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Complete Guide to Homemade Cat Food 2021

Want to make your own homemade cat food but not sure where to start?

Making your own cat food is confusing with so many different opinions on what is the best diet for cats.

Some guides provide advice that goes against your cat’s natural diet or contains harmful ingredients.

Read on to learn how to make your own homemade cat food that helps you save money.


Homemade cat food

In this article, I’ll go into detail about how you can make your own homemade cat food.

I will go into detail about what cats need to eat for health, the common pitfalls to avoid when making your own cat food, as well as tips and guidelines to make your own homemade cat food.

My name is Derrick, and I write for Simply Cat Care. Our goal with this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions relating to your cat’s health.

Let’s get into the article:


Complete Guide to Making Your Own Homemade Cat Food

Understand Your Cats Dietary Need For Health

Knowing what your cat needs to eat is important when considering making your own homemade cat food.

Cats are obligate carnivores which means they need meat in their diet. They adapted to eating animal foods for health, but not plant-based foods.

In the wild, a cat hunts and eats small prey such as rodents and birds.

Without man intervention (i.e. supplements and food processing), it is impossible for a cat to survive without animal-based foods.

Why can’t cats survive without animal-based foods?

If cats don’t consume animal foods they suffer nutritional deficiencies which lead to disease and death.

Cat’s have many unique features specialized for meat-eating which include:

  • Low levels of carbohydrate digesting enzymes to extract energy from plant based foods
  • A small digestive system which isn’t able to digest and tolerate high volume foods
  • Low thirst levels which lead to dehydration and urinary health problems without moisture in the diet (i.e. meats)
  • Inability to acquire nutrients from plant-based foods (e.g. Vitamin A, Vitamin D, essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids such as taurine)
  • Lack of liver detoxifying enzymes needed to process plant-based foods (e.g. garlic, onion)
  • High rates of gluconeogenesis (process of converting protein to sugar in the liver for energy) and inability to adapt to low protein diets

Without the intervention of man, a cat can’t survive without animal-based foods.

What is the typical diet composition of a cat?

Cat’s consume a diet that is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates.

When analyzing the data on a wild cat’s typical dietary intake, scientists found the following intake compared to humans:

Diet Comparison of Cats vs Humans

CarbFatProtein
Wild prey based diet 1-230-6830-68
Commercial cat food diet15-3520-5030-40
Human diet553015
Human low carb diet205030
Inuit diet85042
Source: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00360-010-0528-0

In the research setting, cats given a choice of food to eat gravitate towards a lower carbohydrate diet.

Research finds that cats prefer a macronutrient sweet spot of 52% protein, 36%, and 12% carbohydrate.

This arrives at a dietary intake of 26g/day protein, 9g/day fat, and 8g/day of carbohydrate.

What happens when cats don’t get the right type of diet?

Cat’s given the wrong type of diet may reject food and/or develop health problems.

It is well known to many people that cats are ‘fussy’:

This might be due to getting too much of the wrong food.

Researchers suggest a carbohydrate ceiling effect of 300kj/71kcal (or about 17g of carbohydrate).

After eating this amount of carbohydrate, cats may start to reject further food or beg for other foods higher in protein.

Another way of looking at this is a high carbohydrate diet won’t satisfy your cat’s meaty cravings (even if kibble tastes like meat).

When given a preference, cats eat a diet that is low in carbohydrates (only consuming 8g/day).

One case report of a cat fed a vegan diet showed chronic urinary tract blockages. The diet contained a lot of cooked vegetables and plant-based foods.

Why do cats enjoy eating dry cat food?

Many cat food manufacturers entice cats to eat their food by adding meat flavors.

This entices cats to accept dry foods as they seem meaty based on smell.

Some cats will reject diets no matter how chock full of flavoring it gets (and go on a so-called ‘hunger strike‘). This may be due to the carbohydrate ceiling effect.

Habits also form a large part of dietary intake. A cat develops their tastes in kittenhood, which influence adult dietary intake.

Cat’s may experience neophobia (i.e. the aversion to new foods) which may result in rejection of other foods.

If your cat is a dry food lover, it may take time to switch to wet cat food or a homemade diet.

That said, my opinion is its food quality that matters most.

My cat has no problem getting excited if I roast a chicken breast or steak, begging for a taste of delicious freshly cooked meat.

“Give the cat the thing (meat) and you will have the power”.

That’s how that line goes, isn’t it?

How are cats diet needs different from dogs and humans?

Cats are true carnivores whilst dogs and humans are omnivores.

