Making your own cat food means you have complete control over what goes in your cat’s diet. It can be a cost-effective and very healthy way to feed your cat, but only if you do it right. A nutritionally imbalanced diet could potentially be life-threatening to your cat.
Cooked or raw, the base of the cat food must contain:
Bone or a source of calcium
Supplements and this include Taurine
Some cat parents may question the need for supplements. We do not discount the possibility of a homemade diet that is nutritionally complete and balanced, without the need for supplements. However, this requires careful formulation, using a very precise amount of specific ingredients.
We need to understand that cats are obligate carnivores and in the wild, they get all the necessary nutrients by feasting on the entirety of their prey – fur/feather, skin, meat, organs, bones, and sometimes they will eat the stomach content of their prey as well. Our feline friends at home do not feast in a similar manner. Our homemade food will not contain all these parts of the prey animal. As such, homemade cat food will often be deficient in certain micronutrients and supplemental vitamins and minerals are necessary. Here are 5 serious homemade cat food mistakes that you will want to avoid.
1. Too much carbohydrates
Studies have shown that while cats do have the ability to digest simple carbohydrates and starches, their ability to digest carbs is not as efficient as that of dogs. They have a lower activity of intestinal and pancreatic amylases; digestive enzymes that help to break down carbohydrates. Too much carbohydrate in the cat food may have adverse digestive effects, such as diarrhoea, flatulence, and bloating.
Referring to the wild cat and its’ prey diet model, the “composition” of small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects tells us that less than 10% of calories consumed by wild cats are from carbohydrates. In fact, many commercial wet cat foods aim for similar figures as well; under 10% of calories come from carbohydrates.
Carbohydrate-rich ingredients like rice and potato are not normally included in raw cat food. However, in cooked diets, many homemade cat food recipes found on the internet include starches like white rice or potatoes. It is prudent to calculate the content of carbohydrates in the recipe and reduce the amount of carbohydrate-rich ingredients like rice or potato accordingly.
2. Not enough calcium
The recommended is one part calcium to one part phosphorus in a cat's diet, although that isn't a hard, fast rule. Generally, meat in the diet will provide sufficient phosphorus but not calcium. So, for cats on raw diets, feed some meaty bones. For cooked diets, never feed cooked bones to your cats. Cooked bones can splinter and cause potentially fatal oral injury, internal damage, or blockage.
Taurine is an essential nutrient. This means that cats cannot synthesize taurine to meet their needs and must obtain taurine from diets. Cats deficient in taurine can develop serious eye and heart conditions. It is best to supplement and err on the side of caution with taurine.
If you are looking for a cat food supplement, a premix that contains a comprehensive blend of nutrients – vitamins, organic minerals, and amino acids including taurine, try the Dom & Cleo EON Fundamentals Supplements For Dogs & Cats. This premix formula is an important addition to balancing home-prepared cooked or raw cat food, especially if you do not have the experience in making nutritionally balanced cat food. Do not risk nutritional deficiency as that may cause health problems. A supplement blend like this, containing a variety of nutrients commonly deficient in homemade cat diets, will help to mitigate nutrient deficiencies. Whatever you do, do not use multivitamin supplements designed for human consumption, unless recommended by your vet, as the nutrient requirements for cats and humans are different!
4. Adding supplements before cooking
Most supplements are to be added AFTER cooking. Please follow the instructions closely. Certain nutrients will not survive the cooking process. If you are preparing raw cat food, add the supplements after grinding, or pureeing the ingredients.
5. Not enough good fats
Cats need an adequate amount of fat in their diet. Essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are particularly important to cats. Cats who are deficient in essential fatty acids can suffer from dry, itchy skin and hair loss. Omega-3 fatty acids are typically recommended for skin conditions, allergies, heart conditions, and arthritis.
Cat food made without oily fish like sardines, mackerel or salmon, are typically low in omega-3. Adding a little omega-3 fish oil into your furkid’s homemade meal before feeding will help to boost the overall omega-3 content. Just 1 pump daily (depending on the size of your pet) of the Zeal New Zealand Hoki Fish Oil Dog Supplement will ensure that your pet is getting the required amount of Omega 3.
Finally, to aid in digestion and nutrient absorption, some paw parents may add a probiotic supplement for their feline companion. Instead of a probiotic supplement, you can also consider feeding your cat unbleached green tripe. Unbleached green tripe is rich in naturally occurring prebiotics and probiotics. Depending on where you are, unbleached green tripe may not be readily available in your local butchery or supermarket. Feed your cat the freeze-dried version instead - Feline Natural Lamb Green Tripe Booster Freeze Dried Cat Food. Green tripe is a natural superfood that supports healthy digestion, and aids in your cat’s natural anti-inflammatory response.
When looking for homemade cat food recipes, it is highly recommended to use recipes formulated by veterinary nutritionists and follow them closely. Over time, many pet parents make substitutions without realising that even a seemingly "small" change - like replacing beef liver with chicken liver - can affect the overall nutritional value of the cat food. While homemade cat food has its' advantages, paw parents need to ensure that the food is complete & balanced.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.