To the best of
my knowledge, this webpage is the only
source of information for striking a balance
between cooked and raw homemade cat/kitten food.
Every other source focuses on either 100%
cooked or 100% raw with individual
proponents vehemently arguing which is
(A short note
regarding dogs can be
found at the bottom of this webpage.)
webpage explains, there is a logical way to
compromise between the two which will result
in a diet that is safer and healthier than
any dry food, and is safer than
some sources of raw ingredients - especially
those that come from a supermarket and have
spent time in a refrigerator versus a
It is my
strong preference to feed a diet that is a
safe balance between raw and cooked as
described below. This is why I ask my
clients/readers to use the word "homemade"
as opposed to "raw" when discussing the diet
described on this page.
Note that dry
kibble is very often contaminated with
bacteria, fungal mycotoxins, insects and
their feces, as well as being high in
carbohydrates and plant-based (vs
dry foods are dangerously low in water content
which wreaks havoc on your cat's urinary
tract and puts him at great risk for
life-threatening and excruciatingly painful
urethral obstructions and possibly cystitis.
Urinary Tract Health - Opie's Story.)
If you are
firmly opposed to feeding any part of the
diet in a raw form, you can
contact me to set up an appointment for
a phone consultation to discuss formulating
and preparing a diet that uses cooked ingredients.
medical records will need to be provided for
my review for any patient with health
No advice, for any reason, will be provided
I frequently see
people jump into making cat food without doing their homework and
without any thought as to using a balanced recipe. This is
what gives veterinarians - including myself - a very good reason for
recommending against homemade diets.
recently came across a post within an internet group stating how "wonderful" my Making Cat Food
page is - including the recipe provided below. However, the poster
then went on to outline what she was feeding to her cat which was not
even close to the recipe discussed on this webpage! This poor cat
was being fed a terribly UNbalanced diet because his owner was using her
own 'creation' based very loosely on the recipe below.
She had completely missed the boat on this
very critical issue and was harming her cat.
Making cat food:
Do it and do it right, or
don't do it at all. It is not difficult to make cat food but
do your homework first and do not get 'creative'
and start adding/omitting
ingredients to/from a balanced recipe.
After spending a great deal
of time reading and learning about the way commercial pet foods are
processed, and the ingredients that go into many of these foods, I decided to
start making my own cat food. I found that I was getting more and
more frustrated with the species-inappropriate and low quality
ingredients found in most commercial foods so this was a very
easy decision for me to make.
Also, the 2007 Menu pet food tragedy that
resulted in the
deaths and severely compromised health of
many cats and dogs left me with an even deeper desire to
have as much control as possible over what
goes into my cats' food bowls. I don't
ever want to go through what those people went through when they lost their
beloved pets due to human greed and deception. I remember feeling
a great sense of relief knowing that my cats were eating a diet that I had
personally sourced and prepared for them -
and that feeling continues. I don't
see myself ever going back to feeding
commercial cat food.
My cats are very special to
me and I feel it is important for them to eat a diet that is equal in nutritional quality to
what I would put on my own dinner plate. I spend a few hours in
the kitchen every ~8 weeks making a batch of
food that is then frozen. This is a small
amount of time out of my schedule given the
I have been using the recipe below since
early 2003 and I could not be happier with my cats' health and energy
level and - again - my control over their diet.
If you decide
that making cat food is not for you, then
please at least feed canned food and no dry
is one of considerable debate among two -
usually strongly divided - mindsets.
anti-raw folks are afraid of bacteria
feeders are afraid of nutrient loss from
However,it is not necessary tohave such
an 'all or nothing' viewpoint and our cats
will benefit if people approach this issue
with more critical thought and compromise.
often neither group considers how the meat
is sourced and they fail to see that one can
strike a balance
between the two issues.
is to feed a diet that nature intended for
our carnivores - staying as close as
possible to the form and nutritional
composition that our cats would eat in a natural setting - while implementing safety
strategies as discussed below.
I am not as smart as nature.
No human is - even board-certified
veterinary nutritionists. None of us
know exactly what nutrients and in what amounts are destroyed/damaged with the cooking process.
this fact, I choose to 'split the
difference' between semi-cooked and
100% raw depending on the source of
and turkey whole thighs (never
pre-ground) from the supermarket -
fed partially baked to kill surface
With regard to
commercially raised meat (either from the
grocery store or producer) is much less apt
to be infected with parasites when compared
to wild game.
meat from a grocery store can be higher in
bacteria than meat from a fresh kill
in the wild or meat purchased directly from
But having said that, when considering the
issue of bacteria, I am reminded of the
mountain lion that ate off of a deer carcass
in my brother's backyard for one week
in northern California (not a very cold
location...therefore, more bacterial
growth). The mountain lion was dining
on meat that was a week old in the ambient
temperature (not refrigerated) and did just
For the first
~7 years of feeding a homemade diet, I
purchased chicken or turkey thighs and
simply rinsed them very well with water
before grinding them. However, I have
since decided to increase the safety of the
diet and I now
partially baking whole thighs to kill the
baking makes the dietmuch safer than dry food.
reasons for the switch were:
to be able to leave the food out longer.
tired of calling my butcher to see when
the poultry thighs were going to be
delivered so that I could source them as
fresh as possible. Now, I just
purchase the thighs when it is
convenient for me.
The chicken or
turkey (thighs) cat
food that I make usually ends up being
~25 - 50% cooked and ~50 - 75% raw but you
should aim for at least a 10-20% surface
that I source directly from the producer is
fed raw because it is frozen as soon as it
is processed and arrives on my doorstep
frozen. It is never in a refrigerated
state. Refrigeration slows bacterial
growth but does not halt it.
For more details,
please see my safety section below.
It is up to the reader to work within their
comfort zone when deciding whether to go
forward with this type of diet, or not.
Most things in life do have some risk
associated with thembut most
people think that commercial diets are completely without risk and this
could not be further from the truth.
With the critical thought that I put into my
cats' diet with regard to sourcing and
preparation, I would confidently submit
their diet to a 'safety contest' with any
dry food on the market.
Dry food (aka "kibble"), in addition to
containing potentially deadly fungal toxins,
contains a great deal of bacteria.
If you would like to read more comments
regarding pet food recalls and the issues
with commercial pet food contamination - especially dry
food - see
cats' intestinal tract is designed to handle a much higher bacteria load
than that of a human, but if one is worried about the bacteria in raw
meat, then the bacteria in dry food also needs to be taken into
consideration because dry food is very far from bacteria-free.
A reader of this webpage contacted me regarding a coupon
program at iherb.com that allows for $5 off your first purchase if you
enter the following code: LIS675 or just click on this
link which will take you to the main
webpage where the discount will be
iherb.com is the company
that I order my supplements from when I don't have the time to buy them
below for links to specific ingredients that
I order from iherb.com.
Also note that
a February 2012 thread on the
Feline Diabetes Message Board involved
several members discussing their cost
savings when comparing the diet on this site
with commercial canned food - with Fancy
Feast being a comparative price point.
The cost varies with what
type of meat you feed and the source, and also the cost (usually
minimal) of your supplements. The initial expense of the
supplements may seem high but they last a long time and really do not add
much to the cost.
The following figures are my approximate costs. They include a
very rough guesstimation of 24 cents/pound of finished food for supplements.
above, I feed meat from two different
I buy free-range
(whatever that really means given that this
issue is poorly regulated), antibiotic-free chicken thighs (with skin and bone) from Whole Foods Market for
$1.99/lb or I buy turkey thighs for $2.99/lb. Some cats like
turkey better than chicken. Turkey
seems to have a stronger smell than chicken
which entices some cats.
As much as I
would love to buy organic, it is just too
When factoring in the added water, eggs, and
the supplements, it works out to be ~$2.00/lb
of finished chicken food and ~$2.77/lb of
turkey food. My cats eat about 5 - 6 ounces/day
so this diet costs ~$0.63 - $0.87/day/cat
when figured on 5 ounces/day/cat.
the source, Wellness canned cat food
works out to be ~$5.19/lb if
purchasing the 5.5 ounce cans and ~$3.57/lb
if using the more economical 12.5 ounce
cans. (These prices reflect our local
9.75% tax but the base prices were obtained
As you can see, I am able to make a nutritious chicken
or turkey diet for much
less than a high quality canned food such as Wellness - and I have
more control over the ingredientsand
(Composition = percentage of calories from
protein, fat, and carbohydrate)
get poultry thighs from places like Costco
which will be cheaper than Whole Foods
Market but I am not sure where these
discount stores source their meat and if it
possible to get antibiotic-free
meats from these stores. But that
said, I would still rather make a homemade
diet from these meat sources than to feed
any commercial food.
I know that wholefoods4pets.com is not
taking any new customers at this time
and...no...I don't know of any other sources
on the west coast. And....yes....it is
fine to feed only poultry.)
The second type of meat that
I feed is rabbit and it is shipped to me from Washington -
I buy 52 lbs at a time of the Extra Fine
Double Ground (the most expensive choice) in
the 4 lbs packages which net out to $4.45/lb. When
shipping is figured in ($56.90 for the 52
lbs - November, 2010), it comes to $5.54/lb.
