By Cat, May 10, 2020
I’ve been feeding my cats both canned cat food and kibble over the years; I prefer canned food because it provides moisture they need, but they prefer kibble. Recently my Charlie cat (black and white in photo, right) has developed kidney disease; it’s still in the early stages, and I’d like to keep it there (if I can’t reverse it).
My vet recommended switching entirely to canned food or make homemade food for them, to increase the water content of their food (even tho they already drink lots of water). She also recommended giving them good quality fish oil daily. So I’ve decided to look into homemade cat food recipes.
See Also: 1. Homemade Pet Food Menu
After reading a Mercola article about the importance of serving homemade food for your pets (9), I’ve decided to introduce homemade cat food to my elderly cats.
Here are some of the reasons to consider making your own pet food (from the Mercola article):
- Pet food recalls involving melamine, pentobarbital, excessive levels of vitamin D and other problems have pet parents concerned about the safety of processed diets.
- Pet owners are frustrated by pet food labels that are difficult to understand and don’t contain as much information as human food labels. In addition, pet food labels list ingredients by weight, which gives no information about how nutritious the food is, the quality of the ingredients, or how they’ve been handled or processed.
- Many pet parents treat their animal companions like their children, and … want to be more in control of the food their pets eat, and also tend to extend their own attitudes about nutrition to their animals (i.e., organic, vegetarian/vegan). [Cat’s note: vegetarian/vegan are not appropriate diets for carnivore cats and dogs; especially not for cats because they are obligatory carnivores. Without sufficient meat in their diets, they will develop health issues.]
- Some pet owners are concerned that ultra-processed pet foods aren’t nutritious or healthy, thanks in part to the current trend away from processed, packaged products toward more whole foods and fresh ingredients.
- Some … express an interest in homemade diets after a pet develops a medical condition and a veterinary therapeutic diet isn’t ideal or the animal won’t eat it.
Here are some things I’ll consider:
- What to include:
- Cats are obligate carnivores, which means meats must be their primary food.
- Good quality fish oil is also highly recommended because it is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which are important for a cat’s health. Use a dosage based on your pet’s weight (as percentage of 150 lb average human weight.
- For example: human dosage is 1 tsp/day (about 40 drops); my adult cats have average weight of 15 lb or about 10% of average human weight, so use 10% of 40 drops = 4 drops per day of food.
- Some vegetables are OK as additives, but not as primary ingredients.
- Supplements to add:
- Selenomethionine (a safe form of selenium; see below for more)
- Taurine and arginine if using cooked meat
- A good probiotic for a healthy gut; I’ve been sprinkling Dr. Mercola’s Whole Food Digestive Probiotic for Cats & Dogs on their food, which seems to be helping my cats, so I’ll add it to the homemade foods
- Good quality fish oil
- What to avoid:
- Grains should be avoided or minimized (in some recipes, I use wild rice which is technically not a grain)
- Raw eggs (especially raw whites of eggs) should be avoided altogether, or lightly cooked (coddled).
- Chocolate and other sources of caffeine should also be avoided.
- Toxic additives such as sodium selenite.
A couple years ago, I learned about the problem of sodium selenite in pet food, as it is a toxic heavy-metal form of selenium (see my article Beware: Sodium selenite in pet food is toxic for more on this topic). This essential mineral is important for the health of cats and dogs (as it is also for humans), but only if it is in chelated form, such as selenium yeast, selenomethionine, etc.. I’ve been adding Thorne’s brand of selenomethionine (from capsules) to the canned food I give my cats (that has no added form of selenium), and will also add it to any homemade food I make for them.
[Caution: if your cat is in advanced stage of renal failure, do not use brewers/nutritional yeast (6).]
Here’s a list of articles with homemade cat food recipes; the first one also has lots of other good information about recommended diet for cats. As I experiment, I’ll add my own versions of some of these recipes; see Homemade Pet Food Menu for my own recipes and additional information about cat health. I especially want to focus on fish (preferably wild-caught), chicken (skin on but no bones), and good quality rabbit meat. I might also add some recipes using ground beef or lamb from grass-fed (pastured) animals, as they are fairly fatty, which is important.
- Feline Living: info and recipes (1)
- Web MD: Homemade and Raw Cat Food (2)
- 8 Irresistible Homemade Cat Food Recipes (3)
I will start with an easy recipe using canned salmon, tuna or mackerel, or another using canned sardines.
Re: Added Ingredients
This is a simple sugar related to, but with different health properties than glucose. It is found in cranberries and blueberries, and is the reason these berries can help urinary tract health in humans and pets. It works by keeping the bad microbes from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract. Ever since I started adding it to my daily smoothie, my frequent bladder infections have stopped. And there is evidence it is also helpful for cats and dogs.
Raw eggs, especially the whites can be problematic for cats. It is best to cook them, tho some online recipes say raw yolks are OK. I prefer to coddle eggs or soft-boiling them.
Cats need both Omega-3 and Omega-6 oils. If you use
- Canned fish, most of the good Omega-3 oils have been destroyed, so I recommend using a good quality fish oil (see below).
- Lightly-cooked (“rare”) fish, only part of the natural oils in the fish will not be destroyed.
Caution: do NOT add commercial salad or cooking oils, as their oils have been highly oxidized, which is detrimental to your pets’ health.
Sunflower seed oil: This is what the original recipe uses; it has a very high content of Omega-6 oils and NO Omega-3 oils (instead of a 50:50 mix which is essential for cats and dogs). If you use this, be sure to also add a source of Omega-3 oils such as fish or flax-seed oil. Also, use only an Organic brand of sunflower seed oil to avoid oxidized fats.
