Welcome curious kitties! Skye Blake here, discovering a few things to share with you about homemade cat food.
What’s the difference between homemade and raw cat food?
Is homemade food better than commercial wet or dry?
Let’s look at the facts…
The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.
Who Is Skye Blake?
Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you!
Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page.
All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping.
What Is Homemade Cat Food?
Homemade cat food is anything you make at home instead of buying already made.
It’s the same idea as making your own meals instead of getting take-out.
This makes you responsible for giving your cat a complete and balanced diet.
You must learn about and be careful to include all the necessary nutrients in the proper amounts.
Balance is key to your cat’s continued health… protein, fats, carbohydrates, trace elements, minerals, and vitamins all must be given in the right amounts for each meal.
Is Homemade Cat Food Safe?
If you’re going to try making your cat’s food at home, there are serious issues you should be aware of before deciding if it’s worth the effort involved.
It’s important to know what you’re getting into because if you take shortcuts or don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily cause serious medical problems in your cat.
The two major safety issues are…
- Nutritional imbalances
- Bacteria and parasites in raw meat
Cats need protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals in specific proportions in order to grow and stay healthy.
If too much or too little are given, serious problems will develop affecting organs like the heart, liver and kidneys, as well as bones and skin.
For example, too much vitamin A causes bone growth in the vertebral column, making it painful and difficult to move.
When you first start feeding a homemade diet, your cat may look and feel healthier, but if it’s incomplete and unbalanced, the effects won’t show until later, after months and sometimes a few years.
Vet nutritionists who work with raw or homemade diets often recommend having your cat’s blood tested every 3-6 months to catch any problems early enough to make the appropriate adjustments.
This video shows the difficulties of making sure your cat has the right nutrients in a homemade diet…
“Why Balancing Your Pet’s Homemade Meals Is Important”, Paws of Prey, January 26, 2021
Bacteria & Parasites
Since homemade cat food is often made with raw meats it must be handled properly, using good hygiene, just as when you prepare meat for your own meals.
The risk of bacterial infections and parasites for both you and your cat are real.
If you’re going to be responsible for providing a complete and balanced homemade diet for your cat, vets often recommend cooking the meat to reduce or eliminate these risks.
Is There a Difference Between Homemade & Raw Food?
Homemade cat food can be either cooked or raw, or even a combination of the two.
Whether it’s cooked or raw, homemade food must be complete and balanced.
Deciding if Homemade Is Right For You
If you believe making a homemade or raw diet is what you want to do, it’s very important to have your cat given a checkup by your vet and discuss what diet is best for his needs.
Any homemade diet must be specifically made for your cat’s individual health, life stage and tastes by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, who will work with both you and your vet.
Once you have the diet created, it’s vital that you do not change it AT ALL.
That means ingredients and quantities must always be the same or the balance is thrown off.
A word of warning… Internet recipes are almost always disastrously inadequate, unbalanced and incomplete, and do more harm than good.
Balance, balance, balance is the key!
If you decide this is too much for you and you’re fine with commercial wet or dry food, that’s fine.
Most people don’t have time to deal with the complexities of homemade meals.
That doesn’t mean they love their cats any less!
There’s no reason to feel you have to feed a homemade or raw diet, despite what some people try to guilt you into doing.
Commercial foods from reputable, established companies are complete and balanced meals and have science to back them up.
See more about evaluating cat food companies at “Cat Food Companies – Which Are Best?“
This veterinarian’s video is very important to watch before deciding…
Curious about other types of cat food?
Discover more about nutrition and feeding cats at “Cat Food!“
Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.
Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.
Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.
Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own. Sometimes they refer to primary sources.
When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.
