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How to Cook For Your Pet

How to Cook For Your Pet

Most holistic veterinarians are convinced that the single most important thing you can do for your pet’s health is to give him a more natural diet. Some national pet supply stores–and all stores specializing in holistic pet health–carry a wide range of natural foods. These foods typically contain high-quality ingredients and don’t use chemical additives or preservatives.

According to Amy D. Shojai in New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats (Rodale Press, 1999), even though commercial natural foods are preferable to their mainstream counterparts, many holistic veterinarians recommend bypassing commercial foods altogether and making all of your pet’s food at home using only the freshest, most wholesome natural ingredients. A natural diet should duplicate as closely as possible what pets used to eat in the wild. What this means is trying to duplicate the balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and other nutrients that dogs and cats were designed to eat.

Every pet is different of course. Dogs and cats need different amounts of protein. Puppies and kittens need more calories than adults. Pets with health conditions can’t always eat the same food as other pets. So before starting your pet on a homemade diet, it is essential to work closely with your veterinarian to plan the proper approach.

Shojai states that the most important step in planning a natural diet is to provide the right mix of nutrients. For dogs, this usually means one-third protein, one-third vegetables, and one-third grains. Cats have a higher requirement for meat protein, so they need roughly one-half meat, one-quarter vegetables, and one-quarter carbohydrates. According to Shojai, here is what holistic veterinarians advise:

Pick the Right Protein
Almost any kind of meat will provide plenty of protein as well as the necessary fat. Holistic veterinarians often recommend beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, or venison. Seafood, eggs, and tofu are also good on occasion. Avoid using too much tuna, however, because many cats will become addicted to it and won’t want anything else. Mercury is a problem with tuna as well. For older pets or those with dental problems, you may want to cut the meat before putting it in the bowl. You can use ground or diced meat to help your pet adjust, but it is more natural for dogs and cats to at larger chunks so that they have to chew or tear the meat. Chewing larger pieces of meat will help keep their teeth clean.

Add Some Carbohydrates
Your pet’s brain and muscles are fueled by sugars and starches, which they get from carbohydrates. Whole grains like brown rice and barley are excellent sources of carbohydrates. So are sweet corn, potatoes, and whole-grain breads. Dogs and cats don’t digest grains as readily as they do meats, so it is important to cook grains in order to unlock the nutrients inside. Simmer rice or other grains until they are soft. To add a little extra flavor, cook them in chicken or beef broth, which most pets find appealing.

Add Some Vegetables
We don’t usually think of vegetables when planning our pets’ diets, but vegetables are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Some of the best vegetables for pets include carrots, zucchini, broccoli, celery, parsley, cucumber, alfalfa or bean sprouts, and beets, along with leafy greens like spinach and chard. Giving your pet several vegetables with each meal will provide the widest range of nutrients. You don’t need to cook or peel the vegetables. In fact, you don’t want to because most of the nutrients are found in the skins. The vegetables should be pureed, blended, or juiced to pulverize them the way they would be found in the wild diet. You can add some extra flavor to the mix by adding a little bit of broth or garlic before blending. Don’t use onions, however, which can be dangerous for cats.

Add Some Innards
Organ tissue like liver, kidney, heart, spleen, and brain are a normal part of a carnivore’s diet, but it is nearly impossible to find all of them in the grocery store. You can supplement a homemade, natural diet with a multiple glandular supplement for pets, such as Pet G.O., available by mail order. Multiple-glandular supplements for humans can also be used. Give one-quarter of the human dose to cats and dogs under 15 pounds, one-half of the dose to those 15 to 30 pounds, and the full dose to dogs over 30 pounds.

Give a Digestive Aid
Since dogs and cats traditionally got their vegetables secondhand by eating their prey, the vegetables were easy to digest. When they are eating raw vegetables, however, they may need some extra help. Supplementing their diet with digestive enzymes helps the process along, you can use enzymes made specifically for pets, such as Vet-Zime, Prozyme, or FloraZyme, following the directions on the label.

