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.

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

  1. Hi, thank you so much for all of the info you have shared. I’m looking to buy taurine for my cats and find most brands carry synthetic taurine. Wondering if this would be okay for them? I’m trying very hard to find a natural one but it’s been difficult. Thank you in advanced.

  2. Hi, I have two cats under 2 years old and have recently started feeding them raw food. So far, they eat a mixture of cut up whole chicken with liver and hearts to which I add eggs, taurine and salmon oil.
    It had not crossed my mind to add vegetables to their meals.
    I usually prepare their food for the whole month and thaw ready-to-eat portions when it’s time for them to eat.
    Do you think it would be okay to add, for example, some fresh spinach into the meat mixture and freeze them together? Thanks

    • Mary, please make sure that if you are including whole eggs that the white has been cooked. Raw egg whites are not good for them. I cannot locate the citation right now, but if my memory serves me correctly they are bad for the cats pancreaus. Do a search online for raw egg white and cats. I was fortunately warned by my vet but looked up to see the reasoning.

  3. Hello~ I read every post here, thank you so much for this article, and all the links and answers!
    Can you give me some advise for my 17 year old cat who has early sign of kidney disease and cancer, growth on his back leg and enlarge lymph notes that pressures his intestines so he has very hard time pooping , the doctor said is not worth to do any treatment at this age, only gave him the poop softener powder called GOLYTELY, he said as long as he can poop with no pain, just let him enjoy the rest of his lift…. I personally do believe healthy diet can fight most of the illness that’s why I start to research homemade food.
    My question is, is he still ok to use Rx Vitamins Essentials Powder and the Omega-3 Pet Oil? or is there other supplement I need to add in to the cooked food? Thank you again!

  4. Thank you so much for posting all this wonderful information. I just had a feeling my cats were not benefiting for the food I was purchasing. I will now make my own. Thanks for the links to cat food recipes. I feel empowered.

    • The frequency of meals has nothing to do with whether a food is homemade or store bought, Jamie. For most people, twice a day is more practical due to human schedules, but some cats seem to prefer multiple smaller meals (and it’s how they would eat in the wild.)

  5. I had read that I shouldn’t buy ground meat in the store, but it sounds like you are saying that is okay. Is it because this diet is cooked, which would kill bacteria?

  6. Not sure if this site is even used anymore but Id like to ask a question concerning my 3 1/2 year old female cat. She has Never eaten right and to this day will eat nothing but Temptations Treats. I have tried every food available in stores in my area and she turns her nose up at it. What would be good starting point , as I willing to try Anything at this point, Thank you so very much….. Ed

  7. I am Zare …i have 2 orphaned cats their mother dont take them with her so i kept them but i dont know how to feed the …i have them for 1 month but i just prescribed goats milk for them ..can u plz tell me what should i do more….i dnt have knowledge of it…also in our area there is no any animal doctor ……

  8. Hi! thank you for the helpful tips and advice from your blog. So it is important that when feeding cats a homemade diet, that the meat, vegetables and fruits are hormone and antibiotic-free and organic? thanks!

    • I think it’s definitely critical that the meat is hormone and antibiotic-free. I prefer organic, or, for produce, at the very least, pesticide-free, but depending on where your ingredients come from, non-organic may be fine. Many small farms don’t use pesticides, but aren’t certified organic due to the high cost of obtaining the certification.

  9. Hi!
    I love your straight forward diet advice.
    I have a 6 month old ragdoll, around 7 pounds.
    She spends periods of time outside during the day only, so she is relatively active climbing trees and exploring.
    I feed her:
    1 raw chicken neck in the morning.
    0.5 oz dry food at lunchtime
    Around 8oz Raw beef/sardines with cooked pumpkin/sweet potato/peas & corn/carrot (half protein, half veg)
    I occasionally include a linseed oil supplement or an egg yolk.

    Please let me know what you think of the variety and quantity.

    Kind Regards
    Kate.

    • I went a bit heavy on the veg I see from other posts, it was due to her suffering constipation with pure protein. I’ll cut right back on veg even though she loves it. She is an excellent eater, just loves everything, not had her palate ruined by canned food.

    • Hi Kate:

      I do appreciate that you are trying to offer a real food diet for your cat. Unfortunately, an unbalanced homemade diet, raw or cooked, can actually do more harm than good.

      The diet described here is quite concerning. It is not well balanced. Without the proper ratios of calcium/magnesium, many processes in the body can be affected. In my opinion, the ratio of carbohydrates is too high, the protein too low, too much fish and an imbalance of vitamins and minerals. One thing I stress to cat parents is that kibble is not a bio-appropriate food.

