Summer time always seems to be a busy time of the year. Also it has been a relatively calm season for all of the kitties. I am still seeing the coyotes a few times each month, but they are not coming close to the house. It still worry each and every night for my 3 outside boys. My hope is that when the weather turns cooler, the coyotes will not travel so far thus keeping away from my property.
This blog post is going to be about home cooking for cats. I decided in the late winter that I wanted all of my cats to be on the best food I could provide. It was especially important with Cisco testing positive for FIV and later having lower urinary tract disease. Last year I went through a process of trying new canned foods. It turned into a disaster, when Jake and Marvin both became very sick from a spoiled can of Weruva. I decided to not mess with their diet and went back to their normal canned food of Wellness and Trader Joes. My inside boys are not picky at all. They will eat most anything. Yet, the outside boys are VERY picky. Go figure that the feral boys are the picky ones! The outside crew mostly loves anything with fish. Of course this worries me as too much fish (especially tuna) is not good for them. They also love to eat dry food. I do whatever I can to get my outside boys to eat the best food, but sometimes I have to just be sure they eat!
I had always been interested in trying home cooked pet food. Raw feeding never appealed to me. I wish that years ago, I had taken the plunge with our dog and give home cooking a try. Of course, hearing lots of negative comments from our vet prompted me to not pursue this endeavor. This time around, I researched for about 6 weeks. I found forums, books and knowledgeable web sites. I knew it would be a slow introduction process, but one I wanted to try.
I decided to start with chicken ( often the easiest protein to start with) and see how they reacted. I chose boneless, skinless chicken thighs as they are a bit more tasty and less expensive than the breasts. I chose to use a pre mixed supplement instead of mixing and buying all of my own. I chose the company Food Fur Life and used their product EZ Complete. It truly was easy and simple to use. I chose the method of crock pot cooking. I then cooled the meat and liquid, shredded the chicken and then pureed it all in a food processor. It is very important to use all of the extra cooking liquid as many vital nutrients are present in the liquid. All of my cats prefer pate style cat food so the food processor was a must. Once the food reached the desired consistency, the EZ Complete was added and mixed thoroughly. I then was able to place the food in freezer containers to keep frozen until needed. I usually made 2 lbs at a time. I defrost the food in the refrigerator and when ready to serve, I warm it a bit my placing the closed container in a small bowl of warm water. I always add extra water when serving their food to be sure they are all getting extra water in their diets.
The inside cats took to the new food very well. I started with just 1/2t. of new food each day, gradually reducing their current wet food. It took a good 6-8 weeks to acclimate them to the chicken. The outside cats were a much harder sell. One day they would eat it and they next no one touched it. Yet I kept offering just a small amount each day.
Once the initial 6-8 weeks had passed and they were eating just home cooked with an additional 2 T. of dry food each day, I decided to introduce a new protein. I decided to try pork. One of my indoor cats ( Jake) cannot eat any beef. So beef would not be an option. I used boneless pork butt roasts and once again used the crock post method. It is often necessary to cut away some of the fat from the roast either before or after cooking. They all loved the pork. Even the outside boys preferred the pork! The introduction of pork went quicker and only took 3-4 weeks.
It is recommended that you introduce at least 3 proteins that are then rotated however you see fit. I was a bit stuck on the last protein since beef was not an option and I did not want to use fish. I was able to purchase the chicken thighs and pork roasts at local grocery stores, yet the last choice would need to be ordered online. I decided that I would try both boneless ground rabbit and boneless turkey thighs. A company called Hare Today-Gone Tomorrow sold both and the shipping was not horrible since I am only one state away. The rabbit was a huge hit. All of the cats really enjoyed it. I was the one that really did not care for it. While cooking it, the smell was not appealing to me. It also was very fatty. I decided that the rabbit would be used just once a week as it also was more costly. I have since learned that rabbit is much cheaper in the winter months than summer.
After using the EZ Complete for a few months, it became apparent that it was going to be way to costly to feed it to 6 cats. I needed to learn how to supplement on my own. Through a wonderful forum, I was able to find very knowledgeable people. There were many recipes with all of the nutritional information available. I was easily able to purchase all of the supplements online. I also needed to order chicken hearts, chicken livers, pork hearts and pork livers. I was able to stock up from Hare Today-Gone Tomorrow so it would last for many months. Using my own supplements has made the price of home cooking so very reasonable. The chicken and pork are the best value while the rabbit in season is used as a once a week treat. I also introduced ground turkey thighs, yet this too is a bit more expensive.
To add a bit of flavor to some of the batches, I have added 6-12 oz of no salt added canned salmon or tuna. I have decided that doing this a few times each year is just fine. I also have worked out a system, where I make the food in 5 lb batches. I will cook for 2 days and then have enough food for 6-8 weeks. It does take some time, but it is not an all day event. The crock pot cooking takes 3-4 hours. Then the cooling process is 1-1.5 hours. The mixing and portioning is around 30 minutes. I use a scale to weigh the correct amount in each container as well as weighing their food at each meal. I am sure in time, I will get more efficient.
A few things I have learned along the way:
- Research, research, research. I am still researching to be sure that I am feeding them the best food. Be sure that you have accurate information. There are some sites out there that don’t use supplements. Cats need certain vital minerals and vitamins.
- Go slow and keep going slow. I absolutely did not want any vomiting or diarrhea. Follow the guidelines and introduce very slowly.
- Trust yourself. I had a lot of doubt that I was doing the right thing. I was worried, they would get sick or I would make them sick. I needed to trust the process.
- When Cisco got sick, I had many moments where I freaked out. I thought it must be the home cooked food. Yet I knew that what I was feeding was better than commercially prepared canned food. At that time, the inside boys no longer received any dry food. This was very very hard for them. Yet when you are dealing with lower urinary tract disease, it is most important for them to consume as much water as possible. So no more dry food.
- I still offer canned food once a week. I decided this needed to be an option since there are times when I am away and I have a pet sitter. Canned food is much easier to portion. We have canned food Sunday each week!
- My outside boys still have not transitioned. I still offer and mix a bit into Shadow and Stellar’s food. Hampton is not fond of any of it. I just take it all week by week.
It has been an interesting journey for me. I have learned so much and I am happy with how all of the cats are doing. I do find that if the outside boys transition fully, I may need a separate freezer! Right now I have 36, 8 oz containers and a few smaller size containers in my freezer.