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October 29, 2008

Less Impact Cats eat homemade food

 

This is the amount of waste we have been generating each week to feed our cats since they came to live with us in December of last year. 21 BPA-lined cans to be recycled, as well as a cardboard case covered in plastic wrap. The cans never made it to my tally. While I avoid canned foods for us because of the BPA issue, I don’t include them in the tally because it’s impossible to separate out the weight of metal vs. plastic. Still, regardless of the plastic lining, this is a lot of waste. Yes, the cans can be recycled. But imagine how much energy could be saved if we could avoid the cans altogether!

(Our cats could never tolerate dry food.)

So, I went in search of homemade cat food recipes. I found all kinds of conflicting opinions. There are those who insist cats must eat raw meat to be healthy. And there are those who feel that cooked meat and grains are fine. Not wanting to short-change my pets, I called the Nutrition Clinic at the U.C. Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. They create custom homemade diets for pets. Unfortunately, not until they are over 1-year old.

Well, the time has come. The kitties had their 1-year birthday a couple of weeks ago. So I tried again. Success. The nutritionist referred me to the BalanceIT website. You fill out a quick questionnaire for each animal (they create diets for dogs as well) reporting its gender, weight, neuter-status, etc. and then select a protein source and a starch source from drop-down menus. The computer does the rest. I chose chicken, and knowing that my cats used to have digestive problems any time they were fed grains, chose sweet potato as the starch.

(See 12/21/09 Update at the end of this post)

Here are the ingredients in our recipe (without amounts, since every animal has different needs):

cooked white chicken meat
cooked mashed sweet potato
butter
Balance It supplement

I ordered the supplement (unfortunately, it’s not sold in stores), and it arrived the next day. Here is what the ingredients look like:


Weekly waste will be 1 waxed paper butter wrapper. Bi-monthly waste will be the plastic supplement container. And the occasional shipping box. If I order more than one bottle at a time, I’ll cut down on even that.

The biggest challenge was figuring out how to buy the chicken without plastic. First, I took my stainless steal canister to Berkeley Bowl and asked that my chicken be placed directly into the container without plastic or paper. The response was, “No. We’re not allowed to do that.” “Okay,” I said, “I’ll put everything back and shop elsewhere.” And I did. I returned the bread and butter I’d already picked up and headed to Whole Foods.

Whole Foods was a little more expensive. But the butcher didn’t bat an eye when I asked him to put my chicken in the canister. And he had no problem first deducting the weight of the container. I carried everything home in my bike basket and got to work.

I boiled the chicken and baked the yams. (Yes, they’re yams instead of sweet potatoes. I think it’s okay.) Next time, I will probably cook the yams in the microwave to speed up the process. Then, I put the ingredients in my food processor in batches and mixed it up.

Finally, I used old plastic containers (yogurt, etc.) that we still had in the house to divide up the food into 7 days. (I’m thinking storing the food in Polypropylene is healthier than the BPA in which their commercial food was packed.) To each container, I mixed in 2 scoops of supplement (2 scoops for 2 cats.) I may try adding nutritional yeast (the blue container in the photo) next time and see if it helps with fleas. Forgot to do it this time. Anyone have experience giving yeast to cats?

Not sure how long the fresh food would keep, we put 3 containers in the refrigerator and 4 in the freezer.

And the big question: What do Soots and Arya think?


They go crazy for this stuff. They love it. They whine and cry and beg for more. (Yes, Arya is back wearing the plastic cone after having the metal rod removed from her leg last week.)

I know there are quite a few cat owners who read this blog and may have ideas and suggestions. Please fire away. I’d love to hear what you think.

12/21/09 Update: The cats are bigger now, of course, so the proportions have changed.  I won’t give you amounts, since to get the recipe right, you really need to enter your pet’s information at petdiets.com.

We have also changed some ingredients in the interest of simplicity.

  1. Instead of chicken, we feed them ground dark meat turkey, which we buy in the same stainless steel pot from the Whole Foods meat counter.
  2. Instead of boiling the meat, we bake it in the oven at the same time we are baking the yams.
  3. Instead of adding butter (since dark meat has more fat than white meat anyway) we just add turkey drippings back to the recipe.
  4. We never did use the yeast.
  5. We don’t don’t need to use the food processor anymore since we have the butcher grind the meat for us.
  6. We store daily portions in the Anchor glass refrigerator containers I wrote about early this year.  We keep two containers in the refrigerator and the rest in the freezer.