When the supplements and water are
added, the finished food is $4.77/lb
- still cheaper than 5.5 ounce cans of
Wellness but much more expensive than
cheaper canned foods or homemade chicken
I purchase the
Extra Fine Double Ground because my cats
were having problems with the bones in the
more coarsely ground product in that they
would paw violently at their mouths
as if a bone got stuck in their gum tissue.
is to buy the less expensive course ground
and re-grind it yourself using the 4 mm
plate that I show under the Safety section
For the past 9.5 years, I have used a
meat grinder (a #12 grinder) but it finally died
after years of faithful service grinding
approximately 45 lbs of meat and bones each
month. What a truly impressive workhorse it
has been! I never expected it to last this
long given the amount that I grind. I am
debating whether to give it a proper burial
or send it to
One Stop Jerky Shop to be repaired.
I have such a soft spot in my heart for this
grinder that I will most likely get it
repaired so that I can have it as a back-up
So, what did I decide to replace it with? As
much as I love my Tasin (~$150), I have been
dreaming of upgrading to a faster and
quieter grinder so I went with the
Weston #12 Meat Grinder
(~$430). I figured that after spending
close to 10 years making cat food, I
deserved an upgrade and I am thrilled with
my decision. Yes, it is 3 times more
expensive than the Tasin but, so far, I feel
that it is worth every penny. I have only
ground 35 lbs of meat and bones (chicken and
large turkey thighs) so I cannot comment on
its durability over time.
2013 update: The Weston is still
doing a great job!)
That said, I want to make it clear that
Tasin TS-108 will be just fine for the
Anne (catnutrition.org ) has been using hers
for ~11 years to make food for 2 cats.
However, if you are interested in a faster
and quieter grinder, I suggest that you
consider the Weston #12. Honestly, I am
kicking myself for not upgrading sooner.
If you are
interested in the smaller Weston #8,
understand that it has a smaller feed tube
and it is going to be slower than either the
Tasin TS-108 (which is a #12 size) or the
Here are some comments regarding the
Weston #12, along with comparisons to
the Tasin meat grinder:
It is very quiet! The Tasin is quite noisy and frankly, it was
getting on my nerves. (Robbie now stays in
the kitchen with me. Before, he would run
like crazy when he sensed that I was going
to turn the grinder on.)
It is much faster - twice as fast
as the Tasin TS-108. Making cat food is
definitely not my favorite pastime and the
sooner I can get out of the kitchen, the
happier I am.
It has a
larger feeding tube (2.5" vs
easily takes a whole chicken thigh but will
also accommodate a whole turkey thigh so
that means less prep time cutting up meat.
The Tasin TS-108 can
handle whole pieces of chicken but sometimes
a larger thigh needs to be cut down into
smaller pieces to fit down the tube. This is
not a big deal but is an extra step.
auger is larger -
with a wider 'bite' which quickly
takes a chicken or turkey thigh bone. This
is a significant improvement over the Tasin
which sometimes has trouble 'biting' the big
end (knee joint) of a chicken thigh bone.
(It is always best to put the hip joint end
in first because it is smaller.)
When I used my Tasin to grind turkey thigh
bones, it really labored even when putting
the smaller hip joint in first. In an
effort to not tax the motor, I did not
allow the knee joint to go through the
grinder. I would stop the grinder and then
back it up to remove the knee joint. This is
hard on the motor and probably contributed
to my Tasin's final demise.
grinder did process ~100 pounds of turkey
thighs, I honestly think that this is
expecting a lot from a grinder at this price
point. If you must use your Tasin meat
grinder for turkey thighs, I would recommend
chopping or smashing the bones into smaller
pieces to take some of the strain off the
motor. For me, this would have been
far too much trouble and I would have just
stuck with chicken.
The pan is significantly
I can use all of my old grinding plates
on the Weston #12. I use the 4 mm
plate that came with the Tasin.
The Weston comes with a 4.5 mm plate
which is close enough.
The Weston is larger and heavier than the Tasin but I do not have a problem with
lifting it onto my sink.
(body only): 33.0 lbs
Dimensions: 14 1/8" long x 6 1/2" wide x 11
(body only): 8.75 lbs Dimensions: 12 7/8" long x 6 1/5" wide x 9
does not have a reverse switch which
does worry me in case it gets jammed.
I used the reverse function on my Tasin
(rarely) but my hope is that the Weston's
power will prevent it from jamming so that I
will not miss this feature. If it does
jam, it won't be the end of the world; I
will just have to take it apart and clean it
out. (November 2013 update: I
have not experienced any need for the
Do not get caught up in looking at just the
wattage rating since more wattage does not always mean a better or faster
grinder. For instance the Tasin TS-108 is
listed as a 1,200 watt grinder and the
Weston #12 is listed at ¾ HP or 560 watts.
The motor type and gear construction are
significant factors in the performance of
the grinder and its power rating.
that the Tasin and Weston grinder parts (as well as the
Turbo Force brand mentioned below) are NOT
meant to go
into the dishwasher or they will be ruined.
I don't have a problem with this since I
prefer to wash them by hand anyway.
The grinding plates are not stainless steel
but I have never had any problems with rust
forming. I simply wash them off
with soap and hot water (using a nail to
clean out any clogged holes) and then dry
them and wrap them in a paper towel to wick
away any moisture. I have never needed to
add any oil to them.
people spray the grinding plates with
food grade silicone spray before storing
them. This will help prevent rusting.
Force 3000 grinder has gotten some good reviews
on Amazon.com but I do not have an opinion
regarding this grinder since I have not
used it. I noticed that one reviewer
stated that the grinder had trouble
processing drumsticks. I would
recommend using thighs and not drumsticks.
Drumsticks have more tendons which tend to
bind the grinding plate/blade/auger.
sells a grinder that looks like the Tasin
TS-108; it is called
Northern Industrial #12 Electric Meat
Grinder. I bought one
in 2005 as a back-up grinder thinking
that it was a Tasin. I was not happy
with its power when it came to grinding
bones and so I put it away. I recently
tried to use it when my Tasin died but it
lasted all of 5 minutes before it died.
I would not recommend purchasing this
A discussion regarding the
cost of good nutrition would not be complete without considering the
cost of not feeding a species-appropriate, nutritious diet.
The saying "pay me now or pay me later" really applies
here. You can feed your cats well - either
with a homemade diet or canned
food - or you can pay the veterinarian later. I have often said
that if people would feed their cats and dogs better, more vets would be
out playing golf.
One must also consider the
cost of time involved when dealing with a sick pet.
instance, diabetes is a time-consuming and
expensive nightmare to deal with.
Inflammatory bowel disease is not much fun
either, nor are skin allergies to
inappropriate ingredients found in most
commercial pet food. I would rather
spend time making cat food than giving my
cat insulin or cleaning up vomit or diarrhea
from intestinal woes or
dealing with any number of other diet-related problems that keep
veterinarians' waiting rooms full of sick pets.
This is not to
say that all feline diseases are necessarily
linked to diet but many of them are.
"We are what we eat" is not just a useless
.....I want to mention that
there are few things more frustrating than slaving away in the kitchen
carefully preparing a wonderful meal for your carnivore.....only to have
them end up sniffing it and then walking away.
I don't like to see people
get discouraged so I strongly suggest that you just take it slowly.
When I decided to start
making cat food, I did not buy a grinder and all of the
supplements right away. I just simply bought a chicken thigh and a
chicken breast (some cats may like dark meat
more than white or vice versa),
thoroughly rinsed the meat with water, and
cut it up into small pieces (the size of a pea or a bit
larger) to see if my cats would eat raw meat.
A couple of cats went for it right away and a couple of them just walked
Ok....that was a start.
(Most cats will like thigh meat better than
breast meat because thigh meat has a higher
fat content and fat increases palatability.)
I then mixed in a few of
these small pieces with their canned food to get them used to the taste
and texture of just plain meat. I also cooked some of the
pieces to see how that went over. If your cat likes it cooked, you
can then cook it less and less to get them used to eating raw or
Other tips: Coat the
meat pieces in parmesan cheese or
FortiFlora is a probiotic that I use to entice cats to eat. I do
not use it as the label states since I am not using it for its probiotic
properties. Instead, I am using it as
I would if I wanted to season my own food
with salt and pepper. As little as
1/10th or 1/20th of a
package sprinkled on top of food can go a long way to entice a cat to
eat something new. This is because FortiFlora is formulated
using animal digest which is the same substance that
pet food manufacturers coat dry
food with to make it very palatable for cats and dogs.
an expiration date on it which I don't pay
any attention to since I am not using it for
its probiotic properties. Therefore, I
don't care if the 'good' bacteria in the
product are dead or not. I am only using the
product because most cats really like the
taste of it. I think that all cat
owners should have it in their cupboard in
the event that you want your cat to try
something new or they are ill and not
wanting to eat anything.
A box of it may very well last you a
I experimented in various
ways as stated above for a couple of weeks before I bought a grinder and
the supplements. Much to my surprise, several of my cats actually
immediately preferred what I made for them over the commercial canned
food that they were eating. To this day, several of my cats will not
even eat canned food anymore - they will only eat their homemade diet.
I have created
little obligate carnivore monsters who hold out for their
Another option before
purchasing the grinder and supplements is to try a commercially prepared
raw food diet. Feline's
Pride uses a recipe very close to the one on this page and
several of my cats gave it a 'two dew-claws up' vote when it was
offered. This diet is free of any grains, vegetables and fruits.
However, when shipping is considered, it is very expensive.
