropriate. If you’re going to feed your cat homemade food, it should be nutritionally balanced and optimized for your cat’s biology so that her body can digest it and utilize nutrients properly.
Key nutrients for feline diets
Before you start making homemade cat food, you need to understand the basics of your cat’s nutritional needs. After all, what good will it do to switch your cat to a homemade diet if it doesn’t actually benefit him more than his previous diet?
All cats are unique, but their basic nutritional needs have a common foundation.
Cats require the following five nutrients in their diet:
Water Protein is the most important nutrient for obligate carnivores like cats and must come from animal sources. This can include poultry like chicken or turkey, meat like beef or lamb, or even fish. Decisions about which protein to use in your homemade cat food will come down to your cat’s preferences (and any allergies or sensitivities), as well as availability and pricing.
Like protein, fat must come from animal sources. When using poultry, you can use a mixture of white meat and dark meat to ensure adequate fat levels. If you’re using lean birds like rabbit, you may need to add animal fats to your recipe.
Vitamins and minerals are essential for cats, but they are only needed in small amounts.
Although your cat may need less of these micronutrients than she needs from fat and protein, she has specific requirements to prevent nutritional deficiencies.
Animal proteins provide some key vitamins and minerals, but you may also need to include organ meats or a nutrient premix to ensure nutritional balance.
Water is also incredibly important for cats, especially considering that cats don’t tend to drink much on their own. Proper hydration is needed to keep all of a cat’s bodily processes functioning properly. Fortunately, fresh foods are generally much higher in moisture than commercial dry foods.
Notice anything missing from this list? That’s right, carbs.
As obligate carnivores, cats have no biological requirement for carbohydrates in their diet. In fact, their bodies aren’t designed to digest plant materials and don’t have the enzymes needed to derive certain nutrients from them. That said, cats can use glucose from plants for energy. In addition, complex carbohydrates, known as fiber, can help with digestion.
In general, however, carbohydrates do not have a biologically necessary role in a homemade cat food diet.
What about fresh cat food delivery?
By now, you’re probably wondering if homemade cat food is worth it. If you’re willing to put in the time to do it right, we truly believe you are. That said, it’s definitely a time-consuming commitment and may not be a practical option for everyone.
If you love the idea of homemade cat food but aren’t ready to take the leap, consider a fresh cat food delivery service as a stepping stone.
In an age where you can get just about anything right on your doorstep, pet food is no different. Companies like The Farmer’s Dog and Spot & Tango ship a month of fresh (frozen) dog food into your home and fresh cat food companies are also gaining speed.
Nom offers fresh cat food formulated by certified veterinary nutritionists such as Dr. Justin Shmalberg. Their recipes are designed according to the nutritional levels set by AAFCO Food Nutrient Profiles and send you individual bags of food in portions according to your cat’s caloric needs. Simply open the thawed bag and pour it directly into your cat’s bowl.
As a side note, ‘AAFCO’ stands for the American Association of Food Control Officials. One of AAFCO’s functions is to “regulate the sale and distribution of animal feed and animal drug remedies,” as stated on the AAFCO website. AAFCO also ensures that a pet food meets minimum nutritional requirements.
If you really want to feed the carnivorous side of your cat, we recommend Darwin’s Natural Pet Products. This fresh and raw pet food delivery company offers fresh frozen meals made from 100% real meat with raw bone, formulated specifically for obligate carnivores.
Delivery of fresh cat food is a convenient option. But it’s just as important to do your research with food delivery services as it is with commercial cat food. Make sure the company uses recipes formulated by veterinarians and high-quality ingredients. As always, protein is key!
pros and cons of homemade diets
Choosing a diet for your cat can be difficult
at best, but it can be even harder when you’re considering doing it yourself
The benefits of homemade cat food are significant, but your cat will only receive those benefits if you choose a properly balanced recipe and prepare it correctly. Homemade cat food isn’t a simple change, but it can be worth the effort.
Before making your final decision, consider the pros and cons
of homemade cat food. Advantages of
homemade cat food:
- You have complete control of the ingredients that go into your cat’s diet
- provide higher quality nutrition than a commercial diet
- You can customize it to suit food allergies and sensitivities, as well as other health issues.
- It can improve your cat’s digestion (read: smaller, firmer stools and less litter box smell).
- You can choose primary protein and flavor according to your cat’s preferences.
- It may be easier for older cats and cats with dental problems to chew.
- You can mix supplements directly into food for easy administration.
. It can
of homemade cat food: Preparing a
- homemade diet takes longer than serving a bowl of kibble
- homemade food
- Achieving balanced nutrition can be tricky: just use a prescription formulated by a
- It can be a little harder to store food to avoid foodborne illness
- Once your cat transitions to a homemade diet, you may be reluctant to go back.
. It can be more expensive to feed your cat
Switching your cat to a homemade diet is not a decision to be taken lightly. If not properly balanced, a homemade diet can actually be worse than a commercial diet. It is very important to talk to your veterinarian before making the change and make sure you choose a homemade cat food recipe formulated by an animal nutritionist or veterinarian.
It’s crucial that you consider your cat’s overall health when deciding whether to feed your cat a homemade diet. For example, cats with chronic kidney disease need a special diet that must have a precise balance of nutrients to reduce the workload on the kidneys. This balance can be difficult to achieve with a homemade diet. Again, your veterinarian will help you decide the most suitable diet for your cat.
Additional tips and tricks
Before switching to homemade cat food, we recommend that you do as much research as you can. We’ve done our best to give you an overview, but there’s a lot more to learn if you’re going to do it yourself. Talk to your own veterinarian and check out online resources to learn directly from cat owners who have tackled the homemade cat food challenge.
If you’re going to make the switch to homemade cat food, do it slowly!
Sudden changes in your cat’s
diet can trigger digestive upset, so it’s important to transition your cat over a period of at least 7 to 10 days. If you’re switching from commercial foods to raw foods, you may want to extend the transition a little longer just to be safe.
The most important thing you can do for your cat is to keep up with routine veterinary exams.
All cats should see the vet for an annual checkup, but it’s even more important when feeding your cat a homemade diet. Your veterinarian can help you monitor your cat’s well-being to make sure she stays healthy on a homemade diet.