How to Feed Your Cat, Too

There were complaints that I left cats out in my previous post, so here goes, but it's a long one:

Starting from the supposition that you're struggling to feed your cat, between the high cost of pretty much everything, and the risks inherent in feeding commercial foods in this era of pet-food recalls, here are some ways to provide appropriate meals without buying prepared cat food.

Everything I said about the benefits of feeding raw meat to dogs, applies to cats too, but there is far less flexibility in what cats can eat, and they need to try to get all the nutrition they need in one day, every day, so in some respects, it's easier to feed a cat. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they can only use protein from animal sources, and cannot fully digest plants, nor glean from them all the nutrients they require.
Specifically, they require meat proteins, with a wide array of  amino acids, especially taurine, which is present in organ meats and the dark meat of poultry. Fortunately, this means that one chicken egg would suffice for a cat's daily meal, as long as there is enough fibrous material included for bowel movements. Too simple? Oatmeal makes a quick base for a low-budget pet recipe, but has much lower chance of dietary upset or allergic reaction than any wheat, corn or rice-based cereals. While a dog could handle a 50% egg/oatmeal mixture, a cat will do better with 80% egg.

Meanwhile, the local grocery store will probably have sales on chicken gizzards, hearts, livers and necks. Beef hearts, kidneys, stew chunks, pork or beef tongues... They go on sale, and I stock up the freezer. These are ideal cat meals, as are the giblets found inside a whole chicken or turkey. Most cats have no trouble tackling these whole once accustomed to eating raw meat, but new introductions will go best with the meat chopped up. Gnawing through a chicken neck will keep your cat's teeth pearly white, which will also cut down on vet bills. The hardest thing about this plan is in two parts - how to keep your cat from dragging chunks of meat under the sofa - which can be solved by chopping or grinding up their food - and more importantly - how to get Fluffy interested in that icky raw meat that has nowhere near the scent of the tantalizingly chemically-enhanced commercial food?  Letting dinner come to room temperature is usually enough, and I've run hot water over a neck for a few moments, to get a sulking feline to come to supper. Repeated offerings will eventually win out, since curiosity will not be denied. Since dried kibble especially is scented, and lazy cats like the 'crunch and swallow' method of eating, some cats resist longer than others. I do make crumbly cookie-like jerky treats that work very well crumbled over dinner as an appetizer, please just ask. Some cats love anything soaked in chicken broth, and sometimes I mix Spike's Chicken Salad with water and use it as a gravy over scrambled eggs or yoghurt.  Canned mackerel, salmon, tuna or sardines can be mixed with egg or oatmeal or served alone, so they stay handy on the shelf here as an emergency meal for those days I forget to thaw anything out.

Single most important thing to remember?  Your cat isn't the one at risk for salmonella exposure; you are. Everything you bring home to feed your pet should be completely rinsed off, packaged for one or two day's worth of meals and frozen to minimize the time it sits around thawed. You should wash your hands, any knives or surfaces that have been exposed, and make sure to put any towels or clothes into the laundry promptly. Using white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide solutions sprayed in succession is an effective anti-bacterial method. Do not use tea-tree oil products around food production surfaces, as they are toxic to cats.

What about a "balanced diet?" Let's look to nature - if left to their own devices, most cats would happily hunt their own meals, in the form of small rodents, birds, eggs and reptiles. What would a couple of those a day "balance" out to be? Well, roughly, 10 - 20% bone, 10-20% organ meat, 5-15% fat, and the rest would be muscle meat and connective tissue. Perhaps the contents of the prey's stomach, say 3 - 5% vegetable matter on a feast day.  So for an average cat, eating 2% of their body weight per day, a chicken neck, gizzard, and liver would probably be a good day's diet. Every few days, swap out for beef or offer a whole drumstick, maybe crush fresh fruit or veggies into some yoghurt - the more different types of things your cat is exposed to, the larger their "vocabulary" of available food will be. Expand the range of what they'll be willing and eager to eat, and simultaneously both stimulate their appetite, and improve their general health.

Chauncey & Poof like to know there will be Spike's in the bowl, at a regular interval, and don't mind experimenting with all types of other foods. They'll both try anything, and like Charley Chow, but voice disapproval if Spike's doesn't appear. Josef actively seeks something new and different, and will walk away from a full bowl at the very idea a new food item could appear. He also apparently experiences physical pain when dried pork liver exists in this world, and he is not eating it, but he seems to recover from that state at the next meal. Fletcher is the Cat Bowl Care & Cleansing Supervisor, and as such, has an appetizer of Spike's Chicken Salad every day. His regular meals are usually something large with a bone in it, but he also has Charley Chow as part of a veggie/oatmeal/leftover/stew several times a week.

Hope this helps someone who might otherwise face giving up a beloved pet, or perhaps just those looking for a different approach to feeding their family. Questions & comments always welcome!