Another choice for a
commercial raw diet is
Nature's Variety raw Medallions. This diet is comprised of 95% meat and bones and
5% fruits and vegetables which is a reasonable blend. It is also grain-free. It is
cheaper and easier to find than Feline's
Pride but I find that more cats will eat
Feline's Pride when compared to Nature's
A third option is to purchase
from the Raw Meat Cat Food Company
(formerly, Feline Future). Note that
there are different pre-mixes depending on
whether you want to add fresh liver along
with the fresh meat (preferable) or, if you
don't want to handle fresh liver, then you
can use the TCfeline Plus which has liver
pre-mix powder is to
be mixed with water, ground meat and skin (no bones), and liver
unless using the Plus version. Please be
aware, however, that I am not advising to use pre-ground meat, in the
raw form, that has
been sitting in a supermarket case so you will still have to find a way
to grind up whole, boneless cuts of meat. Food processors work
well for meat but not bones. That said, I find them much harder to
clean than a meat grinder.
Please see the
Safety Issues below for more information on
pre-ground meat. If you want to use
the TCfeline pre-mix powder, then I would
suggest buying chicken or turkey thighs
(with the bone and skin) and baking as
discussed in the Safety section below.
After removing the thighs from the oven, immerse them in cold water to stop
the cooking process and to cool the meat so
that you can debone it. After deboning
the thighs, run the meat and skin through a
food processor. I discuss how much
skin to use in the
I would also
like to mention that the recipe on this page
is adapted from earlier work done by
Natascha Wille of Feline Future. I am
very grateful to Natascha for her pioneering
work in this area.
I did notice one statement on
the Feline Future (now Raw Meat Cat Food Company) webpage that I need to
address. I would not let a
cat go without food for 48 hours when trying to get them to switch to a
new diet. There is no reason to be that extreme. Time and
patience is the key - not starvation. I will let a healthy cat
go without food for about 18 hours and then offer them some of their
regular food if they will not eat the new food that you are trying to
Please keep in mind that many
cats are not going to dive into any new food right away!
It takes time, patience and some tricks to transition cats onto a new
diet. (It took me 3 months to get my cats off of dry food and
eating canned food but it took less time to move them from canned to
Also note that I have seen
cats go from dry food to a raw or semi-cooked diet - and still refuse to
eat canned food.
If your cat does not take to a new food
immediately, don't get discouraged.
Try mixing the new food with their existing
diet of canned food at a ratio of 10% new to
90% old and then gradually increase the new
diet from there.
Your cat may make it easy for
you and show enthusiasm for the new food right away....but many (most?)
will not. It took one of my cats (Toby) many months before
he would start eating this diet with any consistency and when he finally
did start eating it, I noticed that he was picking out the pieces that
got a bit cooked when I was warming the food. Toby still is not
terribly keen on strictly raw meat so he gets his semi-cooked. See
below for a
picture of how he likes his homemade diet half cooked and half raw. I
often cook it even more than is shown in the picture below.
Interestingly, Toby is one of my cats that does not like canned food.
Some people feed a bit of canned mixed with
the homemade for the rest of the cat's life.
I don't have a problem with this if that is
what it takes to get them to eat a
predominantly homemade diet.
food is not difficult. I am a walking disaster in the kitchen and it is my least
favorite room in the house. If I can make cat food, anybody
can. I won't lie - it can be a bit
time-consuming - but it is definitely not difficult or complicated.
If you can follow a simple recipe, you can make cat food. I
prepare enough food for 8 - 10 weeks at a time but I have also used
food that has been in my
freezer for up to 1 year.
I was afraid
that the 1 year old food would be freezer
burned but I rinsed the top ice crystals off
and my cats were fine with it.
And...they are normally very picky cats.
All that said,
aim for no more than 3 months in the freezer
since nutrients do degrade over time - even
when in the freezer.
that I spend making cat food is much less time than is involved in caring for cats that become
ill from poor nutrition.
In a nutshell - before I go
into more detail below - I grind up meat, bones, skin, and liver. I then
make a supplement slurry by adding vitamin
B-complex, vitamin E, fish oil, taurine, and iodized lite salt (if using
poultry thighs) to water.
After I am
sure that all of the supplements are
thoroughly dissolved in the water, I mix the
slurry into the ground up meat/skin/liver
and then portion it into containers and put
it in the freezer.
If I was not so lazy, I would use
the eggs that are listed in the recipe
below. Truth be told, I have not added
eggs to the recipe for many years so I will
leave that open as an option. If you
can swing it - add them. They are very
nutritious - especially the yolks.
I also cut some of the meat
into chunks for dental health - when I am not being lazy.
course your cat has to have a healthy mouth to start off with when
pushing the chewing issue. No cat
will want to chew on any type of food if he has a painful mouth!
The picture of the ground
thighs shown below was taken when I was just rinsing the thighs off in
water - versus baking as mentioned above. Therefore, the meat
below appears to be a deeper color of red
that it will if you partially bake the meat.
Thighs Supplements and Water Added
Ready to Freeze
above are many years old. I have replaced
the plastic containers with Ball or Kerr
see a very helpful
pictorial section on Anne Jablonski's
website at catnutrition.org.
In addition to the great pictures that Anne
has on her website, she also has some
'frequently-asked-questions' that address many of the issues that come up when people are new
to making cat food.
Also, if you are interested in learning more
about feline nutrition, please read Michelle
Bernard's book Raising
I tend to be a bit lazier
than Anne so the information here will differ from her way of doing
things just a bit. I will point out where I deviate from her
methods and then you can decide for yourself how you would like to
Sidney-Beans Jablonski - my godchildren
One of the most important issues to address
when feeding a homemade diet is the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. Keep
in mind: Bones = calcium (etc.).....Meat = phosphorus.
When a cat eats a bird or a
mouse, he is getting a naturally balanced diet since he is eating both
meat and bones.
remember that calcium is not an optional 'supplement' but a very
critical component of the diet.
The bones must be ground with the
meat (preferable), or another source of calcium + additional supplements must be added to the recipe if only meat
cannot live on meat alone with no source of calcium.
Meat is high in phosphorus but does not
contain much calcium. Therefore, a calcium source must be
supplied and it must be done in the proper
considering the phosphorus in the meat.
The most obvious - and best - way to add
calcium to the recipe is to grind the bones
with the meat.
am a stickler for using fresh bone versus
bone meal or calcium carbonate. You
will not find a substitute source of calcium
(bone meal, egg shells, etc.) that has all
of the elements that are contained in fresh bone.
Bone meal is heavily processed and the
nutrients in the marrow will not survive the
Plus, it is so easy to just grind
the meat and bones together.
And....deboning meat is
not much fun and I do
not advocate the feeding
of pre-ground supermarket meat fed in the
raw form. The bacterial
load can put your cat at risk for severe
2011 update: For people who are
unwilling or unable to purchase a grinder, I
have finally 'given in' and added to the recipe
section below the amount of
bone meal needed to balance a boneless diet.
However, you will still need a food
processor to grind up the meat, skin, liver,
and eggs since, again, I do not advocate
using pre-ground supermarket meat. You will also have to debone
whole cuts of meat such as chicken or turkey
thighs. (In the long run, most people
come to realize that it is much easier to
just use a grinder.)
bone.....how much to use.....
When the typical prey of wild
cats is analyzed, we see that there is a fairly wide range in the
calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in these prey animals so we do have some
leeway when dealing with this issue.
Note that when
small wild cats eat mice and
small rabbits they usually eat the entire carcass
- including the entire boney skeleton of
their prey - whereas the larger cats (lions,
etc.) strip the meat off of the bones
leaving much of the skeletal structure of
their prey behind. This fact
illustrates that there is a wide variation
in how much bone material wild cats consume.
Taking a logical look at the
calcium-to-phosphorus ratio (bone-to-meat ratio), it would seem that the easiest way to ensure
having a proper ratio
is to use a whole carcass of whatever animal you are choosing as a food
source. However, after witnessing constipation in many raw-fed
cats and watching lions strip the meat from
the bones - leaving most of the bones behind
- I am not comfortable feeding as much bone
as that found in whole chickens, turkeys, or rabbits.
use poultry thighs, which have a lot of meat
relative to the bone. I dilute the
bone even further by removing ~25% of the
thigh bones. If I am grinding 20
thighs, I remove 5 bones.
I also add
poultry meat (including the fat and
skin) to the whole carcass ground rabbit for
the following reasons:
Rabbit has a high
bone-to-meat ratio and I want to 'dilute' out that bone with some
Rabbit is a very low-fat meat.
Plus, it is skinned prior to grinding
which reduces the fat content even
further. Fat is an important component
of a carnivore's diet. Therefore,
I want to add some fat/skin to the
rabbit diet and using poultry is the easiest way to do this.
I can cut part - or all - of the poultry
meat into chunks to help
promote dental health.
some poultry lowers the price of the
food since poultry is cheaper than
If you choose to grind up an
entire carcass and not 'dilute' the bone with added boneless meat, then
I would suggest at least leaving out the back and neck since these are the parts of
the chicken/turkey with the highest bone-to-meat ratio.
On a good note, if you do choose to grind up
whole poultry carcasses, in considering the bone-to-meat ratio, our
commercially raised chickens and turkeys
will most likely have a lower bone-to-meat
(higher meat-to-bone) ratio than a wild
chicken/turkey given that poultry producers
do whatever they can to promote 'meaty'
birds for human consumption.
But all that
said, unless you are trying to save money by
using whole carcasses, I suggest just using
poultry thighs which will lower the bone content of the food since the thigh is
the 'meatiest' part of a bird's body that contains a bone. Also, cutting up carcasses is not only an unpleasant
task but it is also very time-consuming.
