As obligate carnivores, cats need to eat meat and to avoid eating unhealthy, misguided treats. Even feeding your cat too much dry food can cause problems such as constipation or an overdose of carbohydrate “highs”. Cooking for cats can be a very enjoyable pastime for both human and feline pet alike. All you need to know are the dietary essentials and cooking possibilities.
1. Be familiar with the dietary requirements of cats. Cats have nutritional requirements that are vastly different from our own, requiring careful consideration and planning of the food they’re receiving. Cats need a diet high in protein and fat; cats need twice the amount of protein that dogs need. Cats need approximately 85 percent meat, fat, offal, and bone in their diet, with vegetables, herbs, and roughage making up only 15 percent of feline dietary requirements. A healthy diet for a cat will ensure the following:
⦁ Water. Available at all times, clean and easily accessible.
⦁ Protein. Double the amount needed by dogs, and several times more than that needed by human beings. Most cats won’t eat food containing less than 20 percent protein.
⦁ Fat. Cats need fat for energy, essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamin intake, and taste.
⦁ Vitamin A. Cats need a good dose of this vitamin. It is found in liver, eggs, and milk (see “Warnings” on all items below). However, too much vitamin A is dangerous, and liver should not be fed more than twice a week or more than 10 percent of the diet.
Vitamin B. Cats need vitamin B and will readily eat brewer’s yeast if there are signs of deficiency, such as loss of appetite for a few days or a fever. Feeding cats raw fish or an all-fish diet destroys vitamin B, as does cooking or processing food.
⦁ Vitamin E. ⦁ Vitamin E is needed to break down unsaturated fats in the cat’s diet. Too much fish and fish oil, especially red ⦁ tuna (addictive), and horse meat can cause steatis or yellow fat disease. Commercial fish preparations for cats usually add vitamin E.
⦁ Calcium. This is an important part of building and maintaining your cat’s bones.
2. Understand the feeding needs of cats. When developing a diet for your cat, there are some important things to keep in mind:
⦁ Kittens need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day from the ages of six weeks to three months. By six months of age, feeding can be reduce to twice daily.
⦁ Adult cats need to be fed 1 to 2 times daily.
⦁ Dried food is important for dental health However, care must be taken not to include too much carbohydrate in a cat’s diet; some vets go so far as to recommend keeping it to 3 to 5 percent of the cat’s diet. Recent studies have revealed that most commercial dried foods contain too much processed grain or carbohydrate content, leading to increased prevalence of feline diseases and reduced longevity.
⦁ Cats cannot thrive (or survive) on a vegetarian diet. It is recognized that there is intense debate and passion on this topic but placing the cat’s natural needs first is a primary concern of cat well-being. While there are specific supplements some vegetarians feed to their cats, such as taurine, and numerous suggestions for vegetarian cat diets, a vegetarian diet for a cat can result in blindness and heart failure. Not only is this type of diet a highly intensive effort for an owner, it risks a shortened lifespan and diseases, especially if it introduces a higher level of unhealthy carbohydrate products into the cat’s diet.
⦁ A fully home prepared diet with no quality brand name commercial foods included requires careful balancing to ensure that your cat is getting everything it needs. It is not recommended unless you have thoroughly researched what your cat needs and have raised the matter with your vet. If you do embark on a home produced diet, at the very least add a supplement of calcium carbonate (1/2 teaspoon per 100g / 3.5 oz of meat), and a whole cooked egg or raw egg yolk (uncooked egg white is indigestible; even uncooked yolk is not advised given current salmonella scares). Any raw meat must be deep frozen for 14 days to kill any parasites; it is safer to cook all raw meat before feeding it to your cat.
If you haven’t already noticed this, it can be frustrating to try and change your cat’s diet. Don’t be surprised if your cooking efforts are rebuffed! Persevere and keep trying until you pique your cat’s curiosity. Removing your cat’s usual food on the occasion of trialing the new food is an important part of encouraging her to give a new food a go.
⦁ Don’t leave uneaten food out. If she hasn’t eaten it within the hour, dispose of it. Just try again another time.
Note that the the following ideas are suggested recipes for occasional variety and do not represent a diet plan. If you wish to cook or make homemade cat food as a permanent dietary change for your cat, it’s important to do your research to create a balanced diet that meets all of your cat’s needs, and to get your vet’s stamp of approval.