The kitties still love their homemade food!



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59 comments
Emma12
Emma12

Have you been feeding dry dog food to your dog only because you were told that it prohibited tarter and dental disease? Do you feel remorseful when you add canned food because of the harm that it may cause? Dry food does not avert dental disease and wet or canned food does not cause dental problems.

Aamina1
Aamina1

Nice article! Love your plastic free values. Wonder why you still use a microwave though? 

TruthTeller7788
TruthTeller7788

You seriously got duped by a "nutritionist". Cats don't need "supplements". And they don't eat sweet potatoes. They eat raw meat and animal "parts". There are also certain grasses and berries they eat as well. Just because they like something doesn't mean its good for them. We're not God. We didn't create cats. Thus, we can't decide what is good for them. If we're smart, we will notice what is. 

Nami Chati
Nami Chati

I've been using nutritional yeast in my cats' food for two summers now- they are indoor/outdoor during the warmer months. In these two summers, I have not used commercial flea prevention, nor has it seemed my cats have needed it. Their diet is currently EVO wet one large can gets one tablespoon of nutritional yeast. (Though after reading this article today, I am going to do some price checking to see what the cost difference in making their food would be!) 

Jan
Jan

Beth,

Just wanted to give you a heads up regarding Balance It supplement ingredients being revised a bit as of this month. It says that if you have a recipe from somewhere else which you do, you need to contact the place you got the recipe from and see if the amount you use in the recipe needs to be changed. Here's the link:

(see 3/18/13 Important Notice):

https://secure.balanceit.com/marketplace2.2/details.php?i=7&cc=

Jan
Jan

Beth,

How do you heat it up after you take it out of the fridge?  I know you can't use the microwave because it'll destroy the vitamins so do you just let it sit until it warms up or do you use warm water, etc?

Thanks.

Rhiannon
Rhiannon

Beth, I apologize!!  My goodness, I must reread my posts before I press post.  I meant to say that I contacted balanceit and that site gave me the recipe with the higher carb amount.  Then I posted before I got my recipe from petdiets.  I just got it and it is a better recipe in my opinion as it's lower in sweet potato than the one from bi and higher in chicken.  So again, sorry about that post! 

Rhiannon
Rhiannon

Beth, contacted them both - your recipe is way lower in carb and higher in chicken than the recipes they gave me; not sure if you changed it on your own or not but you might want to check with them if you did to see if that's ok in the long run as changing ingredient amounts changes the nutrrient profile.  So if they're getting extra meat, than they're getting extra phosphorus and the phosphorus:calcium ratio could be off, amongst other things.     

Rhiannon
Rhiannon

Thanks Beth.  I'm going to contact Pet Diets and inquire about a dark meat/sweet potato recipe; the recipe I currently have is one that I got from the Balance It site and it uses chicken breast.  I think it would be easier to use dark as you can get it already ground and, of course, I wouldn't use oil if they're fattier.  I didn't know though that thighs are lower in protein than breasts, I will inquire about that.   

Rhiannon
Rhiannon

Hi Beth, I just contacted Balance It and asked them if I could use dark chicken meat instead of chicken breast and omit the oil but they said that typically you can't substitute ground chicken for chicken breast as chicken thigh is much fattier and has much less protein.  So I'm wondering why it was okay for you to use dark turkey meat instead of chicken breast?

rtqcaz
rtqcaz

Thanks for the cat food posting. I wonder how a 14 year old cat would accept the change from dry. Guess I'll find out after a little research of course. Bob

thetotalcatstore
thetotalcatstore

Hi everyone, I was just reading thru the blogs. Its great that we are all trying to eliminate all the extra trash but keep in mind the nutritional needs for your felines. They are obligated carnivores. No grains or carbs should be in their diet. I feed a homemade raw diet. NOT COOKED. Their body needs the enzymes from the raw meat in order to utilized the nutrients. Cook food has never been a natural diet for your felines. Raw is the answer. Ive been doing for over 5 years now and which great success and many health aliments improved. Like CRF. To assure you have a balance raw diet there are suppliments you must add. The raw diet should mimic that of a natural prey they would have caught, like a mouse, which is the staple of a wild felines diet. I use the TC Feline Premix. We sell this on at our store TheTotalCat.com. 

