Homemade Food for Your Cat: Healthy, Simple and Economical

cat_eating

Guest post by Jodi Ziskin

Over the past few years working with clients and providing public demonstrations and seminars focusing on holistic nutrition for our furry companions, I have discovered that many people are curious about making homemade food for their cats (cooked or raw). However, they are frustrated and confused by conflicting information from a variety of sources.

Common misconceptions about making food for cats

Making homemade food for cats is very time consuming

It actually takes less time than driving to the pet food supply store and back – usually less than a half hour for four days worth of food. Of course, if you have more than two cats, it can take a little bit longer (but not much). Some people prefer making food in bulk (freezing in four day portions) and others prefer making fresh food daily. Personally, I am happy making food once every four days. Cooking time can be greatly reduced by using frozen organic vegetables or steaming extra veggies when preparing foods for you or the human members of your family.

Making homemade food is too expensive

If you are currently feeding your cat a premium canned food that is fit for human consumption, you may be surprised to learn that homemade is much less expensive. If you are feeding an average brand of kibble (never recommended), homemade will cost more but can potentially save you a considerable amount of money in vet bills.

Using $4.00 as the base price of hormone-free/antibiotic-free poultry and meat per pound (you can find less and more expensive), the cost of feeding homemade food for cats is roughly $1 per day, per pet. Buying meat in bulk can reduce prices considerably. Organic poultry and grass-fed meats can be more expensive, but again – buying in bulk can significantly reduce the cost. I always recommend using organic vegetables and fruits (pumpkin is considered a fruit; some cats like blueberries, too). Using frozen vegetables saves money and offers convenience, too.

An average sized cat (9 – 12 lbs) will eat around four-to-five ounces of homemade food per day (two meals per day is recommended, three for some cats). That is much less than the recommended amount of canned food. Homemade food is nutritionally dense; therefore less food is needed to meet nutritional needs. No two cats are the same and portions will vary. The rule of thumb for portion size goes like this: serve four tablespoons of food (1/4 cup) per meal, based on two meals per day. If your cat doesn’t finish everything on his/her plate, it is too much. Next time reduce the serving size by a tablespoon. If your cat finishes everything and sort of look at you like, “Hey, I need more,” give him/her more.

Homemade food doesn’t provide complete nutrition

Poppycock!

In addition to meat, vegetables and sometimes fruits (pumpkin is awesome for cats), I emphasize adding an omega 3 oil (Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Pet is my personal preference), taurine and food-based vitamins and minerals (for proper calcium ratio and to add back what is lost during cooking). I also recommend daily use of a probiotic and digestive enzyme.

It is important to rotate proteins and vegetables to offer your cat a full spectrum of nutrients. You don’t need to go crazy – switching between two or three proteins (let’s say chicken and buffalo, or turkey, beef and rabbit) is fine. Green vegetables can alternate between broccoli, kale, spinach and zucchini. Use pumpkin one batch and sweet potatoes the next. It becomes second nature very quickly.

It is best to work with a holistic or integrative veterinarian or nutrition specialist for personalized recipes as well as supplement suggestions so that your pet’s individual needs are met.

One of the great advantages of preparing homemade foods for your cat(s) is that you have complete control over the ingredients. You can be confident that there are no artificial colors or flavors or flavor enhancers. You also know that the meats are human grade, not from diseased, dying, dead or drugged animals. You know the omega 3s are cold-pressed and aren’t rancid because you added them after cooking. You know that the vegetables are free from pesticides. You know there are no fillers or cheap ingredients like corn, wheat, barley, sorghum and soy.

Another big advantage of a real food diet for pets – low odor and much smaller stools. Because the food is full of nutrients that the body can digest, absorb and assimilate, there is less waste. 
Isn’t that reason enough to make the switch (wink)?

Jodi Ziskin is a Certified Pet Nutrition Consultant who also holds a Master of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition with a concentration in companion animal care. Her mission is to help cats and dogs live healthier and happier. Through her company, Healthy Pet Coach, she educates pet parents in their home environment, via Skype/Facetime or by telephone on how to make the best holistic diet and lifestyle choices for their animal companions. Jodi has been featured in articles appearing in Animal Wellness Magazine, Cat Fancy Magazine and Urban Animal (Australia). She is also a Cat Health Writer for examiner.com and a Nutrition Consultant for Lap Of Love Veterinary Hospice.