It is not uncommon for cats to experience
some constipation issues when started on a
homemade diet. The reasons for this
are variable but one cause may be the
addition of too much bone to the diet.
Another reason may be that the new
diet is simply very foreign to an intestinal tract that has only dealt
with dry food in the past and now needs time to adapt to a new diet,
that is, if it can adapt.
in mind that cats on a homemade diet, such as the one discussed on this
webpage, do not pass feces in the same volume, consistency, and
frequency that a cat on a dry food diet does.
I have many people write to
me stating that their cat is "constipated" simply because they are not
passing stool every day. This is not necessarily a sign of
constipation. Cats on a low residue diet will often not pass stool every day. There is very
little waste contained in this diet and so the volume of feces will be
less. Also, the feces of a cat eating the diet discussed below are often dry and crumbly.
This is a
picture of feces from 2 separate bowel movements from my cats. In
other words, an average bowel movement from my cats is half this volume
- or even less.
I crushed 2 of the fecal pieces to show how dry and crumbly it is.
The feces from my cats also has very little odor!
Signs of constipation include
straining without production of feces, crying in the litter box and acting distressed,
as well as excessive licking of the anal
area. Defecating outside of the litter
box can also be a sign of constipation.
These cats often either associate the litter
box with pain and develop a litter box
aversion or they simply get discouraged and
impatient when trying to defecate in the
litter box and end up going elsewhere.
When I first started feeding my cats a meat
and bones diet over 9 years ago, 2 of my cats did
experience a few episodes of minor
constipation (cried one time in the litter
box but were able to pass the stool within one minute) over the
course of the first 2 years. I played around with the psyllium by
increasing it, decreasing it, and then finally omitting it. All of
my fooling around with the psyllium amount did not seem to make any
difference in the moisture content of the stools.
The next step that I took in
trying to deal with the constipation issue was to decrease the amount of
bone that I was using. I started removing ~25% of the bones
from the thighs. Did this help with the constipation issues in my two cats?
I am not sure. The problems were minimal and
infrequent so this made it difficult to accurately assess the situation.
That said, I still remove ~25% of the
For example, if you are processing 20
thighs, remove 5 of the bones.
Wings, necks and backs are
all parts of the chicken with a very high bone-to-meat ratio.
These parts of the chicken should never be used as the sole component of the diet.
I suspect that these body parts make up a
large percentage of some of the commercial
raw diets since they are cheap and are part
of the 'discards' from the human-targeted
for addressing constipation in an otherwise
healthy cat are:
(or its generic equivalent) - starting
with 1/8 tsp once a day mixed into the
food and increasing from there to get
the desired fecal consistency - please
consult your veterinarian if your cat
may have health problems such as kidney
disease when can cause constipation due
fiber source such as guar gum - starting
with 1/8 tsp once a day - add some extra
water to the food (short of your cat
refusing to eat the food)
You can purchase
the guar gum from Whole Foods Market or
There are two
types of fiber sources: soluble and
fiber traps water in the stool, thereby
softening it, but it does not swell as much
as insoluble fiber. It is
fermented into compounds that can be helpful
for colon health.
fiber (e.g., cellulose from vegetables) also
traps water but it swells - adding bulk to
the stool. However, this is not what
we want for cats. Cats are not
designed to eat a high plant fiber diet that
results in a high volume (large diameter)
contain predominantly insoluble fiber making
them much less desirable for treating
constipation in the cat.
There is one
drawback to using guar gum....you will no
longer be able to brag that your cat's feces
do not have any odor. The feces of a
cat fed the recipe discussed on this webpage
(without guar gum) have very little odor but
guar gum is fermented into some pretty
stinky gases by the bacteria in the colon.
above, I use chicken, turkey, and rabbit.
poultry is purchased from Whole
Foods Market and is antibiotic-free but is not organic due to
the cost. I use chicken or turkey
thighs with bone and skin.
need to be finely ground.
purchase chicken livers at WFM.
rabbit is sourced from
wholefoods4pets.com and I purchase
the extra fine double ground product.
This product, which includes the meat,
bones and organs
frozen in 4 lbs flat bags (1 lb and 2 lbs bags are also available) which are easy to
store in the freezer.
does not have to be re-ground.
Note that each
rabbit comes with its own liver (and other
organs) so no extra liver needs to be
For people on the east coast, a rabbit
(814) 587-2178. I have no idea how
finely this company grinds their food but it
is not as fine as the product mentioned
Side note: Of
course there are other issues involved with
commercially-raised meat besides antibiotics
such as the diet they are fed, how
humanely they are raised, etc., but that is
outside the scope of this webpage.
In addition to chicken,
rabbit, good choices include Cornish game hen, guinea fowl,
quail. Duck can also be fed but be aware that duck is typically
very high in fat which may be a problem for
I stick to poultry and rabbit
and do not feed beef or fish because poultry and rabbit are closer in
composition to what a small cat would eat in the wild. Also, beef
and fish have been shown to be hyperallergenic in some cats and if you
used beef, you would have to use bone meal and I greatly prefer using
Raw fish should never be fed
in large amounts because it contains thiaminase which will lead to a
thiamine deficiency in the cat.
poultry: You can either buy whole
carcasses and cut them up to fit into the grinder (leaving out the
or you can use dark meats (preferably thighs - more meat/less tendons),
or a combination of dark meat and breast meat.
If using some
breast meat, I would not use more than ~15%
because it is very low in fat, is more
expensive, and has no bone for calcium.
the beginning of my cat food-making days, I bought whole
rabbit carcasses (because they were cheaper
than the ground carcasses) but soon tired of the work
involved. Plus, I am dangerous with a knife....I ended up bleeding
too frequently. So I now purchase pre-ground rabbit instead
of whole rabbit.
above, I only buy
poultry thighs and never whole carcasses.
The extra savings is just not worth the
hassle of having to cut them up and I like
to use less bone for my cats' diet as
discussed under the bone section
Note that chicken
legs = thighs +
drumsticks. I buy thighs - not whole legs since thighs have a higher meat-to-bone ratio than
drumsticks. Thighs also have less tendons than drumsticks which makes
the meat easier to chunk and makes it easier on the grinder.
Drumsticks may be cheaper but, in the long
run, thighs are a better deal because of the
higher meat-to-bone ratio.
(with bone and skin) are easy to send down the grinder
bones, on the other hand, are obviously
bigger and tax the grinder more than chicken
thigh bones. If you are using a Tasin,
don't be surprised of turkey thighs kill the
When I was
using a Tasin, I sent all thigh
bones down with the hip joint (asymmetrical
end/ball joint) first - never the knee joint
(symmetrical end) - in order to save the
motor. This is because the
auger of the grinder will 'grab' the 'ball'
of the hip joint easier than it will grab
the bigger, symmetrical knee joint.
Again, when I used the Tasin to grind turkey thighs, I stopped the grinder
before the knee joint advanced to the auger.
I then back up the grinder and remove the
knee joint end of the thigh bone and discard
it. This may or may not be wise since
it may tax the motor even more.
Many opinions exist regarding
the ingredients that should be included in an optimal homemade feline
diet. Everyone is free to do their own research and come to their
The diet that I choose to feed is very basic. Some of the elaborate and complicated recipes found on the
internet are enough to cause anyone to abandon the idea of making their
own cat food and that is a shame. It does not have to be that complicated and involved.
diet of a wild cat is pretty
basic - they eat other small animals, often leaving the stomach,
intestines, and some bone behind. They do not consume a large amount of
vegetables, or fruits - ingredients often present in large quantities in
some recipes and in many commercial raw pet food diets.
always use a recipe that includes finely ground bones.
get fish oil, taurine, vitamin E, and vitamin B-complex from
iherb.com or Whole Foods Market
but there are numerous sources for these items.
If you order from iherb.com,
remember to use the code LIS675 for $5 off your first order.
If your cat is thin
and needs the extra calories, leave all of the skin on the meat. If your cat is
chubby or has had pancreatitis, remove ~75% of the skin. (Some
cats that have had pancreatitis do better on a low fat diet.) If he is just
right, remove ~50% of the skin.
not remove the excess fat
around the meat no matter the condition of your cat. Cats need a reasonable amount of animal fat in
their diet. In fact, I have been playing around with adding a
little bit of
bacon fat to individual meals to give my
cats a variety in flavor.
baked 18 ounces of the fattiest nitrite-free bacon I
could find and it yielded 16 TBS of fat.
I used a broiling pan to catch the
drippings. Cook it slowly until the
bacon is dry and crispy. That way, you will
collect the most fat from the bacon.
The dried bacon makes nice bacon bits for
non-vegetarians. Or you can feed them
to your cats as treats. Nitrites in cured
meats is a controversial subject so I opted
to purchase nitrite-free bacon from Whole
When I first started making
cat food, I removed all of the skin - figuring that my cats are
indoor-only and are not burning off as many calories as an outdoor cat
would be. (I am not sure how true this is because ever since
I started feeding them a better diet, they race around the house like crazy
- even my 15 year old cats.)
My cats did lose weight (a
good thing) on the skinless chicken diet but then I worried about
the fact that in the wild they would be consuming the skin of their
prey so now I use at least half of the skin on the chicken thighs. As
mentioned above, I
also add in some chicken/turkey meat with skin/fat to the rabbit
meat and bones since the rabbits are skinned prior to processing and
because rabbits are very low in fat.
If you are not using whole
carcasses of chickens or rabbits but are using chicken parts instead,
use all or mostly dark meat (thighs) since dark meat has a more appropriate
amount of fat than white meat.
Breast meat does not contain
enough fat if it were to make up the whole diet but it is fine to use some breast meat as long as it is not
over ~15% of the total weight. That said, I never use breast meat because it
is too expensive.
You will note that I do not
include any vegetables or fruits in my cats' diet. There seems to be a
strong anthropomorphic drive for the addition of vegetables to a
carnivore's diet - some people just can't get past the idea that while
vegetables may be good for humans, they are not a dietary necessity
for a carnivore and will often cause problems in the digestive tract of
the cat if fed in large amounts.
Cats lack the
necessary to process raw vegetables and fruits into an efficiently usable form. Many people insist on adding
large amounts of
species-inappropriate vegetables to a carnivore's diet arguing that they
would eat them along with the stomach and intestines of their prey.
arguments do not take into account the fact that this vegetable
matter is pre-digested by the prey's own enzymes - enzymes
that are lacking in the cat.
In addition to this very
important fact, the amount of vegetable matter in the average bird or
mouse is extremely small and often the stomach and the intestines
are not even consumed by the cat.
That said, some people do use a
small amount of vegetables and I don't have a
problem with that as long as the amount is minimal (~5%). If you choose
to use a small amount of vegetable matter in this diet, do not feed them
raw. Steam the vegetables first to help break them down to a more usable
form for a carnivore.
Regarding grains -
disregard recipes that add grains to an obligate carnivore's diet.
We want to refrain from feeding cats as if they were horses or cows.
back to this webpage periodically for any updates to the recipe.
Also see below
the recipe for links to products that I
purchase from iherb.com.
that I do not recommend this recipe for cats with CKD (chronic kidney
disease) - formerly known as CRF.
Also note that
I do not favor the many recipes on the
internet that use large amounts of potatoes,
pumpkin, squash, rice, etc., for CKD
patients. In almost all cases of CKD,
feeding these species-inappropriate
ingredients is not only unnecessary but can
be detrimental to the health of the patient. See
2011 update: Since writing this
page many years ago, I have pushed heavily
for the use of fresh bone (versus
bone meal)as a calcium source.
This requires buying a grinder.
people are either unwilling or unable to
purchase a grinder so I am finally 'giving
in' and will state that if you are going to
use 3 pounds of boneless meat and skin, then
the amount of bone meal (NOW brand linked
below) to use is 2 1/3 tablespoons.
That is 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon....or....7
level teaspoons. (1 tablespoon = 3
asked question: "What do I do with the
bones left behind in the grinder?"
I use the following
ingredients - in amounts listed - per
3 pounds of poultry thigh meat/bones/skin
2.25 lbs of
whole carcass ground rabbit + 0.75 lbs of
boneless chicken or turkey meat/skin/fat
1 cup water
more if your cat will eat it with more water)
2 eggs -
yolk raw but lightly cook the white
5000 mg fish oil
source of essential fatty acids - note that this is increased from
the original amount of 2,000 mg - if
your cat does not like fish, it is ok to
use only 2,000 mg) Do NOT use cod
Vitamin E (powdered E in capsules is the easiest to use)
50 mg Vitamin B-complex
(capsules or tablets)
2,000 mg taurine
(use powdered - either in capsules or loose)
tsp Morton Lite salt with iodine when using chicken but not when
using rabbit (contains
potassium and sodium - make sure that it contains iodine - see
living outside of the United States who
cannot source Morton Lite Salt with iodine,
use 1/2 tsp of regular salt (sodium
chloride) with iodine.
Liver - If using ground rabbit (which includes liver) from
wholefoods4pets.com, do not add additional liver. If using
chicken legs, thighs or a whole chicken carcass minus the organs,
add 4 ounces of chicken livers per 3 lb of meat/bones/skin.
I do not add any fiber to my cats' diet.
A cat's natural diet is extremely
low in fiber. Contrary to popular
belief, the hair and feathers of their
prey is not a source of fiber.
Fiber only comes from plant material -
not other animals. The only source
of fiber for a cat in the wild is the
miniscule amount in the gut tract of
their herbivorous/omnivorous prey or the
plants that they may eat. Since
cats don't generally chow down on much
plant material, this is also a
negligible source of fiber.
When I first
started feeding raw, I used psyllium whole
husks but I did not see much difference in
their stool consistency. It was still
very dry and and low in volume but then I
came to realize that this was normal for a
cat eating a diet like this. I was
just so used to the big, bulky, stinky
stools of cats fed commercial canned and dry
homemade diet.............Right = canned
Take my word
for it....the one on the left = very little
The one on the
right = very stinky
At the request
of several readers, here are links to
specific products that I purchase from
but please note that I cannot keep up with
iherb's website if they change links. If a
link is dead, you will have to find another
option on your own.
Fish oil -
This is a link to Nature Made 300 capsules
for people who make a lot of food.
Fish oil - This is a link to Nature Made
100 capsules for those with fewer cats.
Both of these
fish oil products have 300 mg of EPA + DHA
per capsule. There are other fish oils
with a higher level (called "super", etc.)
but they are more expensive per gram of EPA
Note that I strongly prefer
using fish oil capsules - not bottled
oil. Capsules stay fresh longer than
bottled oil which can become rancid.
Make sure that whatever you buy is not lemon
Do not use cod
- I prefer using the d-tocopherol (natural)
versus dl-tocopherol (synthetic) vitamin E.
You can also
use liquid vitamin E in gel capsules but you
will need to either dissolve them in the
water or poke them with a pin and squirt the
oil into the water. I find dry vitamin
E capsules easier to work with.
Lite salt with iodine - sample link to show
picture - can be purchased at most local
grocery stores (not available at iherb.com)
Salmon vs fish
oil: I prefer to use fish oil from smaller
fish such as anchovies and sardines. Oil
from fish that are lower on the food chain
contaminated with heavy metals and other impurities.
If you prefer
to use salmon oil, here is a link to a
product that I used for many years before
switching to oil from smaller fish:
Bone meal powder - for use if you are
not going to buy a grinder. Please
note that different brands of bone meal
powder vary in their composition. I
have calculated the amount needed based on
the NOW brand product so please use this
brand if possible.
Most cats eat
approximately 4-6 ounces/day.
Therefore, this recipe yields enough
food for one cat for approximately 10-14 days.
capsules with dry ingredients, open them and add the
powder to the water. If using tablets,
dissolve them in the water.
You can either
poke the fish oil capsules with a pin or
cut the tip off with scissors and squirt the
oil into the water....or you can do what I
do and just dissolve the fish oil capsules
in the water for ~15 minutes and then, once
they are somewhat dissolved, make sure that
all of the oil is liberated from the capsule
by squeezing the capsules with your fingers
within the water. Using warm water
helps dissolve them faster. I use this
method because I make so much cat food at
one time that it would take forever to poke
each capsule with a pin.
It is fine to
leave the capsules in the water. They are
gelatin (a protein) and most cats readily eat
them. However, make sure that none of the
vitamin supplements get stuck in a blob of
the capsules. The last thing you want your
cat to do is bite into a highly concentrated
area of bad tasting vitamins.
For the boneless poultry
meat and skin that you are adding to the pre-ground rabbit carcass, you can either use a grinder or a food processor for the
meat that you don't chunk for dental health.
Notes on why I omit/alter certain
ingredients that you may see in other recipes:
You will see recipes on the internet that use kelp. Kelp
varies in its iodine content but usually
contains very high levels of this
mineral. The thyroid gland is very
sensitive to iodine levels that are
either too low or too high. Given
the fact that hyperthyroidism is very
common in the cat, I do not want to add
too much, or too little, iodine to the diet.
The thyroid gland of a cat's natural prey is
a good source of iodine but when
using chicken or turkey thighs - and,
thyroid gland - we need to add Morton's
iodized Lite salt as a source of iodine.
I use Lite salt instead of regular table
salt because Lite salt is a mixture of
sodium and potassium versus table salt which
is all sodium.
The iodized Lite salt
(or, for non-US residents, regular iodized
salt) is not an optional ingredient. It is a
definite requirement when using only chicken
or turkey parts - or any whole carcass that
does not include a thyroid gland.
in mind that when we use poultry, we are
missing the blood and its sodium and
potassium. The Lite salt adds in some
sodium and potassium
If using ground
rabbit, I would assume that the thyroid gland is included.
However, you may want to call your supplier and ask if this is the
case. If it is, I would not add the iodized Lite
Be sure to use all of the blood that comes with any
ground food since blood contains valuable nutrients - including
sodium and potassium. Note that
the ground rabbit from wholefoods4pets.com
comes with a lot of blood included (and the
thyroid gland) which is
why I do not use Lite salt when making
supplement - I initially added this item but when Mad Cow disease
surfaced, I discontinued using it. If you wish to use this supplement, here is a
the product that Anne uses. Unfortunately, that webpage does
not list the iodine content so I have no idea how to work that in
with the iodized salt that I have in the recipe for use with chicken
Dulse - This is an
optional trace mineral supplement. I have never added it to my
cats' food. Many people feel that the
mineral content of our soil is not what it used to be so this is one
some people choose to add it to the recipe.
Hearts - Hearts
are a good source of taurine but chicken
hearts are not as high in taurine as
mouse hearts. Therefore, I
consider hearts to just be pretty much
the same as muscle meat so I still add powdered taurine.
(I have never used heart meat in my
cats' food since I do not have a readily
available source for them.)
Egg whites -
Raw feeding sites often discuss the fact
that raw egg whites contain avidin which binds to biotin in the intestinal tract and
prevents it from being absorbed. However, I don't see this as a
significant issue because there is biotin in the
egg yolk and there is plenty in the B-complex so I doubt that the avidin in the raw egg whites would cause a problem.
But, that said, in light of the recent
contamination of eggs with salmonella, I
would lightly cook the egg whites anyway.
If you want to be extra safe, then
lightly cook the entire egg (white and
I find that soft boiling them (~6-8 minutes)
works very well but some people like to scramble them
in a bit of butter. Be be sure to run them
through the grinder or food processor in
order to break them up so that you can mix them into the food uniformly.
For cats with
gastrointestinal issues or any
signs of allergies, I would suggest omitting the eggs
when first introducing this diet. They can always be added in
later as a single change to the diet. That way, any negative
reaction can be monitored. If your cat does not like the diet,
try omitting the eggs. Some cats just do not like eggs.
I consider the eggs to be an optional
Note: I do not recommend this recipe for
CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) cats.
(CKD is also known as CRF -
Chronic Renal Failure - but we are trying to move away from the word
"failure" because it is such a negative term.)
There are other recipes that are more suited to feeding cats with this
condition. However, the nutritional needs of these cats must be
discussed on an individual patient basis. The reader can reach me
to request a phone consultation if they wish to discuss an appropriate
diet for a CKD patient.
All consultations are conducted via the
phone (or Skype) only after the patient's medical records, including lab work, have been provided for my review. General
CKD medical management
to prolong the length and quality of life, in
addition to appropriate dietary issues, is discussed during the
consultation. My CKD consultations take up approximately 2 hours
of phone time since there is a lot to
discuss if optimal CKD medical and
nutritional management is desired.
noted above, I do not see diets that are
loaded up with potatoes, pumpkin, squash,
rice, etc., as being healthy diets for any
cat - including CKD patients.
Here is a
video that my friend, Anne Jablonski of
catnutrition.org fame, put together.
Please note that Anne uses a plate that
creates a very coarse grind whereas I prefer
a more finely ground product. Anne has
never had any problems with her cats eating
larger bone pieces but I have. You
will see that her grinding process goes much
faster with the plate that she uses.
I prepare food for my cats in
two basic ways - depending on if I am using pre-ground rabbit or whole chicken/turkey
thighs from Whole Foods Market:
rabbit (meat, bones, and liver): The ground rabbit is shipped to me in a
frozen state in 4 lb packages. I thaw it and mix in the ground and
chunked chicken/turkey thigh meat and skin as discussed above.
The supplements are added
to the water and, once they are all
dissolved, this supplement slurry is added
to the meat/bones/skin/liver/eggs.
Since I make so much food at one time (30 -
50 lbs), I find it easiest to use my hands
to thoroughly mix the food. After the
food is mixed well, it is
portioned into containers and put into the
Note that for
this preparation, either a grinder or a food
processor is needed to grind the boneless
poultry meat and skin.
2) Chicken/turkey thighs: The second way that I make
food is to:
the chicken/turkey thighs and liver leaving ~50%
of the thigh meat raw. (The time
needed varies depending on how thick the
thighs are but is usually ~15 minutes,
give or take.) I use a Pyrex dish
since I will be using all of the fat drippings so
I can add them to the ground
The liver will
be cooked more than the meat which is fine.
Remove from the
and put in cold water to stop the cooking process.
Remove some of the
raw meat from the bone
Cut the meat into chunks for dental
health.... as much as you have the
patience for. (I hate chunking
meat but since switching from using a
knife to using a pair of sharp
scissors, this task is not as annoying.)
Truth be told, I often skip this step.
There is just only so much time I am
willing to spend making cat food!
When I say "chunks" I mean pieces of
meat about the size of a die (~1/2 inch cubes) or a bit smaller at first
and then larger (size of your thumb) once your cat gets the hang of chewing on them.
The bigger, the better. Keep in mind
that raw meat is more tenacious (and better
for teeth) than cooked meat.
prefer it if the chunks were raw like the ones in the middle of this
picture. Raw meat is harder to chew than cooked meat and will,
hopefully, exert more cleaning action on the teeth.
That said, nothing is as beneficial for
dental health as daily brushing.
Run the meaty bones
and non-chunked meat and skin
through the grinder using this plate with 4 mm holes:
Since I really hate chunking
meat by hand, I tried the plates below which were a waste of money.
Even the one with three large holes ground the meat too finely to allow
for any dental health benefits.
Run the liver through the grinder
the meat and bones. It is also a good idea to run the cooked eggs through the grinder. This way, they will be
broken up and more evenly dispersed through the food. (Some cats
don't like the taste of egg.)
The ground meat/bones/skin/liver/eggs plus the fat drippings from the
baking pan and the chunks of meat are then placed in the refrigerator while the supplements are mixed
Mixing up the supplement slurry:
Whether you are using pre-ground rabbit
with additional ground boneless poultry
meat and skin,
or chicken/turkey thighs that you have ground
yourself, it is now time to combine the
yolks (if you only cooked the white versus the whole egg), vitamin E, vitamin B-complex, taurine, and
oil with a whisk.
Note that it
is helpful to put the fish oil capsules
in warm water in advance of mixing up the
supplement slurry. It takes about
15 minutes for them to dissolve and I use my
hand to make sure that all of the oil is
squeezed out of each capsule. Some
people poke the fish oil capsules with a pin
but I use ~50 capsules for my large batches
and that would take far too long.
It is ok to
leave the capsules in the water. Most
cats readily eat them but if your cat is not
fond of fish, then you may want to remove
Remember to add the
if using only chicken/turkey thighs. This is an important source of iodine
since the thyroid gland is not included when using only chicken/turkey parts.
Pour the supplement slurry
into the meat/bones/skin/liver/egg mixture. Mix very well then portion into containers
and freeze. Leave at least 3/4" of head space to allow for
Ideally, the food should only be in the
refrigerator (in a completely thawed state)
for 48 - 72 hours so keep that in mind when
your container size. The average cat eats about 4-6 ounces per
day. When I was first starting to feed a homemade diet, I used
baby food jars so there would be no waste during the transition. I
then quickly graduated to larger plastic containers that hold 1-1.5
pounds. People with just one or two cats need to pick the
container size that works for them.
You will note on Anne's site
that she prefers not to warm the food in the microwave. Instead,
she heats it in hot tap water. This method would never work for me
since it takes forever to get hot water at my sink and I hate wasting
water. Plus both my cats
and I are impatient so all of my cat
food-warming is done in the microwave. Depending on the level of
thawing, I may heat it for 10 -15 seconds then stir. I repeat this
several times so that the food is not cooked but is just warmed to
'mouse body temperature'.
Exception to the above:
I found that one of my cats, Toby, was (is)
very stubborn about eating meat if it is
completely raw but I noticed that he would eat the 'accidentally-cooked' pieces if
I left it in the microwave too long. I have tried
to cook it less and less over time but he is really stubborn about
eating the completely raw rabbit so I humor him and feed it to him half cooked
and half raw - or sometimes it is cooked even more than is shown in this
Toby eating his half
raw and half cooked rabbit.
I do not worry about cooking the ground bones. I
grind them so finely that this is not even a remote concern for me.
There is a very helpful page on the Raw Meat Cat Food Company website. It
provides information on
canning cat food. My Robbie does not do well on any commercial
canned food (he gets severe diarrhea) so this is a great alternative for
me in an emergency situation so I don't have to use commercial canned
I purchased this
and now have homemade canned chicken, turkey, and rabbit cat food available for
periodic feedings and for emergencies. This canned food also comes
in handy if I have to be gone for 12 hours on a hot day. I leave
this food out instead of the raw/semi-cooked diet. This canned food is also
safe for human consumption so it doubles as an emergency supply for both
two-legged and four-legged members of the house.
Please note that I said for "periodic
feedings". I have no idea what
nutrients and in what amounts are destroyed
in the canning process so I would not want
to feed this diet as a sole diet for more
than a few weeks during an emergency
course your cat has to have a healthy mouth to start off with when
pushing the chewing-on-chunks-of-meat or tooth brushing issue. No cat
will want to chew on any type of food or have his teeth brushed if he has a painful mouth!
If in doubt,
please be sure to have your veterinarian
examine your cat's mouth. Poor dental
health is the most commonly overlooked
health problem in our cats and dogs!
Unfortunately, people (including
myself....) do not take their cats in for dental cleanings/exams as
often as they should. We need to stop over-vaccinating cats and pay
more attention to their dental needs. Please see my
Vaccine page for more information on the
rampant over-vaccination that occurs among
our cats and dogs.
I would encourage you to have your cat's
teeth properly cleaned and examined (under general anesthesia - *not*
anesthesia-free) if you
have not already done so. You want to know that your cat's oral
cavity is in a healthy state before you push the issue of chewing
on chunks of meat and/or tooth brushing. If you start your cat off with clean teeth, you
can then go forward and be proactive in keeping them clean.
It is important to
note that chewing on meat and tooth brushing
will not remove the plaque that is already
on the teeth.
Only professional scaling under general
anesthesia can do this in an effective
and safe manner.
like most cat and dog owners, I have been ignoring my cats' dental
health when using finely ground meat and bones and they are paying for it
with unhealthy mouths.
