My torbie will sometimes gobble down a scrambled egg or dainty pieces of lightly cooked chicken. Other times, Lucy turns her nose up after a single bite of home-cooked treats before moving on to her dry cat kibble. In fact, she’s even pretty picky about her wet food, preferring the well-known supermarket brand that employs the silver Persian mascot over more-expensive choices that often dry up, untouched, in her bowl.
But a recent bout with more than one urinary tract infection – and the accompanying struggle to shove antibiotics down her gullet – prompted me to investigate homemade options for her.
After doing some Internet research and exchanging emails with one pet food expert, I put together a few points to ponder if you are considering homemade food for your cat. Here are some things to keep in mind:
An increasing number of veterinarians offer nutritional consultations to help owners assess their cats’ specific needs. While some sites, including PetDiets.com, feature sample diets, Dr. Rebecca Remillard emphasizes the importance of adapting a homemade plan to the pet.
“The sample diet letter is generic [and] then customized to the specifics of the pet depending on animal information entered by the owner and the specific diet options they selected,” says Remillard, founder of Veterinary Nutritional Consultations, Inc., which operates the PetDiets site, which offers nutritional consultations, research resources, and homemade diet plans.
The American Veterinary Medical Association’s current policy discourages using animal proteins that have not first been subjected to a process that eliminates pathogens — through cooking or pasteurization to raise ingredients’ internal temperature, for example — because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans. Remillard, a clinical veterinarian who specializes in animal nutrition, follows those guidelines in her advice to clients.
“We do not recommend feeding raw meat or eggs to household pets due to the risk of food poisoning to the owner, other household members, and pets,” says Remillard. “There are no known or documented nutritional advantages to do so – to date only a downside: food poisoning and possibly death. Yes, I have seen such cases.”
The internet offers a wealth of information, but it pays to talk to a veterinarian or other qualified animal nutrition expert before you try cooking for your cat.
“According to a recent paper published on canine homemade recipes available to owners (and possibly the same holds true for cat recipes) better than 95 percent of the recipes posted out there are not nutritionally complete or balanced,” Remillard says.
It takes time to assemble the gear and special ingredients you’ll need to whip up well-balanced meals for your cat. In one recipe for cat food featured on her site CatInfo.org, Dr. Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, adds vitamin B-complex, vitamin E, taurine, and other ingredients to meat, bones, skin, and liver processed through a grinder, making enough food for eight to 10 weeks at a time and storing it in the freezer.
How she handles the meat depends on its source. On the page, she explains that she is comfortable using raw rabbit that comes directly from a rabbit producer and has never been thawed. In contrast, she partially bakes the whole chicken and turkey thighs she buys at the supermarket to kill surface bacteria. But, no matter what type of meat she starts with, the process takes some time and effort to search out suppliers, shop, and prepare the finished product.
In the end, I decided to stick with the food I buy at my veterinarian’s office. But, thanks to my research, I now sprinkle FortiFlora, an over-the-counter probiotic powder with live, active cultures designed promote a healthy immune and intestinal system, over Lucy’s dry and wet food. The magic dust must also taste delicious, since she sometimes even eats it as an appetizer. It’s also proven successful at making her high-quality commercial food almost as appetizing as the brand with that picky Persian on the label.
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About the author: Charlene Oldham is a St. Louis-based freelancer and teacher who wishes she was as discerning about diet as her torbie, Lucy.