Rhiannon
Rhiannon

I want to try this as I go through tons of cans per week too - I went to the balance it site but they have 2 different supplements - one that you add meat and a carb to and one that you just add meat to so it's a bit hard to decide which one to get. 

 

thetotalcatstore
thetotalcatstore

How to make you own RAW CAT FOOD and be assured it’s a balanced meal. Try “TC Feline Premix” at TheTotalCat(dot com). A premix with over 17 years success of selling to feline households and a 14 year feed trail. Visit TheTotalCat(dot com)

 

Torie
Torie

I don't know if you are still feeding cats this way four years later. We got kittens this year (2012) and have been feeding raw meat pieces. Cats and dogs do not need or use vegetable matter and do better with raw, but not ground, meat. Look up raw feeding or whole prey model feeding. I have learned so much and my cats love it and look and act great. Just give 'em appropriately sized pieces of a variety of meats with just a little organ and bone and they thrive.

 

I buy from grocery stores but will look into your suggestions to find other ways to reduce the plastic that comes with buying meat.

kathybailey
kathybailey

I was surprised that you said you would use a microwave to bake your cats sweet potatoes.  Yikes, microwaves are not good for people as they change the molecular structure of the food.  Try doing this experiment.  Give one plant tap water and one plant microwaved water.  Watch what happens.  The one with microwaved water will wilt and then die.  Not an experiment that I would want to try on me or my cats.  I am sure that you would agree.  Kathy

Cindy Nipper
Cindy Nipper

My dog has severe allergies and has been eating homemade food for several months now! Pork, Pinto Beans and Pumpkin for one meal and Fish and Sweet Potatoes for the second.  For snacks we like frozen bananas, apple slices and cut up carrots.

It's a lot of work to prepare, but I use the oven and crockpot as much as possible!  After cooking, I use canning jars in single servings amount but don't mix the ingredients.  I think it last longer and I just buy when I get low of one or two items.  I keep about 4 of each in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

 

I'm now growing my own pumpkins and hope to plant sweet potatoes soon!  I'm new to the concept of plastic free, but have been removing plastic from the kitchen as far as food storage.  I buy the food in the largest container I can find.  

 

Thanks for all the great advice on this site!!

Andrea Buford
Andrea Buford

I just bought the supplement and the recipes for my two cats. The recipe is not all that clear. Do you blend or food-process the whole mixture so that it resembles the pate of the canned food (the canned food that my two cars are accustomed to)? Or would that just liquify it, which would be disgusting? Andrea

Cram Course
Cram Course

My son has a farm and his cats never get "store bought" food. Instead he feeds them chicken parts when he cleans his free-range chickens. He also feeds them rice but at least half of their diet must be hunted on the farm. He gets the females fixed and regularly adopts. He doesn't have too many cats or rats!

Condo Blues
Condo Blues

I make dog treats but not dog food. My dog is very jealous of your cats!

Lily
Lily

Lucky cats. What struck me is how you considered the carbon trail left by your lovely companions and actually doing something about it. Wholesale Beads http://www.beadnshop.com

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Thanks for letting me know, MB. I just fixed the link. Be aware that you will still have a plastic BalanceIT container to recycle, but it will be a lot less waste than all those cans.

mb
mb

delighted to see this post (i got here through one of your more current posts about the containers, but the kitty food is what i was most interested in!) the link to the petdiets calculator isn't working, any chance it needs to be updated? i would love to start doing this for my kitty, the cans from her food are the only thing i put in the recycling bin now, and i'm ready to just cancel my curbside altogether...

Andrea
Andrea

I think it's wonderful that you keep from wasting so much plastic! However, it seems odd that part of the reason you do this is health reasons, yet you use a microwave??