This means cats need meat to survive and thrive whilst man and dog can survive on a mixture of plant-based foods and/or animal-based foods.

Cat’s and dogs are often considered the same because they are both family pets:

For this reason, some online recipes confuse the two and provide ‘doggier’ recipes for cats (e.g. lots of vegetables, fruit, potato, and grains).

This is one reason you need to be careful about the advice for homemade diets online.

What are the signs of a healthy cat?

The general signs of a healthy cat are self-maintenance with grooming, regular use of the litter box, and a clear coat without sores.

Cats should maintain a healthy weight. Obese cats are at a higher risk of diabetes.

Keep in mind that cats disguise pain in the wild to not attract the attention of predators.

Even if you think your cat is healthy, you should always get regular vet check-ups. This will reveal if any underlying health problems exist.

It’s also good to know the signs of pain in cats.

Why should I make my own homemade cat food?

Cat’s owners may want to shift to a homemade cat food diet for many reasons including:

  • Cost saving
  • Quality assurance
  • Nutritional balance
  • Convenience

The main reason cat owners may want to make homemade cat food is for health or to save costs when feeding your cat high-quality animal foods.

Commercial pet foods vary in their nutritional quality.

Some have additional fillers such as grains, legumes, potatoes, or carrageenan which you may not want in your cat’s diet.

Other foods use meat by-products which may include parts you don’t agree with.

Can you trust the homemade cat food recipes on the internet?

No.

According to research:

Many of these recipes are not well designed for a cat’s nutritional needs. In an evaluation study, 113 out of 114 gave vague instructions and 46 don’t provide any feeding directions.

Eight of the 114 homemade cat food recipes found online contained toxic ingredients such as garlic, leeks, and onions. There are many dangerous food items that must not be fed to cats.

Another problem is the inclusion of non-ground bones in many recipes. This is a problem because large (especially cooked) bone pieces increase the risk of getting stuck in the gastrointestinal system.

Many online homemade cat food recipes fall short of nutrient recommendations. A lack of thiamine in some recipes may result in impaired cardiovascular system function and death.

What are the dangers of a homemade cat food diet?

There are many pitfalls to look out for if you want to give your cat a homemade diet.

One common problem is a lack of calcium in the home diet.

Calcium is an important mineral involved in building bones and as an electrolyte for movement.

Young cats fed a diet without calcium develop neurological problems, impaired movement, and in extreme cases, euthanization.

Evaluation of homemade recipes found low levels of other micronutrients and high levels of phosphate which make many recipes inappropriate for cats with kidney disease.

What ingredients should I put in homemade cat food?

Now that you understand the problems of a homemade cat food diet, let’s talk about how to construct food that is healthy and nutritious for cats.

The goal of a homemade cat food diet is to make sure your cat is getting all the nutrients it needs for optimal health.

To that end, weighing every ingredient and supplement is crucial for nutrient balance.

This is where things get tricky:

There are a lot of nutrients that form a balanced diet.

The dietary recommendations for cats are in the 2014 report from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the National Research Council guide for cat owners.

Here’s a breakdown of what our homemade cat food needs from A-Z.

What nutrients do I need in my homemade cat food?

Here’s what our homemade cat food needs to keep our cat in top shape.

Table 1: Your Cat’s Daily Macronutrient Needs
Preference (g/kcal)*Macro Ratios (%)UL#ME%RDA^ KittensRDA AdultsRDA Nursing
Protein 26/10448%N/A10g12.5g41g
Carbohydrate<8/32<14%17g0g0g0g
Fat 9/8137%N/A4g5.5g12g
*When given a choice, cats will prefer this ratio of nutrients in their food #UL based on the ‘carbohydrate ceiling’ effect and possible negative effects to nutrient and water intake with high carbohydrate concentrations in feed. ^Recommended dietary allowances for a 1.8lb kitten, 9lb adult (with 250kcal/day diet), 9lb nursing cat with 4 kittens. Diet should contain at least this amount as a minimum. kcal refers to kilocalories.
Table 2: Your Cat’s Daily Micronutrient Needs
RDAAAFCO Growth & Reproduction (per 1000kcal ME)#AAFCO Adult Minimum (Per 1000kcal ME)UL (per 1000kcal ME)Food Sources
Vitamin A (from retinol*)189 IU1667IU833IU83325IULiver, egg yolks
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)0.33mg1.40mg1.40mgN/A
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)0.27mg1.00mg1.00mgN/A
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)2.5mg15mg15mgN/A
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)0.16mg1.00mg1.00mgN/A
Vitamin D16IU70IU70IU7,520IU
Vitamin E3.7IU10IU10IUN/A
Vitamin K0.082mg0.025mg0.025mgN/A
Panthothenic Acid0.4mg1.44mg1.44mgN/A
Folic Acid0.047mg0.20mg0.20mgN/A
Biotin0.018mg0.018mgN/A
Vitamin B120.0014mg0.005mg0.005mgN/A
Choline60mg600mg600mgN/A
Calcium0.18g2.5g1.5gN/AGround eggshells, bones, dairy
Phosphorus0.16g2.0g1.25gN/A
Potassium0.33g1.5g1.5gN/A
Sodium0.042mg0.5g0.5gN/A
Chloride0.060g0.75g0.75gN/A
Magnesium0.025g0.20g0.10gN/A
Iron5mg20.0mg20.0mgN/A
Copper0.3mg2.10mg1.25mgN/AOysters
Manganese0.3mg1.90mg1.90mgN/A
Zinc4.6mg18.8mg18.8mgN/AOysters
Iodine0.088mg0.45mg0.15mg2.25mg
Selenium0.019mg0.075mg0.075mgN/A
*Cat’s cannot convert beta-carotene (plant-based source of Vitamin A) into the active usable form of Vitamin A #This refers to the recommended amount per 1000kcal, so for example a cat eating 200kcal should have 20% of what is listed.