Photo of Jodi’s cat Obi enjoying his homecooked meal, used with permission.

Jodi has kindly provided two sample recipes – click on the link to download: Basic Recipe for Homemade Cat Food.

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70 Comments on Homemade Food for Your Cat: Healthy, Simple and Economical

  1. Barbara
    January 20, 2017 at 10:56 pm (1 day ago)

    Hello, I have a question…under your review of store bought foods you mention that cats do not need veggies, fruit or grains yet you have veggies in your homemade cooked cat food recipes. Could you please explain the difference, thank you.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 21, 2017 at 6:20 am (20 hours ago)

      I’ll ask Jodi Ziskin to chime in on your question specific to the recipes, Barbara. In general, I prefer foods that don’t contain any veggies at all, but some manufacturers use produce as a source of natural vitamins. As long as the percentage of veggies/fruit is less than 5%, it’s probably reasonable.

      Reply
    • Jodi Ziskin
      January 21, 2017 at 8:39 am (17 hours ago)

      Hi Barbara:
      Thank you for your question. In the wild, cats consume the predigested veggies from the stomachs of their prey (usually birds and rodents). They also eat grass to assist in digestion (there is a misconception that cats eat grass to help them vomit).

      Vegetables and fruits (like pumpkin) do provide vitamins, antioxidant support and fiber for cats. As Ingrid stated, a small percentage of the diet is all that is needed for a healthy cat.

      There are some cats that like to snack on melon, lettuce or other greens. That is perfectly okay! Please note – the recipe here is several years old. Some of the products are no longer being manufactured. Feel free to contact me through my site, http://www.HealthyPetCoach.com for an updated version. All the best, Jodi

      Reply
  2. Carolyn S
    December 9, 2016 at 4:06 pm (1 month ago)

    I’ve been feeding my 2 cats a raw homemade diet similar to your recipe for a little over a year. They love it, I love it because I know it’s healthier for them. One of my cats now has a tapeworm… They’re both inside cats and have not gotten ahold of any critters (that I’m aware of). Was hoping for some reassurance that feeding them a raw diet wouldn’t have caused this? I use organic meats from my local grocery store. Thanks for any help!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 10, 2016 at 6:33 am (1 month ago)

      Cats acquire tapeworms by ingesting an intermediate host, like an infected flea or rodent. It’s unlikely, but not impossible that the raw diet would have been the cause.

      Reply
  3. Dee
    July 16, 2016 at 8:29 pm (6 months ago)

    Hi, I’m a latecomer to this article and comments, however I would still like to get the recipes and can’t find the link! I have four cats and would like to start making healthy food for them. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 17, 2016 at 5:48 am (6 months ago)

      The link is at the very bottom of the article, Dee. If it still won’t work for you, send me an email.

      Reply
      • Dee
        July 17, 2016 at 7:18 am (6 months ago)

        Found the recipes. Thanks!

        Reply
  4. Lauren Zhang
    March 4, 2016 at 12:36 pm (11 months ago)

    I slowly introduced my cat to raw chicken breast before I went to large amount of raw food preparation. She liked raw chicken breast very much. However, when I followed your raw food recipe and used chicken thighs with all other ingredients, she didn’t want it at all. She sniffled on the food and turned away. I was wondering where could go wrong? Is it the change from breast to thighs, addition of vitamins etc, or addition of broccoli and kale?
    I really want her to eat nutritious raw food. Please help if you happened know what is going on. Thank you!

    Reply
    • l. person
      October 15, 2016 at 12:02 am (3 months ago)

      Your veggies would be my thought.

      Reply
  5. Amanda
    February 20, 2016 at 3:02 pm (11 months ago)

    I couldn’t get the link to come up either. Can I get an Email copy?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 20, 2016 at 5:11 pm (11 months ago)

      Check your email, Amanda!

      Reply
  6. Lisa
    January 26, 2016 at 10:17 am (12 months ago)

    Is there a good full spectrum type supplement you can recommend for those that are new to home feeding? It’s especially helpful if it’s US sourced, even better if organic.

