How to Make Your Own Cat Food

Here’s the deal. Yesterday, I wrote a detailed article about how to make your own dog food but my original plan was to cover how to make your own cat food as well. By the end of the dog section, I realized I didn’t have nearly enough space left to talk about the kitties so I decided to do a second article. If things go as I expect them to, I probably won’t be able to get to how to make your own dog and cat treats  in this one either so look for a third article in this series tomorrow focusing solely on treats for your kitties and pooches. The purpose of this article isn’t just to give you great recipes for cat food you can make at home. The purpose is to help you understand what your cat needs in his or her diet to be healthy so you can experiment with your own recipes and offer them something they’ll enjoy that will still meet all their nutritional needs.

My Mookie as a kitten.

My Mookie, as a kitten.

How to Make Your Own Cat Food: The Ingredients

There are some who insist you absolutely must have a grinder if you’re making your own cat food. There are others who insist a grinder is not at all necessary. Then there are some who fall in the middle. I am in the middle. While you certainly don’t need a grinder to make your own cat food, I would highly recommend investing in one. I’ve played both sides of the fence. When I started making my own cat food, I didn’t use a grinder. Within a very short amount of time, I realized using a grinder was not only more efficient but cut back on costs as well. Because of the basic dietary needs of our feline friends, choosing ground meat from the grocery store means having to add in all sorts of supplements to make sure they are getting what they need. In my case, it was adding bone meal to each recipe. By using a grinder, I’ve removed the need for bone meal, cutting back on the cost, even if just a little bit.

With the grinder discussion out of the way, it’s time to get into the next debate – raw food VS. cooked food. There are strong arguments on both sides of the debate. Cooking the food you offer your cat can reduce the nutrient content in the food. On the other hand, giving your cat raw food can expose them to harmful bacteria that could make them sick. So which is best? I like to tread the middle ground here. I partially cook the meats I give my cats, Mookie and Steve, or, at the very least, make sure it has been well cleaned and is as fresh as possible. I don’t fully cook the food to preserve as much of the nutritional value as I can but when I do cook it at all, I just cook it well enough to get the surface bacteria.

I don’t give Mookie and Steve a lot in terms of vegetables. Cats are carnivores. In the wild, they would be eating birds, mice and other small mammals. They are hunters by nature and consume most of what they catch, including the bones. This brings us back to the grinder. When I grind meat for Mookie and Steve, I leave the bones in, making sure those bones are finely ground before I offer the meat to the cats. Any bones or pieces of bone left in the grinder are disposed of. The bones need to be finely ground before they get to the cats or you are putting the cats in danger. This couldn’t be more important so make sure you remember it.

If you’ve opted out of using a grinder, you’re going to want to make sure you add bone meal to every recipe you make. Bones contain important nutrients your cat needs to stay as healthy as possible. Now, let’s talk about skin. How much skin you leave on the meat depends on your cat. If your cat has health issues such as pancreatitis or is overweight, you’re going to want to remove about 3/4 of the skin on the meat. If your cat is thin and needs to gain a little weight, you’ll leave all of the skin on the meat. If you’re cat is neither too skinny nor too chubby, take about half of the skin off the meat. This gives your cat the level of fat he or she needs to be healthy. If you have multiple cats that have different weights, prepare different batches of food. It might be a little more expensive and more time consuming but it’s the best way to ensure each of your cats has what he or she needs.

Leaving the skin on the meat isn’t always enough to give your cat the fat content they need. Cats are high energy animals. They like to run around and play. The calorie content is important. With that said, you don’t want to make them overweight. A reasonable amount of fat is still important though. Don’t cut the fat off the meat you give your cats. Some even like to add a little bit of bacon fat to the food they make for skinnier cats to up the fat content and to give their food a little extra flavor. Both of my cats are thin, fit cats so I don’t find adding bacon fat to their food is necessary although I do sometimes add a little bit to their meal as a treat if I’ve made bacon for myself.

I only use chicken, turkey or rabbit for my cats’ staple diet. I sometimes give them fish to give them variety and to make sure they don’t get tired of their normal diet. My cats are finicky and won’t eat something if they’re bored of it. Sure they’ll eat it when they get hungry enough but I don’t like forcing them to eat something they don’t enjoy. Now, for the chicken and turkey, I stick to dark meat mostly, really only using breasts when I feel like changing it up. Breasts just don’t have all that much fat which doesn’t make them an ideal choice for your cat’s staple diet. Rabbit is also very low in fat and is generally skinned before it gets to your kitchen. That means the fat content is even lower. When I make cat food using rabbit, I always add in a little chicken or turkey to up the fat content.

