Commercial pet food has a lot in common with commercial breakfast cereal: Both are tasty, uniform and power-packed with added nutrients formulated for what a body needs; and both make a nice jingle when poured into a metal bowl. The two have something else in common, too: Like big-brand cereals, your dog’s or cat’s food may contain a bevy of synthetic chemicals, stabilizers, anti-caking agents, preservatives, and even genetically modified (GMO) ingredients.
If we worry about the ingredients in the food we feed ourselves and our families, why throw that sentiment by the wayside when Kitty’s set to dine in? What if we fed our pets a simpler version of healthy, natural foods we eat ourselves — grub made with real ingredients, a little variety and a sense of purpose? True, cooking for your pet takes a bit of planning. And, just as feeding yourself and your family requires some knowledge about what you need to stay healthy, so does feeding your pet. He or she is a scavenger by nature, but needs more than assorted table scraps.
Here are a few guidelines and recipes to get you started making your own natural, wholesome pet foods.
1. As with your own body, variety is important. Rotate protein and carbohydrate sources to cover all the nutritional bases. Good protein sources include raw ground round, chuck or sirloin; ground poultry (higher-fat dark meat is best—pets require more fat than humans do); and occasionally organ meats, all from animals raised without antibiotics or hormones. This homemade cat food recipe incorporates these meats with herbs cats love.
2. Good sources of carbohydrates include any fruits or vegetables your pet enjoys such as apples, carrots, zucchini, green beans, collard greens, kale, and roasted veggies such as winter squash or yams. Quick-cooking, economical grains such as oatmeal, cornmeal, millet and bulgur are nutritionally dense and can supply more than half of your pet’s diet (on a dry-weight basis). This Guide to Whole Grains is geared to humans, but works great for furry friends, too.
3. Both cats and dogs have high calcium requirements, so unless bones are ground up and included in their diets, they must have added calcium. Add 1 teaspoon of powdered calcium, eggshell powder or bonemeal to each pound of raw meat and work it in before you add anything else. A high-quality pet vitamin can also help make sure your furry friend gets all the nutrients he needs. Follow these tips when shopping for pet food or ingredients to make sure you are providing the nutrients your pet needs.
4. Portion sizes vary according to size, age and activity level. Your animal’s appetite and weight is generally a good gauge for how much to feed him.
5. Monitor your pet closely when introducing new food. Potential food allergens include beef, wheat, dairy, nuts, fruits, tomatoes, carrots and yeast. If you notice excessive licking, inflamed ears (in dogs) or digestive problems, switch to a simplified diet and slowly reintroduce the omitted foods one at a time.
Pet Food Recipes
The following example recipes come from Aubrey Vaughn’s What to Feed Your Pet:
Doggie Dinner: Spaghettiwith Meat Sauce
8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked and drained
1 pound hamburger, fried
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup tomato juice
Mix hamburger with mushrooms, celery and chopped tomato. Stir in tomato juice. Pour over spaghetti and serve warm.
1 tbsp nonfat dry milk
3 medium eggs
3 tbsp cottage cheese
2 tbsp grated veggies or sprouts
Mix the milk powder with a little water and beat with the eggs. Cook in a hot pan. When mixture is cooked, turn it over, and put the cottage cheese and veggies or sprouts on top. When this is firm, fold it over like an omelet. Cut into bite-size pieces.
As a final note, of course we will all have those busy weeks when preparing one more meal seems like a daunting task. For this reason, it’s helpful to keep a stash on hand of store-bought pet food. Use this guide to choose the right all-natural pet food for your loving critter.
Related Care2 articles:
- The Essential Guide to Dog Food
- Saving Pets with a Pet Food Pantry
- A Roundup of Tips and Info About Furry Friends
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