Homemade cat food—the best a cat can get?
There is nothing quite as heart-wrenching as the pair of huge eyes, repeated head-butts to the leg, and plaintive meowing accompanying your cooking efforts.
After 20 minutes, you finally give in and start preparing a tasty, homemade treat for your furball. And it’s game over.
Before long, this custom food routine becomes the norm—you might even find your cat doesn’t bother pestering you anymore but sits in a convenient spot, supervising your work.
You have been trained into home cooking for your cat—but are you doing the best thing nutritionally?
Let’s take a look at the truth about home cooking for cats—the nutritional facts, the reasons we do it, and whether our felines truly benefit from homemade cat food.
Why do some cat parents prefer homemade food?
Making your own cat food is part and parcel of being a cat parent in many households.
The reasons for cooking for your cat are wide-ranging—the most common are:
- Perceived health benefits
- A desire to do something special for your feline friend
- Distrust of what’s in commercial cat food
- Health issues requiring a special diet
Perceived health benefits
If you make your own cat food, you can be sure that the ingredients you use are:
- Of the highest quality
- Free from anything that may harm your cat
Many exponents of home-cooked cat food use the same ingredients in their meals as they use for themselves—the weekly shopping list is merely expanded to include the extra meat your cat wants.
A desire to do something special for your furry friend
Cats are notoriously finicky and can happily eat whatever you have bought them for weeks, only to suddenly reject it out of hand for no apparent reason.
This rejection is often signalled with reproachful looks and the coldest of shoulders.
We may respond by trying to treat our pet—home-cooking is often accompanied with large dollops of affection, a side helping of cuddles, and a dessert of, “Look what we made specially for you.”
The result is reciprocated love—making us think that the only way is home-cooking.
Distrust of what’s in commercial cat food
Much of the cat food available in your local supermarket is vague about what it contains.
You would be justified in being cautious about the exact ingredients that go into a lot of commercial cat food.
The truth is that many manufacturers are deliberately cagey about exactly what goes into a can of dry food, as this gives them the freedom to alter recipes according to the price of ingredients.
The ingredient “meat and animal derivatives” could mean anything, and a label that says “with chicken” only needs to contain 4% chicken in the product. The rest of the meat content in the can could be pork, beef, processed animal by-products, or whatever the manufacturer has sourced at the lowest price.
Home-cooking for your feline friend guarantees that you are feeding them ethically and transparently.
Health issues requiring a special diet
Cats suffer from a variety of diet-related health issues, such as:
- Digestive problems
- Allergic reactions affecting skin and coat
- Dental trouble
- Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
All of these are manageable with dietary changes, as follows:
The diet should contain high-quality animal protein and include a source of dietary fibre to improve gut health
Skin and coat conditions
Good animal protein sources and the correct balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can help manage the inflammatory response in cats, thereby improving skin and coat condition
Tooth loss, gingivitis, or plaque are often made worse by low-quality foods and poor dental hygiene
The formation of struvite and oxalate crystals can be hindered by lowering the pH in the lower urinary tract—the high-quality protein in the diet achieves this
What do cats need in their diet?
A healthy diet means a healthy life
Image (c) Untamed
Cats are carnivores, meaning that their diet needs to be meat-based to ensure they receive the nutrients they need.
Nutrients are divided into the following groups:
- Essential vitamins
Proteins are made up of different combinations of the 22 amino acids and are the building blocks of muscle, hair, and skin. Cats, being carnivores, also use proteins to harness energy.
Kitties need a wide range of amino acids in their food, so the protein source you give them should be:
- As high-quality as possible
Cats can metabolise some proteins much better than others, and a good way to think about this is to look at the biological value of various protein sources.
The biological value determines how much of each protein source an average cat has to eat to give it the amino acids it requires.
Animal-based proteins score considerably higher than the best vegetable-based sources, but there are even differences within the various types of meat, as follows:
Biological value (how much of a protein source a cat can use)
Chicken or chicken liver
Tuna, prawns, sardines, salmon
Beef and pork, ham
Wheatgerm, corn, sweetcorn, and other vegetable proteins
You can use grains and cereals as a protein source, but your cat will need considerably more food to satisfy their amino acid needs. The inadequate nutrient balance in grains can also trigger food allergies.
