As a conscious, responsible cat owner, you want to make sure your cat is eating the healthiest food she can. If you’re interested in making cat food at home, be aware that your cat has very different nutritional needs than you do. A study showed that more than 90% of homemade pet foods were found to be nutritionally unbalanced and incomplete for pets.* Without the proper quantity and balance of nutrients, your cat could end up with a variety of health problems. For example, cats need a careful balance of calcium and phosphorus to ensure a healthy metabolism.**
Cats are strict carnivores, so they must have meat for protein and a fat source; they also cannot derive the same nutritional sources we do from plant-based sources. To maintain a balanced diet, your cat also needs amino acids such as arginine and taurine (taurine is essential for your cat’s heart and vision), fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and water. A modest amount of carbohydrates will provide your cat with useful energy, but too many carbs can result in obesity.
Most concerns associated with homemade cat food are with raw or undercooked meats, which can cause foodborne illnesses in you and your cat. Raw meats often contain bacteria like salmonella, listeria, and even E. coli. These serious pathogens can be passed from your cat to anyone she comes in contact with; small children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are at highest risk. Raw bones can also tear or obstruct your cat’s gastrointestinal tract and damage her teeth. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends these actions to eliminate these possible health risks:
- Do not give raw or undercooked foods to your cat
- Provide fresh, clean, nutritionally balanced and complete food
- Throw away uneaten food at least daily
- Thoroughly wash your hands before and after feeding meals or treats, cleaning food dishes, and disposing of uneaten food
Food safety is also an important factor in DIY cat food. Leaving food out for too long can result in bacteria and foodborne illness. Be sure to throw away any uneaten food in your cat’s bowl, and store the rest in the freezer to preserve its nutrients.
Substituting one ingredient for another can also deprive your cat of her essential nutrients. Nutritional requirements differ among cats of different ages, breeds, and sizes, so the right portion size for your cat may be wrong for another cat. Because needs vary widely, we recommend Hill’s Ideal Balance cat food. With natural ingredients to accommodate any life stage, Ideal Balance™ contains more than 50 nutrients.
However, if you are looking for a healthy homemade option to treat your cat every now and again, check out how to make your own homemade cat treats.
*Small Animal Clinical Nutrition IV Edition, page 169.
**Small Animal Clinical Nutrition IV Edition, page 310.