Plan Ahead
The one drawback to homemade natural diets is that they don’t have a long shelf-life, so you will have to prepare them fairly often. You can store homemade, natural meals for about three days in the refrigerator. Or you can freeze meal-size servings, which will last indefinitely.

Related:
Safe “People” Foods for Your Dog
10 Foods Poisonous to Pets
What to Feed Your Pet

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

11 comments

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3:21AM PDT on Sep 25, 2014

We used to cook for my first cat.
But now, it is more difficult. And when I have tried with other cats later, they don't always want it on a regular basis.
One of them will NEVER eat something that is not hard food (previous owner responsible for that, I suppose or my cat hates food adventure)
The other don't like organic food (I try).
I will try to cook more for him, and I thing he will like some of it. We will see

5:41AM PDT on Aug 10, 2014

*for

5:41AM PDT on Aug 10, 2014

DFor an anteater cook ants!

9:20PM PDT on Aug 14, 2012

Thanks!

2:11AM PDT on Jun 22, 2010

All my dogs have lived long and healthy lives as (organic) VEGETARIANS!
Your dogs can also live civilized lives without eating other living beings.

9:43AM PDT on Jun 14, 2009

thanksss...
Kabin

Konteyner

12:53AM PDT on Sep 29, 2008

All our dogs have lived on fresh food diets all their lives and I can happil say that they have all been healthy and happy. They lived on a diet of liver, meat chunks and mince mixed with peas, grayed carrots and rice - all cooked together in a rich soupy blend. Some of our pets have even exceeded their normal life expectency - 16 yrs sometimes, so we could even give them a sweet treat now and again which they love. We even give them semolina porrideg, milk and raw eggs. Shiny coats, almost no health probelems barring minor skin irritation or ear infections.

Our family is vegetarian so meat is only brought for the dogs and cats as even in the wild, it's what they eat.

7:25AM PDT on Sep 27, 2008

Rajendar, I think that most people who oppose euthanization of excess domestic animals do so on emotional reasons alone. They truly do love animals; however, they simply can't (or won't) look at the situation logically and see that euthanization is a necessary and humane evil, both for society and for the animals for whom homes don't exist. All they can see is the tragic death of the animal. And it is tragic. And unavoidable in my opinion.

And as for those who love animals dearly but still eat meat, it is exceptionally difficult to accept something as wrong when one has been taught from birth that it is acceptable. Also humans have a strong talent for distancing themselves from the unpleasant aspects of their own habits (which is one of the reasons why people who otherwise care about their health smoke cigarettes). Like you I'm vegetarian, but I did eat meat for the majority of my life. I was raised to see that as normal and, despite my lifelong love for animals, I was able to delude myself for quite some time that eating meat wasn't "really" wrong.

It's just a matter of human nature, which is always fallible. That's why I don't castigate people who eat meat for that reason alone - I try to convince them logically but I try not to accuse them of being bad people just because they are omnivores. Because they really aren't. They're just human.

10:30PM PDT on Sep 26, 2008

I am a bit confused here. I meet so many animal lovers who insist that rabid, hungry, violent and dangerous stray dogs should not be killed. They then shop for the choicest turkey and boar slices. So, is this love for animal life only selective? How can one love one naimla that is dangerous for soceity and cut and kill and cook another because it suits one's taste buds??

Please tell me. I love all animals and am also vegetarian. I do not pander to my taste buds and believe in non violence across the board.

4:58PM PDT on Sep 26, 2008

Because it's so hard to cook the right mixture of nutrients, my vet says that the best thing to feed any cat or dog is a commercial diet from the better manufacturers (Hills, Iams, 9Lives, Purina, etc.) Unfortunately, I have to feed my cats Hills Prescription CD diet because one of them has recurrent struvite crystal formation and keeps getting ill on a regular diet. But she hasn't had a single episode of crystal formation since she's been on the CD diet.

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