5 dangerous homemade cat food mistakes + how to avoid them

Avoid these homemade catfood mistakes

Making your own cat food can be cost-effective and very healthy for your cat, but – and this is a BIG BUT, friends – only if you do it right: otherwise, it could potentially be life-threatening to your cat. (Still, it’s do-able. We’ll talk about the easiest way to get it right in a moment.)

Dr. Karen Becker writes about a kitten fed only raw chicken muscle meat until he was 5 months old. He became critically deficient in several important nutrients, which caused metabolic bone disease, rear leg lameness, and central retinal degeneration! (The good news is, as kittens have a lot of healing power and this one had a good doctor, he did fully recover after a couple of months of cage rest and a balanced diet. However, not all nutrient-deprived cats and kittens can be so lucky.) Dr. Becker said that she’s seen “an increasing number of pets with skeletal problems, organ failure and endocrine abnormalities caused by dietary deficiencies of essential nutrients.”

I’ve made a lot of homemade cat food and researched it enough to know how easy it is to get certain things wrong. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time, as I see a lot of confusion and mixed messages out there.

Serious homemade cat food mistakes to avoid

Here’s what many of us get wrong if we aren’t fully informed before attempting to make cat food:

Mistake 1: Not supplementing with taurine – even with raw food

Serious heart and eye conditions have appeared in cats fed diets containing insufficient taurine. Cats cannot synthesize enough taurine to meet their needs, so taurine needs to be added even to foods that naturally contain some taurine because it degrades so easily (see mistake #3). Better to err on the side of caution with this one!

Mistake 2: Not making sure the food contains these other critical nutrients…

There are a few other nutrients that a cat must have, but that are not always in homemade cat food:

  • Niacin (B3) and thiamin (B1): These B’s are degraded by cooking, so any homemade food needs to have these added after any cooking or heating (attention anyone who warms raw food in the microwave!). Adult cats deprived of niacin, which their bodies cannot manufacture, will lose weight and could die as a result of this deficiency. Thiamin is also essential because a deficiency leads to blindness and neurological impairments such as seizures and heart-rate disorders.
  • Vitamin A (not beta carotene): Deficiencies in vitamin A lead to blindness. Cats can’t manufacture vitamin A and, unlike us, they can’t synthesize vitamin A from beta carotene. They must get it from their diet, but it’s not present in most foods. Vitamin A is found in liver and egg yolks, so if those are not part of your cat’s regular diet, they will need appropriate supplementation (not too much! see mistake #4).
  • Calcium: If you feed cats meat without a calcium supplement or bones (finely ground in), it can lead to a collapse or curvature of lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones; bone pain and fractures, as well as hyperparathyroidism.

Mistake 3: Adding the supplements before cooking, grinding or pureeing the cat food 

Why is this bad? Because key nutrients won’t survive those processes. Add supplements AFTER cooking, grinding, or pureeing. You need to add taurine after any cooking has taken place. And, even if you serve raw food or food that contains taurine naturally, it is believed that is also degraded to some degree by grinding and pureeing. And, taurine leaches out in water, especially if cooking in hot water, so keep that in mind too. Finally, most B vitamins cannot survive heat and the B’s are essential to your cat’s health too (see mistake #2).

Mistake 4: Adding too much supplementation (overdosing)

If you get supplements for your cat food, but add too much, this can also cause significant health problems:

  • An excess of magnesium is associated with stones in the feline urinary tract.
  • Vitamin A, while critical, becomes very toxic when too much is consumed.
  • Too much calcium causes depressed food intake and decreased growth in cats.
  • Excessive vitamin D is also toxic.

Mistake 5: Including ingredients cats shouldn’t eat

Again, lots of misinformation out there! Here are human foods that should NOT be added to cat food:

  • onions and garlic – cause hemolytic anemia in cats
  • tomatoes, chocolate, grapes and raisins – toxic to cats
  • raw egg whites – contain a protein called avidin that can bind to certain B vitamins and prevent their absorption
  • pasteurized milk – very difficult to digest because the lactase enzyme has been neutralized by pasteurization
  • grains or soy of any sort (wheat, rice, corn, oats, etc) – while several years ago it was common to recommend putting grains like rice in homemade cat food, and a lot of commercial cat food still includes them, we are now learning that grains are very hard for most cats to digest and may lead to digestive diseases in some cats (See this article by Fern Crist, DVM and Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life by Dr. Hodgkins, and this article by Dr. Becker.)