The bottom line is—the better the protein you use, the healthier your cat will be.
Untamed uses only the best protein sources.
Image (c) Untamed
Cats don’t really need carbohydrates in their diets as long as the protein and fat content of their food is adequate to supply them with energy.
Carbs consist of sugars, starches, and fibres and can be used as a cheap and quickly accessible source of energy.
It is possible to bulk up your feline’s food with carbs, but this can have a detrimental effect on a cat’s digestive system, causing higher stool volume.
Similarly to the effect on us when we eat too much sugar, cats also store excess carbs that are not burned up as energy in the form of fatty deposits. The result of too many carbohydrates in your kitty’s diet can be weight gain—which can lead to diabetes, heart problems, and joint deterioration.
Fats provide your cat with essential fatty acids needed to maintain cell membrane structure.
It also delivers more than twice the calories per gram than proteins and carbs, so it should not be the preferable source of energy for your feline. The ideal cat diet should be loaded with lean whole meat that offers enough proteins as the main energy source.
Animal fat has a further trick up its sleeve—cats find it incredibly tasty. If you have a problem with your cat not eating, you may find that animal fat in the food will solve the problem. The issue here is that your cat CANNOT have too much of it in their diet. A high-fat diet is the main culprit behind feline obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Your cat needs vitamins to help chemical reactions take place in the body.
Vitamins are divided into two groups—fat-soluble and water-soluble—and a cat gets them from the following sources:
Water-soluble (B complex and C)
Your cat needs minerals as:
- Structural elements in bones and teeth
- Balancing agents for bodily fluids
- Catalysts for chemical reactions in the body
- Ingredients of metabolised compounds
The minerals that your cat needs are:
- Calcium—for bone and tooth formation
- Zinc—for the metabolism of fats, carbs, and protein into energy
- Magnesium—for muscle and tissue function
A cat can’t produce any of these, so they must be included in the diet.
What are the nutritional watch-outs you have to know?
Apart from the protein source you choose, there are a couple of further watch-outs in making sure your kitty gets what she needs, namely:
- Vitamin A
- Urine acidity
- Toxic ingredients
Taurine is an amino acid that your cat needs to:
- Make bile
- Prevent eye disease
- Maintain heart health
- Help with reproductive functions
Unlike dogs, cats can’t make taurine on their own, so it has to be part of their diet.
Taurine is found naturally in animal-based proteins, so your kitty will get what they need as long as your food is animal-based.
Too much vitamin A can cause bone malformations, most commonly along the spine and the front legs.
Vitamin A is found in large doses in the liver and other offal, so it would be wise to limit the amount of these products you use in your kitty’s diet, either home-cooked or other.
Anti-vitamins—such as avidin or thiaminase—bind vitamins together in the cat’s body, making them unavailable for absorption.
Anti-vitamins are destroyed by cooking, though—another reason why raw food may not be the best idea for cats.
Cats are prone to crystals forming in the bladder, making urination painful and occasionally causing bladder damage.
The most common types of crystal are struvite and oxalate, but you can hamper their formation by feeding your cat a diet that lowers the pH in the urinary tract—making it more acidic.
The easiest way to do this is to use high-quality animal protein—this has been proven to help maintain the correct pH level in the bladder.
Some ingredients should be avoided at all costs as they are toxic to cats. The most important of these are:
- Onions and garlic
- Chocolate and coffee
- Grapes and raisins
Many cat parents give their felines milk and dairy products as treats, but that is not recommended either. While not toxic, they have a high fat content and can also cause stomach upsets in lactose intolerant cats.
Even if your feline friend begs and meows at you for any of these dubious treats, you shouldn’t succumb to their pleading.
So, is homemade cat food a good idea?
If you understand the basics of cat nutrition and know what to be careful of, you can home-cook for your ball of fur with no worries.
You might, though, want to consider the following factors:
- Getting the ratios exactly right
- Taking your time
- Spending a pretty penny
- Holding back the years
Getting the ratios exactly right
Cat nutrition is a complex science—serious research on cat nutrition only began in the 1960s, and discoveries are being made every year.
