The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
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!

82 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.

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 http://www.gourmed.com/ does not cause dental problems.

BethTerry
BethTerry

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.)

Aamina1
Aamina1

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

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. 

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!) 

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

@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.

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=

BethTerry
BethTerry

@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.

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.   

BethTerry
BethTerry

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.  :-)

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

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

BethTerry
BethTerry

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

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. 

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.

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

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)

 

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)

BethTerry
BethTerry

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!

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

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

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

@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.

BethTerry
BethTerry

@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.

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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