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
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.
- 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.
- Instead of boiling the meat, we bake it in the oven at the same time we are baking the yams.
- Instead of adding butter (since dark meat has more fat than white meat anyway) we just add turkey drippings back to the recipe.
- We never did use the yeast.
- We don’t don’t need to use the food processor anymore since we have the butcher grind the meat for us.
- 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!