Falling Off the Recipe Cliff
Last Updated on Sunday, July 03, 2016 05:43 PM
Published on Saturday, September 13, 2014 04:45 PM
Written by Margaret Gates
If you're making homemade raw food for your cats, you are following a recipe. At least, I sincerely hope you are. Not following one can be disastrous for your cat. Recipes matter. You really can't just feed whatever you want. We don't recommend trying to formulate one from scratch. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is rocket science. Part of our whole message is that you don't have to have an advanced degree in nutrition to feed your cat properly. That's the argument that big pet food tries to use to discredit homemade raw diets. They say it shouldn't be left to amateurs. By that logic, no mother should be allowed to take her infant home from the hospital. She isn't qualified to feed it.
Feeding your cat a balanced homemade diet really isn't that hard, but you can't just wing it all on your own. You need to follow an established recipe from a trusted source. The recipe we have on the site has been used for many years, with thousands of cats. Not everything is known about what cats need – something big pet food won't tell you. The major nutrients are pretty well established, at least the minimums and sometimes the maximums necessary. But even these are not hard, exact numbers; you just need to get in the range. By using a trusted recipe, you follow in the footsteps of others who have done the harder work.
We do recommend though, that you try other established recipes from time to time. Why? Because no one knows everything and maybe a different recipe covers something no one realizes is important or even just a good idea. As with the kinds of meat you feed, variety helps cover all the bases and ensures that nutrition is as good as we can get it. Choose your recipes carefully, not every recipe you might find on the internet is great. I have seen cat food recipes that call for rice, potatoes or peas. Things I would never feed to a cat.
But, whatever recipe you do choose, or if you decide to use a pre-mixed supplement meant specifically to be added to raw meat, you need to do it right. You can't just decide to omit an ingredient because you couldn't find it. Many of the stories that the anti-raw diet folks cite to demonstrate how "unbalanced" homemade diets are, are examples of people losing their common sense and drifting radically from good recipe-following practices. Our good friend Anne Jablonski has a rather frightening example of this. A woman's raw-fed cat was getting sickly and fragile. It turned out that she had read – and she didn't confirm this information – that bone was irritating to a cat's digestive system. She was also tired of cleaning the bone bits out of the grinder. So, she eliminated the bone from the recipe. She did not provide a calcium replacement. The poor cat had been fed a calcium deficient diet for four years and was dissolving its own bones to compensate.
Follow a recipe, use a good pre-mix or feed balanced, complete, pre-made frozen raw diets. Better yet, do all of these. And throw in some well-sourced whole meats. Mix up the menu. Variety is good. Don't give the anti-raw diet folks ammunition to criticize this great way of feeding our cats a very healthy diet. They don't really have much to work with if mistakes like this aren't made.
As you know, making a balanced raw meat diet isn't very difficult. The next thing is to ensure the cats are actually eating it. I have a cautionary tale from personal experience for others in a multi-cat household. As we recommend, I usually feed a supplemented ground raw diet along with various meat chunks to give them some good chewing exercise. With as many cats as we have, mealtime is a communal affair. I put out the food and come back in 15 or so minutes and it's gone. One time, right after I had added whole meats to the menu, I stuck around and observed. I wanted to see who liked what. I discovered one cat was eating only the meat chunks. I checked a few more times, and she did it again. I was very glad I observed this behavior before anything went amiss. A diet of just plain meat is seriously unbalanced. No supplements and no calcium.
So, if you are feeding many cats, you need to be sure that they are all actually eating the food you so carefully made for them. Your food may be perfectly complete and nutritionally balanced, but that won't matter a bit if the cat finds a way to not eat it.
Margaret Gates is the founder the Feline Nutrition Foundation.