Imagine what life would be like if, day after day, you opened the same box of granola for breakfast and dinner. It’s not very appealing, and it would likely leave you hungry for vitamins and nutrients not found in that one meal. Yet most of us feed our pets every day from the same “box of cereal.”
What if we fed our pets a simpler version of what we eat ourselves—grub made with real ingredients, a little variety and a sense of purpose? True, cooking for your pet takes a bit of planning. And, just as feeding yourself and your family requires some knowledge about what you need to stay healthy, so does feeding your pet. He or she is a scavenger by nature, but he needs more than assorted table scraps. Here are a few guidelines to get you started.
1. Variety is important. Rotating protein and carbohydrate sources will help cover all the nutritional bases.
2. Good protein sources include human- grade raw ground round, chuck or sirloin; ground poultry (higher-fat dark meat is best—pets require more fat than humans do); and occasionally organ meats, all from animals raised without antibiotics or hormones. If you have misgivings about feeding your pet raw meat, cook it lightly.
3. Good sources of carbohydrates include any fruits or vegetables your pet enjoys such as apples, carrots, zucchini, green beans, collard greens, kale, and roasted veggies such as winter squash or yams. Quick-cooking, economical grains such as oatmeal, cornmeal, millet and bulgur are nutritionally dense and can supply more than half of your pet’s diet (on a dry-weight basis).
4. Both cats and dogs have high calcium requirements, so unless bones are ground up and included in their diets, they must have added calcium. Add 1 teaspoon of powdered calcium, eggshell powder or bonemeal to each pound of raw meat and work it in before you add anything else. A high-quality pet vitamin can also help make sure your furry friend gets all the nutrients he needs.
5. Portion sizes vary according to size, age and activity level. Your animal’s appetite and weight is generally a good gauge for how much to feed him. For specific guidelines and a great collection of natural, holistic recipes, try Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats.
6. Monitor your pet closely when introducing new food. Potential food allergens include beef, wheat, dairy, nuts, fruits, tomatoes, carrots and yeast. If you notice excessive licking, inflamed ears (in dogs) or digestive problems, switch to a simplified diet and slowly reintroduce the omitted foods one at a time.
Beef Dinner for Dogs
1 pound lean ground beef
1 ounce beef heart or liver
10 ounces cooked brown rice
2 ounces mixed greens
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon eggshell powder or bonemeal
¼ teaspoon iodized salt
1. In a frying pan, cook meat until lightly browned.
2. Mix cooked meat, rice, greens and other ingredients.
3. Divide into portions and immediately freeze what cannot be eaten in the next two to three days.
toy: 1 to 2 cups
small: about 4 cups
medium: 6 to 7 cups
large: about 8 cups
giant: 9+ cups
Poultry Feline Feast
2 cups raw or cooked poultry with skin
2 cups cooked cornmeal or polenta
½ tablespoon chopped vegetables
½ teaspoon eggshell powder or bonemeal
1. Cut poultry into chunks and combine ingredients.
2. Plate food you plan to serve and immediately freeze what cannot be eaten in the next two to three days.
small: about ¾ cup
medium: 1+ cups
large: 1¾ to 2 cups
Lynn Alley is a Southern California-based writer who has been cooking for her pets for years. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian.