While you can use just about any type of meat for making homemade cat food, some are better for your cats than others.
Chicken is the most common animal used by homemade cat food makers. Turkey, Cornish hen, and rabbit are also popular. Duck is also used but is quite expensive and not very practical when feeding a large multiple cat household.
Beef can be hard for some cats to digest and lamb is very fatty so we don’t recommend using these except maybe once in a great while. If you do use beef or lamb, give them only to healthy cats. Don’t give them to older or ill cats as beef or lamb can be stressful to their digestive systems.
Also, don’t make homemade cat food with raw fish. Cats that eat only raw fish will eventually develop a nutritional deficit that can cause brain damage. Click here for more information on cat nutrition.
We recommend using meat that is minimally processed and does not contain hormones or antibiotics. Get as close to natural as possible. Organic is best but, for us, it is just too expensive when feeding a houseful of cats.
We use chicken primarily, and occasionally turkey, rabbit, and Cornish Hen for a little variety. Often, we mix chicken and turkey together. These animals are the closest in physiology to a cat’s natural prey.
With chicken, thigh meat is better for cats because they need the higher fat content of the chicken thighs. However, some cats prefer breasts to thighs. If you decide to use only chicken breast in your cat food, be sure to use the skin as well so your cats will get enough fat.
Most of our cats like both so we use mainly thighs and add one or two breasts in each batch of chicken homemade cat food. Many people use whole chicken carcasses but we found it was just too difficult and time-consuming to cut them up. For us, using just the thighs and a breast is easier and just as healthy for our cats.
With turkey cat food, we use the thighs, breasts, and drumsticks. Because uncooked turkey breast is sometimes hard to get, we add chicken breast instead. Our cats seem to enjoy the mix of chicken and turkey.
When using turkey for the cat food, be sure to smash up the bones with a hammer before putting them through the grinder. Turkey bones are harder than chicken bones and can be tough on the grinder.
In addition to quality muscle meat, homemade cat food is also made with liver and heart. Always try to use the liver and heart from the same animal as the muscle meat. In other words, don’t use beef liver with the chicken cat food. We do use chicken livers and hearts with the turkey cat food, however. Chicken is easier to come by and is at least in the same family as turkey.
It is always better to use real liver and heart in the cat food but if you have trouble getting them, the homemade cat food recipes we use provides substitutions for the liver and heart so don’t decide not to make cat food because you can’t get the liver or heart.
When making the cat food with Cornish game hens, we use the whole bird and the included giblets but usually have to add some additional chicken liver and hearts to get the right amount for the recipe.
Rabbit is the only thing we buy already ground. We get the rabbit from a family-owned company. They grind the whole carcass (except for the stomach and intestine), flash freeze it, and ship it froze.
Because shipping can be costly we only buy the rabbit a couple of times a year but our cats really enjoy the change.
We buy the single ground rabbit and run it through the grinder a second time ourselves. We do this simply because we are more comfortable with the bone chips ground up finer. While most cats don’t have trouble with raw bone chips, we just feel better giving our cats bone that is more finely ground. Again, it is purely for our level of comfort.
Cats should never be given cooked bones! Cooked bones can splinter and cause choking or even perforate the cat’s intestine. The decision on the size of the bone chips is yours but if you are unsure it is best to err on the side of caution and grind them up very fine.
We recommend only using freshly ground meats for your homemade cat food. Some people have used ground turkey or beef from the supermarket in their cat food without a problem. However, grinding increases surface area which allows for increased bacterial growth. And, it sits in the refrigerated display case for hours or days which also promotes bacterial growth. For this reason, we can’t recommend using it. Since our cats will be eating the meat raw, we simply don’t want to risk bacterial contamination any more than necessary.
Always try to use the freshest cuts possible. We get our chicken and turkey through our local grocery butcher. They get it from a local poultry processing plant. We have actually toured this plant and were very impressed with its cleanliness and safety practices.
We buy in bulk so we order ahead of time and pick it up on the day of delivery. Since we only make our cat food every two weeks, we freeze it until cat food-making day. If you won’t be making the cat food right away, freezing will help keep it fresh.
Good, quality homemade cat food starts with good, quality meat. Your cats will love you for it!