And these recipes may not be liked by your cat – she’ll let you know soon enough! If you have any concerns, talk to your vet about the appropriateness of cooking food for your cat, especially if your cat is growing, pregnant, unwell, or has medical conditions. Some suggestions for you to try:
⦁ Lisa Pierson’s chicken thighs: Purchase free-range, antibiotic and hormone-free whole chicken thighs from a reputable source. Boil the thighs to cook the outside while leaving most of the chicken meat raw. Place the thighs straight into cold water. Remove some of the meat from the bone and cut into chunks of around 1/2 inch (12.7mm) using sharp kitchen scissors or a knife.
⦁ Place the remaining meaty bones into a meat grinder with a grinding plate of .15 inch (4mm) holes. Run 4 oz of chicken livers per 3 pounds (1.3kg) of raw chicken meat through the grinder. Run 2 cooked eggs per every 3 pounds (1.3kg) of raw chicken meat through the grinder. Mix everything together in a bowl and refrigerate.
⦁ In a separate bowl, for every 3 pounds (1.3kg) of raw chicken meat, pour in 1 cup water, 400 IU (268 mg) vitamin E, 50 mg vitamin B-complex, 2,000 mg taurine, 2000 mg wild salmon oil, and 3/4 tsp light salt (with iodine). Mix all together.
⦁ Pour the supplement mix into the ground chicken mix and mix well. Make meal sized portions and freeze (the average cat eats about 4 – 6 ounces / 113g to 170g a day).
⦁ Steamed rice and salmon: Mix a little steamed rice with some chopped salmon and a little bit of water. The consistency will be soup-like; simply pour into your cat’s bowl.
⦁ Chicken and vegetable stew:
Use a whole small chicken for this recipe. Wash the chicken, then add to a large pot filled with water. Cut vegetables into small pieces and add to the pot (the type of vegetables are up to you). Add a little rice and cook until the chicken almost falls off the bone and vegetables are tender. Completely debone the chicken; this is important because cooked chicken bones splinter easily and can result in serious intestinal damage.
Pour the cooked stew into a blender. Blend or chop into a coarse mixture. The resulting pieces should be cat bite-size. Freeze in individual portions; thaw in the fridge.
⦁ Chicken and carrot rice: Put equal parts cooked chicken, cooked brown rice, and cooked carrots into a blender. Pour in 2 teaspoons of fat leftover from cooking the chicken (if any). Serve at room temperature.
⦁ Oats and eggs: Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add oats, cover and turn off heat, letting oats cook for 10 minutes until soft. Stir in eggs, letting them set from the heat for a few minutes.
Mix remaining ingredients. Yield: about 12 3/4 cups. Freeze whatever cannot be eaten in 2-3 days. Daily feeding: small cat— 1/2 to 3/4 cup; medium cat—1 to 1 1/3 cup; large cat—1 1/2 to 2 1/4 cups.
⦁ Cat omelet: (Note: If you are vehemently opposed to feeding cats milk, substitute water for the milk; see “Tips” and “Warnings” below.) Mix together a little milk powder with a small amount of water; add 2 eggs and beat well. Pour into a small non-stick frying pan and cook on medium low until done.
Flip over and spread cooked veggies over half the top. Fold like an omelet. Cool and cut to bite-sized pieces to serve. (Leave the vegetables out if wished.)
⦁ Some other suggestions include: ⦁ An oat based raw cat food meal, ⦁ tuna cat treats, and ⦁ holistic cat food recipes for whole health.
Unless you’re absolutely certain that you’re getting the balance right, cooking all of your cat’s diet at home can result in deficiencies and harm your cat.
Many vets won’t recommend a home-cooked diet for pets, simply because they know that busy owners may stray from fulfilling recommended recipes aimed at providing optimal nutrition due to time constraints, as well as concerns about the lack of sufficient knowledge about dietary needs, and lapses of attention to the diet caused by human life events.
If you’re eager to cook for your cats all the time, it is doable, it just requires a lot of (often conflicting) research and weighing up of the options of what’s available in your area.
⦁ Consider your lifestyle. If you travel a lot and have other people feeding your cats, are you going to be able to ensure that their home-cooked diet is adequate? If you work long hours, are you prepared to make up batches of food each weekend to be feed throughout the week?
⦁ Consider the need for raw food in your cat’s diet – if you’re cooking absolutely everything, how is your cat getting the nutrition that is normally derived from raw foods or fortified commercial foods? This is not to say that you cannot feed your cat such a diet but it will require much effort and care on your part.