Hopefully you will do better for your cat.
The reasons why my cats'
dental health is not being addressed are:
1) I am being lazy.
De-boning and cutting up meat by hand is time-consuming.
2) My cats are also
lazy (Robbie has a perpetual 'Mommy, please cut my meat for me' look on
his face....) and will often just eat around the chunks. Not only is
this frustrating because the meat is wasted, it can also lead to an
If a large percentage of the meat in the
diet is chunked....and the cat eats around the chunks....they will be
eating too much ground bone/liver and supplements.
Therefore, watch your cat to
make sure that he is consuming both the chunks and the ground-up
portion. Otherwise, he will be eating an unbalanced diet.
And....if you have a kitten,
train him to eat chunks of meat early in life!
One trick that you might try
is to serve a full meal of 100% chunks - when your cat is ~12 - 18 hours
hungry in order to get him used to chewing on meat chunks. Hunger goes a long way when trying to get a cat to embrace
any new food - as long as your cat has a healthy, non-painful mouth.
As mentioned above, you can
also try coating the chunks of meat in parmesan cheese or FortiFlora.
My cats LOVE FortiFlora and would probably
eat cardboard if I sprinkled it with FF.
That said, some cats (~10-15%) do not like
See Anne's pictorial
herewhere she shows the size of the meat chunks that her cats are chewing on. You may have to start
smaller - like the size of a pea - just to get them used to the texture
Unfortunately, most cats are not used to doing what nature intended for
them and they may take some time to get used to gnawing on chunks of
Another good dietary option
to promote dental
health for your cat is to feed them gizzards. Gizzards are very
fibrous and tough to chew and If your
cat will eat them alone, they can be used as a great dental snack.
If your cats
like gizzards, you can incorporate them into
the batch of food since they are easier to
cut up when compared to muscle meat. Just
count the gizzards' weight as part of the 3
lbs of meat/bone/skin in the recipe above.
In order to promote dental
health, many proponents of a raw diet use meaty bones. However,
this is not within my comfort zone due to the risk of broken teeth, or
swallowing sharp bone fragments. Plus, I don't want raw bones
drug around my house.
When first starting to feed
a homemade diet, you may not want to do much chunking if your cat will not readily
eat the chunks. First things first....ie....get them to embrace
the finely ground up meat and bones diet first....then see if you can get them to chew on
chunks of meat.
Brushing your cat's teeth is
the best way to keep his teeth clean if he will not chew on chunks of
meat but, honestly, even if they do chew on
meat? I would still suggest brushing
their teeth as an added insurance policy.
Please see this
video that explains how to do this.
months of use, this tooth brush is very worn
out and needs to be replaced.
toothbrush is the only product that is
suitable for cats and is the one shown in
Please pay close
attention to the statement in the video regarding a thorough dental exam
by your veterinarian before starting a brushing program.
Many cats have very painful mouths but show no outward signs of this
pain. If you try to brush your cat's teeth in the face of a painful
mouth, all you will end up with is a cat that is scared - along with
developing a strong aversion to toothbrushes. If this aversion occurs,
you may never get him to accept tooth brushing once you have addressed
the painful mouth with your vet.
In January, 2010, I started brushing Robbie's teeth after a dental cleaning under
anesthesia and am kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Robbie
builds up tartar faster than any cat I have ever dealt with and he really could
use dental cleanings 2 times per year. Plus, his breath smelled
awful! It actually smelled worse than
2011 update: Robbie's teeth would
have been a mess by now since his last
dental was in December, 2009. However, since I have
been brushing his teeth daily (or at least 6
times/week) for the past 18 months, his
breath is still great and his teeth are very
clean! I should have started doing
this years ago!
Here is a
video that I took in December, 2010.
It is not a very good video but it shows
that he tolerates it very well....and the
kisses on the head are mandatory. :>)
2012 update: It has been more than
2 years since Robbie's last dental and his
teeth are still very clean and his breath
has no odor. I am still brushing his
teeth every night.
2013 update: It has been 4 years
since Robbie's last dental cleaning under
general anesthesia and I am happy to report
that his breath is still great and his teeth
look very good. I rarely miss a day of
brushing his teeth.
Understand that you will not
be able to get to the inside of any teeth. I just focus the
brushing on the outside surface of the upper and lower molars
which is where the bulk of a cat's teeth
problems lie. At first, Robbie was not
as cooperative with the lower molars as he
was with the uppers but now he willingly
lets me brush both areas. He is also
very good about having his canine teeth
('fangs') brushed. In fact, I start
with his canines because he is so good about it.
Note that you
will not be brushing back and forth like you
would on your own teeth. That will
annoy most cats. With Robbie, I swipe
the tooth brush in one direction over and
over again. Front to back, front to
back, front to back....trying for ~8-10
swipes. Then the other side is back to
front, back to front, back to front....
starting to train your cat, only swipe a
couple of times then feed him a treat and
let him go. Concentrate on the canine
teeth and upper molars. Leave the lower
molars until your cat has accepted the other
It may take a
month or more to get your cat used to this
Go slowly and be very patient!
Note that you
do not have to use any toothpaste. A
moistened (with water) toothbrush is all you
need. In fact, I only use the CET
toothpaste that I bought for Robbie as a
treat after I brush his teeth. He
likes the taste of it so I put a bit on my
finger for him to lick off when we are done.
You can try
using toothpaste but if you use too much,
sometimes your cat wants to start licking
and chewing and that will make it hard to
brush his teeth. You actually want the
cat to keep their mouth closed and still.
comment....when I brush the upper molars, I
pull up/back the lip/corner of the mouth so
that I can actually see them. However,
with the lower molars, I keep my finger
under his chin so that he keeps his mouth
closed. I then slip the bristles
between his lips and just 'feel' the lower
molars and listen for the sound of the
bristles against the teeth but I don't
actually see them.
I find that it
is easier to get the uppers brushed than the
Hopefully....one day soon....I will write a
Dental Health webpage which will address
this issue in more detail.
meat: I hear you asking "But I
don't want to buy a grinder....so why can't I just buy ground meat at
the supermarket and add a calcium source?" I would
never do this for reasons stated below. This method is definitely outside of my comfort
zone and is not one that I can recommend.
I buy only
whole meats from the market for the
1) The surface of whole meats can be
washed with water before we grind them. This helps remove the
surface bacteria that would otherwise be ground into the meat. For the first 6 years of
making cat food, I simply rinsed the meat and skin off with water and
then sent the meat/bones/skin through the grinder.
I was always careful to source the freshest meat possible by checking
with my butcher regarding shipment dates.
knowing that the above precautions were
no guarantee that I would be feeding a
safe diet, I now bake the chicken/turkey
thighs to the point where they are
~25-50% cooked on the outside and 50-75%
raw on the inside.
I set the
oven to 350 degrees but the baking time
will vary depending on how thick the
be a loss of weight from the original 3
lbs of meat/skin/bones but by the time
you add the drippings back in and add
more than 1 cup of water to account for
the moisture loss, you will be back at
roughly 3 lbs.
I definitely suggest
doing this for any animal that may be immunocompromised due to illness,
advanced age, or if they are receiving any immunosuppressive
medications, or antacids.
Boiling is one of the worst ways to
cook meat in terms of nutrient loss. Baking
is much better for
nutrient retention. I used to boil
the thighs because it was easier given
the large batches that I make but I now bake
them so that there is less nutrient loss
and so I can save the fat drippings to
put back into the food.
for the freezer, use a
container size that will be used up with
within 2 - 3 days of being in a
completely thawed state in the refrigerator.
2) Once we grind the whole meat
during our cat food preparation, it goes directly into the freezer.
Ground meat that you buy from the supermarket has had the surface
bacteria ground into it. Once the meat is ground, the
surface area increases, which makes a great breeding ground for
bacteria. This meat then sits in the refrigerated section of the
meat department. It is not immediately frozen which would halt any
further bacterial growth.
You may be wondering what the
difference is between the ground meat at the supermarket and the ground
rabbit that I buy from wholefoods4pets.com. Wholefoods4pets
the rabbits and then they immediately freeze the final product versus
refrigerating it. It arrives on my doorstep frozen.
comes to me in such a clean state so that it
would probably be fine if left in the
refrigerator for 4 days but I still package
it in containers to be used up within 3 days
of being completely thawed in the
3) I want to
use fresh bone versus bone meal and it is very easy to grind
the meat with the bones.
With regard to adding a basic calcium source (like
calcium carbonate) - instead of using bone - you run the risk of feeding an unbalanced diet
because these calcium supplements are just that - calcium only. Bone
is a source of more than just calcium.
Source fresh meat:
Check with the butcher who you are purchasing from and see what his
delivery schedule is so that you may purchase the freshest meat
possible. Sometimes I will ask my butcher if he has anything
fresher in the back - versus what is in the display case.
having said this, one of the reasons why I
started partially baking the poultry thighs
is because I did not want to have to worry
about shipment dates. I wanted the
convenience of buying meat on my schedule -
not my butcher's.
Safe food handling
principles: Basic hygiene
practices should be followed when preparing meat for yourself or your
carnivore. My kitchen counters and cat feeding areas are kept very
clean with a 1:22 bleach/water (1 part bleach to 22 parts water) solution.
Bone size: Many people, including Anne,
chunk a portion of the meat and then send the rest of the meat and bones
through this coarse grinding plate.
