Cooking for your cat: how to make a balanced homemade diet

homemade cat food

The subject of raw vs. cooked cat food is an often hotly debated topic, and recent position statements against raw feeding by several high profile organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Assocation and the ASPCA have only added fuel to the fire. The amount of misinformation about the so-called dangers of raw feeding is staggering and defies common sense.

I don’t think it’s necessary to take an “all or nothing” stand when it comes to feline nutrition. Raw feeding is not for everyone, and if it exceeds a cat guardian’s comfort level, it’s not the right choice for that cat and that family. However, I do believe that it is important to feed our cats a diet that is as minimally processed as possible.

If you’re not comfortable feeding raw, but want to not only feed a minimally processed diet to your cats, but also be in control of exactly what goes into your cat’s food, you may want to consider making your own cat food.  The following resources can help you make a balanced diet for your cat. Some of them will even help you formulate an appropriate diet for cats with health issues.

My favorite resource is Dr. Lisa Pierson’s site, Ctainfo.org. She shares her time tested recipes, along with step-by-step instructions, for raw and lightly cooked diets on her site, in her article titled Making Cat Food.  She also shares her reasons for why she decided to make her own cat food.

PetDiets.com is an independent consulting group for veterinary professionals and individual pet owners seeking nutritional advice. They will formulate a diet for healthy pets and pets with health challenges. Fees will vary according to what type of diet is needed.

BalanceIt.com allows you to view and download recipes for healthy pets. Recipes for pets with health issues require a veterinarian’s approval.

Allegra and Ruby have been eating raw food for almost two years now, and both of them are thriving. I barely cook for myself, so I don’t see myself cooking for them. Occasionally, they eat grain-free canned food – both for variety, and because I want to know that they will eat canned food if it would ever become necessary in an emergency situation.

For more on my recommendations, visit the Feline Nutrition section right here on this site. I also provide one-on-one consultations if you need help with transitioning your cat to a healthier diet.

Would you consider cooking for your cat?

Coming next Monday:
Cooking for Your Cat: Healthy, Simple and Economical

Photo: Bigstockphoto

Related reading:

Are processed foods at the root of all feline illness?

The best food for your cat: my recommendations

30 Comments on Cooking for your cat: how to make a balanced homemade diet

  1. Jenn
    May 9, 2017 at 1:05 pm (12 months ago)

    My cat has hyperthyroidism and kidney disease. She isn’t tolerating the thyroid medication at all. After being sent home with the sample pack of Hill’s k/d, I did a ton of research and decided to transition her to raw food with a few modifications I found to decrease phosphorus. She loves it but is having some nausea issues and not always eating her meal all at once. I want to have something she will eat that is good for her that she can pick at overnight and hopefully prevent her from eating really fast and throwing up in the morning. Can I lightly bake her raw food and use some for overnight or will that not be safe to leave out? My other option would be a grain free canned food, but that wouldn’t be low phosphorus (I researched a ton of brands that I have available) and she prefers the raw. She was remarkably easy to switch to raw!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 9, 2017 at 1:15 pm (12 months ago)

      I would not leave lightly or even fully home cooked food out overnight – I don’t think that’s safe. It’s probably okay to leave out canned food overnight.

      Reply
      • Jenn
        May 9, 2017 at 2:27 pm (12 months ago)

        Thank you. I haven’t been able to find a canned food with low enough phosphorus levels that I can buy locally and that has meat as the main ingredients. This has been a crazy couple months trying to get her stabilized and I just need her to eat and stop losing weight.

        Reply
  2. Jennifer S
    October 27, 2015 at 6:26 pm (2 years ago)

    I just took a cat from a animals foster. What food is the best for him? I have no idea, this is the first cat for me. I just want him to be happy, healthy and full of energy. Internet is full of advice, i’m confused.

    Reply
  3. Nancy McKechnie
    August 6, 2015 at 11:06 am (3 years ago)

    My vet wants me to feed my Maine Coon cat a prescription c/d diet. I almost lost him over the 4th of July with a blocked urethra and other complications. Do any of the raw foods come with supplements or can I buy them and add it to the raw food? To me the raw diet makes more sense…

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 6, 2015 at 2:09 pm (3 years ago)

      The commercial raw diets I recommend are complete and balanced for healthy cats, but for a cat with a history of urinary blockages, you want to work closely with a vet who is well-versed in nutrition to make sure you supplement the diet appropriately. Depending on what caused the blockage, you may need to add supplements to achieve the desired urinary ph value. If you can’t find a vet local to you, there are some holistic vets who will do remote nutritional consultations.

