Years ago I only fed our cats homemade pet food. I used the cat food recipes found in the 1995 version of Natural Health for Dogs & Cats. Most of our krids liked it okay, but one wouldn’t eat it at all and another would only eat it if we didn’t add any of the supplements. Of course without the extra vitamins and whatnot it wasn’t a complete OR balanced diet so we couldn’t do that or our krids would get sick. After a while it just got to be too much work chopping and grinding and cooking only to throw away more than half of what I put out for them every day. Plus I didn’t really feel good about feeding our cats all those grains and veggies.
They’re carnivores, after all, and that means they only eat other animals – or does it??
Since we changed our diet I’ve had a TON of extra energy and felt so good I want to help the rest of our family – the fuzzy critter kids – feel just as good. So the idea of making and feeding homechow has been knocking around in my brain again. But I didn’t want to go to all the effort of making homemade chow only to feed them something that they really aren’t designed for, so I did some research, and it turns out I was right – cats really are carnivores and they really are designed to only eat other animals – meat, organs, bones, etc. The technical term is obligate carnivore. Yeah cats will occasionally munch on grass (or beg for a few bites of apple, like our Binni) but they lack the ability to derive nutrients from plants.
After finding out how grains are actually harmful to cats, I decided to find a good recipe that didn’t include them. By “good” I mean it provides all the nutrients cats need in the proper proportions, only contains ingredients appropriate for obligate carnivores, and was something I feel comfortable feeding my dear little fuzzy krids.
I searched the internet for hours, only to keep coming back to one recipe in particular. It calls for finely grinding chicken thighs with the skin and bones included, but she was kind enough to include alternate instructions for people who don’t yet own a meat grinder. And believe me – we’ll be getting one as soon as we can because I want my krids to have the full benefit of a homemade diet that includes fresh bone marrow.
The reason I decided to dive in now and start before we have a meat grinder is simple – meet Bean.
Yes those really are her hip bones jutting out.
She is 17 years old and has hyperthyroidism. My mom and sister have hypothyroidism, a condition that (untreated) causes a lack of energy, a sluggish metablolism, and weight gain. Sweet little queen Bean has the opposite – her thyroid is over producing hormones that cause her to be nervous, hyperactive (we call it Ritty – she acts like she needs Ritalin), and lose weight. She used to be a plump 15 pounds, but is now barely tipping the scales at about 5. We’ve been working with our vet to try to manage her condition, but she just keeps getting skinnier and skinnier because we haven’t been able to keep her thyroid from working overtime with pills or the expensive prescription diet that treats it.
Plus there is an added problem – she started refusing to eat her medically necessary canned diet and won’t even sniff kibble anymore. We’ve tried every brand of canned cat food we can get our hands on and she’ll take a few bites of a new kind, but then won’t eat any more of that type ever again.
The only thing she will eat is homemade dog food. She eats it like she’s starving to death, which, essentially, she is. But dog food doesn’t provide the nutrients or high protein and fat diet her body is craving. If I let her keep eating it she’ll die of nutrient deficiency before she can starve.
There is a procedure that offers a cure for hyperthyroidism in cats – it basically kills the thyroid with radiation, but it is expensive and at the rate of her current weight loss, she’ll be gone long before we save up the necessary money.
****Update 6/8/2015****** Bean is doing great and has actually gained a whole pound! She stopped throwing up 4-5 times a day and meows much less. She is jumping up on the bed and climbing all over the place so I think her arthritis is hurting her less. She loves the homechow and eats about 1/4 cup 4 times a day, so I’m feeding her a lot more than I thought I would, but she is happy and feels better, so I don’t care!
So I decided, even though we don’t have the money right now, to go ahead and order the vitamins and other supplements necessary to make the chicken thigh homechow for Bean in an effort to improve her quality of life and maybe even prolong it until we can afford the cure. This means we got an overdraft fee on the purchase, but I consider it well worth it. Those supplements will allow me to feed her a healthy, complete and balanced diet for about $0.54 per day!
