Researching for this post was interesting. Not only are there extra-long articles on the subject, but there is some difference of opinion as well. If you have asked, “Can you make your own cat food,” the answer is “yes.”
However, read this post first to learn a bit about what is involved. Then, if you still want to try, go online and look through the recipes to find one or two that you would like to try.
When you start out, don’t buy all the equipment right away. First, see if you can determine if your cat will eat what you prepare. One author suggests that you start with one chicken thigh, thoroughly rinse it in water, then cut into pea-sized pieces to see if your cat will eat the raw meat.
By doing so, you will at least have an idea if your cat will eat your homemade food once you fix it. It is suggested that chicken thighs are a better choice than breast meat because it has a higher fat content, which cats like.
You can mix a bit in their regular food to get them used to it. If they prefer it cooked, you can cook it, and as they get used to it, cook it less and less so they will accept it raw or semi-cooked.
You can also coat the pieces in Parmesan cheese or ForteFlora. The latter is a probiotic; however, you are not using it for these probiotic qualities. You use it because cats love the taste.
Most cats will not necessarily be excited about a new food right away. You will have to be patient. Here is another suggestion: If they eat dry kibbles, crush some in a baggie and roll the meat in it.
When feeding your cat, avoid dry food if you can. Thousands of cats and dogs have died from contamination in dry food. Such contaminants include chemicals, bacteria, insects and their feces, and bacterial or mold toxins. Many of these latter are found in grains, which are used in dry food. These grains have no business in the cat’s diet anyway.
Also, the dry food just does not contain the moisture that is found in canned food, and though you can give a cat his water, you cannot make him drink.
There is an ongoing argument among pet owners and vets about feeding the cat raw meat. The vets warn that raw or homemade cat food can carry too high a risk of bacterial contaminants or nutritional deficiencies. You will have to take precautions to eliminate these problems.
Under the equipment list with this post, you will see that you need a grinder. Some of you may ask, “Can’t I just buy ground meat at the supermarket and add calcium?”
Not a good idea. You need to buy whole meat for these reasons:
1) Bacteria resides on the surface of whole meats, not internally. Therefore, bake chicken thighs at 350 degrees until they are 50% cooked. Partially cook any whole cut of meat that you feel may be contaminated.
Do not boil, but bake. Boiling will cause a great deal of nutrient loss. Also, the fat drippings from baked food can be returned to the food.
2) If whole meats are already ground, they need to be fully cooked, because the surface bacteria has been ground into the meat.
If you package food for the freezer, use a container that will hold portions that will last for two to three days, once fully thawed in the refrigerator.
3) Fresh bone is preferable to bone meal, as it is easy to grind the meat with the bones. If you simply add a basic calcium source, you may be feeding an unbalanced diet, as bone is a source for more than just calcium.
When buying fresh meat, check with your butcher to find out the delivery schedule when you can purchase the freshest meat. However, if you partially bake your chicken thighs, you don’t have to worry about the shipping date.
Keep food-preparation areas of the kitchen counters and cat-feeding areas clean by washing regularly with water that is one part bleach to 22 parts water.
Grind bones finely to ensure none get stuck in your cat’s mouth.
Equipment You Will Need
(Equipment and supplement lists are from feline-nutrition.org)
Your grinder needs to be able to handle bones. Choose the most powerful grinder your budget will allow. The more powerful it is, the bigger bones it will handle.
Do not put grinder parts in the dishwasher. They must be hand-washed. If you can get one with a reverse function, that will be helpful if the machine jams.
To cut down on jams, partially freeze the meat and chop the bones into smaller pieces. Note that heavier grinders are also quieter.
A Very Sharp Knife
If you are starting with meat parts you will not need a cleaver. However, if working with a whole carcass, it is necessary.
Set of Mixing Bowls
Stainless steel bowls are preferable. You will need a small one for mixing eggs and supplements, a medium one to put under the grinder outlet, and one that’s at least eight quarts for mixing it all together.
Plastic Or Glass Containers And Labels
You can also use freezer zip locks.
Latex Or Nitrile Gloves
These reduce the possibility of contaminating other surfaces.
Newspaper, Paper, Or Plastic
Cover your work surfaces to make cleanup easier.
You will need one that can handle at least 10 pounds.
Large Cutting Board
Use one that will fit in the dishwasher.
Meat and Eggs
Use chicken hearts as one of your meats. Perhaps you can find them in an Asian supermarket or perhaps your butcher can order them for you. Hearts are a major source of taurine, which is an essential amino acid that your cat must have. You can use a powdered taurine supplement if you cannot find the hearts. (See supplement list.)
You must add all the necessary supplements, as they are basic needs for complete cat nutrition. These are available from a store that carries more than basics, such as Whole Foods. You can often find them at health food stores or online.
Here’s the list:
Powdered taurine comes in 500 mg capsules, or you can buy it loose online.
2) Wild Salmon Oil or Wild-Caught Small Fish Oil
Get capsules, as liquid in a bottle will go rancid quickly. You can drop the whole capsule into your grinder, as the gelatin capsule is edible. The oil will replace the omega acids that would be found in the eyes and brain of an animal that’s been eaten.
Do not use cod liver oil, as it can be high in Vitamin A. This vitamin is toxic in large amounts.
3) Vitamin E
If you can, get a dry form in capsules. Or, pierce liquid capsules and squeeze the oil out.
4) Vitamin B Complex
Use capsules with powdered content.
5) Lite Salt
Make sure it contains iodine. If you can’t get lite salt, use regular iodized table salt in half the quantity called for.
6) Psyllium Husk Powder
The psyllium adds fiber. This can help with constipation issues until the cat gets used to the diet. Then you can discontinue this ingredient.
feline-nutrition.org has a great pictorial guide that walks you through the whole process of preparing the food.
Two of the articles I read addressed the issue of cost. Their calculations show that the total cost per day when feeding your cat homemade meals is much lower than the price of a good canned food. Once you learn the best method, you will be able to save a great deal by making your own cat food.
I have not included recipes, as there are many available online. You can read through these and decide which ones you would like to try.
The references I used for this post are as follows:
To save you time, I’ve found some of the items you will need to make your cat food in Amazon, and am listing them here for you to peruse. Please note that as an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a small commission if you purchase one of these products. I’ve included just the items that might be harder to find in your local stores.
Heavy duty electric meat grinder and sausage stuffer
Grinder can handle soft bones such as chicken, squirrel, quail, and rabbit
by STX International
Price: $199.80, Prime
Stainless steel — Grinds 450 lbs./hour
Available for free shipping from some sellers
German High Carbon Stainless Steel
by Sky Light
Sizes 8, 5, 3, 1.5
Nesting and stackable
by Vitamin Bounty