List of Sources
Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by Delbert G. Carlson, DVM & James M. Giffin, MD, Howell Book House, New York, NY, 1995, pp. 345-354, 386-7
“Commercial vs. Homemade Cat Food Diets, What You Need to Know”, by Cecilia Villaverde BVSc, PhD, Diplomate ECVCN, DACVIM (Nutrition) and Marge Chandler DVM, MS, MANZCVS, DACVIM (SAIM, Nutrition), MRCVS, Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 2022
“Cornell Veterinary Experts Address Feline Nutrition” video webinar featuring Bruce Kornreich, DVM, PhD, Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Nutrition), DACVSMR, Kurt Venator, D.V.M., and Laura Goodman, PhD, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, April 30,2021
The Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies by the editors of Prevention Pets™ Books, Rodale Press, Inc., Emmaus, PA, 1996, pp. 181-184, 192-194
Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Secrets to the Natural Health of Dogs & Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, and Susan Hubble Pitcairn, Rodale, New York, NY, 2005, pp. 3-118
“Evaluation of cats fed vegetarian diets and attitudes of their caregivers” by Lorelei A Wakefield, Frances S Shofer, Kathryn E Michel, J Am Vet Med Assoc, July 1, 2006 (PubMed – nih.gov)
“Evaluation of recipes for home-prepared diets for dogs and cats with chronic kidney disease” by Jennifer A Larsen, Elizabeth M Parks, Cailin R Heinze, Andrea J Fascetti – J Am Vet Med Assoc, March 1, 2012, PubMed (nih.gov)
“Feeding the Pregnant Cat” by Krista Williams, BSc, DVM; Robin Downing, DVM, CVPP, CCRP, DAAPM, VCA Animal Hospitals
“Feeding Your Cat“, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, July 2017
“Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition” by Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, CatInfo.org, Updated Nov 2016
Feline Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians by Bonnie V. Beaver, DVM, MS, Dept. of Small Animal Medicine & Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, W.B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, PA, 1992, p. 103, 109, 171-186, 189-191
“How Much Should Cats Eat And How Often” by Dr. Pete Wedderburn, DVM, All About Cats, Updated Jul 29, 2022
“Low Number of Owner-Reported Suspected Transmission of Foodborne Pathogens From Raw Meat-Based Diets Fed to Dogs and/or Cats” by Nicole Renee Cammack, Ryan Michael Yamka, and Vicki Jean Adams, Frontiers (frontiersin.org), October 12, 2021
The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health, Home Edition, Cynthia M. Kahn, BA, MA, Editor, Scott Line, DVM, PhD, Dipl ACVB, Associate Editor, with Editorial Board, Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ, 2007, pp. 337, 440, 453, 493, 1058, 1194, 1246
Natural Cat Care by Celeste Yarnall, Ph.D., Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc. & Castle Books, Division of Book Sales Inc., Edison, NJ, 2000, pp. 47-102
Natural Health Care for Your Cat by Dr. Rudolf Deiser, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., Hauppauge, NY, 1997, pp. 12-15, 106-7
“Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats” by National Research Council (Author), Division on Earth and Life Studies (Author), & 3 more
“Nutrition & Nutritional Disorders” – Veterinary Pediatrics: Dogs and Cats from Birth to Six Months by Johnny D. Hoskins, DVM, PhD, Professor, Veterinary Clinical Medicine, Louisiana State University, School of Veterinary Medicine, W.B. Saunders Company, a Division of Harcourt Brace & Company, Philadelphia, PA, 1995, 2nd edition, pp. 511-524
“Pet Food Decisions: How Do You Pick Your Pet’s Food?” by Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Nutrition), Clinical Nutrition Service, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, Petfoodology, Dec 16, 2019
“Pet Nutrition Myth Busters: How to Select the Best Food for Your Pet“, by Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN
“Salmonella bacteriuria in a cat fed a Salmonella-contaminated diet” by Erika Fauth, Lisa M Freeman, Lilian Cornjeo, Jessica E Markovich, Nicol Janecko, J Scott Weese, Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association, Sept 1, 2015
“Salmonella Infection in Cats“, PetMD
“Septicemic salmonellosis in two cats fed a raw-meat diet” by Shane L Stiver, Kendall S Frazier, Michael J Mauel, Eloise L Styer, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, Nov-Dec 2003
“Veterinary Nutritionist Explains What To Feed Your Pet“, DVM Cellini, May 13, 2021
“What’s the Best Food for Your Dog and Cat? A Veterinarian Explains” by Dr. Em, DVM, Vet Med Corner, April 2022
“Why Balancing Your Pet’s Homemade Meals Is Important”, Paws of Prey, January 26, 2021
Updated November 15, 2023