Sunday 20 September 2015

Why I'm Making My Own Cat Food

Poor Maeve became very, very sick this summer. She developed urinary crystals, a painful and potentially life-threatening condition. I dealt with that. Next, she showed symptoms of a thyroid condition. Veterinary treatment for hyperthyroidism in cats ranges from daily medication to radioactive iodine therapy. Neither is a good option in a cat that has started having violent allergic reactions. There was even a question of her being diabetic.

This little gal is only 4 yrs. old and her internal organs were failing, one after another. Treatments would run in the thousands of dollars and the prognosis still wasn't good. The first clue to what was making her so ill was a simple attack of hives. She was covered in them and clawed at them until she was raw, bleeding and almost bald. I took her outside with me to let the sun give her some relief. She seemed to feel much better and the hives began to heal over after a couple of days in the yard. Then, I discovered she had picked up a bad case of fleas outside. A single drop of the flea treatment you put between the shoulder blades caused such a violent reaction that she nearly choked to death.

That's when I decided to take matters into my own hands and go the holistic route. Maeve is a true feral cat, meaning she comes from multigenerational cats that have lived without human contact. She was undersized and only weighed in at 3 lbs. at her heaviest. I know all this information will make this a long post but I think important to any decision you make in changing what you feed your cats. Ferals survive on eating rodents and birds. The feline digestive system naturally breaks down the raw food and takes the nutrients, moisture and protein it needs and regurgitates the rest. That's the nasty, gooey thing your cat throws up if it eats the prey it catches. It's a perfectly normal process. My cats stay indoors and don't have access to wild food.

I had been feeding Maeve, and two younger ferals I've taken in, with a diet of canned cat food, a small amount of dry cat food and the odd serving of canned fish. It was the equivalent of Europeans introducing their diet to the North American Inuit people. Their systems couldn't handle it and neither can my feral cats. The dry cat food had grain in it. Removing the dry food immediately stopped Maeve's skin condition. Over the next few weeks, her urinary tract problems improved as well.

The food I found worked the best for her was Freshpet Select, a semi-moist food. Even grain free kibble had an immediate bad effect on her. Maeve is tiny and I'm treating her like the canary in the mineshaft. If a food isn't good for her, it most likely will start to compromise the health of the other two cats in time.
The problem I had with Freshpet Select, is that it is only available at one store in my area and they didn't always have it in stock. It was also a little pricey at $1/day per cat. It did have all species specific ingredients, but they weren't organic and I didn't know if there were chemicals that would build up in her system and cause new problems. I've done a lot of research on cat food now. Raw food is probably the best for felines, but I just can't bring myself to do it.

After that long preamble, I'll get to the cat food I made for round one.

I had 2lbs. of organic, chicken stock bones. I put them in a large pot, covered them in water and brought it to a boil. I reduced the heat to a simmer and cooked it just as you would making soup stock, for about six hours. ~

I'm going to add 2 hard boiled eggs, 2 organic carrots, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, a can of kippers and 2 Tbs. of coconut oil to the finished chicken. ~

Kippers, sardines or canned salmon have soft bones that the cats need for calcium. The carrots and parsley are great sources of vitamins and minerals. The eggs provide protein. I could crush the shells and add them to the food for extra calcium but didn't want to have anything the cats might find odd in this new food while I was switching them over.

I cut the carrots into a small dice and chopped the parsley ready to parboil it when the chicken was done. ~

I put a colander in a large bowl and poured the chicken pot into it. This separated the chicken and bones from the broth. The broth is reserved. While it was cooling, I used 2 cups of the broth to boil the carrots and parsley for 5 mins. That's just to soften the carrots and get the chicken flavour through them. I don't want the cats eating around veggies and missing out of those nutrients.

Being careful to remove all bones, I combined the chicken, carrots, parsley, chopped eggs, kippers and coconut oil with two cups of the chicken broth.

This is what it looked like done. ~

It may not look pretty, but you could feed this to your kids. Seriously, there's nothing in here but good food.

This recipe gave me 2 lbs. of pet food. I'm not sure how to cost it out for you. The eggs come from my own chickens, the soup stock bones were free with an organic meat order, the carrots might have cost a quarter each and the parsley is from my garden. So far, I've spent $1.09 on the can of kippers and a few cents on the coconut oil. In the future, I'll introduce other meats, probably leftovers, and use the remaining chicken broth for flavour and nutrients.

Next weeks food and the extra broth is all ready for the freezer! By saving the broth, I can make another batch by simply cooking some chicken and veggies and adding the other ingredients. It isn't a six-hour process every time. ~

In case you would like to give this a try with your cats, I've done a printable of the recipe for easy printing or pinning. ~

Did Maeve, Michaela and Clara Jane like it? Never in my life have I heard cats purr that loud all the way through their dinner! I couldn't even get them to lift their heads for a picture. ~

Not one speck of food was left in the bowls!

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