Table 3: Your Cat’s Essential Amino Acid and Fatty Acid Needs

AAFCO Growth & Reproduction (per 1000kcal ME)#AAFCO Adult Minimum (Per 1000kcal ME)Upper LimitFood Sources
Essential Amino Acids
Arginine3.10g2.60gN/A
Histidine0.83g0.78gN/A
Isoleucine0.025mg0.025mgN/A
Leucine3.20g3.10gN/A
Lysine3.00g2.08gN/A
Methionine1.55g0.5g3.75g
Cysteine2.75g1.00gN/A
Phenylalanine1.30g1.05gN/A
Tyrosine4.80g3.83gN/A
Threonine1.83g1.83gN/A
Tryptophan0.63g0.40g4.25g
Valine1.55g1.55gN/A
Essential Fatty Acids
Arachidonic Acid0.05g0.05gN/A
Eicosapentaenoic &
Docosahexaenoic
acid
0.03gN/AN/ASalmon, Green mussels

Ok, now you can make your own food just add all these up manually!…

…just kidding.

I’ll crunch the numbers and report back.

Let’s do this and I’ll report back with three delicious recipes fit for a feline.

Just get to the food already, I’m getting hungry.

3 Delicious Homemade Cat Food Recipes

Here are my homemade cat food recipes.

All of these recipes are mixed in a wide bowl. If you don’t have a grinder or a food processor, you can chop the ingredient finely and mix.

I recommend balancing all three recipes (as in don’t just feed one) and trying similar meats as replacements (e.g. lamb mince instead of beef).

Chicken Combo

  • 150g chicken thigh
  • 5g duck fat
  • 1g calcium carbonate powder
  • 500mg taurine powder
  • 6.0mg thiamine drop

Beef Bonanza

  • 150g lean beef mince
  • 5g duck fat
  • 1 egg
  • 25g beef liver
  • 1g calcium carbonate powder
  • 500mg taurine powder
  • 6.0mg thiamine drop

Fish Fanatic

  • 50g whitefish
  • 50g prawns
  • 50g oysters
  • 25g wild-caught salmon
  • 50g mussels
  • 500mg taurine powder
  • 1g calcium carbonate powder
  • 10IU Vitamin E
  • 500mg taurine powder
  • 6.0mg thiamine drop

Let’s look at the average daily nutrition if each recipe is fed over a three-day period.