After comparing the price of the supplements on Amazon.com and iHerb.com, I found iHerb much cheaper overall, so if you’re considering feeding homemade cat food, too, I suggest checking them out. You can even get $5 (or more) off of your first purchase with this coupon code:
Now I’ll just dive in and give the basic recipe. Please note that this recipe ONLY provides all of the nutrients necessary for a cat’s good health if you follow it EXACTLY! If you get chicken breast meat or boneless/skinless thighs or even ground chicken instead you are risking the health and life of your cat!
I’ll explain how I made cat food specifically for Bean’s needs after the recipe.
Chicken Thigh Cat Chow – Made for Obligate Carnivores
3 lbs chicken thighs with skin and bone included (or remove the bones and add 7 teaspoons bonemeal powder). The skin provides necessary nutrients so be sure to get thighs with skin!
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Morton’s lite salt with iodine (or regular salt with iodine if you can’t get the light salt)
4 oz chicken liver
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove some of the skin from the chicken thighs and discard. For healthy weight cats remove skin from half (50%) of the thighs. For overweight cats remove skin from 75% of the thighs. Do NOT remove the creamy-yellow fat from around the meat. Cats need some fat in their diet.
- Remove 25% of the thigh bones and discard.
- Place the chicken thighs skin side up on a baking sheet and bake lightly to kill surface bacteria. The idea isn’t to cook the chicken, but to heat only enough to kill surface germs.
- Soft boil the eggs and remove the shells.
- Use a pin, scissors, or knife to pop the shells on the liquid supplements (fish oil and possibly vitamin E if you’re using liquid). Squeeze out all of the oil into the cup of water.
- Grind the solid supplements (Vitamin B, and possibly taurine) to a fine powder. I used a coffee grinder I purchased just for this purpose. I didn’t want anything contaminating the food.
- Lightly cook the chicken liver.
- Grind the lightly cooked thighs and liver together.
- Add the soft boiled eggs and supplements and water and mix well.
- Serve 4-8 oz per day per cat. Split it into two meals for the best results.
- Store in the fridge or freeze for a longer storage time.
The following is how I made the chow for Bean.
Because I can’t afford organically raised chicken right now, I bought the basic Foster Farms chicken thighs from Walmart. Because I don’t have a meat grinder yet, I removed all of the bones and added 7 teaspoons of bonemeal powder to the recipe. Bean is really underweight, so I only removed about 10% of the skin from the thighs. Then I baked them at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes, then broiled them for 3 minutes just to be really sure the germs are dead, since I’m making this for a cat that is already in a weakened state. I ground them up along with the juices that collected in the pan using my food processor then put them in a large bowl for mixing.
I put the eggs in a pot of water and brought them to a boil. I immediately took the eggs out (so they were soft boiled) and put them in cold water to stop the cooking process. The whites were nice and firm, but the yolk was basically raw, which is exactly how they should be for this recipe. I put the 1 cup of water into a pot, added the chicken liver, and boiled it until almost all of the pink was gone. Then I peeled the eggs and put them in the food processor. I added the supplements and chicken liver and processed until smooth and creamy. Then I stirred this nutrient egg and liver puree into the ground chicken.
Even before I got all of the chicken thighs deboned and on the cookie sheet my cats were trying to carry them off and Bean (who isn’t well enough to attempt drive-by thievery) was meowing at my feet. When I finally presented her with a bowl of the still-warm chow she ate with gusto and keeps asking me for more!
Overall, it only took about 1.5 hours to make a double batch — including the time I spend removing bones and fighting off marauding kitties.
So how much does one batch of homemade cat food cost? About $5.57 for about 3.25 lbs of premium quality, species appropriate chow! That’s about $0.54 per day!
How does this break down per batch? It cost me approximately:
$3.90 for chicken thighs
$0.25 for eggs
$0.21 for fish oil
$0.08 for vitamin E
$0.07 for B vitamin complex
$0.15 for taurine
$0.03 for lite salt with iodine
and $0.25 for chicken liver
None of those expensive, grain-free commercial cat foods can beat that! And look how happy she is!!