      You may want to consider using a balanced premix for your home prepared food. There are a couple that are really excellent – one you just need to add the meat (raw or cooked) and the other give an option of adding just muscle meat or adding organ meat, too. Here are the links:
      http://www.foodfurlife.com/
      https://www.thetotalcat.com/product_listing.php?cat=1

      A 7 pound cat generally eats around 2 – 3 oz of a well balanced raw food per day. If your kitty is underweight, then more food will be needed.

      All the best,
      Jodi Ziskin, MS

  10. My cat is ill from a serious injury, cannot have a BM without Meds. He is on prescription dry and wet Royal Canin. I am very concerned about the dry foods number 1 ingredient being Brewers Rice, and 2nd beef by products. Should I be concerned?

  11. Hi Ingrid,

    I love your blog! I recently decided to give homemade cat food a try and followed Lisa Pierson’s recipe exactly, apart from substituting cooked chicken for raw chicken.

    One of my cats has been eating the homemade food for about a month now, but clearly still prefers Friskies canned food. The other cat will not go anywhere near the homemade food and wont touch his food even if I try placing the homemade food near (but not touching) Friskies. However, if I just feed them chicken (without the rest of the vitamins), they prefer to eat it over the canned food.

    Have you seen this happening to anyone else you know? How would you work to transition the cats to a homemade diet? I worry that I am making the homemade food incorrectly since they still seem to prefer the Friskies.

    I would love your advice!

    • It’s possible that the supplements alter the taste of the cooked chicken (at least as far as your cats are concerned!) You could try transitioning them by mixing a very small amount of Friskies in with the cooked food (after cooking,) or perhaps even just putting a teaspoon full of Friskies on top. Alternately, try reducing the amount of the supplements and gradually increase if they eat the food with smaller supplement amounts mixed in. This latter suggestion is only a temporary solution, as the food won’t be balanced without the supplements.

  12. My cat is 15 and in a stage of renal failure. I can only afford to go to the non-profit vet in town and I don’t get a lot of time to ask her specifics because she is so busy.

    I want to feed my cat a raw food diet and I am willing to make sacrifices in my food budget to help her. She has been my companion since she was 2 months old.

    She refuses to eat prescription canned foods, except if I give her nothing else for a day. I can’t do this to her as she has rapid wait loss. She is so-so, improving in acceptance of “Rad Cat” brand. Her preference so far has been just plain raw organic ground turkey. She loves it!

    I worry that she might not get enough nutrients this way, but I am not sure if I can afford to dabble in supplements to deep. Searching for recipes that tell me name brands of the right supplement, etc. I get a bit confused with too much technology and screen time.

    I don’t have internet access all the time, and would be very grateful for an email reply. thank you for the time reading this.

  13. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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

  14. 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!

    • 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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

      • 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!

        • HI I have yet to get my guys to eat anything I have cooked but have been side tracked by pup getting seriously ill from Auto immune animea which we could of possibly treated but we found out he also had a super rare skin disease which we thought was a simple bacterial infection due to autoimmune but found out after testing that he actually had 4 bacteria’s and only 2 antibiotics weren’t resistant and then we found out he had a very rare disorder that antibiotics was making worse and that it was not treatable
          so we put him to sleep. So during all this haven’t had time to pursue my home cooking for my kitties. Now I have a ton of time on my hands and need to keep busy so will dive back into it and hopefully come up with something good all my guys will eat. We now have 6 kitties as hubby brought home our little ferals sister too. I have tried all ways of cooking as I said but I have only used a food processor to grind it up . Am going to purchase a blender to see if maybe that might make a difference in texture for them. I actually started feeding my pup a home cooked diet through balance it as per vets recommendation and I really enjoyed it . Seeing how much he loved it and knowing how much better it was for him. So hopefully I can manage to at least get most of my kitties on board in time. Thanks for the help and ideas and once I get back into this if I find any good recipes, supplements, ways to prepare that get my guys eating I will be sure to come back and post as I know how hard it can be to get our little snoots in furry coats to eat things that you want them to eat!

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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

    • Elena, Absolutely! I have three on raw and work full time so I just don’t have the time to do it every few days. I make up between 12 and 15 pounds at a time every two to three weeks. I put it into 2 ounce condiment cups and freeze it. They actually have their own little freezer purchased just to make sure they have food. I take out 4 cups for each meal. I have a rotation system going so that I’m not trying to feed them straught out of the freezerl There are always12 little cups in a tray in the top of my fridge. At each meal I remove the four cups in front and put four fresh out of the freezer in the back. By the time they make it to the front they are mostly thawed. Then all I do is put the food in snack bags and let them rest in hot water long enough to warm the food slightly. My ladies and boy snarf it right up!

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

    • 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!

  25. 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..

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

    • 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!

  28. 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)

  29. 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…

  30. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  31. 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?

    • 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.

  32. “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 ?

    • 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.

  33. 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

    • 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.

        • 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?

          • 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.

      • 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?

        • 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *