Whipping up meals for your cat or dog

NewsdayDecember 24, 2013 

Question: I once saw you on a TV show demonstrating how to make your own dog and cat food. I have wanted to do this for a while, but some of the concoctions I have read about on the Internet seem to be very involved. Could you tell me something that is a bit easier?

Answer: I did that segment with Martha Stewart on her show many years ago, and I am sure it pops up on YouTube here and there. Since this is a popular topic these days, I will go into it in more detail.

First, there is nothing really wrong with commercial dog and cat foods — dry or canned. Millions of animals all over the world eat them and do just fine. However, the more processed a food is, the harder it is for an animal to digest. Some animals just do not do as well on processed foods as others.

Plus, in any brand of dry food, certain ingredients are added to help the processing, and these are not very digestible for carnivores like dogs and cats. Thus, those ingredients come out in the animal's stool and make it more voluminous.

The main issue with making your own pet food is that, unless you are a nutritionist, it is not possible to really make it nutritionally complete with all the vitamins and minerals your pet needs. So some supplementation probably needs to be done, no matter what ingredients you use.

At any rate, here's what I do: I buy a bunch of chicken legs and thighs, because they are very economical. I boil them until cooked, pull out the bones and chop up the meat and skin in a processor. In the water the chicken cooked in, I boil white and sweet potatoes, then coarsely mash them. Some people use cooked rice instead of potatoes, but many animals do not chew or digest rice very well. I get a bag of frozen mixed garden vegetables, thaw them, then mash them with a fork so they are still rather lumpy. For dogs, I mix together one part chicken with one part potatoes and one part vegetables. For cats, I do two parts chicken with one part each of the potatoes and vegetables, because cats need more protein than dogs.

Then, I put the mixtures into plastic bags and store the bags in the freezer. As needed, I defrost them in the microwave.

Feed your pet as much as it will eat twice a day. At first, the volume the dog or cat is eating is so large it is alarming. But as a week or so goes by, you will see the homemade food is so satisfying that the animal starts to eat a lot less.

Because the chicken you are using has no bones or viscera, it is lacking in calcium and other essentials. So you will need to supplement the food with vitamin and mineral tablets.

I used to feed this to my pets all the time, but as life got more complicated, I had to go back to using commercial foods, and my pets were just fine.

Lately, though, my oldest cat, a 17-year-old Siamese, came down with irritable bowel syndrome. My vet put him on Prednisone, and that helped a great deal, but his vomiting and diarrhea did not go away entirely until I put the cat back on homemade food. After three months, we no longer need Prednisone. He has regained all the weight he lost.

Marc Morrone:

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