Carol Steinel
Carol Steinel

We've been making our kitty-food for a couple of years, using the Feline Instincts supplement powder (raw organic turkey and chicken livers is the meat we add) -- originally to help a beloved kitty with some health problems. We strive to keep our plastic use way down, and like you, Beth, our kitty needs are one place that has been difficult. I just watched your TED talk (bravo!), and it never occurred to me just ASK the Feline Instincts folk to change their packaging. Doh! I'll be writing them later today. Thanks for all you do in your life -- it inspires me to keep going with reduce, recycle, re-use. We generate very little garbage compared to many, but I know we can do better -- thanks for helping me look at "what else?"

AJ
AJ

Half of my cats' diets are mice... they're pretty fierce hunters... I figure that's completely natural and healthy... maybe I can convince them to catch more wild food.

daffydumpling
daffydumpling

Back in the 50's, my mother occasionally fed our cat raw beef kidney's...chopped up. It was astounding how much he loved them. He behaved like a cat on catnip.

Justine
Justine

I've heard that cats need a little bit of organ meat in there too(about 5% of the meat should be liver or heart.) I wonder if the vitamin mix takes care of it so it's not needed. I have such a finicky cat, it would be great if this worked for her. Did you need to heat it up before feeding or could you serve cold from the fridge?

TJ
TJ

What a great idea! Lately I've been mixing baked jewel yams into Oscar and Checker's wet food feeding. They love it. And are relaxed after to play. Must be the high levels of potassium. I have an idea to make cat muffins feedings. They can be made with ground meat, fish or fowl, an egg, yams, beets, broccoli, and some white or brown rice and peas. Easy to freeze pack with Mr. Glad sticky freezer wrap. Keep moist thru the baking with chicken or fish broth.

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Kylyssa, your kitty is beautiful! Looks like our. And I totally know what you mean. I am so in love with Soots these days, I think I may neglect Michael because of him. If only Michael would grow more fur...

Kylyssa
Kylyssa

I've been feeding home made cat food on and off, but mostly on for over twenty years. My cats have lived long, healthy lives. Two of my cats passed away last year at ages 19 and twenty and my remaining cat is 20 with no sign of health problems.I have found that it's actually cheaper to feed homemade cat food than to feed high quality canned food. I don't use organic food though, I just shop at the local grocery stores and use the same giant bag of frozen chicken breasts I buy for me and my partner. If I weren't disabled and broke, I'd probably buy organic and free-range. You can see a picture of my old man kitty here - he's the kitty love of my life.

lispet
lispet

I don't think I could handle making food for my cats. I'm a vegetarian and I won't cook meat for my omni husband and daughter let alone my cats (who, I realise, are carnivorous by nature and I'm perfectly okay with that). I feed them Hill's prescription diet which comes in a paper bag. No wet stuff for these kitties. I tried convincing my hubby to make food for them, but he's not that interested in conserving much of anything...

ALMOST MRS AVERAGE
ALMOST MRS AVERAGE

Beth that's great. I know Mrs Green cooks for her cat too. I'm not quite ready for it yet....perhaps one day :-D

Briana Beck
Briana Beck

Oh, and I didn't mention that the pet food deli offers a discount for returning the plastic 5-lb tubs which they refill and reuse many times - limited plastic waste!

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@Aamina1  Hi.  I should update this post because we still cook the yams in the oven, not the microwave.  That said, we do still use a microwave to reheat foods or heat water because the microwave is much more energy efficient for small quantities of food.

http://sierraclub.typepad.com/greenlife/2012/09/microwave-or-stove-whats-efficient.html

We bought our microwave secondhand from someone on Craigslist.

I know there is concern about microwave radiation leaking and microwave cooking changing the molecular structure of the food.  But any kind of heating changes the molecular structure.  So far, I haven't seen enough evidence that microwave cooking is harmful, and I do think it's important to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we use.  (Our stove is natural gas, by the way.)

Rhiannon
Rhiannon

@TruthTeller7788 Even people who feed raw add supplements such as taurine, vitamin B, vitamin E, calcium and salt.  Just feeding meat would not be sufficient as it lacks certain nutrients.  For example, the phosphorus and calcium ratio has to be balanced.  Meat is very high in phosphorus but lacks calcium so if you fed meat without calcium, the diet would be deficient and the cat would become ill. Taurine is also extremely important; even though it's naturally in meat, people always add more to make sure the cat is getting enough as a deficiency can cause heart failure. 