How to easily avoid those homemade cat food mistakes!

IMG_0153As you may imagine, after I did a little research and discovered all this, I was daunted.

I looked at the amount of time in my day and quickly deduced that I’d much rather buy a reliable supplement mix for homemade cat food (and follow the instructions carefully) than risk winging it.

Once I made that decision, I just needed to find some feline food supplement mixes that looked good…

Supplement mixes for making homemade cat food

The sources below include ones I have bought or would buy for my cats. Of course, I cannot make any guarantees about them, but I can say that at this point I trust them and would use them. (I don’t make them, sell them, or have an affiliate connection with them.)

Each source provides recipes and instructions so making homemade cat is not a mysterious process! You just follow the recipe. (See the video at the end of this post for an example!)

(Note: If you are making a homemade meal for your cat just once in a while and feeding them food that meets or exceeds the AAFCO standards the rest of the time, you need not worry about adding supplements for occasional homemade meals. But this is the only exception!)

Alnutrin 

alnutrinAll ingredients are pure food grade products without silica, magnesium stearate or other processing additives. They do not use any raw materials from China or India. All raw materials are manufactured in the USA, Europe or Japan. Free of controversial chemical additives like BHT, BHA, ethoxyquin and menadione. Alnutrin’s site has a wealth of practical, easy-to-understand information on making food for your cat and they offer free formulation advice to customers.
They also offer free trial samples!

Feline Instincts

feline instinctsFeline Instincts premixes are human grade, organic and USDA approved with no preservatives, colors, or other artificial additives. You add raw meat, raw liver (or a raw liver powder, which they sell), and water. Their mixes also incorporate ImmnoPlex Natural Glandulars by Nutricology, sourced from New Zealand. Dr. Gardner, a holistic vet they consulted with in creating their mixes, is quotes on their site about the use of kelp in the mix. He said, “Kelp is to supply a source of minerals and helps to support the thyroid. While there is controversy over the use of kelp in felines, in the right amount it is beneficial. We have not had any issues with thyroid problems and a lot of felines with hyperthyroidism use the diet and have done very well along with appropriate veterinary care, both holistic and allopathic.”

TC Feline

tcfelineIf you’re in Canada or Europe TC Feline may be a good option.
I haven’t tried this one, but I’ve heard some folks love it. It uses 100% human grade and pharmaceutical grade ingredients. GMO-free, and no artificial additives, flavors, etc. The premixes are “made in small batches, precision measured, blended, sifted, and packaged by hand in a spotless facility.” The sources of ingredients are carefully selected. For example, it includes grass-fed whey protein from New Zealand (GMO free, rBGH free, BSE free). However, I have question marks around their use of the Arctic Pacific krill oil in the product. I cannot confirm it, but there is concern about eco-system damage from this kind of krill fishing and some are also concerned with a risk of Fukushima radiation contamination in Pacific krill oil.
Get TC Feline in the US here.

Tips:

  • Premixes are not meant to be used as a “sprinkle” on top of meat or added just to water or other foods; Feline Instincts says you can harm your cat by using the supplements that way. Follow the instructions for mixing the right amount into the food at the right time.
  • For cats with constipationFeline Instincts No Bones About It or Alnturin with Calcium mixes are an ideal option. TC Feline also provides a bone-free special mix for cats with kidney problems.
  • Some (but not all) experts say you shouldn’t use store-bought meat (unless you cook it before adding supplements) because there are concerns about bacteria. Instead, they say you should grind your own or order from source that freezes immediately after cutting or grinding, like Hare-Today, which carries many types of meats.
  • Alnutrin provides an excellent homemade cat food nutrient calculator to create your own new recipes or to customize one of theirs. You can also use it if you already have a recipe and would like to know what the nutritional composition of the diet is.
  • The homemade cat food supplement companies listed above will provide you with what you need to know for making your cat food. But if you’re really wanting to geek out and learn more about doing it all from scratch, see Dr. Lisa Pierson’s HUGE page on the topic of making cat food here.

