Pet Corner: Natural, Herbally Enhanced Cat Food

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DIY: How To Make Cat Food

I once knew a cat who ate nothing but ground raw meat. When I was a child, my neighborhood was filled with cats. Most of the cats existed on canned cat food. But not Bootsie Anderson.

What possessed his “mom,” Millie, to feed Bootsie freshly ground raw meat, and raw meat alone, I can only imagine. I only know that Bootsie had the most spectacular glossy black coat I’ve ever seen, and he lived to a ripe old age without many of the ailments that felled the rest of our cats. Although Bootsie’s diet was highly unusual for that time, Millie was right on target. Today, a growing number of experts insist that a diet of raw or lightly cooked meat, close to what a cat might encounter in nature, is healthiest.

My favorite cat expert is Anitra Frazier, author of The Natural Cat, a classic book on cat care first published in 1983. Today, she provides holistic nursing for geriatric cats and consults with clients worldwide over the telephone. (She frequently quotes her friend, Richard Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D., one of the best-respected holistic vets in the country, with whom she has worked closely for many years.) She believes a balanced kitty diet can be made by combining 4 parts raw or lightly cooked meat to 1 part veggies, but she emphasizes that there are certain vital nutrients that must also be added in supplement form to your homemade cat food. 

Bare Bones of Kitty Nutrition

1) Variety is important when making food for your cat. Rotating protein and carbohydrate sources will help cover all the bases from a nutritional standpoint.

2) Good sources of protein: human-grade raw ground round, chuck or sirloin; ground chicken or turkey (dark meat is best because of its higher fat content–cats have a higher requirement for fat than we humans do); and occasionally organ meats, all from animals raised without antibiotics or hormones. If you have misgivings about feeding your cat raw meat, then by all means, cook it lightly.

3) Good sources of carbohydrates: any fruits or vegetables your cat enjoys, such as apples, blueberries, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, zucchini, green beans, collard greens, kale, finely chopped alfalfa sprouts, and roasted veggies like winter squash or yams.

4) Both cats and dogs have a very high requirement for calcium, so unless bones are ground up and included in their diets, they MUST have added calcium. Frazier recommends adding 1 teaspoon of
powdered calcium to each pound of raw meat, and then working it in before you add the veggies or anything else. Also important: add a high-quality kitty vitamin to your cat’s daily intake to make sure he gets all the nutrients he needs.

5) As for herbs, here are some that I have typically added to my cats’ diets over the years. Parsley straight out of my garden has been my mainstay. You can add herbs to your homemade food or use them to spice up a dull can of cat food. All should be finely minced and added just before serving, or in the case of seeds, finely ground and sprinkled in tiny pinches over the top of food.

• Parsley (my herb of choice for the tastiest cat food)

• Cilantro (finely minced)

• Seeds: psyllium, celery, dill, fennel, caraway

Very finely powdered psyllium seed husks, added to or sprinkled over your kitty’s food in very minute quantities (use only a very small pinch), can go a long way to easing constipation.  Just be sure to add extra water to the food as well.

Put out 1/4 cup of the homemade cat food, refrigerating the rest of the batch in an airtight container. Bootsie never had it so good. 

Read More About DIY Cat Food

Want to learn more about making cat food at home? Here are some great resources on the subject:

Whole Health for Happy Cats: A Guide to Keeping Your Cat Naturally Healthy, Happy, and Well-Fed (Quarry Books, 2006)

The Natural Cat (Plume, 2008)

Dr. Pitcairn’s New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats (Rodale Books, 2005)

Lynn Alley is a Southern California-based writer who has been cooking  for her pets for years.

Information in “Pet Corner” is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian.

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