Now let’s talk about vegetables and grains before we get to the recipes. Our cats are not like us. They do not need the same things we do. Humans are omnivores meaning we need both plants and meats to be healthy. Cats are carnivores. They do not need plant matter to be healthy. Some do like adding a small amount of vegetables to their cat food. I don’t, but in the end, it is a personal choice. If your cat was a wild animal and not a domestic one, it may, in fact, probably get a small amount of plant matter in its diet but it would be indirect consumption. In other words, any plant matter your cat would get in the wild would come from the stomach or intestines of some other animal it ate. For that reason, that would be a very, very small part of their diet. Cats don’t have the necessary enzymes in their bodies to break down plant matter and extract nutrients from it. Grains are the same basic principle.

If you are going to put vegetables in your cat’s food, stick to a very small amount. Vegetables should make up less than 5% of your cat’s diet. In addition, you’re not going to want to feed them vegetables raw. You want your cat to get as much out of them as you can so instead of raw veggies, steam them first. Steaming them will help lock in the nutrients and will help your cat get the most nutrients out of them possible. Again though, vegetables really aren’t necessary. Your cat will get everything it needs out of a meat based diet.

My Steve.

My Steve.

How to Make Cat Food: The Recipe

Okay, we’ve talked enough about ingredients. It’s time to move on to the recipes. I’ve only chosen to include one recipe for this article because I think this one gives you the basic idea of what a healthy meal for your kitty should consist of. Don’t be afraid to experiment though. This isn’t the only recipe you can use. Play around with different combinations and ideas and see what works for you. Before we do dive in though, I want to point out one thing that is very important. Before you switch your four legged friend to a homemade diet, you should consult with your vet. Some cats do have special dietary needs and you want to make sure you meet those needs. Your vet should be able to tell you if the meal plan you’ve come up with will work and if not, they should be able to point you in the direction of a nutritionist that specializes in animals so you can be certain the meals you’re making are the best meals for your kitty. Okay, enough talking. Let’s get to the recipe.

To make this recipe, you’ll need:

  • 4.4 lbs. chicken thighs or drumstick (with bone)
  • 14 oz. chicken heart
  • 7 oz. chicken liver
  • 2 cups of water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 capsules raw glandular supplement (available at most health food stores)
  • 4, 000 mg salmon oil
  • 536 mg Vitamin E (powdered capsules are easiest to use)
  • 200 mg Vitamin B-Complex
  • 1.5 tsp. salt with iodine
  • 4 tsp. powdered psyllium husk (available at more health food stores)

*This food can be made and frozen but if you’re planning to go in that direction, add a capsule of taurine and a few drops of salmon oil to the food every couple of days as some of the nutritional value from these ingredients may be lost when frozen and thawed.
Step One: Remove the skin from the meat and remove the meat from the bones.
Step Two; Cut up the meat into small chunks. Set aside for later.
Step Three: Toss the skin, liver, raw bones (make sure they’re raw as cooked bones can splinter) and heart into your grinder and grind it up.
Step Four: Put the mixture from the grinder into a bowl and set it aside.
Step Five: Pour your water into a bowl and mix in all of your remaining ingredients (not the ingredients you set aside in step 4) but leave out the psyllium.
Step Six: Mix in the psyllium.
Step Seven: Mix the meat from step 2, the mixture from step 4 and the mixture from step six together, making sure you mix it all together well.
Step Eight: Divide the mixture up into portions and pour those portions into plastic containers, being careful not to overfill the containers. The lids could pop off and then the food would be no good. Date and label each container so you know what is in it and when it was made.

I’m going to finish up with a note about serving this food. It needs to be thawed in the fridge before serving it but it should never be microwaved and it should never be allowed to sit out after thawing for more than 48 hours. The food will go bad and could make your kitty sick. Also, this recipe also works if you want to use rabbit. Just use the whole rabbit and add in meat from chicken thighs or turkey thighs until the mixture is roughly 20-25% chicken or turkey meat.

  • kelley

    Is it possible to have a place like whole foods put all the meat in the grinder as is (without pulling the skin and meat off the bone)? I am trying to do raw without buying a grinder.

    • Tamara

      Yes it is possible(at least in Michigan), I asked my small family owned local grocery store if I could buy the cuts of meat from them and have them grind the meat including the bone. They said yes without any hesitation or extra charge, although I am a frequent well known customer. I suggest going to a small or family owned grocery store or deli instead of the big chain grocery stores,. Family owned are usual provide better customer service and loyalty. The big chain stores all have their employees trained to do things one way as well as have certain rules and regulations

  • Ashley Gaspar

    Friend of mine just uses whole muskrat, skinned, then frozen to kill parasites. Once the carcass has been frozen for a month, they thaw it in the fridge and then toss the whole thing into a grinder and portion it into baggies. You keep it in the freezer, only taking one portion out the day before to thaw overnight in the fridge. Thier animals are pretty healthy on that, despite it never being cooked. Cats are pretty resilient to things like salmonella or other raw-meat diseases that would seriously affect humans, which makes sense considering what even domestic cats eat outside (whole mice, baby rabbits, birds, etc) The only thing they seem to have trouble with is parasites, but that’s easily rectified with a deep freeze.