Wanna see how to make, prepare, and store a batch of cat food?

Here’s a video that shows you exactly how to prepare and package a batch of homemade cat food that’s supplemented with a premix. Demystifies it!

Nutrition References:

 

Please share this with
anyone you think could benefit from it!

24 Responses to 5 dangerous homemade cat food mistakes + how to avoid them

  1. Hal April 2, 2016 at 6:43 pm #

    Hi Liz, thanks for addressing these important nutritional issues with a raw diet. It is reassuring to those of who have chosen raw, that we are doing the right thing.
    After adopting my cat 3 years ago, I read up on feeding cats, and what I learned convinced me to switch. I transitioned my little one to a raw diet, made with Feline Instincts. My cat took to it easily and she loves it! I also feed her some of those cold pasteurized frozen pellets from Natures Variety and Stella&Chewy. What’s your position on these types of raw food?

    • Liz April 3, 2016 at 8:52 am #

      Thanks Hal. Yes, I do think those raw ones are good – I believe they use High Pressure Processing (HPP), which preserves the enzymes while eliminating bad bacteria. You are making me realize that i removed Nature’s Variety raw from from the Today’s Best Cat Food page when they changed their formulas and introduced the pellets – ONLY because I needed time to go back and analyze what the heck they did. I thought maybe they changed it to just snacks, not a balanced AAFCO-measured meal. And then I forgot to add them back! An oversight. They look fine to me and I like that Nature’s Variety is still an independent company; has not been bought out. I believe Stella still is as well.

  2. Weizen April 3, 2016 at 9:43 am #

    Just curious. Is there a reason you didn’t include wysong call of the wild? Since it’s one of the more popular raw food supplements out there.

    • Liz April 3, 2016 at 10:28 am #

      Good question. The Wysong Call of the Wild supplement says “For intermittent or supplemental feeding only” on the label. While the basic ingredients look reasonable, and it says that it’s designed mimic food a balanced “wild caught prey” diet, it doesn’t seem designed to guarantee a cat is getting the amounts of every nutrient they need to meet or exceed the AAFCO standards (which are supposed to be the minimum a cat needs for survival on a diet long-term).

      • weizen April 4, 2016 at 12:31 am #

        thanks for the reply!my cats are currently on call of the wild. and its good to know i should be thinking of something to alternate them with.

      • Lora April 11, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

        I was told that means its not meant to be fed alone as a complete diet. It means only use it to supplement, or only use it by itself as a meal on occasion.

        • Weizen April 11, 2016 at 6:37 pm #

          Hi Lora, does it mean it’s safe to be used as a supplement to raw meat?

  3. Flowercat April 4, 2016 at 4:01 am #

    Another great article Liz 🙂

    A new supplement on the market that may be worth adding to this list is FoodFurLife designed by well-educated and experienced raw feeders.

    http://www.foodfurlife.com/

    Thanks again for all the great work you do 🙂

    • Mona May 26, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

      I have a concern about feeding only calcium instead of bones, Dr. Pierson and cat nutrition mentions ” Recipe WITHOUT Real Bones
      (really not recommended for long term use – using real bone is better) ” unless your cat has chronic kidney disease.

      I personal ground my bones and add the vitamins Dr. Pierson suggest.

  4. Connie April 4, 2016 at 11:13 am #

    the amount of avidin in a raw egg white is easily overwhelmed by the b vitamins within the egg yolk. if you are using the entire egg, this is not really an issue.