Energy301.4kcal
Protein41.0g
Fat13.4g
Carbohydrate2.3g
Water104ml
RecipeRDAAAFCO Adult Minimum (Per 1000kcal ME)
Vitamin A (from retinol*)2844.9IU189 IU833IU
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)6.1mg*0.33mg1.40mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)0.7mg0.27mg1.00mg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)7.1mg2.5mg15mg
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)0.5mg0.16mg1.00mg
Vitamin D136.3IU16IU70IU
Vitamin E17.8mg3.7IU10IU
Vitamin K0.006mg#0.082mg0.025mg
Panthothenic Acid1.9mg0.4mg1.44mg
Folic Acid0.049mg0.047mg0.20mg
Vitamin B120.012mg0.0014mg0.005mg
Calcium391.7mg0.18g1.5g
Phosphorus346.3mg0.16g1.25g
Potassium372.4mg0.33g1.5g
Sodium0.342g0.042g0.5g
Magnesium0.040g0.025g0.10g
Iron3.1mg5mg20.0mg
Copper1.6mg0.3mg1.25mg
Manganese0.7mg0.3mg1.90mg
Zinc5.8mg4.6mg18.8mg
Selenium0.0572mg0.019mg0.075mg
*With the recommended thiamine drop from the dropper #AAFCO suggest that Vitamin K is not needed unless the diet contains more than 25% fish on a dry matter basis
RecipeAAFCO Growth & Reproduction (per 1000kcal ME)AAFCO Adult Minimum (Per 1000kcal ME)Upper Limit
Essential Amino Acids
Arginine2.0g3.10g2.60gN/A
Histidine0.8g0.83g0.78gN/A
Isoleucine1.2g0.025mg0.025mgN/A
Leucine2.3g3.20g3.10gN/A
Lysine2.6g3.00g2.08gN/A
Methionine0.8g1.55g0.5g3.75g
Cysteine0.4g2.75g1.00gN/A
Phenylalanine1.2g1.30g1.05gN/A
Tyrosine1.0g4.80g3.83gN/A
Threonine1.2g1.83g1.83gN/A
Tryptophan0.3g0.63g0.40g4.25g
Valine1.3g1.55g1.55gN/A
Essential Fatty Acids
Arachidonic Acid1.5g0.05g0.05gN/A
Eicosapentaenoic &
Docosahexaenoic
acid
0.8g0.03gN/AN/A

Should I turn my food into a pate?

You can, but you don’t have to.

There’s a simple reason cat food manufacturers turn their foods into pates:

It disguises the bits and pieces put into their food.

Just imagine if you opened your can of cat food and saw ears and intestines hanging out.

Yeah…

The only body part that needs grinding is bone (or egg shells if using them). Otherwise, you can leave the food in small bite-size chunks or shreds.

Do I need to feed my cat raw food?

No.

Although it is possible to feed your cat raw food, there’s no benefit and the potential for contamination.

Raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin which binds to biotin. The egg itself may be a source of salmonella contamination.

I recommend cooking your cat food, but raw is viable if done with care.

Here are a couple of good YouTube videos I found on making a chicken & beef mix and a raw cat food mix without a grinder.

Should I add some functional foods to my homemade cat food mixture?

I don’t think so.

Functional foods include things like berries, flaxseed, and other superfoods.

There’s scant evidence that cats benefit from functional foods (unlike dogs).

Some products may be detrimental to a cat’s health. For example, rice bran and apple pomace reduce the absorption of taurine.

All cats need is the basics – a variety of meats, bones, organs, and water.

Should I add a cat multivitamin to my homemade cat food mixture?

No.

The problem with multivitamin supplements is they often contain a range of ingredients in forms that may or may not be well absorbed.

For example, iron, copper, and magnesium oxide are cheap supplements that aren’t well absorbed.

Or they contain a lot of things cats don’t need like oats or superfoods.

A better approach is to make sure you’re giving your cat a variety of animal food sources that provide the range of nutrients they need (e.g. oysters for zinc and copper; liver for Vitamin A and D).

Add individual amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals as needed to meet your cat’s needs.

Should I add anything for hairball control?

Research has looked into a variety of fiber sources for hairball control.

They include:

  • Powdered cellulose
  • Beet pulp
  • Sugarcane fiber

One research paper found that a cat food with 20% sugarcane fiber prevented the formation of large hairballs. These hairballs are the most likely to cause gastrointestinal discomfort and/or vomiting.

Talk with your vet regarding hairball treatment options.

What else should I know about homemade cat food?

If you feed your cat a homemade cat food diet, make sure you schedule regular vet appointments to ensure your cat is healthy.

You should do this anyway, especially if your cat is in its senior years or has any other chronic health conditions.

Talk with your vet in advance about their thoughts on homemade cat food options. Although not every vet has the same nutrition education, they might have some thoughts that aren’t covered in this post.

Whist homemade cat food is a great option for many, there’s still a lot of good commercial cat food options.

Check out my top wet cat food picks to learn more.

Conclusion: Complete Guide to Homemade Cat Food

That wraps up this guide to making your own homemade cat food.

Making your own homemade cat food is a great idea for many people to try to give their cat a fresh source of nutrition straight from the butcher.

However, there’s a lot of things to be wary of before trying out your own recipes. Many recipes online are not nutritionally balanced or contain ingredients that are toxic to cats.

I put my own recipes in this post to give your cat a balanced source of nutrients for health with suggested supplements.

Be sure to check in with a vet before attempting a homemade cat food diet.

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