However, I am
not comfortable with the size of bone pieces
that result from the use of this plate.
In fact, my cats have gotten bones the size
shown below stuck in their mouths causing
them great distress. I have a 4 minute
video of my Robbie violently pawing at his
mouth because of a bone fragment that had
gotten stuck. He was not happy and
neither was I!
I often get asked about
acceptable bone size. This is where I differ from many raw
feeders. I tend to err on the side of caution and grind the bones
This picture illustrates a
bone size that I am
not comfortable with.
These bone pieces were taken
from a single ground rabbit product obtained from wholefoods4pets.com.
At my request, Mary (at WF4P) now offers an Extra Fine Double Ground
product using what she jokingly refers to as "Dr. Pierson's microplate" to
appeal to my paranoia about bone size. (The regular double ground still
yields the bone size as shown in the picture above.)
If you want to save money,
order the single ground (this will yield the bone sizes shown above) and then it will be your choice to feed as is
or send it through your grinder using a fine plate.
With regard to the safety of
raw meat diets, you will no doubt hear varying opinions on this
issue. Many of my colleagues are adamantly opposed to the feeding of
raw meat yet they think nothing of supporting the common practice of
leaving bowls of dry food
sitting out for pets to free-feed from which can be contaminated with fungal mycotoxins, bacteria, chemicals,
or storage mites. It is very frustrating to
witness this narrow-mindedness and
lack of acknowledgement as it pertains to the contamination issues regarding dry
food and treats - many of which have been recalled as noted below.
I would like to see my
colleagues stop reflexively telling their clients that all raw
meat diets are dangerous and understand that there are ways to source
this diet that will actually make it safer than the commercial foods
that they continue to recommend without any thought as to feline
illnesses that these foods contribute to due to their
species-inappropriate composition/ingredients, as well as the contamination issues.
I don't think that a single
cat or dog caregiver in the US is not aware of the thousands of cats and
dogs that suffered tremendously and died - or have been left with
failing kidneys and a shortened lifespan/diminished quality of life - due to the contamination of commercial foods processed
by Menu Foods in the summer of 2007.
While the Menu Foods recall
was the largest pet food recall in the history of commercial pet food,
make no mistake in thinking that this was the first time that cats
and dogs have died after consuming commercial pet foods that have been
with chemicals, bacteria, and bacterial or mold toxins.
However, keep in mind that the vast
majority of these contamination disasters (outside of the Menu Foods
tragedy) have involved dry food or treats - not canned food. Therefore, if you
decide that you don't want to make your cat's food, please feed canned
food and keep the dry food out of your cat's food bowl.
Dry food is simply not a
very healthy or completely safe diet to be feeding to any cat.
Urinary Tract Health and take a look at
Opie's pictures. If humans would stop
feeding dry food to cats, cats like Opie
would not have to suffer from excruciatingly
painful - and life-threatening - urethral
There have been
many instances of mold toxin-related deaths of
pets after eating contaminated commercial dry food. I have
listed a few below but these
tragedies are too numerous to list all of them.
The regulatory body for the
commercial pet food industry does allow a certain level of mold toxins
(found in grains) to be present in your pets' food. For me, this
is unacceptable - especially when feeding cats - since grains have no
business in their diet to begin with.
With regard to the extremely
dangerous and life-threatening fungal toxins found in commercial dry
food, this issue will never be a worry when feeding a grain-free diet -
either in the form of canned food or the diet discussed on this page.
And if mold toxins and
bacteria in dry food are not enough to cause us worry, please consider
the fact that the fats contained in dry food become rancid over time -
even with the preservatives that are added to the food. Heat,
oxygen and light are all factors involved in fats becoming rancid.
Keeping dry food in the refrigerator will help with the issue of heat
but that still leaves the oxidation issue unaddressed.
Dry foods sit in warm warehouses and pet food stores before they even reach
our pets' bowls - promoting rancidity of fats, bacterial growth, mold
growth, and toxin formation, and proliferation of storage mites.
At the very
least, dry food should be kept in the
refrigerator but it is better to just
refrain from feeding this type of food.
for an abstract that discusses the issue of storage mites that
were found in 9 out of 10 bags of tested dry food.
will take you to an article on a website maintained by the pet food
industry. This article discusses the use of ethanol by-products in
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that many cats and dogs have
died as a result of consuming commercial pet foods yet the cause goes
These deaths include the
various illnesses that manifest themselves due to the
species-inappropriate composition (composition =
percentage of calories coming from proteins/fats/carbohydrates and the
water content) of the diet, as well as
out-and-out contamination issues as discussed above and below in
the Pet Food Recalls section.
Unfortunately, humans just don't recognize these illogical and unsafe
diets as the cause of the pet's illness. Humans - including
veterinarians - often fail to
put 2 + 2 together in many instances of ill health or death. Food
is often the last thing to even be considered as a cause or contributing
factor in the event of an illness or death.
As stated above, we all must
work within our comfort zone. If you find that you are not
comfortable feeding a raw meat - or semi-cooked - diet even when implementing the tips in my
safety section, then please feed
canned food and remove all dry kibble from your cat's diet.
Throughout the history of the
commercial pet food industry, there have been numerous recalls of dry
kibble pet food and treats due to contamination issues involving
bacteria (salmonella, etc.) fungal
mycotoxins, deadly chemicals, and storage
mites. And to be fair,
there have also been recalls of commercial
raw meat diets.
The list below by no means
includes all reported contamination issues. If it did, this webpage
would be a mile long.
I have included links below
that will take you to the websites of the manufacturers or to articles
discussing the recalls/warnings.
However, they seem to take these pages down not long after the recall is
For a list of
truthaboutpetfood.com. This website lists pet food recalls and
is much more current than the information below. I cannot keep up with
the task of posting all recalls/warnings/dry
animal deaths and human illnesses/deaths
on this page.
January, 2011: 200 cows recently
died after consuming feed contaminated with
moldy sweet potatoes. The mycotoxins
produced by the mold was the cause of
Nature's Variety raw
chicken products - possible salmonella contamination. This company
has recently implemented a pasteurization process to help ensure the
safety of its future products.
January, 2010: Merrick
Beef Filet Squares for dogs -
FDA warning issued due to
salmonella contamination of these
Wysong recalls dry food with mold contamination.
October, 2009: Diamond Pet
Food company recalls Premium Edge dry food due to thiamine deficiency
which causes severe neurological damage and death in cats.
June 12, 2009:
The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration announced today it was suspending the temporary Emergency
Permit issued to
Evanger's Dog & Cat Food Co., Inc.
The deviations in their
processes and documentation could result in under-processed pet foods,
which can allow the survival and growth of Clostridium botulinum (C.
botulinum), a bacterium that causes botulism in some animals as
well as in humans.
January 9, 2009:
Chicken jerky treats for dogs. Here is an excerpt from VIN
(Veterinary Information Network):
Food and Drug Administration has received 153 complaints during the past
16 months about illness in dogs that have eaten chicken jerky treats and
continues to take reports “at a steady clip,” an agency spokeswoman said
November 25, 2008:
Mars Petcare US extended its
October 28, 2008 voluntary pet food recall of dry food that affected 15 states,
adding more product carriers and brands affected by possible salmonella
October 28, 2008:
Mars Petcare US is yet again
recalling another salmonella-contaminated dry food manufactured
at one of their facilities. This time it is Special Kitty Gourmet
which is sold at Wal-Mart locations in 15 states.
October 20, 2008: Hartz
Mountain Corporation is recalling
rawhide chips due to salmonella contamination.
September, 12 2008:
Mars Petcare US, once again,
is recalling salmonella-contaminated dry pet food. This
company makes many different brands of pet food. There were
many human cases of salmonella infection possibly linked to this food.
August, 2008: The California Public Health department reported
contamination of Pedigree dry dog food. Pedigree is made by Mars
August, 2007: The FDA recalled several
dry foods under the Natural Balance Eatables
product line due to botulism toxin contamination.
January 2006 - September
2007: See this
for a CDC report on a multi-state (19 states) outbreak of salmonella in
during 2006 and 2007.
The source was dry pet food made at Mars Petcare US.
December, 2005: Some of you may also remember the
deaths of many cats and dogs after they ate Diamond pet food in 2005. These animals became
very ill - and many died - secondary to liver failure from mold toxins
(aflatoxin) that were contained
in the grains of a commercial dry kibble. Many cats and
dogs died as a result of this contaminated food. The surviving
animals will have permanent liver damage.
receive emails from readers asking for
recommendations for websites like mine that
discuss optimal canine nutrition.
There may be some out there but I don't know
of any specific ones to send readers to.
I will say
that if I had a dog, she would be fed the
same diet that my cats are fed.
However, if someone wants to incorporate
some vegetables and grains into their dog's
diet, appropriate balanced recipes can be
from cats in that they are not true
obligate carnivores. Therefore,
they can utilize plant proteins in a more
efficient manner when compared to cats.
Dogs also have a higher thirst drive to make
up for the water deficit in dry kibble.
But, all that
said, I would still feed my (hypothetical)
dog a fresh, water-rich, minimally cooked,
meat-based diet and refrain from feeding her
a water-depleted, cooked-to-death, high
carbohydrate, plant-based protein, and often
highly-contaminated dry food.
Information on this site is for general informational purposes only
and is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. This
site is not intended to replace professional advice from your own
veterinarian and nothing on this site is intended as a medical diagnosis
or treatment. Any questions about your animal's health should be
directed to your veterinarian.