We started making homemade cat food for our cats out of desperation. Our sanctuary provides care for cats that have been abused, neglected or abandoned.
The cats we take in are not feral. We know they were cared for at one time but for one reason or another, have been left to fend for themselves. It is doubtful they ever learned to hunt and we have no idea what they’ve been eating.
While most of them are frightened, unkempt, and malnourished, some of them are actually sick. And for the sick ones, medicine alone will not make them healthy. They all need love, attention, and good nourishing food.
Love and attention are never a problem but getting these abandoned little ones properly nourished and back to a state of health can be problematic at best and impossible at worst. Sometimes, even the best cat food without grains didn’t help.
Some would take to the canned food right away but developed diarrhea or vomited the food back up. And hospitalization for fluid and nutritional support was often so traumatic that, for some recovery was not possible. We had to find a way to help these poor little lost souls and nutrition was the key.
We began researching and learning everything we could about cat nutrition.
We already knew that dry cat food often causes problems for many cats because of the grains it is made with. With canned food causing problems also, we felt homemade cat food was the only other option.
At that time, there was not much information on making your own cat food. Knowing that cats are obligate carnivores and required meat to survive, we began feeding the cats intolerant of the canned food, cooked chicken. This worked fine in the short term but we knew chicken alone was not nutritionally complete. So we started to mix the chicken with the canned food but still, some cats had problems.
Eventually, we came across ‘Pottenger’s Cats’. Dr. Francis M. Pottenger, Jr. studied some 900 cats between 1932 and 1942. Some of the cats ate food made with cooked meat and some ate food made with raw meat.
The cats eating the cooked meat food developed heart and lung problems and suffered from more frequent infections. By the third generation, their kittens were born deformed, had soft, rubbery bones, and were no longer able to survive.
The cats eating the raw meat food remained healthy and each generation gave birth to vigorous, healthy kittens. After learning about the problems caused by cooked meat, we immediately stopped cooking the chicken and started giving some of the cats raw meat.
At first, the thought of feeding raw meat to our cats was a bit scary. We all know that raw meat can cause severe and even life-threatening infections. Yet, in the wild, raw meat is a natural food source for cats. After all, when was the last time you saw a group of cats sitting around a campfire cooking their mice! It made sense to us.
But still, we worried about not cooking the meat. So, we continued researching and learning more about cat physiology. Finally, our Raw Meat Concerns were laid to rest.
But sill, knowing that meat alone was not nutritionally balanced, our research continued. We started investigating a raw meat diet referred to as ‘BARF’.
BARF stands for ‘Bones And Raw Meat’ or ‘Biologically Appropriate Raw Food’. This type of food is made with certain types of Raw Meat. There was quite a bit of information on dog BARF but very little on cat BARF. Still, figuring we had nothing to lose and armed with everything we learned about cat nutrition, our adventures into making our own homemade cat food truly began.
It was such a resounding success with the ill and malnourished cats that we decided to start transitioning the healthy cats and soon we were Feeding BARF to all of our cats.
And, as we gained more experience making our homemade cat food, we quickly figured out what Supplies and equipment made cat food making easier, especially for a large multiple cat household.
Our cats are healthy, with shiny, soft coats, bright eyes, and strong teeth. Episodes of vomiting or diarrhea are extremely rare. And allergy symptoms have improved tremendously!
They are active, curious, and playful even as they age. Problems with hairballs have all but disappeared.
New arrivals take to the homemade cat food quite well. They get healthy and recover from illness much quicker with raw meat food.
With chunked meat, ground meat, organs, and bones – all mixed with the ‘elixir of cat life’, we have a healthy, nutritionally balanced, ‘as close to a mouse as you can get’, cat food that our cats thrive on.
It is important to note here that, once healthy, our cats are given canned cat food once or twice a week. We are in a rural area and should we be without resources or need to evacuate, we did not want to have to worry about how we would be able to feed our cats in the event we ran out of raw meat food or it spoiled. Cats can be quite fussy when it comes to food and tend to hate change. By continuing to expose them to the canned cat food, we know that, in an emergency, they will not refuse to eat ‘canned rations’ should it become necessary.
In addition to the improved health of our cats, another benefit of making our own cat food is cost. It is actually less expensive than buying quality commercial canned foods. The average cost to feed our cats homemade cat food is apx. $0.84 per cat per day. With the canned food, the cost is px. $1.48 per cat per day.
What can’t be measured is the savings in health care costs for our cats. We do know that, since we started feeding homemade cat food, we have had fewer problems with allergies and illness. This means we make fewer trips to the vet and spend less on medications.
And, there is the immeasurable joy we get from having a sickly cat turn into a healthy, happy, member of the family – something you just can’t put a price on!
Also, since there is less waste with biologically appropriate raw food, there is less litter box clean-up! With this nutritionally sound diet, the cats only stool once every day or two rather than 2 or 3 times a day. Which is much more normal than several loose, runny stools every day!
Dehydration is never a problem either and urinary issues are very rare. This is because the raw meat cat food we make provides plenty of water with the food which is very important in keeping cats well hydrated.
Making homemade cat food may cost us more in time and labor but it more than makes up for it by the savings in commercial cat food and health care costs. The time spent in this labor of love is well worth it! Our cats get healthy and stay healthy.
And once you get the hang of it, making homemade cat food is easy!