Fish oil: “Charlie & Frank” brand is designed just for pets (iHerb code CFA-01396). The oil is from anchovy, sardine, and mackerel; if your cat is 10 lb or less, use ¼ tsp/day; if 11 pounds or more, use ½ tsp/day. You may wish to start with less than the recommended amount and slowly increase it, as they may not like the flavor initially.
Flax-seed oil is another option, as it contains an essential Omega-3 oil: alpha-linolenic acid. Because it is easily oxidized, refrigerate after opening. Or you could use freshly ground flax seeds for both their fiber and oil content. “Freshly ground” is essential, because the oils in flax seeds are easily oxidized (grind just before measuring for the recipe, to minimize oxidation). They provide about 1.5 g fiber and 2.25 grams oil per Tablespoon, or 0.75 g fiber and 1.12 grams oil per half-Tablespoon.
Fiber and Starch
These are things that cats need very little of (they are obligatory carnivores, and meat does not contain fiber), while dogs can tolerate more (up to a point); a tiny bit each day won’t hurt them. They are added to pet foods for bulk, and to hold them together. My choice would be freshly-ground flax seeds because in addition to fiber, they also contain Omega-3 oils.
Cooked oatmeal is used in some recipes, but grains are not good for cats. Another common grain option is cooked brown rice, but most brown rice is high in arsenic (poison). Plus, “dietary rice decreases the amount of taurine in whole blood and plasma in cats,” leading to taurine deficiency (9c). So my preference is cooked wild rice (which is not a true grain), or cooked, mashed veggies like carrots or sweet potatoes.
Another option is freshly-ground flax seeds (grind just before measuring for the recipe, to minimize oxidation). I prefer this option because it also provides an essential Omega-3 oil: alpha-linolenic acid. See “Oil” section above for more.
Selenium (Se) is essential for most animals, including humans and cats. It is best to use chelated selenium such as selenomethionine or selenium yeast. See Best Reviews (6) for recommended selenium supplements (I use Thorne brand selenomethionine which provides 200 mcg/capsule. Based on an average weight of 12 lb/cat (which is 8% of the average 150-lb human who would use 1 capsule/day):
- For 1 cat, use ¼ capsule for 3-days worth of food, or ⅛ capsule for 1½ days of food
- For my 2 cats, I use 0.08 capsule/cat/day, or almost ½ capsule for 3-days worth of food, or ¼ capsule for 1½ days of food.
See my article: Using Selenomethionine for Cats for more info..
Essential Amino Acids for cats and dogs
Heat from cooking meats breaks down many amino acids, including taurine and arginine. One option for ensuring enough active amino acids in food made with cooked meats is to add some Braggs Liquid Aminos, but I don’t know how much.
Arginine is an essential amino acid for cats and dogs, and is present in all meats; however, some methods of cooking can break it down.
The recommended daily dose is 190 mg per kilogram (kg) of body weight. Most cats weigh 10 – 15 pounds or 4.5 – 6.3 kilograms, this would mean that the general requirement would be about 855 – 1200 mg of arginine per day. Since most meats contain plenty of this amino acid, it should not be hard to get the recommended minimum, if the meats are consumed raw. (8a)
If cooked, you may want to add some supplemental arginine, such as Dr’s Best (iherb code DRB-00374); note, the recommended dose on the container is for adult humans. Now brand (iherb code NOW-00210) indicates 2 tsp provides 6,000 mg, or ¼ tsp provides about 750 mg.
Taurine is another essential amino acid for cats and dogs; unfortunately, it is totally broken down by cooking, so if using canned or lightly cooked fish or other meats, you should add supplemental powdered taurine. The heat of dehydrating meats may also break down the taurine (I need to look into that).
Recommended daily dose (including taurine in raw meats) (7) for:
- younger cats is 400 mg taurine per kg body weight;
- older cats is 500 mg taurine per kg body weight is recommended
My 2 older cats average 15 lbs or 6.8 kg, so need about 3400 mg total taurine per day. I use Nature’s Life taurine powder (iHerb code NLI-20366) which provides 1000 mg/¼ tsp. Don’t worry if you give them too much because they don’t store it; rather it is excreted. Recommended amount of daily taurine if you feed your cat an:
- all-cooked meat diet, is 2200 – 3400 mg/day (¼ – 1 tsp is recommended (7)
- all-raw meat diet, is 35 – 250 mg/day (about 1/16 tsp) is recommended (8b).
For more about taurine for your cat, see Vet Info (7).
- Feline Living: info and recipes: felineliving.net/homemade-cat-food-recipes/#The_Recipe
- Web MD: Homemade and Raw Cat Food: pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/homemade-cat-food-and-raw-cat-food#3
- 8 Irresistible Homemade Cat Food Recipes: cats.lovetoknow.com/Homemade_Cat_Food_Recipe
- Flaxseed oil equivalence: calculateme.com/recipe/1-tablespoons-of-vegetable-oil
- Selenium supplements: bestreviews.com/best-selenium-supplements
- Vet info on taurine dose: vetinfo.com/cat-taurine-requirements.html
- feline nutrition:
- on arginine: feline-nutrition.org/nutrition/what-is-arginine-and-is-it-essential
- on taurine dose: feline-nutrition.org/nutrition/how-much-taurine-should-i-add
- on rice in cat foods: feline-nutrition.org/the-blogs/rice-isnt-nice
- Mercola: healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2020/05/10/homemade-raw-pet-food.aspx