  5. Mona May 2, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

    Hi Liz,
    I have came across your blog today and I want to congratulate you on a beautiful blog you have and it’s very easy to understand.
    As I was reading this article I realize that I made a very big mistake I’ve been feeding raw for five months now and I was putting my vitamin B in to boiling water to dissolve the pills, I see that I was destroying the vitamin B by doing this, I have two months worth of food in my freezer, is there anyway I can save all this food, is it possible for me to get the vitamin B in powder and to add it into each container every day as I feed the cats or is it dangerous that I overdose on vitamin B if I do that ? would you have any suggestions for me not to waste all this food ?
    thanks for your help,

    • Liz May 3, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

      Thank you Mona! I totally understand not wanting to waste all that good food. What I personally would do is mix in a “pinch” (like 1/10th of a capsule) *per cat* of Jarrow B-Right for each meal. I just eyeball the amount — B vitamins are water-soluble so excess will pass out in the urine and overdosing is extremely uncommon. I use that particular vitamin because it’s so pure and doesn’t have other minerals, vitamins, herbs, or fillers added.

      • Mona May 4, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

        Hi Liz, thank you for answering, I am very happy That I can turn this around easily. I was scared when i read this.
        Looking forward to visiting your whole blog. I will try and find this in Canada if I can’t the health store will guide me through the purest they have.

        • Liz May 5, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

          You are welcome! One thing that helps in your case is that you are feeding raw, not cooked, so *some* level of B-vitamins inherent in the raw meat itself will still be viable – in other words you haven’t been feeding completely B-free.

  6. Marisol C May 10, 2016 at 7:41 am #

    I have been feeding my cats Darwin’s Natural Pet Products and my male cat was recently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Is it because he is not getting enough nutrients and if so, what should I be giving him. He’s a 12 lb tuxedo and recently turned 17. He’s always been very active but lately, he looks bloated and not sure he is going #2. What to do?

  7. Marisol C May 10, 2016 at 7:52 am #

    Here is the link to the nutritional website in case that helps.
    https://www.darwinspet.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/NS-FELINE-CHICKEN1.pdf

  8. Michele June 9, 2016 at 11:56 pm #

    Hi Liz. I just saw this page after writing. 🙂

    If I was to cook the meat (beef or turkey) before adding the supplements (my cat has been on raw much of his life but can’t be on it right now), does this change how long it can be frozen (vs. raw)?

    Also, any idea if the AAFCO nutritional value for Feline Instincts is based on raw meat with enzymes, or would it still be AAFCO certified with cooked meats?

    Michele

  9. Marisol August 11, 2016 at 11:38 am #

    I feed my cats Bravo canned food and alternate with a raw turkey preparation I mix with diluted in water Honest Kitchen Grace, the latter being a complete food in dehydrated form, to make sure the raw turkey meals are more balanced. I am wondering if this is enough in terms of getting the right nutrients for my kits. I rotate these foods daily, sometimes I sprinkle Brewers yeast and or dehydrated chicken or turkey treats on top to make the food more interesting. Liz or anyone else who is knowledgeable of proper kitty diet do you think I am covering pretty much their nutritional needs? Or shall I be aware of something that may be missing?

  10. weizen October 5, 2016 at 4:41 am #

    Hi, Liz, wanted to hear you thoughts on this raw food supplement called Ezy complete. http://www.foodfurlife.com
    do you think its an adequate supplement?Thanks!

  11. Maiasatara January 3, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    Do your cats enjoy eating cold food from the fridge? How long can it sit safely out of the fridge so it gets to a more palatable temperature? I’m thinking of making small batches here and there as a treat. Thanks!

  12. Teresa February 11, 2017 at 1:16 am #

    What about U-Stew? This food additive is added to the cooked meat of your choice to make up a complete meal. Like the fact that it is all human grade and none of the additives are from China.

  13. Helen fenton February 17, 2017 at 1:52 am #

    Hi, my cat has had struvite crystals in the past. Would you feed this to a cat of your own if it had crystals, or would your u change the recipe at all? Love your demo of making the food,really does look like I can manage this in my busy life! Thank you .
    Helen

  14. Maria March 18, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

    I also have a 7 yo male cat who’s had struvite crystals. My vet says I should only feed him a special diet for urinary issues – currently Royal Canin SO – but it bothers me so much when I think about what he’s actually consuming every day, that it may be harmful and shorten his life. I’m very confused and would appreciate any insight.

  15. Thomas Roth July 18, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    the best way to avoid these problems? buy pet food for your pet! all these problems have been dealt with by the manufacturers over decades of experienced food production, supervised by nutritionists and vets

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