Updated August 15, 2018
If you have spent some time researching feline nutrition, you have probably realized that raw food is a great diet for your furry little carnivore. You may have also been shocked by the cost of purchasing a pre-made raw food. However, you can make your own cat food at home for a fraction of the price! The food I make for my own cats costs 2-4 times less than canned foods and almost 6 times less than premium raw food! And as an added bonus, I have much more control over the freshness and ingredients of the food.
So what does making your own cat food involve?
You will have start up expenses and you will need to dedicate some time in the kitchen every few months. You can choose to make as small or large of batches as you want. To make a 2-month supply of food for 1 cat, you will likely have 15 minutes of meat prep, 15 minutes of grinding (depending on your grinder), 15 minutes of scooping, and 15 minutes of cleanup. That is just 1 hour in the kitchen!
Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: Educate yourself on raw feeding and make a recipe
Here are some great resources that I have found helpful:
- Website #1: CatInfo.org (has LOTS of info)
- See Making Cat Food (has recipe)
- Website #2: CatNutrition.org
- See Recipes
- Website #3: Feline-Nutrition.org
The key takeaway is that your recipe must be balanced, being 80% muscle meat, 10% raw bone (never cooked), and 10% secreting organ.
The recipe I use is similar to the one from CatInfo.org. Disclaimer: This is just the recipe that I am currently using to feed my own cats. I am not a veterinarian or an expert in the pet food industry, so do your own research before coming up with a recipe for your cats!
- 18 lbs chicken thighs (remove some of the skin)
- Remove 1.5 lbs of bone from the cut up chicken*
- 1.75 lbs chicken livers
- 9 raw egg yolks
- 18 fish oil gels (1200 mg each)
- 6 Vitamin E capsules (400 IU each)
- 3 Vitamin B (100 mg each)
- 1.5 Tablespoons taurine (675 mg per 1/4 teaspoon)
* Chicken thighs have 21% bone and 79% meat. This is too much bone, so unless you plan to compensate with boneless meat, you will need to remove and discard some bone.
The end result is a recipe that is 78% meat, 12% bone, and 10% organ.
Note: Kittens need at least 10% bone (NOT eggshell) when growing, but too much bone can cause constipation. Monitor stools and adjust as needed. Most cats that are accustomed to raw food do just fine with slightly higher than 10% bone.
Step 2: Buy the supplies and supplements
Note – some links below are affiliate links for Amazon.com, so you help me out by purchasing from them 🙂
The main start-up expense is a grinder that can handle bone. You will have a few hundred dollars into a good grinder, but it will last you a long time. My grinder set me back $400, but it paid for itself in 2 months (I have a lot of cats to feed!) You will not regret the investment one bit. You could easily save $15-$30 or more a month, for one kitten, by making your own food. I recommend spending a little more up front for a Weston… my Weston #12 easily fits a small chicken thigh or half a big thigh, eliminating extra cutting for me, and it has no troubles with the bone. In addition to the grinder, you will want a big bowl or tub to mix batches of food in, plus freezer safe containers to store the food.
Here are links for products that I use or recommend:
Some raw feeders do not always bother with the extra supplements, so long as they are feeding the right ratio of organ/meat/bone, but I prefer to play it “safe.” Here are links for the supplements that I use:
Step 3: Make your first batch!
You will fine-tune your own process with time and experience 😃 This is the process that works for me:
- Cut up chicken into pieces that will fit into the grinder. Remove bones as needed.
- Weigh all chicken, removing excess bone, and weigh liver. Place prepped meat in a large bag or bowl. Store in fridge until ready to grind.
- Prep the supplements by breaking apart the powder capsules and separating the egg yolks.
- Fill the bottom of the mixing lug with water, eggs, and powder supplements and mix. Place under the grinder.
- Grind the liver, chicken thighs, and fish oil capsules right into the mixing bucket, mixing as you go. Add more water as needed.
- Portion into containers and freeze.
- Buy chicken thighs with skin and bone when it’s on sale at your local grocery store. Be careful buying frozen meat – it may say “with added salt” and you want to avoid that.
- Use newspaper or plastic (a trash bag works) to help make surface cleanup easy.
- Cat’s teeth and jaw health can greatly benefit from chewing and tearing on meats. If you can transition your cat into eating some chunks of meat along with the ground up meal, go for it!
- Some cats are picky about food temperature, and some cats will throw up cold food. Warm slightly in warm water before serving if necessary (do not microwave).
- Serve on disposable plates for easy cleanup, or use glass or stainless plates or shallow dishes to serve. Wash in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher after each meal.
- A lot of people like to add additional meat sources like rabbit or turkey. Feel free to get creative! If in doubt, talk to other raw feeders (check Facebook groups) or search online to find out if it’s recommended.
- Not sure how much your cat should be eating? The recommended daily feed amount is 2%-4% of the ideal body weight. Here is a calculator to help.
- My recipe fits perfectly in the mixing bucket I recommend. This makes just over 30 12 oz containers, which will last one cat about 2 months.