Today’s Special: Homemade Cat Food
We have two cats, both 15-pounders. That’s a lot of cat food each day. They’re carnivores, of course, so we don’t have a choice about feeding them meat (cats don’t have the enzymatic pathways necessary to get nutrition from plants). But I don’t want to buy any food, for my cats or myself, made from badly-treated animals. So now what? Do we start making our own cat food?
I didn’t face this dilemma until today because, frankly, I thought it would be too hard to do the right thing. This morning, though, I decided to at least do the research, no commitments.
A search on “homemade cat food” turned up a daunting, step-by-step description (Raw Cat Food Diet Recipe Made With Real Bones) of how to procure and then grind organ meats, muscle, bone, gizzards and the like (theoretically great, because why not use all parts of an animal?). The biggest obstacle was the $185 meat grinder—quite an investment if this just wound up being a one-time experiment. But then—duh!—I realized that this grisly prescription was for a raw diet (which has some hardcore proponents and also makes perfect sense, given that the cats’ natural diet is raw).
Another quick search led me to a totally manageable recipe for cooked cat food: gentle combinations of protein, vegetables, and whole grains. Huge sigh of relief. Basically, it’s two cat food recipes that you rotate. Both add up to simply throwing a few ingredients in a blender. Recipe #1 is cooked ground chicken (the Murray’s brand from the co-op is Certified Humane), brown rice, and carrots. Recipe #2 is cooked beef1, oats, eggs, and assorted vitamin supplements. You can make big batches and freeze them. I’m going to call the vet first to make sure they’re legit (she thinks I’m crazy anyway).
Marvin and Reuben patiently waiting for us to do the right thing
So that’s our plan moving forward. I take some comfort in knowing that the horrible food I’ve been buying has at least provided one of them, Marvin, with the energy to do something pretty amazing in the world.
Before we adopted him, I knew I wanted to do “pet therapy”—that is, I wanted to visit a nursing home with my cat for what is known in the animal-assisted therapy world as “meet and greets.” I searched and searched for an affectionate, gentle, unflappable cat that didn’t mind traveling in a cat carrier. After a rigorous “Pet Partner” certification process, Marvin and I began our visits, which consist of him laying on a towel on residents’ beds or laps, providing an armful or lapful of love. Every muscle in his body is relaxed as he brings comfort, surprise, and delight with his purrs. Even residents who are agitated or unhappy when we arrive often shift gears when they start to pet Marvin. It’s that whole human-animal bond, a shortcut to their hearts.
Sometimes I hand the residents a brush so they can groom him (it must be nice, when one is constantly being cared for, to be asked to groom an appreciative cat). Sometimes the residents don’t talk with me, but only with Marvin, telling him how handsome he is, or, frequently, how they once had a cat like him. At those times it’s an honor to step back and let him do his work.
Marvin and I will continue our visits no matter what he eats. In fact, we had a great visit just yesterday after I fed him his Science Diet canned food. But today is a new day, so I’ll soon be making the cat equivalent of homemade baby food.
Update 3/19/10: The first batch (the chicken recipe) was easy to make and a big hit! I used boneless chicken thighs, which are much less expensive than breasts. The result looks like chicken salad pudding.
Update 4/10/10: Our cat’s veterinarian, Julie Morris, was very supportive of my DIY approach. At her suggestion I bought Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats. Evidently, Pitcairn is the go-to guy for homemade cat food. All of his recipes include “Healthy Powder”—a mix of bonemeal, kelp powder, vitamin C, nutritional yeast, and lecithin, all of which are available at our co-op. I’ve since made three recipes: Beefy Oats, Poultry Delight, and Feline Feast. The cats love them all. Recently Michael confessed to having tried Beefy Oats. He said it was like dry meatloaf—not exactly tasty, but fine in a pitch.
- Michael has found a local source for third-party certified beef; I’ll share all our sources once we compile a master list. ↩