      Reply
    • Julli
      April 7, 2016 at 3:01 pm (2 years ago)

      Hey Nancy McKechnie,
      I almost lost my cat 3 weeks ago because of a blocked urethra too. did you find anything to feed your cat other than the Hills Prescription C/D diet? I have been doing my own research and it turns out there’s ZERO evidence for the benefits it claims. I also found out that it contains ZERO ingredients that actually need a prescription. which means you don’t legally need a prescription for it. confused? Well, I found out that the sales of Hill’s Prescription Diet to the public are restricted, not by law, but by Hill’s themselves. and only sell to Vets. and it will sometimes give them free food for vets to make 100% profit to only endorse their “VET RECOMMENDED” meaningless slogan–basically it is a HUGEEEEE marketing scam. Please let me know if you found anything! email: 74ramirezj@gmail.com

      Reply
  4. Sarah Michelle
    July 19, 2015 at 9:57 am (3 years ago)

    Hi Ingrid! I hope you’re still receiving notifications for this article. My beautiful girl has been on Wellness grain-free canned food for the past 13yrs but we recently had to switch to a prescription diet (bleegcchh!) due to a pancreatitis attack. Since 90% of pancreatitis attacks are ‘idiopathic’, we’re not sure if her little tummy is just more sensitive due to age. The diet (Purina Veterinary Diet EN canned food) contains rice which I know is completely unnecessary for her as a carnivore. I’m considering making her food at home using Dr. Pierson’s recipe (mostly for peace of mind because I’m always scouring the internet looking for cat food recalls). I would love to feed her raw, but she eats several small meals throughout the day (and sometimes doesn’t finish it all in 1 sitting). I’m away from the house from 7a-6p making it difficult to discard any remaining raw food after 30 mins. I’d very much like to use her recipe, but fully cook the chicken to enable me to leave it out for her to graze on at her leisure. Do you think this would be possible? I reasoned that canned food is ‘cooked’ anyhow, so it should be OK, but if you have any personal experience with this, I would greatly appreciate any advice! 🙂

    Reply
  5. PetFoodRatings
    November 4, 2013 at 9:24 pm (4 years ago)

    I have to say Ingrid, I’ve always been an advocate for dry food, but from reading your website I’m thinking my fluffball Bernard might be getting some home-cooked food this week!!

    Reply
  6. Tom
    April 21, 2013 at 5:28 pm (5 years ago)

    I finally got around to reading this article along with Dr. Pierson’s very detailed recipe and information page. This is not beyond our abillities and it may prove to be our only financially viable option to get our guys off of dry food. Time I’ve got, over 300 bucks a month for kitty food I don’t which is roughly what it would cost us to feed everybody what we’re feeding little Saul.

    I will probably go with the cooked version of Dr. Pierson’s recipe because as I mentioned elsewhere our vet is vehemantly against feeding raw and I don’t believe I can change his mind. One question, how the devil do you measure however many MG of supplement if you buy it loose? Capsules are easy but I can’t see an easy way to do this.

    Tom Mary Beth and the Furries.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm (5 years ago)

      I’m sure there’s a way to translate mg into teaspoons or fractions of a teaspoon. It may tell you on the supplement bottle, or you can contact the manufacturer.

      Reply
    • Julli
      April 7, 2016 at 3:07 pm (2 years ago)

      Hey Tom!
      maybe a baby medicine dropper can help!

      Reply
  7. Tracy Dion
    January 15, 2013 at 1:54 am (5 years ago)

    Some definite food-for-thought here, Ingrid. (I know, sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

    For many years, I was a die hard ‘raw only!’ advocate. Over time, however, I’ve mellowed a bit and, while I still push raw to the nth degree and consider it the most nutritious diet possible – I’ve become more willing to help cat owners who can’t or won’t do raw with alternatives, such as lightly cooking their foods. First, because even lightly cooked fresh foods are many degrees healthier than standard commercial diets and second, because once they see the amazing difference a nutritious diet can make in their cat’s health and vitality, they become much more willing to take that final step to full raw.

    I have yet to actually put such encouragement in writing (as you have here), but I’m getting there! ;-}

    Reply
  8. Ryker's Boyz 'n' Allie
    January 14, 2013 at 9:04 pm (5 years ago)

    Allie’s on raw. And all of us get grain free pouches/cans opened for us periodically for the same reasons you mention – in case of emergency. And Faraday likes the freeze dried raw, too. Which is also nice for emergencies.

    Mom & dad have discussed “cooking” up raw nuggets & freezing them in ice cube trays … but haven’t found a recipe yet that they’re 100% comfortable with (though to be honest, they haven’t had the time recently to try). But they want to!