    Reply
  7. Jane
    January 25, 2016 at 7:06 pm (12 months ago)

    Hi, this is wonderful information and thank you for it. I’m very interested in transitioning my 3 y.o. Tortie to a raw diet, but want to be certain that I know what I’m doing so as not to harm her in any way. The link to your basic homemade cat food doesn’t open for me. Is there another way to access it?
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 26, 2016 at 5:39 am (12 months ago)

      Check your email, Jane.

      Reply
      • Jane
        January 26, 2016 at 11:44 am (12 months ago)

        Thanks, Ingrid. Got it.

        Reply
        • hoaloha
          April 11, 2016 at 3:27 pm (10 months ago)

          Hi, where can I find a link to the ‘basic homemade cat food’ referenced above?

          Reply
          • Ingrid
            April 11, 2016 at 4:20 pm (10 months ago)

            The link at the end of the post should take you to the recipes.

  8. Judy
    December 28, 2015 at 8:33 am (1 year ago)

    I have tried numerous times to get your basic recipe to come up so I can use it for my cats. For whatever reason, it never opens. Is it located anywhere else? Appreciate all the information your site provides. Thank you

    Reply
  9. josie
    November 1, 2015 at 2:57 pm (1 year ago)

    Hi wanted to ask if anyone knows how to make a cooked diet more like canned food. I am looking to try to get the taste and texture more like canned. I have tried. Cooking many diiferent ways with a variety of flavors but can’ t get everyone to eat it. We do grind chicken with bones and feed raw but also give them some canned and a little dry. Premium only foods. But I would love to make a homecooked diet for them instead of the canned we buy as cost is a little high feeding 5 kities but mostly cause I would know exactly whats in it and the qaulity of the ingredients for sure. I would really aopreciate any and all suggestions, ideas, referals, websites etc. The canning dr lisa does is not real fesible for me cause I’d have to invest in a canning pressure cooker and not sure I want to do that when I’m not even sure they will eat what I make. Esp with all that I have already tried and has been a bust with them so far. Thanks and I look forward to hearing back from you all.
    Jm

    Reply
      • hoaloha
        April 11, 2016 at 3:32 pm (10 months ago)

        Hi Josie,
        I, too, am looking to transition to homemade cooked diet for my cats. I have had a hard time finding cooked recipes. Have you found one?
        My idea is to bake or pressure cook the meat/bones/organs, mix together in food processor, and then add the vitamins/minerals to the mixture. (as I don’t want to cook the vitamins/minerals!). Any thoughts, suggestions would be appreciated!

        Reply
  10. Bonnie
    October 10, 2015 at 7:16 am (1 year ago)

    Is the VitaMineral Mix recommended the one by PetGuard or Halo?

    I have tried numerous vitamin supplements for my cat Oscar and he turns his nose up at all of them. He is pretty finicky. I would like to try the one recommended here.

    I have recently weened him off dry food. And have gotten him off of free feeding although I do allow him to eat his two meals over a couple hours. I have to harden myself to his meowing for more. I would like to see if he will eat home cooked and eventually raw. Maybe if he is hungrier, he’ll accept the vitamins more.

    Reply
  11. Deborah
    September 9, 2015 at 8:06 pm (1 year ago)

    The link to Jodi’s recipes isn’t working for me. Can you help? I’m viewing on an IPad Air 2. Thank you for your excellent site!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      September 10, 2015 at 6:05 am (1 year ago)

      Check your email, Deborah.

      Reply
    • Tammy
      October 8, 2015 at 10:32 am (1 year ago)

      It didn’t work for me either.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        October 8, 2015 at 10:52 am (1 year ago)

        Check your email, Tammy.

        Reply
  12. Azar
    September 2, 2015 at 5:27 pm (1 year ago)

    What about rumen? Is it good kind of food for cats?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      September 3, 2015 at 6:15 am (1 year ago)

      Raw green tripe, which comes from rumen, is said to have many health benefits. It is available fresh or frozen in ground form.

      Reply
  13. elena
    August 16, 2015 at 9:00 pm (1 year ago)

    I would like to try home made meals for my cat but I don’t think I will be willing to cook for her every day. My question is: Can I freezing the food in single portions for later? Many thanks

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 17, 2015 at 6:10 am (1 year ago)

      Absolutely! You can make meals ahead and freeze, Elena.