There is one point that vets, nutritionists, and feline health experts all agree on—getting the balance between the nutrients is essential to give your cat a long and healthy life.
While homemade cat food is a labour of love for many, you need to be certain you get the correct amounts of protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals into every meal you prepare.
The ideal ratios for an average adult cat are:
Up to 20%
Taking your time
Preparing homemade food for your kitty can be incredibly labour-intensive—many cat parents admit to spending more time making Fifi-Trixie-Belle’s food than they take to prepare their own.
You may now be saying, “I can make a whole batch and freeze it for later.” At that point, your kitty will give you that look on day three, and you can start the whole process all over again.
Spending a pretty penny
Homemade cat food is probably the most expensive way you can think of to give your kitty what they want.
You may find yourself buying extra chicken, beef, or other meat on top of your own needs, and—if your cat has really got you twisted around her little finger—you might find yourself buying serious stuff like salmon, rabbit, or steak “as a special treat,” as well as cat jelly or cat gravy to make everything taste right.
If this is the case, you’ve been stitched up like a kipper—that kitty will probably eat from under your nose.
Holding back the years
Just like in humans, cats’ dietary needs change as they get older—a kitten can handle more energy-delivering fat in their diet than a 12-year-old. The same applies to the amount of protein and fibre required.
You will have to monitor your cat carefully and change your cooking habits accordingly. If you have several cats of different ages, you may even have to cook separately for each one.
Can you get special homemade cat food recipes?
If you are fretting about how to make homemade cat food, help is at hand in the form of easy cat food recipes on various home cooking websites.
Recipes for cat food come in all flavours and varieties, and you can find specialised advice and information on:
- How to make homemade cat food for kittens
- Homemade hypoallergenic cat food recipes
- Homemade cat food for diabetic cat recipes
- Cat food recipes for older cats
- Homemade food for Persian cats
The variety and availability of information is seemingly limitless, and you should be able to get answers to most of your questions with a quick search of the internet.
The only question that remains is whether you have to devote the time and effort required to home cooking—or whether there might be an alternative that gives you the homemade quality without the related stress.
How can Untamed give you that homemade experience?
Cats and boxes—a perfect combination, even more so when it’s a box full of Untamed.
Image (c) Untamed
At Untamed, we get cats.
Our team of nutritionists understands that you want to give your furry companion a home-cooked experience, but you need to know your companion is getting all the health benefits of a balanced and high-quality diet.
This is why we are committed to giving you and your cat:
- Human grade ingredients—We only use premium-quality meat and fish and are completely upfront about exactly what goes into our meals
- Ingredients cooked naturally to preserve the goodness—Our tailor-made meals are gently steam-cooked to preserve the nutrients and the taste, so we don’t need preservatives, flavour enhancers, or artificial additives
Hypoallergenic meals—We understand that cats are sensitive and can suffer from allergies to certain proteins. Our meals are minimally processed and made with natural ingredients only, meaning the risk of an allergic reaction is minimised. We also have single-protein options in our mix. Our Chocka Chicken and Tuck-in Tuna meals cater to the needs of kitties with super sensitive tummies
Take a look at our Recipes page to see what goes into Untamed meals and give it a try—you and your kitty will love what we offer! You won’t need to make a mess in the kitchen or rack your brain figuring out the nutrients to include in your homemade recipe.
Try us and see the difference!
Give your kitty the best with Untamed! Untamed offers a wide range of high-quality, tasty meals for your cat
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Within only a week of switching to Untamed, many cat owners have reported seeing numerous benefits. Here is what you can expect once your furry companion starts enjoying Untamed's tasty meals:
Week 54 onwards
The great news is that you can order a trial box of our nutritious cat food online and check it out for yourself֫—here’s how:
- Fill out our Try Now Quiz
- Get your feline’s customized meal plan
- Order your starter pack
Your order will arrive on your doorstep in no time, and you can start giving your kitty the home-cooked experience without the home-cooked hassle! If your cat likes our meals, we can deliver you a fresh batch every month. Our shipping is always free! You can also modify, cancel, or pause an order to suit your needs—our cat food subscription service honours your comfort and convenience!