    We would imagine it’s cheaper – but is it time consuming?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 15, 2013 at 6:21 am (5 years ago)

      Most people who make their own raw food will make large batches at a time, so I would imagine that while it may take a bit of time maybe once a month or so, it’s not all that time consuming (assuming you have the freezer space).

      Reply
  9. Marg
    January 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm (5 years ago)

    I would love to cook for my cats especially one of them whose name is Mahoney. She has had bouts of lots and lots of throwing up and I have taken her off the dry food ( not easy with all these cats here) and I am cooking Chicken for her and would love to see about these recipes.Big improvement just taking her off the dry food. I cannot afford the raw feeding. And I might not be able to afford the recipes but no harm in looking at them. I really want to help this particular cat. I rescued her when she was only about 4 weeks old. So she is special to me. Not that they aren’t all special.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 14, 2013 at 7:34 pm (5 years ago)

      I’m happy to hear that taking Mahoney off dry food already helped, Marg. You may see some more improvement if you try a home-cooked diet. Take a look at the resources in this post and see if those fall within your budget. Next week’s post may also provide some inexpensive recipes for you.

      Reply
  10. DWolvin
    January 14, 2013 at 11:52 am (5 years ago)

    I’m going to give it another shot, I love the idea of my shelter stray getting better food. My biggest problem is that he’s a fussy cat about silly things and will only eat or dring (wet stuff) by dipping a paw or scoopint it up. This leads to food and water all over. The water dries, but the food was a real mess! But I have gotten him over to good grain free at least, and his fur really shows it. Plus, he’s a white cat with pale blue eyes (first non-black cat for me), and he had black tear stains when I got him, and they have cleared up, so more points for good food = healthy cats (and people).

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm (5 years ago)

      Sounds like you’re doing everything right with your shelter stray. It’s amazing how much of a difference just taking the grain out of their diet can make, isn’t it? Buckley was a messy eater, too – sometimes, more food ended up outside the bowl than in her!

      Reply
  11. Bernadette
    January 14, 2013 at 10:01 am (5 years ago)

    Our human’s kitchen is piled up with recipes for her but very few for us! We told her she needs to start thinking about someone other than herself, so we’ve all been browsing the computer in the kitchen for recipes we like. We love our raw diet and can’t wait to see what she comes up with–thanks for the links!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 15, 2013 at 6:20 am (5 years ago)

      Knowing your human, I’m sure she’ll come up with some wonderful meals for you!

      Reply
  12. Texas, a cat in New York
    January 14, 2013 at 9:28 am (5 years ago)

    My human loves to cook and she has started looking for information on diets for us kitties, because she’d love to cook for us too (see how well I trained her?).
    So thank you for these links. She will definitely check them!
    Purrs

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 14, 2013 at 9:56 am (5 years ago)

      I’m glad the information was helpful, Texas. Let us know if your human starts cooking for you.

      Reply
  13. Jennifer Mauger
    January 14, 2013 at 8:27 am (5 years ago)

    Thank you for good basic information. I will definitely be reading through the links provided. Allthough I do feed mostly raw, I too do not believe in an all or nothing approach. I too use grain free canned and I still use a little grain free kibble as treats and for food puzzle toys. Of my two rescues, Shira gobbled the raw I offered her right after bringing her home. My second rescue, Adi, would not even eat the grain free kibble nor the canned I offered upon bringing her home. It was a slow process, but now she too will eat raw with great delight.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 14, 2013 at 9:56 am (5 years ago)

      Ruby balked at her raw food the first night in my home (she was raised on a grocery store brand dry kitten food), but I held firm – and she hasn’t looked back since. You never know until you try – but even if it takes time, it’s well worth making the switch.

      Reply
  14. Natasha
    January 14, 2013 at 6:46 am (5 years ago)

    This sounds good, and I would be happy to cook for my cats; however, they are both extremely picky and one does not even like to eat canned food– he is hooked on the dry crunchy stuff. I buy the grain-free kind (Taste of the Wild), and they like it, but any attempts to introduce canned or raw were unsuccessful.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 14, 2013 at 9:55 am (5 years ago)

      I’d encourage you to keep trying to wean your cats off the dry food, Natasha. Some of these hardcore dry food addicts can be very difficult to transition, and it can sometimes takes weeks or even months, but it’s so worth it in terms of the longterm health benefits. Here are some tips on how to do it: http://consciouscat.net/2011/07/25/how-to-your-cat-off-dry-food/ – and these tips also apply to switching your cat to a homecooked or raw diet, or even from a low quality canned to a better quality grain-free canned diet.

      Reply

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