If you're talking about the fact that they should live on mice, sure, that would be great but it's impractical,  not all cats live outside and have a steady supply. 

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@Jan Thanks.  I'll update the post so it doesn't give any specific amounts.  People should use the recipe generator on the site to figure out the amounts.  I'll have to check and see if this applies to the bottles we already have or just those we purchase in the future.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@Jan Hi.  You're right, I don't microwave it.  I add some warm water to it, which helps to warm the food and gives them extra liquid in their diet.  Also, my cats don't mind eating cool/cold food.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Hi Rhiannon.  That was a decision we made on our own, and our cats seem to be very healthy on it.  But I haven't done a lab analysis, so I can't guarantee that it's perfect.  I just know that our cats don't get sick (unless they eat plastic!)  Their coats are very shiny and they are sturdy beasts.  Muscle-bound, even.  :-)

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @thetotalcatstore Hi.  I appreciate this opinion but also recognize that there are varying opinions all over the web and what to feed our pets will depend on various factors including where we live and what kind of lifestyle we have.  In a day or so, I will post an update.  Our cats have been eating this diet for 5 years and are beautiful, shiny, and healthy.  It works for us.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Hi.  I think you should probably check with an expert on which one to choose.  Since I'm not a veterinarian, I can only tell you what we do and what works for our cats.  But I can't advise for yours.  :-)

thetotalcatstore
thetotalcatstore

I would sugg only using one that uses meat. Cats do NOT need carbs. Matter of fact that normally cause obsity and health issue. Cat are obligated carnivores, meaning they really only need meat in their diet. But to provide a balance meal, you need to add suppliments to any meat we buy to give. I use tc feline premix. There two versions one with and without liver. I use the with liver version so I only add meat , the premix and water. Its simple. Check it out on thetotalcat.com

VeryCoolCat
VeryCoolCat

@thetotalcatstore ok I checked out your site and the premix is pretty simple BUT you are pushing a RAW diet and many RAW advocates would tell you that your method is WRONG too! Using ground and NO BONES is a no-no to some hardcore groups. It doesn't matter that the mix emulates whole prey. So you see, you're method isn't perfect either yet you chose this way. There is nothing wrong with the posted method either. Leave it at that.

VeryCoolCat
VeryCoolCat

@thetotalcatstore really pushing that site aye? Listen.....RAW is not the ONLY way to feed. Its like the difference between being a ovo-lacto-vegetarian and a vegan. Nuance and personal choice. Not everyone can spend hundreds on a proper meat grinder. This solution is an option to commercial pet food and is easily accessible to the average person without having to handle the raw diet. I feed raw to one of my dogs. He does fine but it is also messy. I feed prepared to another because he will not touch raw. Raw people have to stop pushing their agenda so hard. It really turns people off.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Hi Torie.  We do still feed them this way and they are shiny and healthy and happy.  Whether to feed raw or cooked is a personal decision, but no matter which way you feed your cats, it's great to reduce as much packaging as possible.  I hope you can find a butcher shop that will let you bring your own container!

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @kathybailey Hi Kathy.  I actually need to update this post.  We bake the yams or sweet potatoes in the oven now.  I think we only used the microwave a couple of times.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Andrea. Actually, nowadays, we buy ground turkey, so we don't have to blend or food process it.

Jan
Jan

@BethTerry That's a good idea.  I contacted petdiets and they said the amount of supplement would change and gave me the new amount.  The new bottles say on them that 1 red scoop = 2.32 g.

I found out today too that I was using the wrong amount.  According to my  recipe from petdiets it says to add one red scoop of balanceit and that will equal 4 g.  But I was looking at my bottle today and it said that one red scoop equals 5.3 g.  So I've been adding too much.  Will have to contact petdiets again and see if that was ok.  I wonder if balanceit changed the amount in their red scoop from 4 g to 5.3 g in the past so if you had an old recipe from petdiets you would never know to change the amount.

Jan
Jan

@BethTerry Thanks Beth, I'll try the warm water and see if my cats like that - if they don't find it warm enough, guess I'll start adding the supplement after warming up in microwave instead of before. I must say your cats are the most laid back, unfussiest cats I've heard of. They'll eat anything and don't mind chilly food; you are so lucky

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