      Reply
  14. Karen
    July 5, 2015 at 9:46 am (2 years ago)

    The nutritional supplements are very expensive. Where do I get chicken ground with bones? Can I feed snake mice to cats?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 5, 2015 at 9:53 am (2 years ago)

      Hare Today is a good source for ground chicken with the bone already ground in, as well as other raw meats. Theoretically, snake mice should be a complete diet for cats – but honestly, I’m not quite sure!

      Reply
  15. majid
    May 28, 2015 at 8:51 am (2 years ago)

    i found a baby cat in the street..dont hav teeths..wht can i give to her for eating..giving her milk and water past one day..

    Reply
  16. Lisa
    April 1, 2015 at 6:40 pm (2 years ago)

    Just want to thank for your homemade recipe for cat’s. I’m looking forward to trying it on my guy, he’s very finicky but this looks like something he will like. Thanks again for posting.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 2, 2015 at 6:22 am (2 years ago)

      Let me know how he likes it, Lisa.

      Reply
  17. Bridget
    September 11, 2013 at 5:08 pm (3 years ago)

    What do you think of the blue buffalo basics?

    I have a cat with IBD and that seems to be the only food she can keep down that is not completely full of crap or having to keep her on steriods.

    Every other food we have tried it requires a daily dose of steriods for her to keep her food down and stool hard.

    But the BB Basics seems to work great and we only do a monthly dose of the steriod to get rid of any inflamation at the end of the month. She also gets baby food turkey only with a probiotic mixed in as a treat to try to keep her digestive system well.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      September 11, 2013 at 6:26 pm (3 years ago)

      I’m not very familiar with that brand, Bridget. If it’s the only thing that keeps your kitty from having to take daily steroids, I’d say stick with it!

      Reply
  18. Marie
    August 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm (3 years ago)

    Can you help?

    I have a 1 year old kitty that was given to me. He has Feline Aids.

    I am making him boiled chicken, boiled chicken livers, canned duck and Wellness gold dry food.

    I give him a cooked egg yolk weekly.

    I have ordered a whole duck to make since this will be more economical.

    He is indoors and looks to be doing beautifully. Good coat, plays all the time, very loving, pink gums, since I monitor the litter box I know he poops and pees the same every day without fail (2-3 soft ball size clumps of pee and 1 poop.)
    ——————
    CAN YOU SUGGEST ANY OTHER FOOD?

    Thank you from both of us….Marie and C3 (CrazedChattyCathy)

    Reply
      • Marie
        August 11, 2013 at 5:51 pm (3 years ago)

        Dear Ingrid thank you so much for your quick response.

        I read the link and for the dry food it says, no corn, etc.

        The dry food that I am feeding him is Wellness Core Grain Free Indoor Formula.

        It is Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey meal, Peas, Potatoes, Potato Protein, Tomato Pumice, Flaxseed, Pea Fiber, Taurine and many other vitamins and minerals.

        Is this still not a good choice?

        Reply
          • Marie
            August 11, 2013 at 9:52 pm (3 years ago)

            Once again thank you Ingrid.

            Great information.

            I will start weening him off the dry and transition to real meat wet.

  19. Vinny
    January 31, 2013 at 10:48 pm (4 years ago)

    I don’t live in the USA. Most of the organic products in my country are imported and they are 4-6 times more expensive. As such, I can’t even afford to eat organic food, let alone my cat…

    Reply
  20. Johna
    January 28, 2013 at 5:07 pm (4 years ago)

    We use fish too. Any thoughts about fish protein?

    Reply
  21. cat nutrition
    January 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm (4 years ago)

    Do not follow the advice in this article. People like this give those of us who make homemade food for our cats a bad name. Cats are carnivores–they should not be given vegetables as stated above. It’s also completely unnecessary to vary the meat products they eat. Chicken alone (ground up whole raw chicken–bones and all) with a nutritional supplement (I use Feline Platinum Performance) provides an excellent diet. I’ve had the diet checked out by the vet school at a major research university and they said the diet gives our cat everything he needs. For a better source, see the book “Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life.” It’s written by a vet with decades of experience specializing in feline nutrition. Oh, and our cat’s poop doesn’t smell and he he has a gorgeous coat.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm (4 years ago)

      As I said to a previous commenter, there is some controversy about the issue of using veggies in homemade food for cats. I follow Dr. Lisa Pierson’s advice, which is to look for diets that are no more than 5% produce, and 95% or more meat.

