Serious homemade cat food mistakes to avoid
Niacin (B3) and thiamin (B1)
Vitamin A (not beta carotene)
Adding the supplements before cooking, grinding or pureeing the cat food
Adding too much supplementation (overdosing): magnesium, vitamin A, calcium, vitamin D
Including ingredients cats shouldn’t eat:
- onions and garlic
- tomatoes, chocolate, grapes and raisins
- raw egg whites
- pasteurized milk
- grains or soy of any sort (wheat, rice, corn, oats, etc)
*Find more on which foods cats cant eat here.
Here’s more details on what many of us get wrong if we aren’t fully informed before attempting to make cat food:
Mistake 1: Not supplementing with taurine – even with raw food
Serious heart and eye conditions have appeared in cats fed diets containing insufficient taurine. Cats cannot synthesize enough taurine to meet their needs, so taurine needs to be added even to foods that naturally contain some taurine because it degrades so easily (see mistake #3). Better to err on the side of caution with this one!
Mistake 2: Not making sure the food contains these other critical nutrients…
There are a few other nutrients that a cat must have, but that are not always in homemade cat food:
- Niacin (B3) and thiamin (B1): These B’s are degraded by cooking, so any homemade food needs to have these added after any cooking or heating (attention anyone who warms raw food in the microwave!). Adult cats deprived of niacin, which their bodies cannot manufacture, will lose weight and could die as a result of this deficiency. Thiamin is also essential because a deficiency leads to blindness and neurological impairments such as seizures and heart-rate disorders.
- Vitamin A (not beta carotene): Deficiencies in vitamin A lead to blindness. Cats can’t manufacture vitamin A and, unlike us, they can’t synthesize vitamin A from beta carotene. They must get it from their diet, but it’s not present in most foods. Vitamin A is found in liver and egg yolks, so if those are not part of your cat’s regular diet, they will need appropriate supplementation (not too much! see mistake #4).
- Calcium: If you feed cats meat without a calcium supplement or bones (finely ground in), it can lead to a collapse or curvature of lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones; bone pain and fractures, as well as hyperparathyroidism.
Mistake 3: Adding the supplements before cooking, grinding or pureeing the cat food
Why is this bad? Because key nutrients won’t survive those processes. Add supplements AFTER cooking, grinding, or pureeing. You need to add taurine after any cooking has taken place. And, even if you serve raw food or food that contains taurine naturally, it is believed that is also degraded to some degree by grinding and pureeing. And, taurine leaches out in water, especially if cooking in hot water, so keep that in mind too. Finally, most B vitamins cannot survive heat and the B’s are essential to your cat’s health too (see mistake #2).
Mistake 4: Adding too much supplementation (overdosing)
If you get supplements for your cat food, but add too much, this can also cause significant health problems:
- An excess of magnesium is associated with stones in the feline urinary tract.
- Vitamin A, while critical, becomes very toxic when too much is consumed.
- Too much calcium causes depressed food intake and decreased growth in cats.
- Excessive vitamin D is also toxic.
Mistake 5: Including ingredients cats shouldn’t eat
Again, lots of misinformation out there! Here are human foods that should NOT be added to cat food:
- onions and garlic – cause hemolytic anemia in cats
- tomatoes, chocolate, grapes and raisins – toxic to cats
- raw egg whites – contain a protein called avidin that can bind to certain B vitamins and prevent their absorption
- pasteurized milk – very difficult to digest because the lactase enzyme has been neutralized by pasteurization
- grains or soy of any sort (wheat, rice, corn, oats, etc) – while several years ago it was common to recommend putting grains like rice in homemade cat food, and a lot of commercial cat food still includes them, we are now learning that grains are very hard for most cats to digest and may lead to digestive diseases in some cats (See this article by Fern Crist, DVM and Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life by Dr. Hodgkins, and this article by Dr. Becker.)