Can I feed my cat homemade food?

Yes, you can feed your cat homemade food but you must do your homework to ensure that the food is balanced and contains the required nutrients that cats demand as strict carnivores. You should, really, consult your veterinarian, although I can see the reluctance to do it. This is the weakness of preparing homemade cat food. Concerned cat guardians want to do right by their cat. They might believe that commercially manufactured cat foods are not good enough. There is quite a lot of criticism on the Internet about commercially prepared foods. Not all of it is bad. Indeed, there is a lot of high quality cat food on the market but it is expensive and the cheapest offers lots of fillers in it such as cereal and carbohydrates. Aware cat owners want to do better for their cats.

Raw food diet for cats. Picture in public domain.

However, in attempting to do better they can do worse if they do not do their research first. It is a point made by the veterinarians who don’t like cat owners preparing homemade foods because they believe they won’t do it well enough. And a study from the New University of Guelph tends to support their viewpoint.

New University of Guelph study

A recent study of 3,600 pet owners in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, revealed that only one third of domestic cats are eating commercially prepared cat food exclusively. In other words, two thirds of cats are being provided with non-standard foods in addition to commercial foods. The percentage is considerably higher for dogs. Eighty-seven percent of dogs are not fed exclusively commercially manufactured foods. I suspect that the figure is higher for dogs because people know that they are omnivores rather than strict carnivores as for cats. They therefore believe the dog can accept a wider range of foods and even foods which are not particularly nutritious.

Dr Sarah Dodd who studies pet nutrition and is a veterinarian and PhD candidate at U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College said that she was shocked by the statistics. She didn’t expected it. And there appears to be a trend with more people feeding unconventional foods than before.

Premix and raw meat cat food diet. Photo of mince by BobPetUK

Geographic variation

Australians are more likely to feed raw foods to their pets while Canadians and New Zealanders were more conventional in their attitude. Dr Dodd believes that the reason is that cat and dog guardians see their companion animals as family members and want to do as good as they can for them but then can get it wrong. They want to reduce the consumption of processed foods by their pets. On some occasions they want to transfer their pets to plant-based foods.

Associated pages

Vegetarian

Vegetarian cat food. Photo: PoC.

There is certainly a discussion going on about feeding dogs and cats vegetarian diets. This can’t be done for cats but there is a pet food manufacturer creating vegetarian food for cats which I believe has the requisite added nutrients in it. People should not do this informally and prepare it at home because they cannot guarantee that the food contains the right nutrients.

Imbalance of nutrients

Dr Dodds worries about the nutrient deficiencies that can happen in homemade pet diets when they are improperly formulated. She says that the most common problem is the imbalance in the quantities and ratios of vitamin D, phosphorus and calcium. This can cause health problems in puppies and kittens.

She even goes so far as to say that she often sees the effects of improper diets in her veterinary clinics. She refers to “fractures or growth stunting or severe skeletal deformities that come on fast because these animals are growing so fast”.

This upsets her because her clients, as mentioned, are trying to improve their cat’s diet. They are not trying to save money. They believe that they are going above and beyond and making an effort to do what’s right for their cat or dog but regrettably are getting it wrong sometimes.

Raw and kibble cat food. Clearly the food on the right is unabalanced and not a good substitute. Photo: PoC.

It is important that pet owners seek proper guidance on the nutrients required by their dog or cat. Good, balanced commercial cat food is prepared carefully with all the added nutrients required. I agree that some of it is not high-quality and should not be bought. There is also a general dissent against dry cat food which is highly convenient but unnatural. This is probably partly why people are drifting towards home-made foods.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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