      Reply
  22. Dawn
    January 26, 2013 at 2:41 am (4 years ago)

    just wondering if these homemade food recipes are ok for a diabetic cat?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 26, 2013 at 6:11 am (4 years ago)

      I would run the recipe by a holistic veterinarian who is well-versed in nutrition, Dawn. Alternately, services such as PetDiets.com or BalanceIt.com have veterinary nutritionists available who can help you formulate homemade diets for cats with health issues.

      Reply
  23. Mr Mooch
    January 25, 2013 at 1:55 pm (4 years ago)

    Absent the availability of a consulting holistic vet or nutritionist, are there recipes one can use to replicate the “100% Complete” nutrition of premium cat foods?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 25, 2013 at 2:12 pm (4 years ago)

      I believe that no food is “100% complete,” Mr. Mooch. That’s why I recommend variety and rotation feeding – rotating several different brands and proteins to ensure balanced nutrition. We don’t expect any one food to be “100% complete” in human nutrition, and I don’t think we should expect it from pet food, either. Most holistic veterinarians would most likely support this view.

      Reply
  24. alex
    January 25, 2013 at 1:47 pm (4 years ago)

    “Another big advantage of a real food diet for pets – low odor and much smaller stools. Because the food is full of nutrients that the body can digest, absorb and assimilate, there is less waste. 
Isn’t that reason enough to make the switch (wink)?”

    Can you link to a science paper or valid textbook ?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 25, 2013 at 2:09 pm (4 years ago)

      I don’t have any scientific evidence for this, but I’ve certainly experienced it with my own cats, Alex. It’s one of the first things most people notice when they start feeding raw.

      Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 22, 2013 at 6:25 am (4 years ago)

      We’d love to hear how you like your homemade food when you get your kitchen back.

      Reply
  25. dlm
    January 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm (4 years ago)

    But cats are obligate carnivore.
    I have been mixing raw (ground dark chicken & chicken livers (from an upper scale store, free cage/no hormones…) with some canned food.

    why add vegetables?
    D

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 21, 2013 at 3:23 pm (4 years ago)

      Unless you’re adding a supplement mix designed for cats, feeding only meat may not be quite nutritionally complete. The veggies can add vitamins and antioxidants. The percentage of veggies should be 5% or less. Think of it as what cats would consume in the wild: the only veggies they would eat are the stomach contents of their prey.

      Reply
        • Ingrid
          January 25, 2013 at 5:51 pm (4 years ago)

          There’s some controversy on this issue, Zee. I look for diets with a vegetable content of less than 5%.

          Reply
        • Deneen
          January 25, 2013 at 9:58 pm (4 years ago)

          I have an 8 year old overweight tabby and a 7 month old kitten…they keep eating each others food food, would I be able to feed them the same recipe so I don’t have to worry about low calorie food and kitten food?

          Reply
          • Ingrid
            January 26, 2013 at 6:10 am (4 years ago)

            Deneen, yes, you can feed the same recipe to both cats. You’re going to have to adjust amounts so your growing kitten gets enough, and your overweight tabby doesn’t get too much. Depending on how they act at feeding time, you may need to feed them in separate rooms.

      • Doris
        January 25, 2013 at 4:54 pm (4 years ago)

        Nice info. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. Do I need to purchase vitamins to mix in with the food though?

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          January 25, 2013 at 5:52 pm (4 years ago)

          Yes, you do, Doris. If you click through on the link for the sample recipes at the end of the post, Jodi has some recommendations. I like the Rx Essentials for Cat multi vitamin.

          Reply
  26. Stacey
    January 21, 2013 at 11:26 am (4 years ago)

    This is good information -would be more informative with a recipe or two.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 21, 2013 at 3:26 pm (4 years ago)

      Stacey, I’ve added a link to two of Jodi’s recipes to the post.

      Reply
      • BeckyH
        September 29, 2014 at 2:26 pm (2 years ago)

        I have Office 2000 which I am thinking is too old to read the recipes. I would love to switch my ‘herd’ of cats to a better diet.

        And thanks for posting this!

        Reply

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